Dec 072009
 




Lobsters, soon after they’re born, find one partner, lock claws, and walk together for the rest of their lives.

*I learned this lobster fact from Phoebe on Friends, so verify before sharing at a dinner party to avoid potential embarrassment.

Monkees, meet my Lobster, Amanda.



A Song She Can Sing In Her Own Company


I believe in believing in just a few, simple things. I believe that the beauty of believing is in your beliefs’ longevity and longsuffering and loyalty – that the greatest blessing is to live long enough, and open enough, to see your simple, few beliefs made real in the adventure of your life.

So, I have decided share my key beliefs with you.

[You will note that I have exerted much effort to avoid discussing many of my other, let’s say less-fundamental, beliefs with you. Sometime, it might be appropriate for us to discuss these. They include my unyielding belief that most people are doing the best that they can. That nothing is sexier than when a man stands up from the table when you come to the table and leave it. That refusing to ever say something about someone that you wouldn’t say in front of them is the highest form of living. That if you need to drink Coke with your bourbon, you’re not drinking proper bourbon, and that if you are drinking proper bourbon, it is a crime against humanity to drink it with anything other than ice. That it is not charity, but reward, to look for the goodness in others, because when you find it you can catch a glimpse of God. That people are unspeakably brave. That in this stormy, harrowing life – full of joy and miracles and suffering and nonsensical tragedy and struggles – maybe the key is not to decry the sun’s absence, but to cling gratefully to the few, rare souls who will stand in the rain with you for as long as it takes for the skies to clear. Perhaps we can discuss a little later.]

Mostly, though, I try to hold the idea that a few infallible beliefs are all we need, and exactly what we need, to sustain us and help us keep the most important things the only important things. So, these few beliefs are the center of me:


I believe in God and my family and the reality that you have to lose your life to find it.

And I believe that you have found your life when you find

A song that you can sing in your own company.


I believe in God and my family. I believe in God with the certainty that I believe that Sister loves me – even though you could never prove she does – because of the way she shows up, everyday, to save my life. I believe in God because he held me the morning I was curled up and broken on the couch on my porch – the morning I realized my dreams were crushed, every promise worth keeping was shattered, and the life, home and marriage I had built were gone. I believe in God because He stood watch at the bedside of my sorrow, nursed me to health, and restored me to a life that I could have not imagined before my suffering began. I believe in God because He is as present and real to me as the breeze that moves my hair and the leaves crunching under my feet – as He shows up, everyday, with a small miracle to let me know we’re boys, and where He wants us to take this adventuresome life. Just as some people pursue money because they have faith that it will afford them a life of security and comfort, peace and excitement, I pursue God because I can’t imagine a life more exciting, peaceful and adventuresome than the life we will have together. I believe in God because God shows up, everyday, to save my life.


I believe you have to lose your life to find it. I believe we spend a lot of our lives trying desperately to get what we don’t really need. And the trouble with that is we can never get enough of what we don’t really need – so we are constantly salivating and struggling but we remain hungry and empty. But when we finally break free from the belief that we need the things we don’t – when we give up on the standards of success and normalcy and progress that don’t come from within us but have been hoisted upon us – when we lose that life, we gain the possibility of living the life we were meant to live. “For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36.


I believe that you have found your life when you find a decent melody; a song that you can sing in your own company. Ernest Becker wrote: “Most of our life is in large part a rationalization of our failure to find out who we really are, what our basic strength is, what thing it is that we were meant to work upon the world.” I think we learn our basic strength, that thing we were meant to work upon the world, when we find what breaks our heart. Or when we find what makes our heart hum. Or when we identify something that energizes and inspires us more than anything else on the planet. When we find that thing, that when we look upon it, we recognize ourselves.

You know that certain, specific feeling you have when you are somewhere new and strange and alone and you scan the room frantically for some familiar anything, and your anxious eyes suddenly rest on a smile you know and the foreign place is suddenly home, and a wave of warmth and comfort sweep over you? Just as our eyes scan for recognition of home in a strange place, I think our hearts do the same thing in this confusing world, overcrowded with so much that we don’t recognize in ourselves. And for each of us, there is a unique place where our heart’s gaze rests, and it is home – because it breaks our heart, or because it makes every fiber resonate with the joy of recognizing ourselves. Where our heart’s gaze rests, this is the thing that reveals the unedited version of ourselves – the raw, one-of-a-kind dreams and desires and passions that compose our souls.

I believe that we all crave to know and to respond to this thing – this thing where our heart’s gaze alone rests. To listen to this still small voice that whispers: I know the puzzle of your heart, and this is the piece that is your fit; this is the melody that is more beautiful to you than anyone else in the world. This is the song that you would sing over and over in your own company, if you never had to worry about what anyone else wanted to hear.


My dear friend Joanna is never more herself than when she is painting something that only exists in her exquisite brain, and because she is brave enough to create, the world sees colors and forms that would have never exist without her. The world needs Joanna’s thing.


My dear friend Allison was specifically crafted to be a friend. She will stand by her friends through anything – even when they are wrong, even when she shouldn’t – and she does it with every possible means of avoiding credit. Allison doesn’t feel her friends’ pain. She feels the pain her friends feel as if it were happening to her – because it is. I am convinced that Allison would rather burn up with me than leave me in a fire of my own making. The world, I, need Allison’s thing.


My dear friend Bill’s mind was made to mesmerize on Renaissance literature – he is brilliant at that thing – and students of the discipline for years to come will read his scholarship, and be fascinated and energized and full. The world needs Bill’s thing.


A beautiful, strong woman I know, Karishma, after attending elite undergraduate and law schools, left her fancy law firm job to become a Yoga instructor. I can only imagine she made this leap because practicing yoga makes her feel whole and integrated and calm and strong. And now she is delivering to stressed-out New Yorkers a place of tranquility and empowerment. The world needs Karishma’s thing.


I have a dear friend in New York, Michael, who loves to analyze stocks. He worked and prayed for years to land the position he is in now, projecting the viability and profitability of stocks. He is very happy, and he is helping lots of investors who don’t have his gift. The world needs Michael’s thing.


I met a woman last week – brilliant and beautiful – who wanted more than anything to use her law and business degrees to empower people to obtain better health care, but she had no idea whether this was possible or where to start. The world needs Kelly’s thing.


The world needs each of our things – each of our things we were meant to work upon the world. And each monkee deserves to walk this world to the hum of a decent melody – even if it sounds decent to her alone.

What’s your thing?

Nov 092009
 

Thank you for sharing your heroes with me. In return, I’d like to share my hero with you.

Several months ago, Sister and I both started feeling restless and aimless. We found ourselves asking God: “What next?” We promised each other we’d get quiet enough to hear His answer.

After some time, I felt God suggest that I start getting up very early in the morning to write to you. I was feeling quite disappointed and misunderstood, because I was hoping He might recommend a nice bathroom remodel or sweepy bangs. But then Sister called and said that God was suggesting that she leave her position at her law firm to accept a fellowship with the International Justice Mission. Apparently God wanted her to move to South Asia to rescue little girls being held as sex slaves and to help prosecute their tormentors.


Kaaaaaay, I said.

I can’t put into words how grateful I am that God didn’t switch-a-roo these suggestions.

Because all of a sudden getting up to write each morning felt very doable.


So I started writing and Sister pursued, won, and accepted a legal fellowship with the International Justice Mission. She leaves for South Asia in January. She is leaving everything she knows to pursue her dream of rescuing girls and securing justice for them. It’s a dangerous mission, but a worthy one to Sister. Because she remembers the quote from Edmund Burke that my dad hung on the wall in our childhood home: “The only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

I bet sometimes my dad wishes he’d hung “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” instead.

Here is the letter that Sister recently sent to our family and friends.


October 30, 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

It is finally feeling like fall here in Virginia – the leaves are starting to glow in yellows and crimsons, the air is cooling and crisping, and it is starting to smell of football and Thanksgiving and everything that is so comforting and hopeful about the transition of the seasons. So this may be just the right time to write to you about a transition in my own world. My newest season begins when I leave my law firm this January to embark on a one-year fellowship in South Asia with the human rights organization International Justice Mission.

I will spend the year working with IJM to secure legal protection for trafficked women and children – as young as four –who are held in the bondage of forced prostitution in the region’s infamous brothels, and to secure the conviction and sentencing of the sex traffickers who brutalize women and children for profit. In the eleven years since IJM’s founding, the organization has secured freedom for hundreds of women and children held as sex slaves in the cruel reality of human trafficking. IJM’s investigators document undercover evidence of trafficking and sexual exploitation, its lawyers secure justice against perpetrators, and its social workers provide aftercare services to heal survivors and teach them skills needed for economic independence.

For the past three years, my heart has focused unwaveringly on the work of IJM, and I have come to believe that my passion, gifts and experiences have been directed to this precise opportunity. I am embarking on this fellowship because it is my act of faith, my “Here am I, Lord; Send me;” because it is a privilege to use the power I have been given to help to defend the powerless; and because of Manna.

When Manna was fourteen years old she ran away from her home in South Asia to escape family abuse and severe poverty. A woman who saw her crying at a train station promised Manna safety and a job selling fabric. But when Manna awoke from the night with her would-be protector, she found herself imprisoned by a brothel keeper who beat her until she surrendered to the customers who had paid to rape her. Manna was forced to service 10 – 40 customers every night for two years. Then a brave girl who had been previously rescued by IJM, with the hope of freeing more girls, led IJM operatives back to the brothelwhere she had been held. She led IJM to Manna and three other girls enslaved in a soundproof dungeon in the brothel. IJM investigators and lawyers built a case against Manna’s captors, and both were convicted and imprisoned. From the peace of an aftercare home providing love, safety and schooling where Manna now thrives, she said, with a smile that fills the room like sunlight: “I came to prison, but I am not alone. God took me from that place to here. I am requesting to God that like IJM saved me they will save even more. What is impossible for men is possible for God.”

There are nearly two million children like Manna currently trapped in the commercial sex trade. (UNICEF). Yet, out of 1,000 raids in one district of South Asia over the past five years to free enslaved children like Manna, only 40-50 traffickers were convicted and fined. (U.N.). Human trafficking is the world’s third largest criminal enterprise, and the total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (U.S. Department of State; U.N.). There is no doubt that the forces perpetuating this violent oppression are strong – perpetrators have much to gain. And the scope of the crisis is so enormous that it is almost paralyzing. So it is a privilege to join an organization which believes that the prospect of saving one Manna is worth any amount of sacrifice, passion and intellect it can devote; and which believes that the arc of justice ultimately bends toward the powerless, if those with power use it to help.

I look forward to sharing next year’s adventure with you and I am honored to have you join me in this beautiful, scary, hopeful season.

-Sister


I know it takes a while for the heart of a mother to accept the fact that right now there are four and five year old girls being held as sex slaves. Little girls who at this very moment are trembling and praying to God to rescue them.

And this is how I think prayer works. I believe that God hears the prayers of these little girls, and in response He taps the shoulder of somebody else’s little girl, halfway across the world. He whispers in her ear: “We’ve been preparing for this moment for decades. It’s time, Sister- Let’s Roll.” And Sister says, “All right. I’m in. Let’s roll.”


I’d like to cordially invite you to Roll With A Sister.


Sister is going to become Momastery’s field reporter. She’s going to write to us from her post across the world and tell us what she sees, hears, tastes, and feels. She’s going to tell us what she can about the crisis, about the oppressors, about the heroes. She’s going to help make the world a little smaller for us. She’s also going to tell us how her heart and life are changing. In preparation for this…..

The first official book selection of the HERMIT CRAB BOOK CLUB is “Just Courage” by Gary Haugen, the founder of the International Justice Mission. It’s a book about using your life to make an impact on the world and loving your neighbors. It’s written from a Christian perspective, but I think it will speak to anyone who yearns to make a difference and to feel more alive.

Our first discussion will be in two weeks and you can buy the book on the IJM website,www.ijm.org.(While you’re there, check out the amazing ways in which IJM stands for thevoiceless and powerless.) If you can’t buy the book because you’ve already spentyour monthly discretionary funds on wooden word signs and replacement sippy cups …email your address to me and I will happily send you a copy.

I hope you’ll come along on this ride, because I think some magic is going to happen. I don’t have a clue what it might be, but I can feel it. Something special is going to happen when the Culdesac and the Brothel Meet.

You In?

Sep 102009
 

Yesterday’s post was about God. Sometimes talking about God can hurt people’s feelings. What I want most in the world, besides a personal chef, is to not hurt your feelings. If you people knew how much I thought about you and worried about your feelings you would probably be very, very afraid.

In the future, when I refer to God, feel free to substitute the name of whatever light helps you find your way home. I usually call God well, God.I also call him Jesus, because Jesus was the First Responder to my spiritual 911 call from my bathroom floor several years ago, and because everything He said matches the truth in my heart. I also sometimes call the pizza man God because, well, families can’t live on bread alone.If you call God something different than I do, then…“to-mayto- to-mahto.” Let’s not call the whole thing off due to semantics okay?And if you believe that everyone has to call God the same name… I’d be honored if you’d stick around, too. Let’s all try to understand each other. Because with every passing year I become more suspicious that maybe we’re not really meant to spend our spiritual lives playing a never-ending game of Red Rover.“Send those PAGANS right over!”Red Rover requires a lot of choosing teams and yelling and running and winners and losers and bruised arms. Maybe instead we could all just sit down, take a deep breath and figure out what we can learn from each other. I think God, whatever He might prefer to be called, would like that.

Anyway. The point is that yesterday I wasn’t trying to assert that bumper sticker man was definitely wrong about God. BECAUSE WHO REALLY KNOWS? I was just saying that I don’t buy any theology that fits on a bumper sticker. But there are actually a lot of things I probably should buy that I don’t, like mops and new underwear and a pan, according to my sister.

She came over to cook dinner last weekend, which she does occasionally for the sake of the children, and she yelled from the kitchen:“Glennon, where are your PANS?” and I yelled back “I don’t have one.” And after that shocked silence to which I am becomingwell accustomedshe yelled something like “You don’t ownApan? How do you cook without a singlepan?”And I said, “Yeah. I know, IT’S REALLY HARD.” And then she walked into the family room and stared at me in disbelief for a good three minutes.When she finally spoke, she said something about how she had MULTIPLE PANS FOR VARIOUS PURPOSES and how I COULD SIMPLY NOT not have a single pan in my home.

WELL.

JEESH, SISTER,give me a break.So I don’t have a pan?So what? It’s not like there’s anything I cando about it. Every day I pray the serenity prayer, “allow me to accept the things I cannot change,” and then Itry to accept the fact that I do not have a pan.I’m not gonna sit around and cry about it. Also, if we’re being totally honest, I think you’re being just a teensy bit judgmental. Just because you’re a fancy pants MULTIPLE PAN OWNER, doesn’t mean that all of us have to join you in your life of excess. Sister, there are children STARVING IN AFRICA, actuallyat my house too, and you’re walking around with your head in the clouds, judging the panless and gloating about your MULTIPLE PANS.

Okay, this post is miles from where it started. I think my points were:

1. Let’s be the first group of people in the history of the world who talk about God occasionally without starting a war.

2. Please send me a pan. And a detailed note explaining what I’m supposed to do with it.