For those of you who weren’t able to be at the 11/28/12 Wednesday worship service when I shared my meditation (mom,) and for you others out there, these are the thoughts I shared that night:
While my parents wanted their children to be “churched” they weren’t really sure about the God and Jesus stuff. The one thing they were sure of was the power of Scouting. So although I attended church, the first lessons I learned about being Christian came from my Scouting experiences.
One of the first things I learned was the importance of “showing up.” As a seven year old Brownie Scout, I participated in an investiture ceremony. The story told at the ceremony was this: a young girl overhears her parents talking about how they wish they could find an elf to help them out. The girl asks a wise owl where she might find such an elf. He tells her to go to the edge of the pond and say these words while she spins, “Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I look in the water and see…..” Of course you can hear the answer in your heads: “myself.” Thus I was taught citizenship – show up and be present. I developed a keen sense of the power one can have in the life of another by being present. I like the way Margaret Wheatley describes it:
“…..in this..universe, nothing living lives alone. Everything comes into form because of relationship. We are constantly called to be in relationship – to information, people, events, ideas, life. Even reality is created through our participation in relationships. We choose what to notice; we relate to certain things and ignore others. Through these chosen relationships, we co-create our world.”
She goes on to say:
“If we are interested in effecting change, it is crucial to remember that we are working with these webs of relations, not with machines. Once we recognize that organizations are webs there is much we can learn about organizational change just from contemplating spider webs. Most of us have the experience of touching a spider web, feeling its resiliency, noticing how slight pressure in one area jiggles the entire web. If a web breaks and needs repair, the spider doesn’t cut out a piece, terminate it or tear the entire web apart and reorganize it. She reweaves it, using the silken relationships that are already there, creating stronger connections across weakened parts.”
My second lesson was about commitment in relationships. While I had some “best buddies” in my Girl Scout troop, there were also girls who were not like me, some who made me uncomfortable, and some I just plain envied. But the act of having common goals taught me to value each one for their unique qualities and to value myself. I learned that friendship is a kind of promise. This experience was especially evident at resident camp each summer. I was plunked into a cabin with 5 other girls I didn’t know at all and yet magic happened every summer.
I would come home with an arm full of “Bear Scares,” evidence of my new friendships. A bear scare is a bracelet made of a leather shoestring with knots on it. The knots tell this story: A girl went out into the woods and met up with a bear. It began chasing her and then a friend heard her scream and came and frightened the bear away. A bear scare has one knot at the center for the bear and knots on either side for friends. The knot that ties it to your wrist represents yourself. The bracelet is a reminder that your friends are there to help you with your proverbial bears.
I was always able to name each knot on my collection of bracelets and I would wear them until they disintegrated. When I was really young I would mourn their loss as though I had lost the friends named by the knots. Over time I learned to collect more than just knots, get the addresses of those you want to stay in touch with!
So Girl Scouting taught me two important lessons: 1) to show up, and 2) the importance of commitment to individuals and community. It didn’t take much for me to click my heels together and come home to the God and Jesus stuff.
I was listening to the Three Interfaith Amigos last week and Imam Jamal Rahman described the way I feel about God. He said God can’t be contained in the universe but He can be contained in the human heart. Those words capture the way I feel. I can stand in awe and gratitude for the works of God I see in the natural world but it is what happens inside my heart that helps me truly know God and to be grateful.
And wouldn’t you know – hymns have a way of really singing Jesus into my soul. One I remember so clearly from my Presbyterian childhood: “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.”
My most recent lesson is the power of witnessing. When my daughter got married four years ago there was only one word she especially wanted written in her invitation and vows. That word was “witness.” She wanted her family and friends to be present in her life as witnesses to this covenant she was making with her husband and with life.
I think this is what God calls me to do, to be a covenantal witness. I work with families who are socially and economically at risk. These parents don’t know how to show up, they don’t know how – or are sometimes too compromised – to be able to sustain any kind of community beyond the 4 walls of their apartment. My work with them is strengthened because of my values and belief system. I try to be one knot on their Bear Scare, and that knot has two names – mine and Jesus’.
With my family and friends, and here with you, I come the way I come to a mirror – to see myself and witness God’s love revealed.
And I come ready to tie knots.