Category Archives: faith

Through The Mist

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Things unseen…

Now and then a conversation or a circumstance reminds me that I can’t see everything.  Whether physical or metaphorical, my world is sometimes shrouded in a thick fog, a mist that obscures details from view.  My perspective can be limited.

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Once more I find myself needing to clarify, not what I have seen so much as what I have said.  I need to apologize.  I need to try to make amends.

Sometimes I speak from a place of irritation, even of anger, saying hurtful words that I don’t really mean and quickly wish I could take back.  Apologies for such moments usually come fast, and without too much difficulty.  A simple declaration…“I’m sorry I said that.  I was mad. I didn’t mean it and I hope you can forgive me.”

It’s a lot harder when I realize that I have inadvertently hurt someone by speaking from a place of ignorance or a lack of understanding.  When I have spewed opinions based on judgment or dogma without taking into account that those opinions affect real-life, concrete people…people I love and value and appreciate, regardless of whether I understand their viewpoints, orientations, challenges, spiritual upbringing or lack thereof…

Before I spew, I need to clear the fog and educate myself about the lives and struggles of the people I profess to love.  I know what it is like to have some well-meaning but oh-so-judgy “loved one” preach at me about how wrong I am in some area of my life that should be easy to fix…an area about which they possess no understanding.  Lord, help me see past the fog, through the mist of the lives that touch mine.  Help me to see, and to say, with clarity, only what is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind.  #think

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God, Neighbor, Self

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I’ve got my hands full…

Most of us don’t plan for a certain day to be our last.   The people who gathered yesterday for services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh most likely did not expect a crazed, evil murderer to invade their midst and open fire, ending some lives and altering others.  A house of worship is supposed to be a safe place.

Schools are supposed to be safe too.  Movie theaters, concert venues, stores, restaurants, all supposedly safe places, have too often in recent years become bloody patches of hallowed ground where innocent people have had their lives stolen by the likes of yesterday’s madman in Pittsburgh.  The kind of hatred and evil required to perpetrate such violence is beyond my understanding.

I feel so many things…sadness, of course.  My heart, brain and stomach all hurt.  And I realized yesterday that, as a Caucasian, Protestant Christian female, I have enjoyed a life of relative privilege and protection.  Aside from the occasional incident of sexual harassment/discrimination (and fat/body shaming), I have lived fairly unafraid of harm most of the time.

My friends who are people of color/LGBT/Jewish/disabled or otherwise not WASPs cannot claim this feeling of safety.  Matthew Shepard’s remains were finally laid to rest this week in a place where his family feels they will be as safe as possible from the risk of desecration.  TWENTY YEARS after his murder.  A friend of a friend attempted to take her life recently, for what specific reasons I am not sure, but I have to believe that her burden of depression is made heavier by her unique concerns as an LGBT person.  I was raised in a house where racial epithets, derogatory terms for those of different sexual orientation, and religious slurs were regularly used, and entire groups of people were judged to be inferior simply because they were different.

Here’s the thing:  Life is precious.  ALL life.  And as precious as life is, it is equally fragile.  For the rest of my life, however long or short it may be, I hope to reinforce the value of the lives of the people I encounter, in every way I can.  I need to love God by loving my neighbor.  I’ll have my hands plenty full trying to manage that.

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Still…Or Stagnant?

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When my comfort zone becomes a funk…

There is a lake on the grounds of my workplace.  Toward the middle of that lake are a couple of fountains.  They sparkle in the light and make ripples outward, circulating the water and providing tranquil sounds when one can take a moment to enjoy the scenery.

Toward the edge of the lake, though, the water becomes shallow and still…and eventually, swamp funk begins to accumulate there.  It is unsightly for sure, and I would be willing to bet that it smells bad as well.  Periodically the funk needs to be cleared away.

How often is my life like that?  The line between stillness and stagnation can be a fine one indeed, and it can be difficult to tell when I have crossed from restful stillness into stagnant funk.  My waters need to be stirred into action, the funk cleared away.

Sometimes life throws us into circumstances that stir our waters into clarity, but that stirring often feels like the violent spin cycle of a washing machine.  Clearing out the muck is not an easy process.  God often stirs us when we feel least equipped for it.

I am entering a clearing season, spinning out my funk of inertia in a job I have held for a very long time, a job which is ending soon.  I did not ask for this process to happen in this way; however, I know that it will ultimately be for my good.  It is time for me to sparkle again.

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Horizons

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Looking ahead into the unknown…

Recently a number of my coworkers and I received news that, as the result of our company being acquired by a larger entity, our departments, and positions, are being relocated.  We, however, are not being relocated with them.  I suspect that others of us may get similar news before everything is all said and done.  Some of us have never experienced a layoff before.

I have.  This is actually my 3rd trip to the layoff rodeo and, while it is a disappointment, I realize that it is not the Earth-shattering catastrophe I once would have thought.  Is there uncertainty?  Of course.  Nervousness, even?  Well, sure.  But panic?  No.  (At least, not yet!)

I am grateful for ample advance notice, time which will allow me and my team of coworker-friends (many of whom I love like family) to formulate a strategy for moving forward.  We range from early 30’s to near-retirement age, and each life stage presents unique challenges and opportunities in the world of job searches, networking and how we might proceed to reinvent ourselves.  As this news is still sinking in, the choice I am making is to imagine a world full of possibilities for all of us.

Do you remember being a child, and having an adult ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”?  I am once again asking myself this question…moving forward, what do I want to be and do?  How do I wish to spend the remaining days of my life, professionally and otherwise?

I want to pursue many avenues, and I also want to focus on a select few.  I want to build upon the skill set I already have, and I also want to reinvent myself completely.  I want to be able to provide for my family’s immediate needs and desires while taking a new, longer view at the horizon before me…a horizon filled with interesting, terrifying, exciting possibilities.  For all I know, everything else in my life has been building up to this precise moment, to what end, I have no idea…yet.  But as we say in the television business, stay tuned.

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Smelling The Roses

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Don’t wait…

My friend Isaac took me to supper this past Saturday night, to celebrate my Sunday birthday.  (#souldate). Visiting with him is always a good time to catch up on each other’s lives, enjoy a meal together and discuss some of the deeper issues of heart, mind and soul. He provides a valued sounding board for my random musings, creative endeavors and family “stuff”.

Over the table, we hash out the dreams and doldrums of life, including the relentless passage of time that a birthday always brings to mind.  I mentioned to him a country song from the 90’s that tells the story of a family at 3 different life stages, and how poignantly it speaks to the changes we all endure and witness.  If you are interested, look up artist Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On”.  It is an intelligently written yet simple narrative of one family’s life story.

Our niece is getting married a month from today, a lovely and accomplished young woman whose birth I remember vividly.  We will be traveling to Houston to gather with the Cutshaw side of the family and celebrate her wedding, as well as my and Sweet Pea’s 32nd wedding anniversary, and Cutshaw Grand Poobah Howard’s birthday.  As I look forward to this wonderful occasion, my happiness is tempered a bit by sadness at the unexpected death of a friend.

Ellen had moved to California at the end of 2012 and I had not managed to keep in touch the way I would have liked.  Still, as I explained to a mutual colleague, just knowing she was “out there” comforted me.  Now, knowing that she is not, is a kind of sad that is quite undefinable.

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Once more I am reminded of an old adage, that I need to stop and smell the roses.  The daily-ness of life lulls me into complacency…until there is a wedding, a birthday…a death.  Every day is an occasion to be savored and shared with the people around me.  God, give me eyes to see and a heart to appreciate both the monumental and the mundane occasions You set before me daily.  Amen and Amen.

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A New Lease On Life

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Redemption, salvation and Holy Week…

Recently at my workplace, a meet & greet happened with some program hosts.  This kind of event happens from time to time when one works in media/television.  Rarely will I go and wait in a line to meet people, unless I am a fan of their work.  In this most recent case, I did, because I am.

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I am pictured above with Mike Whiteside and Robert Kulp, owners and proprietors of Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke, Virginia, and hosts of the DIY Network television show, “Salvage Dawgs”.  Their business and the program revolve around their occupation (and sometimes adventures!) rescuing architectural elements, windows, lighting fixtures and other features from buildings that are about to be torn down.  These salvaged items are either sold as-is, or repurposed into new home decor or garden pieces.  These fellows and their team do great work,  “Saving pieces of history, one salvage job at a time”.

When it was my turn to meet them I expressed my appreciation for the work that they do, and they told me that their business and their philosophy is all about salvation and redemption.  I looked up at them both, smiled and said “Who among us DOESN’T need salvation and redemption?!”  And they smiled and agreed with me.

During spring and especially Holy Week, my thoughts naturally turn to those very themes…salvation, redemption.  When we trust God with the mess and brokenness we often make out of our lives,  He saves and redeems us, polishing and fashioning us into repurposed creations.  He makes all things new.  Never is this truth more evident than at Easter, the celebration of the moment in history when the world turned upside down, when death died and love LIVED.

I give thanks for reminders of salvation and redemption from all kinds of places…from nature, literature, art, music, and even do-it-yourself television programs.

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A Place For Me

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Faith formation, hospitality and being included

Last weekend I was blessed to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime event.  Through a series of music and church connections, I “wrangled” an invitation to sing in the Diocesan choir for the Dedication Mass of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Ground was broken for this space 3 years ago, the Cathedral for the Diocese of Knoxville, a diocese which was established in May, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

I am not Roman Catholic, but I think I understand the momentous nature of an occasion like this, which makes me doubly grateful for the privilege of participating.  Glenn, the director of the music, not only allowed me to sing, but welcomed me.  His welcome took me back to my childhood when I was so often welcomed by other people of the Catholic faith.

About halfway down Ford Street lived Beth Sedgwick and her daughter, Mary Lim.  These sweet ladies were devout Catholics, wonderful neighbors who welcomed me in to visit whenever I popped by after school, or earlier in the day if it was summertime, always unannounced.  Usually with a dog in tow, I’d knock on their massive front door, and Mary Lim, long ago paralyzed in a car crash, would usually roll to the door in her wheelchair and let us in, laughing as the dog jumped up to give her kisses.  I began visiting them with my brother Reed at first, then later on after he got busy and I got a little bigger, I would go and visit them on my own…except when a dog accompanied me, of course.

They would usually be sitting at their dining room table, with the newspaper, needlework, decks of cards and crossword puzzles, and there was always a place open for me.  These women taught me about praying the rosary when I asked what “those pretty beads” were, although I have long since forgotten how to do it.  There was lovely religious artwork throughout their home, and anytime I asked about a picture or a crucifix, they patiently explained its meaning to me, knowing that I and my parents were Christian, but not Roman Catholic, and there were elements in their artwork that I didn’t understand.  Mostly, though, they taught me about their faith—-and about my own—- simply by welcoming me in.

Flash forward nearly 4 decades, after our little neighborhood was replaced by the South Knoxville bridge, the Sedgwicks had long since passed away and much life had happened for the rest of us.  I found myself surrounded by the glorious space of this new Cathedral, many unfamiliar faces, and a small group of friends from both Knoxville Choral Society and Ebenezer United Methodist Church who helped make it possible for me to witness this dedication and participate in it.  Enveloped by music, warmth and the fragrance of incense, I felt Mrs. Sedgwick and Mary Lim with me, swelling with the solemn joy they would have felt to see this new space dedicated and the Diocese united in both humility and celebration.

I am not Roman Catholic…but because I sing, there was, once again, a place for me.

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