There is a really, lovely inspirational Advent reading (weekly updates I think) at Sacredspace.ie It's a Catholic prayer spot with a chapel where people post prayer request, a daily prayer link and during this season a special Advent reflection it's week. This year their reflection is the journey of the Magi and this particular week it is, We Are Not Alone.
I would love to write something that sounds holy and like angels sing in the background while you read it. But I show up with a bag of bruised words and a few stories and a strange longing in my heart for God and new life and faith and more hope and to be a better person. No, not better really but more accessible in this dirty, dry painful world not by being perfect but more human.
So I write a few words here and there even when I'm tired. Even when they are wrong or don't convey what I meant to say. When they are unedited and you have to do more work trying to read and decipher them than maybe I did writing them. No matter. Showing up is half the trick.
Authenticity. It's An old word polished and made new again by the likes of Rock stars like Amanda Palmer (her new book - The Art of Asking - is in self-help sections now) and the new Guru of getting it together Brene Brown (Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, I Thought It Was Just Me - But It Wasn't) and others. It comes down to this - we want the masks to come off. Not just the ones worn by others but our own. We are tired of pretending to be someone we're not. Pretending to be brave when we are afraid. Pretending to have money when we are flat broke and busted. Here and there and always pretending.
You know that whole thing about breaking it all down to TWO commandments. (Geez - two - just 2 -you think I'd maybe be able to get 2 right.) But they are a little on the weighty side - Love God with all your mind, all your soul, and all your heart (oh, sure, sounds easy enough. Not. All is a lot. All for the record is more than 3/4 and 2/8's more. It's a crazy amount if you ask me. All. Who does that?!) And then that next one that has bugged me solid for years - Love your Neighbor as Yourself. I have pondered this for years. Love neighbor as self. Love neighbor as self. How do I love myself? Should I love myself more? What does that look like? A massage coupon from groupon? Buy my neighbor a massage too? What DOES Jesus MEAN?!
But - I've been thinking as I've watched people respond to Brene Brown on stage when I was selling her books. It went like this: There were 750 women in Nashville waiting to get in to hear Brene Brown speak. Excited women. I didn't have a huge clue who she was so I watched her TED talk but it was obvious lots of other people did. (There were men in the crowd too) When they entered the room it was electric. They were filled with a type of expectation and enthusiasm I can say perfectly reflects Advent. They expected something wonderful to happen.
They took their seats and eventually someone introduced Brene Brown who had just flown in from a flight running late. She took the stage, looked out at the crowd and exclaimed, "Holy Shit!" and everyone applauded. If that offends you and you jump off this blog you're going to miss the golden point. Also, I would hate for you to sum up your understanding of this woman from that. She's a great researcher and applies that methodology of study to helping people get up again when they are knocked down, to be strong in the midst of their vulnerability and pain.
People in the audience applauded because they are sick and tired of people sugar-coating things and coming on stage, TV, radio and church podium and be so squeaky clean up there you can't see anything real or relate to it. People are crying out for an authenticity - PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. They are asking for it as they read The Bloggess and buy her books, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and Furiously Funny. They are begging for it as they read Nadia Boltz Weber (Pastrix and All Saints and Sinners). Many of these people drop the F-bomb like my mother uses the salt shaker. Heavily, always, and on everything. And, that offends some people. Or they questions - geez - do Christians need to cuss so much to be cool? Which to me is the same as asking, Do Jewish, Buddhist, or Agnostics need to cuss so much? Here's my blanket answer to that.
People need to communicate. With love and truth and authenticity. The end.
I'm guessing the Creator of all things Divine doesn't need a lot of f-bombs to communicate. But to wake someone up . . . just maybe wouldn't be so worried about an f-bomb over someone's soul. I'm just saying. Cussin here or there is a sign of the times and probably a passing thing. One day the f-word may trickle away like groovy slipped by us. But right now it seems to frequently be used in unexpected places as a divining rod of let's cut through all the bull, skipped the preliminary social graces and be honest. That's all.
And it still has all the precious weight of that true story on the first f-bomb moment of a child's childhood on, A Christmas Story.
that brings me back to the 2nd Commandment.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
I began to get the feeling that Jesus meant like, Dudes - for real. As your real flu face, wet hair tears in my pillow self. As your crazy cool, fun, hurtin, messed up wonderful loving self. That's all. Be very, very real. As real as God sees down into your heart. Can you be brave enough to be that authentic? Because before you say anything to that - it takes more courage to be that transparent than we can possibly count. It takes everything.
But an amazing thing happens when we do. And, yes - I know just a little bit about this because the strangers I've been talking to for the last seven years have shown me the way. (You can catch more of that through the stories of Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit) Through their willingness and desire to suddenly tell me their story, their real story - I learned how to tell mine.
Two Commandments. Both just ask for - everything. To be real and to love with all our heart, our mind, our soul.
Nothin' to it. (insert emoticon wink)
I pray that in this Advent season you to dare to let down your guard. To ask for what you need and to give what you have.We are here together for this moment in time. We might as well be authentically alive . Because pretending - exhausts me.