Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sigh of Relief.

Today is the sigh of relief.
Not because there are more answers or less questions.
Not because there are less thoughts percolating in my head.
Not because there is less pain in the world that needs to be addressed.

I am relieved because today I let go of the labels that I feel I have to take on.
I have been holding a label in my hands that is too heavy for me to carry.
The label of spiritual leader, pastor, chaplain, deacon, etc. is huge.
It's big because other people place their own ideals on it,
and I also hold the memories of leaders I know that make this label bigger than what I will ever be.

I will not be a leader that is like any of the 50 pastors that I know because I will be me.
My calling is personal and walks with me everywhere I go.
It's hard to connect who I am and who I am in comparison to the multitude of pastors that I know.
It's hard to connect who I am and what the label of pastor is.

So why do it? Why pain myself into doubting what I can do or if I should be here?
Why should I be able to be comfortable taking on a label?
Why should we be comfortable to place labels on everything, including God?

I am me, I am Kaitlin.  I am called by God and Jesus walks with me.
I would be doing the work of God anyway, no matter where I was or what I was doing.  I am here, in Berkeley, continuing to learn what it means to be a church leader in the ELCA.  That does not define me; my relationship with God defines every fiber of my being.
I am a leader and I have a strong relationship with God but those are not mutually exclusive.

I am me and that is all the label that I will ever need to do the work that I am here to do.  Does my future include a label of pastor/chaplain/ordained minister? Yes, as it happens.  For me, the label worth emphasizing is my humanity and the love that the Divine One has given to all humanity.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Candles and Prayers.

"Let my prayer rise up as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you." -Psalm 141:2

The sun rises and each day; people around this world encounter death and birth every day.  Yesterday, in particular, the minds of people here in the US were focused on the bombings in Boston.  There was the same stirring of anxiety within our hearts as the Sandy Hook elementary shooting and the Batman movie shooting in Aurora.  We pour over the headlines and Facebook statuses, hoping for assurances of safety for all of our loved ones.  But for some, that day is a crack that will be permanent on their family's structure.  These tragedies in our own individual lives are not reserved for massacres and acts of violence, but our own deaths that we grasp in our hearts and the deaths of the people we know and adore.  Every day, there are many life stories that have ended here on Earth; maybe it's the celebration of life of someone who lived for 93 years, or it's the silence found in the sadness of losing a 9 year old child.  Every day these senseless acts change the reality of people; these stories are the ones that affect us all many times throughout our lives.

When is the grief done?  It isn't done now; the tears are still being held behind our eyes.  When will the groans of pain cease? I don't know, but I do know that I want to be a part of the love that hugs the pain.

My adopted grandmother asked me last week, "Why am I breathing here still when I am old and wrinkled and that young child died? What am I doing here still while that kid is gone?"

I told her that she is here to support and help.

Last night, a group of us in our apartment complex met in a living room for a prayer vigil, around a table adorned by candles and Salvadorian crosses.  Together, we held the pain, the prayers, the love, and the scars.

All around us, every day, people are left with only themselves and other creatures around them (I say creatures because animals are such a great comfort during times of trial).  Together we face events that are so strange because they are inherently inhumane or senseless.  We join the the endless song and prayer that says that we are deeper than the pain and grief.  There is love, there is kindness, there are helpers everywhere.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I think I might have inhaled you.

"I think I might have inhaled you,
 I can feel you behind my eyes,
 You’ve gotten into my bloodstream,
 I can feel you flowing in me."--Bloodstream, Stateless


This is one of my favorite songs to dance to that I've encountered in my past two months of blues dancing regularly.  The first night I danced to it, I went home and danced by myself with this song on repeat the rest of the night.  It touches the deep recesses of my soul, just as blues dancing has these past months.

The first time I encountered blues dancing, I absolutely hated it.  It made me nervous, being so close to someone.  Following a lead dancer seemed difficult because I was too anxious to stop and listen to the beat the lead dancer was trying to show me.  It's hard work to stop our bodies and minds to tune ourselves to the heartbeat of another person.

How often does that happen in our regular lives?  We run about our days so quickly that our interactions are prepared sentences or our own shit circulating outside of our heads with others doing the same thing towards us.  We walk around with our own worlds constructed around us and these worlds collide together in community, for better or worse.

Dancing teaches you to drop your self conceptions and listen.  If I don't attune myself to the beat of the person leading me in a dance, I end up looking like an ass.  And dancing doesn't just call me to listen; it calls me to boldly step along with another person.  Sometimes that means being unsure that the move I am about to make is the one my partner intended and messing up.  Within that mistake lies me, covered in the fear and shame of being unsure and having to admit that.

We hold these masks over our faces that let other people know that we know exactly what we are doing and that we are doing just fine always.  This assumption that we make up for ourselves is so far from the truth and it not only damages others into thinking that they are alone in their insecurities, but it tears apart any hope we have of development.  How can you change if you teach yourself to believe that you are fine and have things in control?  Because you do not hold the control.  You never will.  And that is a gift.  Revel in the fear of being wrong or not knowing what comes next and laugh at it.  Be content with the mystery because there is nothing else to do.

Dancing has taught me to face the mystery and see the gracefulness of what happens when you tear away the insecurity and just be.  Be the body that moves to a beat that matches the music and a dance partner.  Be the lead dancer and move to the rhythm as it unites with your soul and the wooden floorboards.  Dance by yourself and see how graceful it is to move to the feeling before thinking about it; letting your soul soar through your body's movements.  Be the embodiment of the music-you hold the musicality of every song with your fingers, toes, shoulders, and hips.

I think I might have inhaled the divine.  I can feeling it in my bloodstream; I can hear it in the pumping of the bass line and the pauses in the music notes.  I feel the divine flowing in me.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Silence that Soars.

It's funny
the lyrics of my own
that flow
to my lips
when there is nothing
but silence infiltrating my ears.

Giving space for growth, making room for acceptance of the changes.

This past weekend, I made the time to be quiet with my own self.  Worries and unresolved issues bubbled up and I had a space to dwell on it rather than plugging into my Ipod or chatting with someone about something irrelevant.  It is a rare occasion when I have nothing scheduled ON PURPOSE.  It felt delicious; I was anxious that it wouldn't be as satisfying as it was.  I often find myself filling my schedule not necessarily because I want it that full but because I want to keep moving rather than reflecting.  It's easy to avoid meditation when you aren't ready to hear what your soul needs to tell you, or what God needs to tell you.

So simple it is to slip into self ignorance; the journal gathers dust as I spend my extra time watching a TV show, picking up extra tasks, or spending all my extra time around people.  What do you find yourself doing to avoid listening to yourself and God?  Try as hard as I might to be in touch with my feelings, I watch myself distracting rather than focusing.

I gave myself some space this weekend and repercussions of this self-reflection time are strength and genuine laughs when I got back into the swing of my daily life as a student, barista, leader, and friend.  I've felt more energy these past days than I have in the last few months (probably also has to do with the amazing amount of sleep I got this weekend).

Mantra for this week:
My foundation is love and with that love, I am kind to myself and the needs of my soul.
My heart is my own, right here in my chest.  It stays with me and I can give it freely yet wisely.