Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

The Dinner Party

In creativity, Finding Your Calling, spirituality on May 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Name three people, alive or dead, that you’d like to have dinner with and why. This classic ice breaker is as revealing as it is delicious to contemplate. Here are my selections.

Studs Terkel wrote my all-time favorite book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. This book influenced me more than all the sociology of work classes I took in college. One quotation, Most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people” set me on a lifelong quest to find my calling (still searching) and probably made me reject the idea of having only one job. Originally published in 1974, the bestselling book examined people from all walks of life who were, according to the author, working “for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”

A Chicago broadcaster, Terkel listened to America and allowed us to listen, too. Five decades of interviews with ordinary and remarkable people will soon be available here. Meanwhile, you can listen to a few hundred of them here. You might want to choose his interview with my next dinner companion, Maya Angelou.

That Voice and the intellect and compassion behind it would be plenty to include her in my fantasy dinner party, but there’s so much more.

Bill Gallo of Westword had this to say about her:

The talents of Maya Angelou – she is or has been a teacher, memoirist, prize-winning poet, actress, civil-rights activist, editor, playwright, composer, dancer, producer, theater and TV director, and advisor to three presidents – range so far and deep that no feat she accomplishes could come as a surprise.”

Her dizzying list of achievements guarantee that she would be a fascinating conversationalist. I’d be happy just to sit back and let that voice wash over me. She’s all over the internet, but I recommend that you watch her read her poem, “Still I Rise.” 

My final companion would be my dear friend Reverend Sheila Johnson. Some people you just resonate with. You know the moment you meet that you’re going to be friends. It was that way with Sheila when we briefly worked together for a training company more than twenty years ago. Like the other two, she is versatile, gregarious, and real. In addition to her work as a hospital chaplain, she writes, paints, teaches and sews.

She makes me feel grounded and would keep me from going all fan girl with the other two, either babbling or struck dumb.

Plus, if I had dinner with Maya Angelou and didn’t invite her, Sheila would kill me.

The Promise

In spirituality on May 15, 2017 at 11:07 am

When I was about ten a voice told me that my best years would be after sixty. That had some fundamental effects on my life. First, I never worried about dying young, although I was never reckless, either. Knowing you’re going to live at least until sixty, you want to spend those years as healthy as possible.

Second, I never dreaded getting older. In my thirties and forties, my friends were astonished to learn that I actually looked forward to old age. One young coworker asked me what was the best time of my life. “My best years are ahead of me,” I said. Apparently she didn’t feel the same as she took her own life at 32. I still miss her. She would have been a terrific old lady.

More recently another friend wrote that she had gathered from my posts that “you’d prefer to be content than ‘happy.’” At first, I was offended. What did she mean I don’t want to be happy? Of course, I do. Then I wasn’t quite sure what the difference was between being content and happy, so I did some research.

We have a bluebird of happiness, and Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. Amazon sells 57 books on how to be happy. Several podcasts do the same. All storybook princesses live happily ever after. Economists measure gross national happiness, hold a world happiness summit, and measure which country is the happiest in the world (Norway). Bobby McFerrin told us to “Don’t worry, be happy,” and Pharrell Williams is simply “Happy.”

Still, researchers describe happiness as a fleeting feeling of having a desire met. Contentment is the belief that everything is fine just the way it is. Happiness requires a constant chase; contentment is a more even keel.

After the dark moodiness that characterized my younger years, that sounds pretty wonderful to me.

When I reread my friend’s note, I realized that she had also said, “you’ve found that contentment in your life and have the good sense to appreciate it.”

On my 60th birthday, I started nagging God, “okay, I’m ready. When are things going to start getting good?” Was it all some cosmic joke? Gradually, I began to realize that my life was turning out pretty well.

It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped striving to make things better, but if this is contentment, I’ll take it.

Take Me to Church

In spirituality on May 10, 2017 at 12:17 pm

I started going to church because of Bill O’Reilly and the late Fred Phelps, two men with whom I agree about, well, nothing.

In the months following 9/11, I was searching for – something. I saw the always mean-spirited former Fox News host peddling one of his books on a late night show, and he said he went to church because he thought it was a good idea to work on his spirituality for one hour a week.

Okay, maybe I do agree with him about one thing, although I learned pretty quickly that participating in church life takes more than one hour a week.

My family did not attend church much when I was a kid, although sometimes we went to a Methodist church, and I was baptized Methodist. Feeling nervous and unsure, I decided to give the only Methodist church I knew of in North Denver, Highlands UMC, a try.

I had only one requirement for a church—I would not attend a church that preached hate.

My first Sunday at Highlands, a woman told me I should have come the previous week because Fred Phelps had been there picketing. When I didn’t immediately recognize the name, she reminded me that he was the head of the Awful Westboro Baptist Church. That should be the official name, don’t you think?

I figured if he was protesting Highlands, I had found my church home.

That was January of 2002, and I’ve been going ever since. I don’t miss very many Sundays. I came with a head full of questions and found a few answers and even more questions, which is fine. I’ve always been more seeker than seer.

I’ve learned that four elements form the Methodist faith: scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. That’s right. God gave us brains and expects us to use them. Nobody tells me what I should believe.

Neither O’Reilly nor Phelps would probably agree with either of those things, and they probably wouldn’t appreciate it when I thank them for leading me to Highlands, but I do. Thank you.

How the Light Gets In

In creativity, Denver, spirituality on May 9, 2017 at 8:21 am

 

A nasty hailstorm hit the Denver area yesterday afternoon, hurling golfball and baseball-sized ice bombs that dented cars, battered roofs, and wiped out gardens all over town. Some of the stained glass windows at my church took a beating.

Pastor Brad called in some help and cleaned up the glass shards and rainwater in the sanctuary, using press and seal plastic wrap for a temporary fix on the shattered panes. I’m a member of the Board of Trustees, a committee charged with caring for our building, so we will have to make some decisions about the repair soon.

That isn’t as easy a fix as it might seem. The stained glass windows were first installed around 90 years ago and fell into disrepair as church membership dropped and finances became precarious. We have rebounded over the past five years, and a successful capital campaign allowed us to begin planning for restoration and protection of our treasured windows. Just last week we submitted a grant proposal to help with this prohibitively expensive project.

That money won’t come through for months, but clearly we will need a more permanent solution than cling wrap before then. At any rate, we will repair the windows, and within the next year restore them so they’re ready to withstand another hundred years or so.

As I stood in the sanctuary and gazed at the late sunshine streaming through the broken panes, I thought of the late Leonard Cohen’s brilliant song, Anthem, that proclaims “there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

And I couldn’t help thinking about the cracked and broken United Methodist Church (see To Love Somebody) and hoping the universe is letting in some light.

To Love Somebody

In Home, spirituality on May 8, 2017 at 8:29 am

If your church tells you LGBTQ people are incompatible with Christian teachings, your church is an abomination. Jesus told us to love one another. Period. He didn’t say it’s okay to love this person but don’t even think about loving that one over there.

Unfortunately, the United Methodist Church finds itself having to publicly defend its position that LGBTQ people are incompatible with Christian teachings, and I am a member of a UMC congregation. My beloved Highlands UMC is a reconciling congregation, which means we believe that our LGBTQ friends and family are just as worthy as everyone else of God’s love and protection.

Reverend Karen Oliveto, the first openly gay UMC bishop, is our bishop, and her election has spurred much reflection and heel digging within the church. She is warm and wise and a much better person than I will ever be. Nobody who meets her can say she is unworthy of her office, but some people just seem determined to hang onto their hate.

And don’t start on me with “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Calling someone a sinner and telling them they’re going to hell is not generally considered an acceptable way to express love. It might even be considered incompatible with Christian teachings. Bishop Oliveto in an interview on NPR, said it best: “wherever love is, God is.”

The UMC could end up splitting over this issue.

I could go find another church to attend, yet I’m staying. Why?

Because I love my church family, and we’re not “that kind” of Christians.

Because I don’t know anyone who agrees with me 100%.

Because with continued work and prayer we just might bring around those who disagree with us.

Because I’m not willing to leave the UMC to bigots and hatemongers.

In the Beginning was the Word

In spirituality on April 25, 2017 at 9:39 am

I love words. I love reading, writing, and talking. Ask anyone. During my lifetime, I’ve made a living doing each one of them, and now that I’m no longer working, I do them all for free.

By most estimates, the English language has more than a million words, all made by combining a mere 26 letters. That’s more than any other language because we beg, borrow, steal, adapt, and adopt words with abandon from other languages. We have no shame, although rest assured that thanks to our passionate pilfering proclivities, we have plenty of words that mean “shame.”

Scientists say language is our most human characteristic. We use it to provoke, warn, flatter, explain, calm, think, imagine, blame, argue, prevaricate, and to shine a light of truth on the world.

I’m a United Methodist. You may have seen on the news that our church officially denies LGBTQ people as being compatible with Christian teachings. Bullshit. The people of the South Central Jurisdiction, encompassing Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri, are desperately hanging onto their hate and prejudice and trying to impose those beliefs onto those of us in the West, who elected a lovely and loving woman as our bishop. Our bishop.

Can you tell I’m angry?

My church has a banner that proclaims Love is Love. Isn’t that the ultimate Christian value? Shine the light of truth.

Say the word I’m thinking of.

Have you heard? The word is Love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtWOLm3zeRk

Loose Change

In Lent - Season of Change, spirituality, Uncategorized on March 11, 2017 at 10:23 am

Loose-Change

Lent – Season of Change, Day 10

I rarely spend time with kids. That isn’t a complaint, but one of the things I value about my church is the abundance of kids, little bitty ones. On the second Sunday of every month, they come out into the pews to collect our spare change for charity. It’s my number one favorite thing in church. I try to remember to bring as much change as possible, so I can dole it out to several different little ones.

Each year, they collect a thousand dollars or so and donate it to organizations that fight the spread of HIV/AIDS or malaria. This year it goes to help Family Promise, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness one family at a time.

In the big picture, I suppose $1,000 doesn’t go very far to end homelessness or fight a deadly disease, but it means a lot to these kids. They’re learning to care for others, and they’re learning the concept of thinking globally and acting locally. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Our kids (yes, I think of them as “our” kids) are learning that early.

March Madness Sadness Gladness

In Home, Learning, spirituality on March 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm

March is a confusing month for me.

Although March is historically our snowiest month in Denver, it is also the month when spring begins and flowers start to bloom, even in the snow. Actually, that’s a pretty good metaphor for the month.

My beautiful nieces were both born in March, and they have been bringing light into my life for more than 40 years. That’s the gladness. They live in Phoenix, so I don’t get to see them as often as I would like.

Sadness comes because both my mother and father died in March. My mother passed away on March 18, twenty-one years ago at the age of 67. My dad lived until age 90 and breathed his last breath on March 25 three years ago.

Maybe that’s why March Madness irritates me so much. First, CBS pre-empts The Young and the Restless for FOUR days to show some idiot basketball games. I don’t even like Y&R much anymore, but it’s what I use as background noise when I eat lunch and read.

In the middle of the basketball frenzy comes St. Patrick’s Day. How can the Irish be proud of a pseudo-holiday that’s celebrated in America by people drinking themselves stupid?

And speaking of people drinking themselves stupid, what can I say about spring break. When did it become a requirement for college (and now even high school) students to debark to Mexico to raise hell and party themselves into oblivion? Don’t get me started.

Let’s just say I’m happy April is just a few days away.

March Madness Sadness Gladness

In creativity, Learning, spirituality on March 26, 2011 at 6:52 am

March is a confusing month for me.

Although March is historically our snowiest month in Denver, it is also the month when spring begins and flowers start to bloom, even in the snow. Actually, that’s a pretty good metaphor for the month.

My beautiful nieces were both born in March, and they have been bringing light into my life for more than 40 years. That’s the gladness. They live in Phoenix, so I don’t get to see them as often as I would like.

Sadness comes because both my mother and father died in March. My mother passed away on March 18, twenty-one years ago at the age of 67. My dad lived until age 90 and breathed his last breath on March 25 three years ago.

Maybe that’s why March Madness irritates me so much. First, CBS pre-empts The Young and the Restless for FOUR days to show some idiot basketball games. I don’t even like Y&R much anymore, but it’s what I use as background noise when I eat lunch and read.

In the middle of the basketball frenzy comes St. Patrick’s Day. How can the Irish be proud of a pseudo-holiday that’s celebrated in America by people drinking themselves stupid?

And speaking of people drinking themselves stupid, what can I say about spring break. When did it become a requirement for college (and now even high school) students to debark to Mexico to raise hell and party themselves into oblivion? According to Time magazine, the debauchery started with the ancient Greeks and Romans  celebrating the vernal equinox. But American students have put their own special stamp on it, egged on by liquor companies, MTV and Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild notoriety.

These things make me happy that I’m not a teenager anymore. Maybe I should celebrate that this month, but mostly I’m looking forward to April.

In creativity, Learning, self-employment, spirituality, work on July 7, 2007 at 7:19 am

The Nap Manifesto

Working at home allows me the luxury of indulging in to my natural tendency to nap. Mine are not the 20-minute “power naps” people boast about. My naps like to last about an hour and a half, which, it turns out is the time it takes to complete one cycle of sleep.

Of course, I don’t take a nap every day, although I’d like to. I’ve attended enough meetings and taught enough seminars at 1 p.m., right after lunch, that I know it’s a deadly hour. It seems to me that the cultures that have a general siesta in the early afternoon have the right idea.

Our society thinks nappers are lazy. Now science has the evidence to prove the case for napping. In her fascinating book, Take a Nap! Change your life, Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D. proclaims that napping “is free, it’s nontoxic and it has no dangerous side effects.” Instead, it will:

  1. Increase your alertness
  2. Speed up your motor performance.
  3. Improve your accuracy.
  4. Help you make better decisions.
  5. Improve your perception.
  6. Fatten your bottom line.
  7. Preserve your youthful looks.
  8. Improve your sex life.
  9. Lose weight.
  10. Reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  11. Reduce your risk of diabetes.
  12. Improve your stamina.
  13. Elevate your mood.
  14. Boost your creativity.
  15. Reduce stress.
  16. Help your memory.
  17. Reduce dependence on drugs/alcohol.
  18. Alleviate migraines, ulcers and other problems with psychological components.
  19. Improve the ease and quality of your nocturnal sleep.

Oh, yes. It also feels good. Right now, if you know what’s good for you, close your browser, find a comfortable spot and catch a few zzzzs.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved