Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making Room for New

I watched the film "Outsourced" last night. It's a lightweight movie about a guy who's job is outsourced to India and who has to go to India to train his replacement and staff in order to keep a position with the company. He resents being there, develops intestinal distress, behaves imperialistically...yadda, yadda, yadda, transformation...falls in love with a woman and the country. It was pretty formulaic but still, not a bad movie. Carmac and Zed watched it with me and they both enjoyed it.

During the first half of the movie, the American guy is pretty unnerved by depictions of Kali. His soon-to-be love interest (not to give the plot away, or anything) finally explains that Kali is the god of change and that if you want change, you should pray to Kali to destroy something (which he does and then Kali does and they all live happily ever...).

It seems to me that it should take either great courage or great ignorance to pray for something to be destroyed. To know that something was so drastically ill-fitting in one's life that one was willing to allow for the total destruction of something in order to make room for the new. I know I have been at points in my life when I would willingly have placed myself in that position. The thing is, though, that one would not have any say-so over what would be destroyed. The old "be careful what you wish for" syndrome. Of course, change is gonna happen whether we're ready for it or not. And sometimes the lesson is to learn from the place you are that feels so ill fitting. Sometimes what has to change are our perceptions or assumptions. Sometimes what has to change is our unwillingness to accept things as they are. And sometimes, on rare occasions, things actually have to blow up in order to make room for the growth that needs to take place.

My intention for today is to be aware of letting go of what is no longer needed in order to make space for new growth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homeschooling No More: Moving on...

Today I am officially no longer, after 12 and a half years, a homeschooling mother. My youngest son was enrolled in Kindergarten today and, to my surprise, said he would like to start school tomorrow rather than December 1st as we'd been planning.

This huge lifestyle change has been brought about by a fantastic job that has fallen in my lap. I will be supervising staff doing medical research study phone interviewing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. I'm being hired for a 90,000 cohort cancer epidemiology study but the department I'll be in will be growing and, as it expands, I'll be learning each study that we do so I can train and supervise staff for each one. It's a really exciting job for me with great potential for growth and opportunity to learn new things. And it pays well and Vandy benefits are the best (free MTA bus rides! Discount tickets to lots and lots of cultural events! Paid tuition for my children after five years of employment!!!).

How it all went down was this: The project I was doing for the other university ended and there was no work coming up in the foreseeable future. I'd started letting people know that I was kind of beginning to look for a new gig but I hadn't even really decided whether I wanted to work part-time or try to enroll in school (with what money, exactly?). A friend from Friends Meeting works at Vandy and sent me the job description for this job. I filled out the application. Two business days later I got a call from the woman who will be my boss, S___, asking when I can come in to interview. I met with her and the head of the department the next day at which time I was shown where my desk will be and introduced to some of my staff. S___ called a couple of days later to say that what I'm bring to the staff will be experience that they are lacking and so I will round them out. She said they want me, but it was up to human resources to do the background check and then make an offer. Apparently that felony for the palanquin hijacking didn't show up because HR made me an offer of MORE than was in the range of the original job posting. I go in tomorrow to sign my contract and then go through orientation on December 1 and 2. I'll start in my real job the following day.

I keep feeling like I should pinch myself to see if I'm awake. S___ homeschools her teenager and totally understood my spotty work history. My job-before-last was working with families of prisoners--Sara's husband is a probation officer. She's been aware of my former university's reputation for in research interviewing for a long time and so was really excited to have my experience join her team! I feel so validated! I'm quite sure that if I had a college degree I wouldn't have much trouble finding a job. Having no college, though, makes finding meaningful and decently paying work something of a miracle. And I feel a miracle has occurred. My office is on the eighth floor of the building that overlooks Centennial Park, for heaven's sake! A good friend, who homeschooled her children for years and who also now works at Vandy, called to check on me and said: "It's like you're a real adult now!" and I totally know what she means.

Bittersweet are beginnings as they signify, also, an ending. The ending of an era, a very powerful identity, a bond with my children. The beginning of seeing myself as an (dare I say) academic wage-earner. The beginning of having three children in public schools. The beginning of a new autonomy but a much tighter schedule and greater chaos. I am ready for these changes and I welcome them. I think it will be a little hard leaving my little one at school tomorrow (mitigated by the fact that next week is Thanksgiving break and all the kids will be home) but he's excited and so am I. Change is good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

God Is Reigning

Jesus said, "God's reign is within you." That can be read the way we Quakers interpret it: Each and every one of us has "that of God" within us. Or, it can be read to mean "whenever two or more of you are gathered in my name there is love". Both interpretations work for me.
Jesus said, "The realm of God is now." He wasn't saying the kingdom of God is some pie-in-the-sky heavenly reward. He said NOW.
What does that mean? It means this is God's world. We are all children of God. We are all the body of Christ. God is among us, prompting us to do God's work. All we have to do is to become aware and alive to that reality.
What would it be like if we all lived as if we believed that? What would we do? (What would we not do?) How would the world be transformed? How would we, as individuals, be transformed? How would I live if I truly lived under the reign of God?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dark of the Moon--My Boy is an ACTOR!

I went to the opening of the play "Dark of the Moon" last night at Nashville School of the Arts. Declan has the lead in it. I was shocked at how good he is in it! My son is an actor...I mean, he can really act! He wasn't just reciting his lines, he was really delivering them with feeling. He's got presence and charisma. The first thing that happens in the first act is that the troupe of "witches" dances with "Witch-boy". Who knew my son could dance? He doesn't do anything fancy or elaborate but he moves with grace and makes the dancers look really good.
The play is a Romeo and Juliette type love story on a sort of cosmic good versus evil elemental level and is full of dark and fear-full emotions. Dec shows a good range, from tender love to dark anger and does it with real feeling and depth.
Today's Tennessean has an article promoting the play with a picture of Declan and his co-lead, Hanna. When they post the photo on-line, I'll add the image here.
I'm so proud of my son! I'm proud of him for doing so well but I'm also proud of him for being willing to challenge himself and move outside of what's easy and comfortable. Dec dancing! It was beautiful to me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

He's Six Years Old Today!

Today is my beloved youngest son's birthday. He's getting so big. I will post more about this soon but he will be enrolled in Kindergarten very soon, which will be a huge change for him. He can't wait! He's such an extrovert and has been very lonely being at home with only his mom for company.

Hammy has taken the day off of work and we're taking Carmac out for waffles for breakfast and then meeting some friends at the zoo (if the weather clears up). It's going to be a good, fun, C-centered day. We'll pick Zed up from school and come home to open presents.

Declan has the lead in the school play that opens tonight so I'll be going to that (mature themes so it's not appropriate for the birthday boy).

Tomorrow night, C has been invited to his first sleepover at his friend Makenna's house. He's going through a bit of separation anxiety at night so I've been invited to stay to and participate in a "mama sleepover" too. Should be fun!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jesus the Beacon

Last Sunday, for 2nd hour (adult ed for those of you who are not Quaker), we discussed the meaning of Jesus. I sat and listened to what others had to say. I am in the process of testing what I perceive to be leadings to speak in Meeting by not speaking when I get that impending feeling of agitation so I can learn to discern if it comes from me and my ego (and nerves) or if it is truly a message given me by Spirit. I felt a leading to speak but didn't. And then I got home from Meeting and finished the funny, lightweight novel I was reading (the first book in Jasper Fford's "Jack Spratt" series: The Big Over Easy) and picked up the next book in my library book pile which coincidentally happened to be The Gospel of Jesus by James M Robinson.

Any scholarship of the historical Jesus seems to get really convoluted by the fact that there are no original source documents in existence. The author refers to Q and Gospel of Thomas as well as the synoptic Gospels and John. I'm only on the second chapter but what I learned in the first chapter is that the earliest Christian "church" was divided between Jewish "Christians" and Gentile ones. The Jewish followers of Jesus recorded his words more and the Gentiles wrote more in narrative. The Gentile writings were the ones that were included in the biblical canon: the "legitimate" version of Jesus' message. I have to say that when I discovered the Gospel of Thomas and other Gnostic writings, it was like I was learning about Jesus with new eyes. What I read was so fresh and right I was really moved by the truth of it. When I couple that with the Aramaic and back to English translations of Jesus' words, his teachings come alive for me.

The Bible says we are made in God's image and I believe that. I believe we, each of us, is made in God's image and that each of us, in our own perfect way, has the potential to reflect God. Each of us has "that of God" within us. Many of us get glimpses of knowing that; most of us make choices that keep us totally removed from any awareness of the Light within. A few holy ones, though, are aware and alive to God's Light burning inside. Jesus was such a beacon. He was aware of his purpose in this life and took seriously his role as teacher and guide.

I was surprised that I enjoyed the movie The Matrix as I don't usually like Hollywood forms of entertainment. One of my sons made me sit down and watch it and the idea of illusion and deeper reality struck me. But I was disappointed that the movie was really only about the good guys versus the bad guy when the potential for spiritual lesson was so obvious to me.

I see God as the light, the energy (love) that runs through everything. Everything. Most of us only see, know, understand this world, what we can touch and see and experience physically. For us, this is it. Some people think they understand about heaven and hell but still, what happens here and now is all there is. But the way I see it is that God permeates and lives in everything and goes beyond what we know to be reality. Which is not to say that this world is illusion...more what I'm saying is that this world is very important and each of us has important lessons to learn here but this world is not all there is. The most important thing we have to learn is that God is All; God supports and undergirds everything there is: God is the foundation. I don't think there's any "moving on" until a soul learns that lesson. We're all One in God. Most of us are just struggling to remember God one bajillionth of the time. But Jesus knew. Jesus had that awareness of God in him and lived with God, reflecting God to this world, reminding us that God is with us always.

And the death and resurrection of Christ? Some people have a problem with the literal act of the resurrection--the miracle. If God is God (which, of course, God is), I imagine that the resurrection could and probably did literally take place. But, I think the significance of it is not that it "proves" the Divinity of Christ. I understand the death and resurrection of Jesus to be symbolic of how each of us must ultimately learn to "die to self" in order to live in God. Jesus said for his followers to "take up your cross and follow me". It's about learning to transcend ego attachment and letting God live through us. The salvation comes in really knowing that we all have that of God in us and living accordingly. Everything is God given; even, and especially, our egos. Salvation comes through learning that our ego is that which God gave us to use to reflect God; letting go of self in order to use self for God. I'm in the drivers seat and salvation is understanding that God is the navigator and without God, I don't have a clue where I'm going (although I'm usually quite positive I do).

Shit...I say this as if I had it all figured out. Like I said earlier: Many of us get glimpses. This world has a powerful pull. This action. This sensation. This thought. This moment. They're all spiderwebs trapping intention. They're all the mailman knocking at the Chihuahua's door. As I've written before, I believe that Grace is being able to start over as many times as necessary. I don't think God is counting how many times we fail. What I imagine is that God rejoices every time we begin anew, every time we get a glimpse and let it guide us, even if only for a moment.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Angel From Montgomery

I awoke with this John Prine song in my head this morning:

I am an old woman named after my mother
My old man is another child thats grown old
If dreams were lightning thunder was desire
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago

Chorus: Make me an angel that flies from montgomry
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

When I was a young girl well, I had me a cowboy
He werent much to look at, just free rambling man
But that was a long time and no matter how I try
The years just flow by like a broken down dam.


Theres flies in the kitchen I can hear em there buzzing
And I aint done nothing since I woke up today.
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say.