Music Monday: Rhonda Vincent & The Rage with Bill Gaither

I’ve never heard this song before. It’s kind of a Blue Grass / Gospel mix. with Rhonda Vincent & The Rage and Bill Gaither.

Personal Note: When I was much younger (In my early 30’s) a sweet friend in my 12 step rooms introduced me to the Gaithers.  She would have me watch their videos and listen to their songs and write down everything I learned about the God of my understanding. — I actually had a God that I believed in back then, He was harsh, judgmental, and indifferent. He was absent in the big deals of my life (or so I believed at the time.) I find the Gaithers to be very uplifting, both in their music and in their overall message. Even though I’ve never met them, nor seen them live for that matter, they played (and continue to play) a rather large role in my Spiritual formation. They are coming to Tulsa on July 27 and this time, I plan to be there.

Where Were You When You First Met Anne?

anne-lamott-credit-sam-lamott-final-small_custom-508ad61ad7cd1860a90521caedf65c1aeb330750-s6-c10It’s not like I’ve never heard of her. I have. “If you want to learn how to write, read Bird by Bird.” my friends say. I own Bird by Bird and while I’m not entirely certain as to whether or not I’ve read it, I know it’s here in my home somewhere.  I put it away for safe keeping — along with all of my other safe keeping dreams.

Time and busyness of life have relegated the book to one of my piles of things that stack up when unattended. Sometimes my piles of things include tangible things like books and papers, other times they are more reminiscent of Pandora’s box — this dream, that lust, this need, that resentment. Which box or which pile or room I’ve relegated that book to, has yet to be determined. In many ways, I’m still sifting through yesterday’s hopes, and clearing out some wreckage in order to make room for the good stuff. Only recently am I starting to remove the bandages on my wings and testing their muscle. I do notice that while they tire easily, they grow stronger every day.

I could simply go buy it again. It’s not like I can’t afford to. And maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter at the moment because in all honesty I didn’t meet Anne in Bird by Bird. Maybe I sensed something when I held that book in my hands that I was just wasn’t ready to face. I think I was afraid. Afraid of change. Afraid of truth. And maybe even a little afraid of meeting myself.

Because the truth is, you cannot  meet Anne and not be changed. I wasn’t ready to meet me yet. Sweet little,dishonest to a fault,  people pleasing, just give me the rules and I’ll follow them so you’ll like me, me — standing on my branch and rather than flying choosing to climb back down for a while. The clamor of life: laundry, dishes, dirty floors, homework, sex, obligations, gardens that keep dying cover the voices screaming in my head that there has got to be more.

More to this recovery thing.

More to this God stuff and service.

More to writing and family.

More to life.

More to me.

Anne’s is a name that is sometimes spoken in hushed whispers in my somewhat conservative circles. Even in AlAnon, she is considered contraband  “Non Conference Approved Literature” and all. It’s not as if she’s Voldemort or anything. I mean she’s just a woman like me – except for the dreadlocks. Oh how I love the freedom in those.

I didn’t meet Anne in Bird by Bird. I met Anne in Sunday School while teaching a safe and Board of Education approved class on Spiritual Disciplines. Not a bad study really. We talked about the importance of prayer, and meditation, forgiveness, and walking in the Spirit. Strong, spiritual Godly stuff. Stuff fit for women taught to serve and not ask questions. Problem is, I had a lot of questions. I still do.

Two visitors wandered in one day and joined my class. After a month or so one of the ladies torn over the ultra conservative nature of our church and her own personal beliefs, offered me a book on loan. “Read this and give it back to my friend when you are finished. I’m not coming back.” –

The book is Traveling Mercies.

This is where I met Anne.

This is where I learned that it is okay to have a crazy family, a messed up testimony,and a messy faith that is wholly mine and no one else’s. It’s okay not to have all the answers, have teeny tiny control issues, and I learned that thinking things that would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of a cat dish is a starting place for forgiveness sometimes. It’s okay to tell the truth. To stand up for women. To be ourselves, without apology. It’s okay not to believe everything people believe and to think for yourself.

It’s okay to find your own music and purpose in life.

We listen to the same radio station, (K-FKD) only I was too embarrassed to admit it. Not Anne – she called it was it is and dropped the F-Bomb right there in black and white. I giggled out loud and looked around the room to see if anyone had heard what I just read. Feeling safe in my overstuffed green chair, certain that no one had overheard,  I sank in deeper and read the book through the night. By the end of the book, I wanted dreadlocks as well.

I don’t have them. Frankly they would look foolish on me.

Being the only daughter of an alcoholic mother myself, I run the gamut of loving and hating Anne. Sometimes I feel jealous and fall into traps of self-pity and wonder what my life would be like had my mother stayed in the program. Other times, I feel alive and torn between conviction and reassurance that I am indeed on the right path.

Anne is to me what women like Gloria Steinem were to my mother — an awakening. A voice to be heard and digested. A reminder that I am a child of God first, as well as a woman and a sister to others. All of my roles, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend MATTER.  I too have a responsibility to wake up and keep the fight that the women before me fought. Freedom does not come from passively enjoying the benefits bestowed upon my generation by my Grand Mother’s and Mother’s generation or by assuming they will always remain. Simple things like credit, workplace equity,educational equality,  peace in this world, caring for the poor, all of those things matter and can go away with the very next generation if we don’t speak up.

This world needs voices.

This world needs women.

This world needs you and it needs me.

I’ve been asking Anne (via Facebook, I know weird right?) if she’d please include Tulsa in her book tours. That hasn’t happened yet. She is however on tour again discussing Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son and is coming to Kansas City MO in April. The church she’ll be speaking at is only four hours from my house — I’m going. Bought my ticket already and everything.

I just want to meet her and say thank you.

Hopefully I won’t gush. That would be embarrassing really —

She’s influences me as a woman and that influences me as a writer.

She is just a mirror really — because the truth is – you spot it, you got it.

That which is we dislike in others are things we usually dislike in ourselves

AND JUST AS TRUE

Those things we hold up and admire in others are also those same things that exist in ourselves.

So, where were you when you met Anne? Have you? If not — let me introduce you — I think you’ll like her. I do.  — ANNE LAMOTT FACEBOOK PAGE

It’s Almost Time

No weapon formed against you will prosper … but make no mistake… the weapon will be formed!!!- Isa 54:17 —

I’m not afraid for the Lord my God is with me.

2 Timothy 4: 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

foolish

It’s My Faith, Not my Comedy, That Helps me “Cope”

“How do you separate the hyperbole from reality when you are with other comics?”

It depends entirely on the location and the relationship. If we’re friends we’re real. But we’re not always really friends, sometimes we’re just peers.

I can’t believe you know so-and-so! That is so cool!

No, I don’t know them.

But they are on your Facebook and you have pictures with them!

Sigh.

Being peers with someone, running into each other once or twice a year and photo ops, does not equal “Knowing” them. I get to meet a lot of cool people as a writer and as a comic, but that doesn’t mean we are friends. I am at best an acquaintance with some of them and just a fan for most others.  A good example of that is somewhere in this vast world are photos of me with Johnny Cole and Huey Lewis, but it doesn’t mean we are friends or even know each other. The back story to those photos is the questionably legal introduction and being sent home by Mr. Lewis because he rightly assessed that while I might be of legal age, I really wasn’t that bright (defined as I was too naive for my own good)  and my cute self and barely there black dress definitely did not belong in front of their hotel in downtown Detroit back in 1987.  My enthusiasm for meeting Mr. Cole surpassed all common sense, not to mention several city ordinances. Mr Lewis was a much-needed voice of reason and protected me from knowing more than I had bargained for. So, I have photos that prove we met, but that doesn’t mean we know each other. Thank God.

The false belief of knowing someone happens a lot today. We read news stories, books, Tweets, Facebook statuses, blogs and we gain this false sense of personal intimacy. We come to believe that we really know said person, when in actuality we don’t. Not really anyway. I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of that myself. True intimacy requires more than just internet snippets. True intimacy requires face time, honesty, humility, and mutual transparency. True intimacy is a commitment.

The word intimacy can really be broken down into three words: Into Me See.

Even though I’ve lived in 12 step rooms since I was 12 and been telling my story from a podium since I was 14, it’s my inner most circle that knows the really real me. They know the whiny sometimes feeling put upon raised an only child who says yes as quickly as she says no for all of the wrong reasons. The sometimes kind to a fault, wishes she had more of a spine when it counted me.  They are the committed, tried, true, trusted, and wholly loved individuals that trudge this road of happy destiny. True to life for all of us, other people just get glimpses behind the curtain from time to time.

A behind the curtain glimpse for you guys – I don’t use comedy to cope, I don’t tell jokes about actual people I know (unless I have their permission), and it’s my faith (messy and crayola scribbled that it is) that gets me through life. 

While I have been guilty of perhaps “over sharing” some of my recent health issues on my private Facebook page at the request of several long distance friends who are going through the same thing, I do tend to keep the private out of the personal. Most of my stories and jokes are actually a conglomerate of events and people. The theme and overall message are the same, I’ve just changed it up enough that the guilty are protected.

I’m the same way with my comedy, I never tell jokes about individual people per se’, I do however write and tell jokes about circumstances and events that crack me up. Unless I have someone’s permission up front to include them in my jokes, I don’t. Even my doctor jokes are a conglomerate of several people and focus on the awkwardness of the situations caused by aging, than the physician himself. For those of us old enough to remember Phyllis Diller, her husband “fang” wasn’t real either. She made up a persona that skyrocketed her to stardom.

There are a few things that have been said to me recently that I would really like to speak to today if you don’t mind.

1. If I lived your life, I’d smoke too. — Said by my cardiologist last year based on a 5 minute conversation.   No, you wouldn’t. I smoke today (on and off) because I’ve been smoking since I was 17. I’m addicted. Smoking because of life circumstances is a cop out, call it what it is. I’m an addict prone to selfishness on occasion and tend to self destruct when feeling overwhelmed, it really is that simple.

2. I suppose being a stand up comic is a great coping mechanism — Not really. I don’t use comedy to cope. I use it to entertain, to show people the underbelly of life sometimes thereby making people think and to help bring levity to life circumstances. I find that when I use comedy as a coping mechanism or even a shield (as I’m sometimes prone to do) my humor becomes barbed and has a toxic bite. I don’t want that. I want people to feel good when leaving my show instead of feeling dirty. You know?

3. It’s my faith in something bigger than me, that helps me cope — While it was my mother who taught me how to say bedtime prayers, I really learned how to pray reading Judith Blume’s “Are You There God, it’s Me Margaret?” For those of you who are unfamiliar with that book, let me just say it’s a book about a young girl who wasn’t changing quickly enough to suit herself and she talked to God about it, daily, as if he were her friend. If that isn’t the story of my life.

The older I get the less willing I am to put God in some kind of black and white box. The more research I do on religion and spirituality, the more I realize that the debates out there aren’t about proving God is real or the facts surrounding history, so much as they are proving who is the smartest. I used to listen in on the modern debates between pastors and I get frustrated at the direction things go. There are too many egos out there for me today.  If even the greatest scholars of today (and yesterday) can’t nail down the facts, I’m not about to try.

I just know today when it comes to knowing me — the really real me, I have this power greater than myself that I choose to call God. It’s that relationship that trumps all others. The one that sees through all my stuff and meets me exactly where I am no matter how messy, how confused, scared, sometimes lost, angry or happy I really am. Sometimes I lose faith and hope and ask to borrow a friend’s for a few days. That’s okay as well. It doesn’t matter to me if this relationship doesn’t make sense to others. It’s wholly mine. And I like it. It’s a relationship that is as real to me as the end of my nose, covered in Grace and Love, and Peace. It’s a relationship where instead of my pulling back the curtain for a glimpse, he tore it for a full view.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am wholly loved and fully known by the God of the universe – that’s all I need to know. That is how I cope.

Wishing all of my American readers a very happy Thanksgiving.

We are all hypocrites and drama queens

There is a difference between a catastrophe and an inconvenience. While some of us are happy that President Obama won a second term, many are unhappy and are reacting as though this were an earth shattering catastrophe.  Let me make myself clear here — Hurricane Sandy and the destruction to lower Manhattan and other parts of the East coast is a catastrophe – Mitt Romney losing the election is an inconvenience at best. Some  of us need to get a grip.

No matter who you voted for yesterday, today we breathe in, we put one foot in front of the other and we live. Hopefully we live for something outside of ourselves. I voted, and those who know me best know who I voted for and why. Granted if you follow me on Twitter, you already know who I voted for and if you are still reading my blog you either agree with me or came to see if God struck me dead with lightning yet.

So for all of my Christian readers who believe I’m in a hand basket headed straight for hell, sorry. I’m still here. And being black-listed for either being a Christian or being a Democrat does not hurt my feelings. I needed time off anyway and now that my entire month of November is free, I can write my book.

I say that a little tongue in cheek in all honesty. Are we really that petty? Hollywood black lists Christians and Christians black list each other over trivial things. Drama queens abound on either side and yet somewhere in the middle is our tribe.

I’ll admit trying to give up anger during an election year has not been easy. I might as well as tried to give up chocolate while working in a candy store. So many things can make my skull split in half, the word “Koolaid” being the most recent thing that brings out my alter-ego “home-girl.” I try to placate her with cookies, but sometimes she comes out and she is U-G-L-Y.

I have an IQ of over 145, I don’t drink koolaid and neither does anyone else I know. I hear that word on both sides of the spectrum. Not only does the far right use it to describe Democrats, I have several atheist friends do the same thing to describe anyone who dares believe in a God.  My writers group is loaded with atheists and progressive Christians. I fall somewhere in the middle I’m sure.

I love my friends dearly, and I know I am a bit of a conundrum to them. I’m a Christian female who gave up my career to raise my family. No regrets. I choose to submit to my husband out of love and respect (not fear or koolaid brainwashing), and yet I am a Democrat. I believe in helping those less fortunate. I believe that women have equal value to men. I believe in a lot of things actually. If I’ve learned nothing from this election season, I’ve learned this: In the final analysis, be us believers of God or not, we’re all hypocrites and drama queens.   

That’s good news to me. Knowing we are all hypocrites means we can let go of our masks and just be ourselves and hopefully learn to love each other.

Now let us put one foot in front of the other, breathe in and out, stop awefullizing everything, quit being a victim and LIVE.

Have you ever played small? Cut it out.

Making myself nothing to suit others is not humility; it’s ego and lack of trust. When I make myself small to “help” someone else feel like they are important what I’m really communicating is I think I’m too big for you to handle and you are too weak to see my greatness. Real relationships require real honesty. If I cannot allow myself to be fully me when we’re together, am I really allowing the other person to be all they can be? Of course not.

Making myself nothing is just another mask for fear. Fear is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. What are we really afraid of when we do that? Rejection? Failure? Pride?

We get caught up in the lie that we are being too prideful if we boast (talk) about our accomplishments. Really? Isn’t playing small prideful as well? Yes, we can be very prideful in our ability to make ourselves small — I see it all the time in church. We get hung up on thinking that playing small pleases God. No it does not.

God did not create us to be small nor did He create us to fit in. We are created in HIS likeness in order to make a difference in this world. We cannot make a difference if we are playing down to nothing.

Making myself nothing so that other people can feel like everything is about manipulation and control. It’s about people pleasing and being liked.

Let go of the control.

Be who you were created to be and make a difference.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

Let’s Talk About it: Guarding Your Heart

“I’m tired of trusting men I should be able to trust.”

I actually said that to a friend last week. I hate being lied to and yet, I allow it in certain people over and over again until I just can’t stand it anymore and I blow up. I continue at times to open my heart because it feels like I should. My friend proved to be a wonderful ear and full of wisdom. “Guard your heart.”

He didn’t say build a wall around it so that I’ll never get hurt again. It simply said to guard it. That’s a different animal completely.

It’s not that I don’t trust men. Somewhere along the line, I stopped trusting my gut. While wandering through the world completely unafraid is  naive and dangerous, fearing everything and everyone is not a viable solution. I need to learn how to listen to my gut and trust it again.

I’ve had many jobs in my life; waitress, machine shop worker, female telecom technician to name a few. I’ve worked with great men and not so great men. Basically, I’ve been felt up every way but Tuesday. While a lot of things may have changed for women since my Mother’s generation, a lot of things haven’t. When I was younger, I just considered it the price I had to pay. When I got older, I got wiser.

I had the miss-fortunate experience of working in a Not For Profit organization that was less than scrupulous. Short version, the laws that are in place to protect women do not apply to non profits and I found myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually raped by a man I should have been able to trust. He blamed me for his actions and for a while, I believed him. That will mess a woman up.

I responded to said circumstance by crumbling into myself and giving up on ever trusting men again. Fortunately for me I meet some of the most wonderful, trustworthy and patient people who grab me from my own emotional pit and pull me back into the land of the living. I don’t believe him anymore and while this is not been an easy climb, it’s a worthwhile climb.

I tend to shake sometimes and act like I have PTSD. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. I don’t know. I do know I’m willing to shake until I stop shaking. I’m willing to be neurotic and I’m willing to set boundaries when I need to. I’m willing to walk through whatever it is I need to walk through in order to trust myself again.

Yes, I do make men prove I can trust them today. I set strange boundaries like you can’t be my friend on Facebook unless your wife knows I exist and do not touch me without my permission.

I’m also learning to stop being responsible for other people’s choices.

My misplaced sense of personal responsibility is what caused last week’s lament.

Yes, there are people I should be able to trust and yet because of their own brokenness I can’t. That’s not my fault. I can learn how to guard my heart.

I don’t have answers right now on how to guard our hearts, I’m afraid I’m still learning. I do however want to introduce you to one of the people I get learn from in this area. His name is Michael Hyatt. I’ve seen him with his wife and daughters. He’s a good man.

THREE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD GUARD YOUR HEART – By Michael Hyatt

THE FOUR DISCIPLINES OF THE HEART – By Michael Hyatt

You can read these two articles if you want: Also I’d love to hear from you. Has anyone ever hurt your heart so badly you thought you’d never recover? How did you over come it? How do you guard your heart?