SO here’s the thing.
Being a religious educator, I see in every conversation a spark of an idea for connecting people with the spirit. Whether discussing Dr. Who, McNuggets, sex, or which couch to buy….all topics are explorations of values. Far from being tiring, it is energizing to find connections among people, interests, faith, and action. No news there, right?
The talking is fun, but after the conversations finish there is work to be done…and sometimes I am challenged by the first steps of making the theoretical real. The phrase, “Talk is cheap” comes to mind. So does that make action expensive? Nah.
One of the lovely realities of this time is that conversations need not be in close physical proximity to be meaningful, productive, and deeply connective. I can continue to throw ideas around with colleagues and friends, adding in the tools of shared documents, drawing in other like minded folks to the project as we go- something that can’t happen while chatting on an island porch.
I adore modern communication tools.
Which is a long introduction to say that tomorrow I am beginning this massive, important, totally exciting project. Stay tuned and watch your inbox.
Last week, I was lucky enough to be in conversation with many talented, creative, connected Religious Educators. The conversations flowed, and ideas sparked as we moved from naming problems to designing projects to meet the many needs of our world.
This is one of my favorite aspects of professional conferences- the time and space for trust to develop, friendships to bud, and just sit and talk or play together.
There was one especially fruitful conversation, where I was able to overcome my hesitance to share a new project idea with someone who is actually in the position to help make it a reality. I left the circle feeling hopeful and elated. So much so that when I later bumped into this person in passing, I shared my excitement: how energized I felt! That my brain was operating on all cylinders! That the collaboration we were beginning was going to be great because, “I like messes!”
“I like messes.” As soon as I walked away, I felt really silly. The person would certainly rethink the wisdom of working with me, an inarticulate moron. The demons of insecurity, never far from me, leapt in like hyenas on a wildebeest carcass.
But after some reflection, and a generous reframe from a close friend who heard my story, I am able to see that exclamation as an asset. I do like messes. Messes are a huge part of any complex project. My work as a Religious Educator involves sorting through innumerable messes, both physical, systemic, and emotional.
I am experienced with untangling mess. I can hold many parts of project at once. I attend to strong personalities in a working group without running away or being intimidated. Complexity and contradictions intrigue me. I am not really thwarted easily. A gift of stubbornness, I guess.
I write this not to pat myself on the shoulder, but to lift up that sometimes we need to see the blessing in the odd parts of our functioning. Also that sometimes, when our thinky brains are busy working on big thoughts, bits of pure heart truth can slip out of our mouth. “I like messes” was a piece of my heart’s truth.
Hearing and understanding this message is helping me discern what sort of work is next for me. While I am not yet ready to proclaim a next move, I do now know that it will be something that uses my gifts – all of them. I will embrace messes with the confidence that I enjoy making order from chaos, finding commonalities in groups of people, and seeing the hope in complicated situations.
And there are plenty of messes for me to work on in this world.
I heard this Thanksgiving Prayer from the On Being radio program last weekend.
Happy Thanksgiving, All!
Thanksgiving Day Prayer
by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918)
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.