Monday, November 24, 2008

Everyone, meet Brene Brown. Brene, this is everyone.

For some time, I've been wanting to introduce you to one of my new heroes, Brene Brown. Brene is a shame researcher at the University of Houston and is the author of I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame. She was the reason I was in Houston a few weekends ago for a two-day workshop on shame and resilience. Anyway, I finally found a brief piece from Brene's blog that I think will give you a taste of why I find her work so fascinating. Here it is--enjoy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


  • Our friend in Iraq finds out that he will not be coming home for Christmas as scheduled a year ago when he left home. In fact, his stay in Iraq is now indefinitely extended. He responds with frustration but also characteristic grace, saying, "If you want to be someone the organization needs, you have to be there when they need you."
  • Another dear friend--a kindergarten teacher in a low-income, inner city school, stays late at night to help with a "reading lock-in" so that children in her school can associate fun with reading and school. When I marvel at her dedication, she says, "The children really need this."
  • Many, many friends are turning to this year for inspiration in seeing Christmas differently--as an opportunity to forego gifts to each other and give to meet the needs of "the least of these" around the world.

I've been thinking a lot about sacrifice lately. Last week, JTH, founder of Faithwalking, reminded us that one difference between an organization and a movement is sacrifice. Louie Giglio used to always remind us at Passion that passion can be measured by the level of sacrifice that we are willing to make for the thing we are passionate about.

I look at my own life. I get paid well to do what I love and so does my husband. We live in a beautiful, comfortable home. We have plenty of time for rest and fun. Our children have everything they want (granted, they are very easily contented!) We almost never face opposition and we never face persecution. It's easy for us to worship at the altars of convenience and comfort, power and influence, approval.

So what does sacrifice mean for us? The dictionary definition says that sacrifice means giving up one thing for another thing considered to be of greater value. It's hardest for me to give up time and I often hang on to it selfishly. It's also hard for me to give up money, but not nearly as hard as time. But too often, the thing of greater value that I seek is actually second-rate--the approval of someone else, say, or a place at the table of influence or the ability to think well of myself.

Jesus said repeatedly that the Kingdom of God is worth every sacrifice that might be asked of us. That's hard for me to imagine sometimes. The Kingdom often feels like a vague ideal, like World Peace or Santa. It takes intentional mental discipline to see it differently . . . and then as soon as I think I've glimpsed it, it's gone again.

I don't intend to go out looking for random sacrifices to make in the name of some noble quest. But I am trying to keep my eyes open, to see the places where sacrifice might be called for, to reject the assumption that my preferences and comfort are the most important value at stake. The spiritual disciplines help with that. So does the intentional giving of time and money to things and people I care about, especially when I try to consciously remember why I'm doing it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When Mowgli was a baby, our pediatrician was a woman. When he was about 4, I took him to a different doctor and used the word "he" to prepare him for the appointment. He rolled his eyes and said, "Mommy! BOYS can't be doctors!"

It occurs to me that a very young child today could go through his whole childhood while Obama is still president. Will he wonder what all the fuss was about? Will he just take it for granted that presidents can be black? Will it seem strange to him if Obama's successor is white? Just thinking . . .

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Baby J is here!

Isn't he beautiful? Mom (my sister) and Dad and baby are all doing well.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A moment of silence

OK. It's over. Now let's all stop talking. Stop analyzing, chattering, accusing, pontificating, predicting. Stop blathering, punditing, jesting, and boasting. Let's all just be quiet. Shhhhhh.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me

As a counselor, I'm interested in how people feel. But, honestly, I'm more intrigued by how they think. As this election has gotten closer, I've spent too much time reading editorials, looking at message boards and discussion threads online, and listening to people talk--just paying attention to how they are thinking (not so much what, but how) about the issues and the candidates.

It's pretty clear that there are ideologues on both sides. Both sides can be black-and-white in their thought processes and wildly inconsistent in their reasoning. Both sides seem to be equally likely to call names, insult their opponents, and assume the worst. Both sides need to work on spelling and grammar. But, just from listening, I'd say that one side seems to have cornered the market on conspiracy theories and paranoid beliefs and that worries me.

When so many people seem to move beyond disagreeing on the issues and take up bizarre speculations, I don't know how we will come together behind a new leader. It's one thing to say, "I think Obama's wrong on _____" (and we all do disagree with something, I'd wager.) It's another thing to say, as a member of the state board of education did, that he will cooperate with America's enemies to instigate a major terrorist attack and then impose martial law to take over the country. It's one thing to question Obama's experience or policy. It's something else to assume that serving on a board with William Ayers (or even being a political acquaintance with him) makes him a Vietnam-era terrorist sympathizer. Also, which is it? Is he a middle-Eastern terrorist sympathizer or a domestic terrorist sympathizer? Is he a Muslim (as 25% of Texans believe) or is he a follower of a dangerous Christian preacher? Can ALL the conspiracy theories be true? I know people personally who genuinely and literally believe he is the antichrist.

I don't believe for a second that most Obama opponents oppose him for these reasons--most are rational people who have sincere disagreements with the Democratic party-- but enough do to make me despair that we can ever come together enough to work for America's future. Every four years, some Americans say, "I think this is the wrong choice but I accept him as my president." I don't think anyone will say, "I believe he is a Muslim terrorist who hates America but I will support him as my president." John McCain just implored us to offer the new president our "good will and our earnest efforts." I hope we find a way to do just that.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hearing the other side

Remember when I said that I just wanted to hear from one of the people who got us in this mess? Well, here it is--a terrific article that gives us just a tiny window into the thinking of a Wall Street money man. The part that made me draw in my breath just a bit too sharply:

After he was forced to fire his 60-person staff eary this year, shortly before he was fired himself, he played with his toys for a couple of months--his cars, his boat, his collection of 10 Les Paul guitars. "I just bought Slash's signature Les Paul guitar," he says excitedly. "Look, I lost 50 grand at Lehman. I'm not going to deny myself a $3000 guitar." In fact, he also recently bought a Piper plane. "The day after I was fired, I was like, 'F--- it, I'm going to get a plane,'" he says.

I've said--and I mean--that I have no problem with people making lots of money, especially if they have taken risks or made investments or invented something really useful or somehow added value to the world. I still, though, don't understand why the executives of these failed companies "deserve" their obscene salaries--they aren't inventors, they aren't entrepreneurs, they are employees hired to do a job. Why does the CEO of Lehman Brothers deserve $22 million this year? Why does the CEO of Goldman Sachs get $54 million? The CEO of Boeing--which made a $4 billion profit this year, by the way--gets "only" $13 million. Meanwhile, the earnings of the middle class have dropped every year for the last seven. How does any of this make sense? And why are we not madder?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tim, we really miss you.

How are we supposed to have an election without Tim Russert? We need him and his marker board to tell us about the results.