Music is for Losers

Posted on 3 Aug 2018 | 0 comments

I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting in a pub on the north side of the Liffey after the world famous Musical Pub Crawl. It was the “open mic” portion where they allow people to share a song. My goto staple at that point was “At Last” but I didn’t want to sing after the slim, pristine blonde diva who had preceded me with her slightly nasally rendition of some pop classic.

The evening had been spent in not only sacred musical listening, but also storytelling. That night, I heard a phrase that would shape me forever.

History books and newspapers are written by the winners. Music and poetry are written by the losers, the downtrodden, the brokenhearted.

And I realized how true it was. That the songs that stick with us, and that have changed the world – they’ve been written by those who have suffered and who would never be considered “Great” or “Winners.” The Irish took centuries of oppression and turned it into some of the most powerful music the world has ever known. Rock & Roll, the Blues, Jazz… birthed out of African-American post-slave, mid-segregation racial tension and oppression and appropriated by white folks.

Then I realized that the music that I grew up immersed in, resonating with… was all the brokenhearted crying out:

Tracy Chapman

Indigo Girls

Tori Amos



It struck me today that all these musicians of my youth were predecessors to the activists that are gaining steam in the last decade. Tracy Chapman was speaking of the pain and reality of police violence and redlining against people of color in the 80s and 90s. The Indigo Girls were speaking about the struggles of LGBTQ identity – and gendering, and the challenges of intersectionality – well before it hit the Supreme Court. Tori Amos exposed misogyny and rape culture in one of the most poignant and painful ballads the 20th century heard. U2 – social justice, fighting governmental institutions. REM – paradigm shifts, ecological issues, and shifting boundaries.

It made me realize that our culture needs more poets, songwriters, more of the arts, because they tell the stories of those who cannot buy news outlets. We need journalists and historians.

But we need the fraught, anxious energy of Enneagram 4s who are so desperate to uncover and reveal understanding that they expose their very souls in the process. It needs the vehicle and medium of music and art and poetry to help people understand that things don’t always line up in neat, little orderly procession, and that sometimes, life itself is a Shitty First Draft. But we keep at it, and we allow the music to move us in and through it.

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Why #metoo can’t be forgotten…

Posted on 22 Feb 2018 | 0 comments

*trigger warning: descriptions of sexual assault

The last few days, watching the students from Parkland has done something inside of me. It’s revitalized a 14 year old me that was fierce, furious, and fantastic. I want to stand with them, and will march with them, and will delight when I see them move mountains. Because they will, and somehow, #neveragain will actually move the mountain of gun culture in this country. I see it, I know it, I believe it.

And even as I stand with #neveragain, and rejoice with these teenagers, I’m struck by the fact that YET AGAIN, it was a young white male. YET AGAIN, it was something where the people in authority failed to see a problem before it got “really bad.” I mean, what is “really bad” if not shooting up a school and killing 17 people?

And that’s where my cry for #metoo to be remembered comes from. Because I can remember being 14 years old, and coming to an administration and begging for help with a young, troubled male, and being silenced and shamed.

Let me paint a picture for you. At 14, I attended one of the wealthiest private schools in Los Angeles. I was not popular, but everyone knew me as the “good” kid. Despite hanging out with a couple wild ones, everyone knew I didn’t party, didn’t date, didn’t really push any boundaries. I had a job, I studied hard, and I went to church – like 4 times a week. I had the record in my class for community service hours. The clothing I wore? If it was rebellious at all, it was in the grunge way. Typical outfit was jeans, t-shirt – well, collared shirt because we had a dress code – but my collared shirts were always flannel shirts, because well, it was the early 90s. I mean, who didn’t? I didn’t wear skimpy clothes because I was super self-conscious and girls in my class and at the school were always calling me shamu or fat (I wasn’t, by the way, but according to LA eating disorder standards, I was). I was a simple girl, who tried to love people, did “Meet me at the pole,” and was in theater, pep band, and the literary magazine editing staff. I didn’t drink, do drugs, date, or even get involved with folks like that. I had crushes, like any 14 year old girl would, but I was terrified to act on them. And at that time, it was only one person that I was crushing on – hi Aidan! – and he didn’t even go to my school. Like, seriously, people. You cannot fabricate a more innocent, “good” girl.

I’m sitting in computer class one day, the teacher is helping someone else, and I ask for help. She says, “I’ll be there in a second.” One of the guys in my class – Evan (because as Anne Lamott says, if he wanted anonymity, he should have behaved better) – offers to help. He walks over, and as I’m trying to understand the coding we are doing, puts his hand on my thigh. I am not involved with this guy, and I don’t even know him well. I push it away, so he puts it back on my thigh and moves it up my leg until he is groping me. I push him away and ask to go to the bathroom. The rest of the day is a fog until I’m lying in my bed at midnight, and can’t sleep and am shaking with terror and feel sick to my stomach and dirty and disgusting.
So I crawl into my mom’s bed and tell her what happened.
And she does *EVERYTHING RIGHT.*

She calls the administration, calls a meeting, threatens police action.

So we get a meeting.

And in the meeting, I have to face not just Evan but his parents. And Mr. Basmajian (again, who if he wanted anonymity should have behaved better), the Dean. Who asks me what I was wearing. And who asks me what I did to entice him. And I have to retell the whole thing in front of Evan, who sits there with a smug look on his face, and his Dad has a smug “boys will be boys” look on his face. And then Mr. Basmajian adds the “boys will be boys” line. And I shrank in that chair. And I got smaller and smaller.

Because I did *EVERYTHING RIGHT.* I *did* go to the authorities. And I was shamed and re-traumatized and re-victimized.

And then I had to leave the room, trusting that they’d do something. And they wouldn’t even let me change classes to a different elective schedule until we threatened legal action against the school.

Here’s a young man – now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Evan was a serial rapist or anything. He was a young man BEHAVING VERY BADLY. He obviously hadn’t been taught important things like “don’t grope women who don’t want to be groped.” And when he did, he was laughed off and told it was ok, because sometimes women just react…

Can I tell you that writing this story has made me shake in fear, cry a little bit, and go through 3 separate EMDR treatments (for PTSD) just to get through it and even be able to talk about it? TWENTY FIVE YEARS LATER. Happily married, with a daughter, and having survived rape, domestic violence, and horrific things. This event is the one that scars me and that I never spoke about aloud – because it’s so much a part of our culture.

We write off the bad behavior of our white men, because “it’s just how they are.” Well, let me tell you. I know some pretty amazing men. Men who would *never* consider doing anything like that. They would *never* consider getting guns and using them to sort out their emotional distress. So I’m done with people saying “boys will be boys,” or that the kind of language and “pussy-grabbing” talk coming from the highest echelons of our government is just “locker room talk.” I’m calling bullshit.

Because when we excuse that kind of behavior, we are creating a culture that allows good kids to die at the hands of a young, troubled man who probably should have had some serious consequences in his life leading to help and healing of whatever troubled him. I’m guessing that Evan probably just did what he thought was normal. I’m sure he had his own family issues in which his parents weren’t around or were going through some sort of serious stuff. I have compassion, sure. In all honesty, he probably doesn’t even remember doing it. I get it, it was a blip, because that sort of stuff is common in our culture, and was even more so back in the early nineties.

But man, that was truly messed up. And it shouldn’t be common. Because while Evan probably doesn’t even remember it, I’m traumatized by it and having to heal and rebuild 25 years of life that were scarred by that event. I’m having to live with the regrets of the relationships I sabotaged after that event because of the worthlessness and shame that I felt. I’m having to live with the fear and the emotional distance from others because I’m afraid if they know what was done to me, they’ll blame me, too.

Do you get it? #neveragain is intrinsically tied to this culture that allows men and boys to behave badly, shrugging it off as “normal” when in actuality, it should never be normal. Cancer is common, is normal, but is an aberration. Gun violence is common, is normal, but is an aberration from the Design.

I think the challenge is that we miss out on the goodness of the Gift of this world if we let “Common” and “Normal” dictate our behavior or our legislation. We need to stand with these incredible youngsters in #neveragain, even as we do address the very deep and searing truths of #metoo.

We cannot forget #metoo. We simply cannot.

Because I will not let my daughter’s generation be 1 in 4. I will not let her generation be 1 in 10. I will fight, tooth & nail, to call bullshit and stand for her right to live a life free from the trauma that I – and literally every single woman I know – have experienced. I will fight to give her everything I was denied and that was stolen from me in that office 25 years ago.

#metoo #Iamthe1in4

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Letting Go

Posted on 29 Sep 2017 | 0 comments

10 years ago, I stood with a friend from Dublin, Ireland in a church in Belfast, Ireland. Now for many of you, that comment may seem innocuous enough, without knowing the history of the “Troubles” in Ireland. Leave it to the British Isles to take a religious conflict with violence, terrorism, dehumanization, and significant destruction of community, and simply call it “Troubles.” But there we were. I had come to support a friend deliver a message – I honestly can’t remember what it was, but she asked me to listen for any words from God that might come. So I listened.

A young man stepped forth, and I saw sand slipping through his hands. The tighter he grasped, the faster the sand poured out. And when he simply let go and opened his hands, the sand stayed. Asking further what that might mean, the answer was simple – the tighter you try to grasp and control, the more life will slip through your fingers. When you simply let go, you will realize that not only are you holding sand, but that you stand on the shore of infinite grains of sand – at your fingertips, but also under your feet to allow you to stretch your hands to the sky in surrender and delight.


The last year has been one of complete and total surrender – of control, the lies I had to believe in order to survive. For decades, I simply pushed everything as far down inside me as I could, because it was the only coping mechanism I had to live in the world that had been given to me. In the midst of this, I began to realize that I was getting frustrated because I kept getting handed shitty choices – and yes, I made incredible decisions, even with those horrible, shitty choices. But the reality was that I continued allowing others to set the choices for me, and then trying to control the outcome. As a deeply spiritual person, I was falling into the martyrdom/self-sacrifice paradigm, thinking that if I just controlled it enough – if I just nailed myself up on that cross with Jesus…
That somehow it would all be ok.

And honestly, it never was. It was F.I.N.E – freaking out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. But it was never OK.

Because the sand of my reality kept slipping through my fingers.

Until now.

Because I simply…



I opened my eyes to the infinite spread of sand beneath my feet, and the arms of the Diving opening, spreading, and longing to catch me when I fell – but also willing to lift me up to fly.

I’ve been loving this song, and letting it wash over me, especially when I forget – which is often. May you be graced today with the release of open hands to receive the Goodness, open hearts to allow perfect love to cast out fear, and open eyes to see the expanse of opportunity in your midst.

You’ve brought me to the end of myself
And this has been the longest road
Just when my hallelujah was tired
You gave me a new song

I’m letting go, I’m letting go
I’m letting go, falling into You

I confess I still get scared sometimes
But perfect love comes rushing in
And all the lies that screamed inside go silent
The moment you begin

You remind me of things forgotten
You unwind me until I’m totally undone
With Your arms around me
Fear was no match for Your love
Now You’ve won me

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From Easter, 2016

Posted on 6 May 2016 | 0 comments

Today is Easter. It feels a bit arbitrarily dated this year, and I almost feel as if I didn’t catch up. I’ve been so caught up in Jewish rhythms this year that my own liturgical rhythms have been a bit more muted. I’m still wrapped up in Purim and deliverance and courage and honor – and so my reflection on Resurrection feels so different this year. We went to church, and it was so uplifting and fun. My  “mom” up here in Canada is a pastor of a dynamic little congregation, and like many other evenings with this family, we have had intense and wonderfully thoughtful and deep conversations about faith and culture and ideas over amazing food and wine. We’ve been trying to figure out an age-appropriate way to talk about Easter with Amanda – but the whole ugly, violent death scenario is hard to reconcile. And you can’t get away from it with this holiday – I still have memories of being 3 or so and crying because they killed a nice man. But it’s a reality, because there can be no empty without a tomb.
I think about the diversity of people that I connect with here in this space. And I don’t want to have a preachy, turn or burny message on this special day in my tradition, but I want each of you to know the depth of love that my faith has given me for each of you – that there is something truly supernatural and miraculous to me about the *grace* that God has given me to love such a wealth of different people with such different backgrounds, faiths, opinions, perspectives, ethnicities, political views, and doctrine with the abandon and compassion that I feel when I think about you. There’s a passage in my sacred texts that I feel encompasses this – and if that same power that raised Christ from the dead is living in you, will He not give life also to you? That power of the resurrection – the power that brings things thought dead back to life – that’s the power in me. That’s the fire that fuels my love for each of you, believing in your dreams, believing in your goodness, believing in the best of each of you – knowing that whatever dies in undue time can, indeed, be brought back to life.
I want to live not just a resurrected life, but a resurrecting life, empowered and empowering each of you – no matter your beliefs or differences – to breathe life back into your dreams and dreams back into your life. To take broken and hurting places and pour as much life and love into them as I can, to bring restoration. To me, the empty tomb is a reminder to GO, to DO, to be present to each of you in a way that brings you life.
I may not always live up to this, but I pray that every year, I get a little bit better, and get a little bit closer to hitting my mark.
In general, this holiday, I am trying to hold sacred space for the resurrecting, life-giving power that I’ve been entrusted with, so that in living life with each one of you, I can impart some sacredness, some mystery, some light, life, and love.
I wish you a Blessed day, and may you find resurrection power flowing through your spirit in the coming season.

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Permission to Grieve

Posted on 7 Apr 2016 | 0 comments

Well, it seems like grief is going to be my subject of choice for a little while.
I missed February and March, and now, here in April, I’m circling back to the subject.
Nabeel SyedI was listening to a podcast today, by Ben Katt (you can find it here: The RePLACING CHURCH Podcast), on having permission to grieve. Some of what he says is similar to what I’ve been saying for years: that we as a people – Western, individualized, bootstrapping (and particularly Christian) people – have rejected grief as an emotion of weakness and of failure. We’ve turned it into something that “other” people do. It’s seen as something almost shameful, something that we aren’t supposed to do, because being American, being Christian, is all about hope and light and love and being joyful in all circumstances. So, when people die, there’s this unspoken expectation that we’re supposed to get it together. There’s also this bizarre individualism and relationship to nuclear family – if you aren’t a sibling or parent or spouse, your grief isn’t as valid, which is heartbreaking. I can remember a few years back, a dear friend of mine lost her significant other. They weren’t married – yet – but all of us who knew them, knew her, knew their relationship, knew how close they were, how intimate their connection was, how devastating the loss was for her. We all knew that this was every bit as life-shattering as losing a spouse, but because the ceremony hadn’t been performed yet, her grief – as significant as a spouse’s – was discounted. She was at times excluded from those “family-only” moments, even though the family was compassionate.
That moment also taught me something else about grief. That so often when friends die, we have to have freedom to grieve the might-have-beens. I wasn’t particularly close to my friend’s partner. He was an amazing guy, and I liked him. My grief was ALL about who he was to her, and the way that he had changed her life for the better. My grief in losing him was about the lost opportunity, the lost future, the loss of the dream to see her walk down the aisle to him and know that he would take good care of her forever. I’m still grieving that for her.

I find that the grief of the last few years, losing my husband’s mother, my dear Uncle, my beloved friend – it’s no less real for me, even though they weren’t *directly* related to me. No, Karin was not my mom. But I loved her like one. Uncle Bud, not my father, but he treated me as his daughter. Carrie, not my sister, but as integral a part of my life as one. And because of the way our society handles grief, I’m left holding these griefs in a sort of limbo, where there are sharp, poignant moments surrounded by guilt because I’m not *really* supposed to be feeling the grief this sharply. That’s for those “directly” affected. Sadly, it doesn’t account for the grief of  the might-have-beens.

We’ve taken the verse in our text that says, “we don’t grieve as those who have no hope” and turned it into “yeah, sure, we don’t grieve because we have hope.” When the actuality, as Ben talks about in his podcast on Grief, is that as believers, our hope causes us to grieve even harder. We don’t just grieve the loss of a beloved friend, spouse, parent, sibling. We grieve all the might-have-beens. We grieve that the Kingdom didn’t manifest and spare us death. We have to wrap our heads and hearts around the concept that the world is still hurting and death and illness are still robbing us of opportunity. We have to grieve that the abundant life that we have been promised is still an expectation, a longing. This kind of authentic, vulnerable grief is NOT weakness. It is strength. It is powerful. It is significant. And it should be embraced by the community. Rather than expecting people to pull themselves back out of the sadness by their bootstraps, we need to surround them and grieve with them, holding sacred space for them in the midst of their grief. We need to create those safe places where people can be held by one another in their difficulty, in their loss. They need to understand that they are not alone, that we grieve with them. In many ways, the Jewish culture has such a lovely and better approach, with their traditions of sitting shiva and praying together in minyan. There is a togetherness, and a holiness to standing with those in the midst of the grief and giving them permission to be there.

Today, I’m giving myself permission to grieve. I don’t have anything specific in my immediate sphere, but there’s been enough loss in my circles of friends that I will take time today to mourn with those who mourn, to take the love and light, the joy in all circumstances, the hope, and to grieve with my friends for all of their might-have-beens. I will give myself permission to be sad and miss my dear ones that I’ve lost over the last few years, wishing that they could be a part of my daughter’s life, sad that they’re missing out on my life, and I’m missing out on the possibilities of theirs.

Today, I encourage you… Grieve. Whether for your own loss, your own might-have-beens, or with someone else, there is power in the process.

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