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Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'm keeping you in my prayers.

I've recently started telling that to people more these days.  I tell them because it's true and also because it feels honest to say it.

Religion is a complicated thing for me.  I think it's always been.

I grew up with a first-hand understanding of the famed "Catholic guilt" and I didn't much like it.

Junior year in college, after a lot of colonial and post-colonial reading for the English major, I went home during a holiday break and asked my mother during a heated discussion if she ever thought it was crazy that her Catholic faith came from people who whipped her ancestors in the Philippines.  I regretted doing that.

You should see my mom's faith.  It's constant, beautiful, and humbling.

Senior year in college I went religion shopping.  One weekend it was a UCC service, the next I was with the Unitarians, the next it was a Mahayana Buddhist temple, the next it was a Sunday with the Self Realization Fellowship.  Maybe that sounds like it must have been a really confusing phase of life, but I have to say that it was actually one of the most interesting and fun things I've ever done.  If you're even just a little bit interested in religions or faith communities, I can't recommend it enough.  Just pick a different tradition every weekend.

I've always been a religious person.  Not just spiritual, but religious.  I'm drawn to the sense of community and shared faith.  I don't feel right if I'm not somewhere on Sunday for some kind of service.  I'm drawn to prayer.  I'm interested in the cultural traditions that form around religion.  I'm comforted by the familiarity of rituals like the Catholic mass.

When I lived in France I learned that two things (and not much else) are identical between France and the US: McDonald's chicken nuggets and Catholic mass.

I promise you, in a side-by-side taste test you would never know which nugget came from which nation.

And sitting in a cold, stone church older than America, despite the foreign culture and the foreign language, I still knew when to sit, when to stand, when to kneel, when to hold hands, when to shake hands.

But it's complicated.  Religion is.  I see that and know it both in myself and in society.  I understand when atheists decry religion, pointing out, correctly, that it has been the source of so much ugliness and conflict in human history.  I understand my friends who do not identify with a faith because of the pain they've experienced in their own lives.  Smart, beautiful, important people.  I get it.

But I'm praying for you.  Not because I think you are lacking or need to be saved or reborn (I have no idea what that even means).  I'm praying for you because that's what I do when I'm at my best for the people I love.

Just wanted you to know.  =)

Monday, May 9, 2011


Attitude is everything.  Or nearly everything.  I've seen that to be true in my own life countless times.

But often, I still do this crazy thing.  I say, "Oh, if only I weren't so sleepy I could do that important work.  If only I weren't so stressed.  If only I knew more about that subject or had that important person's contact info, then I could get meaningful stuff done.  If only I had a Gatorade.  If I only had more time."

But why should I expect that the most valuable work grows out of ideal conditions?  History doesn't bear that out.

If MLK, Jr. had thought to himself while in an Alabama prison cell, "If I weren't in jail I could get my freaking work done," he would have missed his only opportunity to write one of the civil rights movement's most enduring letters.

He even admits:

"Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?"

What we think of as obstacles just might make up the exact set of conditions that our work needs most.

Attitude is everything.  And there's always a choice.

Did you just get laid off?  Did your org just lose funding?  Did your new big thing just get ripped by the critics?