Category Archives: Inspiration

Quotes Worth Repeating: Fairy Tales Are More Than True

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“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – C. K. Chesterton

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I Wonder What Would Happen

(The above video features the song Brave by Sara Bareilles)

This post is a contribution to the June Synchroblog: Ordinary Courage in which bloggers are invited to share their thoughts and stories about ordinary courage.

“Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.” –  Brené Brown

For the record, I am a huge fan of Brené Brown.  I could spend my whole post telling you about her, her great Ted talks, her great books, her great ideas but instead I will just confess that everything in this post is inspired by her.  AND I encourage you to check her out if you haven’t already done so by clicking on some links in this paragraph.

In her new book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brené harkened back to a speech that Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910. In it, Roosevelt said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

I absolutely love that quote and I find it very inspirational but to be honest, I  have a hard time thinking of myself as brave or courageous.  The truth is I have a lot of fears.  Sickness, unemployment, accidents, violence, financial woes, rejection, failure, aging, not fitting in, being misunderstood and more that I am sure I will think of later.  Not only do I have these fears, I am even afraid to talk about the fears that I have.  But I’m finding out that being afraid does not disqualify one from being brave or courageous.  The crazy and wonderful thing is I might have fears but I can still be brave.  I can still walk into the arena, I can still take the chance of getting marred, of falling down or coming up short.  I might be afraid, I might even fail, but I can be brave, I can dare greatly.  What a revelation!  I don’t have to wait until I am no longer afraid before I get in the arena.

One thing that helps me go ahead even when I am afraid is playing the “I Wonder What Would Happen” scenario out in my head.

I wonder what would happen if I stay silent, I wonder what would happen if I speak up, I wonder what would happen if I make the first move, I wonder what would happen if I wait on someone else to make the first move, I wonder what would happen if I actually think about my fears, I wonder what would happen if I try to ignore and suppress my fears, I wonder what would happen if I try now, I wonder what would happen if I wait until I’m “better” “smarter” “have more experience” “older” “less busy” before I try.

You get the idea.  I try to imagine the worst, the best, the possible, the probable.  But I don’t just imagine it.  I find someone to talk it out with.  Not just anyone, but someone who I can trust to be honest but gentle with me, someone who really cares about me and knows me as a whole person, someone who I believe wants and celebrates good things for me.  It really does help me live beyond my fears.

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Sometimes that means being kinder and gentler with myself, sometimes it means pushing myself to do something that makes my heart beat too fast, sometimes it means coming along side someone else who is struggling or experiencing failure and reminding them how brave they were for even trying.  Sometimes it means doing something that I might fail at or asking for what I need when I don’t like to be the one who is needing.  

There are days when I think, “to heck with it! What’s so important about being brave and courageous?”

And then I remember that I want to be brave and courageous because I like being and feeling alive.  I want to get into the arena because if I try to avoid all possible pain I will also most likely be avoiding the possibility of joy and happiness.  I want to show up and try because I want to make a difference in my little part of the world, in my community, in my workplace, in my family.  I want to take a chance because I only have one life to spend and I want to spend it.

Sometimes my acts of bravery are nothing more than me getting the courage to do something new like snorkel in the ocean for the first time.  Boy, am I glad I showed up for that one. Talking about feeling alive and experiencing joy and happiness.

Sometimes my acts of bravery are trying something like blogging without worrying what others will think about me and my posts and ideas; and simply doing it because of the pleasure and healing and insight it brings to my own life.

Sometimes my acts of bravery are more about others such as when I stopped being silent about my support for lgbtq people, same sex marriage and complete equality, and sharing my new and revised understanding of what scripture has to say on the subject.

Sometimes my acts of bravery are healing like when I share my own failures and fears out loud.  They are healing to me because in sharing them they shrink in size and power and at the same time they are healing to others because as they encourage me they encourage their own self to know: they aren’t alone, their story hasn’t ended yet, they too can get back up again.

I think we all have something that keeps us from being brave and the most logical one to think of is fear but I’ve been discovering another obstacle to me being brave that may even be bigger than my fears and that is perfectionism.

Yes, I am a perfectionist.  I’d like to say a recovering perfectionist but most of the time that wouldn’t be true.  At the same time I am trying to keep the perfectionism subdued these days and sometimes I am winning the struggle.

I no longer take days to write a short post for my blog.  I don’t wait for others to make the first move.  I’m letting go of the idea of “the perfect holiday” “the perfect mother” “the perfect wife” “the perfect marriage” “the perfect anything”.  I’m finding some humor and even goodness in my imperfections.  I’m finally beginning to enjoy my humanity.  I’m starting to like “me”.

But mostly, I am finding that the best antidote to perfectionism is finally believing that I (me! – not me the mother, or me the wife, or me the good writer or idea person or wise thinker, or me the best friend, or me the employee who is always on time or a great team player or the one with the best attitude – just me) am worthy of love and acceptance!!!  My worthiness is not attached to how good I am at doing something, or to how good I look, or how much I succeed.  My worthiness just “is”.

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Sure I have trouble believing it some days but some days I do believe it and some days I don’t even have to try and believe it … I just do.

When I am not so caught up in being perfect I can more easily show up and be me and I am discovering that I am better at being me than most other things!

I wonder what would happen if we all tried really hard to just be ourself?

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——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-Here is the list of all the contributions to this month’s synchroblog.  I hope you will take the time to read these great thoughts and stories on Ordinary Courage:

This Is Courage by Jen Bradbury

Being Vulnerable by Phil Lancaster

Everyday Bravery: Overcoming the Fear of Being Wrong by Jessica

Moving Forward Takes Courage by Paul W. Meier

How to Become a Flasher by Glenn Hager

Ordinary Courage by Elaine Hansen

Courage, Hope, Generosity by Carol Kuniholm

The Courage to Fail by Wendy McCaig

The Greatest Act of Courage by Jeremy Myers

Sharing One’s Heart by K. W. Leslie

All I See Is Rocks by Tim Nichols

I Wonder What Would Happen by Liz Dyer

What is Ordinary Courage? by Jennifer Stahl

Loving Courageously by Doreen A. Mannion

Heart Cry: The Courage to Confess by Elizabeth Chapin

The Act to the Miraculous by VisionHub

the spiritual practice of showing up & telling the truth by Kathy Escobar

It’s What We Teach by Margaret Boelman

PS I chose the video above because it featured Sara Bareilles’ song Brave and I thought it fit this theme so well.  Be sure and check it out.   Here are the lyrics:

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

The Best Religion

This month’s synchroblog asks the question: if you were to change to another religion, what religion would you choose and why?

 

There is a story that has been circulated online about a conversation that took place at an interfaith conference between the Dalai Lama and the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff.*

When recalling the conversation, Leonardo Boff confesses he thought the Dalai Lama would defend oriental religions as being the best, but instead, His Holiness answered, “the best religion is the one that gets you closer to God and makes you a better person.” 

Expanding on that, he went on to say, “whatever makes you more compassionate, more sensible, more responsible.  The religion that will do that for you is the best religion, for you.” 

Clearly inspired by where his thoughts were leading, His Holiness added, “I am not interested, my friend, in your religion, or if you are religious or not. What is important to me is your behavior with your peers, family, work, community and in front of the world.” 

I am a Christian and have been all of my life.  I was born into a Christian family, as a young girl I chose to be a Christian and many times throughout my life I have chosen to remain a Christian.  However, my idea of what it means to be a Christian has changed so dramatically over the last decade that it sometimes feels like I have completely changed religions.

I have changed enough that some Christians have even questioned if I still have the right to call myself a Christian.

To them I would say, “the best Christianity is the one that gets you closer to God and makes you a better person.”

I might even add, “whatever makes you more compassionate, more sensible, more loving, more responsible … that’s the kind of Christianity one should pursue.  You should not be so concerned with what I believe as how I behave … with my peers, my family and friends, at work, in my community and in front of the world.”

Just as some have reasons to choose a new religion I have reasons to remain a Christian and yet, that doesn’t mean that I am not changing my religion.

I hope I continue to change my religion as I grow and learn more about what it means to be the best kind of Christian – the kind that moves me closer to God and makes me a better person.

*I could not verify that the story is true, however, the ideas presented seem to be harmonious to the Dalai Lama’s philosophy and the teachings of Buddhism.

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Here are links to all the contributions for this month’s synchroblog:

A Beautiful Mess

This post is part of the October Synchroblog “Down We Go”.  This month’s theme explores the idea of Jesus calling us to go down into the low and messy places of life–intersecting with the lepers, the lonely, the outcasts, the marginalized – to live a life of humility, love, and interdependence.

There is a lot of talk these days about Christians getting their hands dirty – about how followers of Christ need to be willing to get down into the mess of life.  This kind of talk scares off some people as they begin to try and imagine what that means and what it would require.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t require that people take the drastic measures they usually imagine.

If you want to join in the mess of life just become a part of a community.

Yes, you heard me right.

I know a lot of people think that being involved in a community is one of the easier things that a follower of Christ has to do.

But the reality is that community is hard – community is messy.

Community is messy because people are messy.

Different opinions, different perspectives of right and wrong, different understandings of scripture, different ideas about how to do things, different backgrounds, different histories, different strengths and weaknesses, different personalities, different desires, different passions, different talents, different interests … I could go on but you get the idea.

All of our differences are what makes community so hard and messy.

But it is among the messiness and the challenges and the difficulties that we learn how to be like Christ.

The way to learn how to become like Jesus is to love. The only way we can learn how to love is to practice it in close relationship, and have our lives rub up against each other, including doing so with people who are different from us. Loving people just like us is not that difficult. Loving people who never change, who bug the hell out of us, who aren’t kind or thankful, who don’t pass on grace even though they’ve received heaps of it—that requires much more work. In other words, love is best practiced in the spaces that require it. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus challenges us to—to live into the spaces that only come through a path of descent?”    Kathy Escobar from “Down We Go: Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus”

Someone might wonder why in the world anyone would ever want to be a part of something so horrible as community.

Maybe it is because the sharing of life – the accomplishments, the milestones, the aha moments, the discoveries, the ideas, the experiences are all so much more meaningful and exhilarating and worthwhile when they are shared within a community.  The failures, the difficulties, the losses, the set-backs, the disappointments, the losses, the injustices, the wrongs of life are all so much more bearable when endured within a community.

The thing about community is that it is like washing down a bitter pill with a very sweet and delectable nectar … even though community is hard and messy, it is a beautiful mess.

For more on this idea pick up Kathy Escobar’s book “Down We Go: Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus” and check out the other posts for this month’s synchroblog by following the links listed here:

God Breaking Through Moments

This post is part of the January 2011 Synchroblog  “The Manifestation Of God”.  This month’s synchroblog is inspired by The Season Of Epiphany, which runs from January 6 to the day before Ash Wednesday.  You can find a list of all participants at the end of this post.

An “epiphany” is a sudden realization, a breakthrough discovery, a brilliant idea, a light bulb coming on, one of those “AHA!” moments.

For instance … Archimedes, the Greek Philosopher, who discovered the law of buoyancy (known as The Archimedes Principle) had an epiphany one day when he stepped into his bathtub.

The story goes that the king of the day wanted a new crown made entirely of gold.  After the goldsmith made it, the king was suspicious that the goldsmith had made it of iron or silver and coated it with gold. The king did not want to destroy the crown in case it was gold, so he asked Archimedes to figure out if it was pure gold or not without destroying the crown. Archimedes thought about this day in and day out until one day while getting into his bath he discovered the principle that bears his name. Supposedly, he was so excited and anxious to share his discovery that he jumped out of the bathtub and ran through the streets naked shouting “Eureka!” (which in Greek meant “I found it!”)

We have all had those types of experiences when a solution or a realization seems to pop into our mind out of nowhere, but in reality the idea has come from within ourselves and has been produced from our own ability to think and reason.

And then … there is another kind of “epiphany” – it shares the idea of realization, discovery and light bulbs coming on – but it is different in that it isn’t produced because of our own thinking and reasoning – this epiphany comes to us through a Manifestation of God. It is a revealing, a shining forth, an appearance. God reveals something to us and “Eureka!” we have an epiphany – about God, ourselves, truth, others, love, suffering, life etc. etc. We could not have arrived where these epiphanies take us by our own ability to think and reason – it is not an experience that we can create from within, it requires “God breaking through”. These kinds of experiences – these “God breaking through” moments – always change us.

As D. H. Lawrence said, “people can do anything they want with an idea, but a truly new experience changes everything. Before you can do anything with it, it does something with you.”

The problem with these epiphanies is that when you describe them to others they often sound rather unimpressive. Of course, there are exceptions – a burning bush, a talking donkey, the transfiguration of Jesus – but for most of us it is something we hear or observe or read and when we go to relay the story and our epiphany to someone else they look at us like “how did you get that out of that???” But we know! We know that God has broken through to us because we have realized or discovered something (and in a way) that only God could have expressed or revealed.

Sometimes I have had a “God breaking through” moment about something that I thought I already knew and, in a way I did know it, but only in my head (as they say) – not in my heart – not in the way I needed to know it – not in the way that it formed me.

For instance, years ago I was preparing to speak to a group of Christian women around Valentines Day.  Well, I was preparing to prepare … in other words, I had no idea what I was going to say. I figured that love was a good subject but had no good ideas about what I should say about love. I was becoming pretty anxious about it as the event was only a few days away. I was new in the community and I wanted to be liked and accepted. I wanted to say something worthy, memorable, profound about love – something that would endear me to this new group that I wanted to fit in with. I went to sleep that night asking God to give me “something good” to say and also asking myself why in the world I had accepted the invitation to speak.

At some point during the night I dreamt that I was a student at an elite dancing academy.  I loved it there and I loved my instructor. I was a good student, a good dancer and I had a good relationship with my instructor. I was trying out for an upcoming show and I felt confident that I would be accepted for one of the parts, but when the instructor read off the names of those who made it into the show my name was absent. I was shocked and disappointed. How could she not pick me? I was very good and she liked me. Why?

Next thing I know (you know how dreams jump around) I am rehearsing with the dancers who were going to be in the show because one of them got sick, had to drop out and I was chosen to take her place. I was very excited and felt that I was just where I should be. The instructor was giving us direction and correcting us as we were rehearsing and then suddenly the rehearsal was over. As we were all walking out, the instructor asked me to stay behind for a moment. After the other dancers left she told me that I wouldn’t be able to be in the show because I just wasn’t good enough yet. I was crushed and devastated. I began to cry.

All of a sudden I realize I am standing in a humongous industrial kitchen. I really have no idea what I am doing there or why I am wearing a chef’s coat. I look around and find a man preparing some food at one of the nearby steel counters. I walk over to him and ask him what is going on. He tells me the Executive Chef is looking for a new Sous Chef and wants to talk to me. I’m dumbfounded! I am not much of a cook and much less a chef.  Why in the world would he want to talk to me? Where did I even get this chef’s coat?  How did I get here? What in the world is going on?

Just when I am about to run out of there the Executive Chef walks in.  He walks right up to me, hands me a chef’s hat and says, “Liz, I want you to be my new Sous Chef.”

I stare at him in disbelief and can only manage to ask, “Why?”

He just looks at me and says, “Because I love you.”

At that very moment I woke up.

“Eureka!” I knew in a way that I had never known before that God loved me unconditionally – not because I was good at something – not because I performed well – not because of what I knew or had learned or perfected – he loved me and accepted me – period.

I also had an idea (hope?) that being accepted and loved by my new community wasn’t going to be based on my ability to give a good presentation.

And on top of that I had what I needed to give my presentation.

Sure, I would have told you before that dream that God’s love for me was not based on my performance – but after that dream it was real to me.  I didn’t just know what someone had taught me or what I had read – I knew it in my heart in a way that would change me and change the way I would prepare to speak before a crowd, the way I would approach a new community, the way I would take care of my family, the way I would help others, the way I would be a friend, the way I would think, the way I would live.  I knew it in a way that made me more vulnerable, more transparent, more real, more me.

It was one of those “God Breaking Through” moments and I was forever changed.

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I will post the list of participants here as they become available:

Mike Victorino – What To Do?

Beth Patterson – A Robust Universe Includes The Botched and Bungled

Jeff Goins – Epiphany: The Manifestation Of God

Jeremy Myers – Pagan Prophecies Of Christ

Mark Smith – Manifestation Of God

Minnow – When God Shows Up

Alan Knox – A Day I Saw Jesus

Ellen Haroutunian – Stories of Epiphany

Liz Dyer – God Breaking Through Moments

Kathy Escobar – orphans

Josh Morgan – The Manifestation Of God

Steve Hayes – Theophany: the manifestation of God

Sarah Bessey – In which Annie opens the door of her heart

Christine Sine – Eve of Epiphany – We Have Come, We Have Seen, Now We Must Follow

Tammy Carter – Paralysis In His Presence

Katherine Gunn – Who Is God

Peter Walker – Epiphany Outside Theophany (Outside Christianity)

Annie Bullock – God With Us

Jacob Boelman – Where God Shows Up