Let {Real} Freedom Ring – Erin Lammott

Every week we sit in a circle and share a moment when we felt we (as individuals) experienced God. This week I didn’t have one God moment really, but more of a series of thoughts. For the last few years, I have been practicing Christianity and for the last few years I have also felt a bit of a wandering heart. I’m just not all in on this hipster, Jesus-only, #blessed, rock band, passionate, hands up in praise, no questions Christianity.

This week though, I realized, I am a Christian and I’m able to speak that over myself. When it boils down to the me and God of it- I am a believer. I need and want this faith in my life. I’m in it and not walking away. I noticed that Denver has been the only place where I have not felt a desire to resist Christianity and look for another religion. This is something I’m committed to for #lyfe. I wonder why though – what’s gotten me to this point?

I believe the biggest piece is that here, I have the true freedom to choose. Supposedly, I’ve always had that freedom. But not really. Before there was always the pervasive assumption of Christianity. It is the religion of all the biggest & most visible churches, the opportunities for community are in church small groups and church-facilitated sports, in the “Godly man” awaiting me to be his “Godly wife” one day. Most of the groups doing good charity-type work were affiliated with Christian churches in Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois. The culture felt it was set up to flow the little Erin fish in to the big sea ( C ) of Christianity (lol seeee what I did there).

Choosing not to be a Christian meant: remove the majority of dating prospects from your radar, probably join the crazy hippies or non-spiritual at all because that is all there is. Good luck finding a small group type community because that’s really a staple for quality socialization in the Midwest. And watch as your old small groups and church leaders pray for your soul. Also, remove that connection point from your list of ways to network with other generations in the workplace because you won’t have that shared understanding or see each other around at church anymore. And say goodbye to a lot of your music too. So yes, I could technically give up Christianity, but not without losing many other pieces of my life.

Here, in the metro, I actually do have the freedom to choose. Sure, Christianity seems to still be the dominant religion, but there are plenty of other viable options. Plenty of non-Christian spiritual people to date, pods of community who unite around common values, people who are open to fluid conversations. The C-suite staff isn’t predictably Christian.

And you know what that leads to? Talking about our values, our common humanity, our experiences, what we truly believe in – beyond the labels.

Christianity is so much more complex than I was taught through watching on the outside for 20 years and the inside of different non-denominational churches for the last five years. It’s helped me to name what I am not, in trying to find what I am. I am not willing to form judgements of LGBTQIA, not going to be anti-abortion, I don’t have to want kids, I don’t have to agree with the belief that women shouldn’t be preachers, I don’t have to believe [they] are a lost soul because [they’re] not baptized, I don’t have to be docile, and the list continues.

Just because I believe in the Christian God does not mean that I have to prescribe to all these other beliefs or else be lonely for life. I am not going to be blind or easily go-with-the-flow. It’s just not who I am (those of you who know me, probably know that haha). It is quite likely that I am going to be critically-questioning for my whole life – and I am glad. So when I do have moments like this week, I can fully claim it for myself. And when I talk with others of different denominations, faith systems, or those who don’t claim a religion, and we can connect on the soul of it, not the basic culture. I guess I’m just glad that it isn’t a black and white, all or nothing thing. There is so much gray space and I’m thankful for the diversity of Denver and multiple generations investing in our learning. It gives me peace to not have to pick a side, just more of a human, ya know? I hope we let people be free, let people be what they are.

Hindsight
Left more than I would have thought in Indiana when I moved three years ago…
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Gimme Some Warm Weather

chikenbonenowison

Right now it is the middle of winter. At my placement site, Saint Francis Center. we see hundreds of people a day. which means we also come in contact with hundreds of germs a day. In your first year at SFC it is expected you’ll get sick all through the winter pretty much. It’s science. But it still sucks. So right now my head isn’t too much into the heavy stuff. I’m doing what I can to keep learning and growing but the fact of the matter is that sometimes your head just ain’t in the game. Right now i’m constantly dreaming of warmer weather and skateboarding, and sitting out on the porch after work. I’ve pretty much entirely stopped wearing deodorant, which is actually pretty sick. I get some pretty obnoxious BO but i’m the only one who smells it so who cares really? I’m gonna post a link to a skateboard video, I really hope you take a couple minutes and check it out, skateboarding brings me a lot of comfort and helps me get out of my head. So from me to you, here is a video called “Chicken Bone Nowison”.

Later.

Link is right below 🙂

Chicken Bone Nowison

Embracing the Discomfort – Emily Eldridge

One of the first things we talked about way back at the start of this program (a whole 5 months ago, which sometimes feels like a lot longer) was embracing vulnerability, and the discomfort that comes with it. In case you couldn’t tell by now I’m the type of person who haaaates vulnerability and feeling uncomfortable. Back in August, we were talking about Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, which I read admittedly in kind of a rush, but which I filled with highlights because I identified so strongly with her words about the discomfort of vulnerability.

In one of Kirsten’s and my early sessions with our group therapist we practiced sitting in silence and focusing on the awkwardness we felt. I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who tries to avoid and ignore awkwardness as much as possible, and sitting in silence with other people almost always feels uncomfortable. But the point of the exercise was to notice how it felt, keep going, and see how the discomfort lessened.

A couple of weeks ago when I was thinking about what to write for this blog, I expected to write a little about this being about the halfway point of the program. I had a vague idea of summarizing some of my favorite moments and talking about how I finally felt settled in and comfortable. However, things have gotten pretty uncomfortable again since then. A lot of the routines I’ve built up are changing, and the future is a little hazier than I would like.

I had to push through the discomfort just to go on last weekend’s retreat, which in all honesty, I was wishing I could skip. I knew there would be expectations of vulnerability and I was not feeling like opening up to a dozen new strangers on top of the anxiety I was already feeling. But as it turned out, braving that discomfort was a good thing for me. Remember I wrote about hating talking to new people? I talked to a bunch (by my definition anyway) of new people over the weekend and it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. I ended up being glad that I went on the retreat.

So my life does not feel as stable as I would like right now, and there’s a fair amount of anxiety and awkwardness to deal with. I just have to remember that there’s something better on the other side of the discomfort.

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I don’t have much to say…

Today I don’t have much to say, it has been a busy couple of weeks. I’ve set up a small personal alter next to my bed, I have a few images up there and try to pray at my alter nightly. Recently i stopped by the Hare Krishna temple here in Denver and had a great time with two of the devotees, PK and Jorge. I got there and met a girl named Diana who works in the cafe they run there called Radha Govinda’s, its a completely vegetarian cafe attached to the Temple. Diana was a very sweet, welcoming face to meet as I arrived. after meeting her I went down to the basement and took prasad, which means food that is first offered to a deity before eating. Then after some food and conversation with a man named Arjuna, PK and I went to his apartment where he lives and assists devotees on their path to Krishna Consciousness. He basically is there to help them along the way and to do his best to help keep their consciousness in the right place. He and I and Jorge sat and talked for an hour or so, maybe a bit more. The convo is always of a serious matter, but many laughs are had, real laughs…loud laughs. That day I was needing that sort of connection and I thank God for PK, Jorge, all the devotees of Krishna, and for the whole religion. Everyone I meet from this faith is so warm and welcoming.

 

Hare Krishna.

 

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In Defense of Exploration – Even When I’m Exhausted – Erin Lammott

“Do you feel more confident now?”
[Pause]
“Well it’s funny because I would say I know less now than I thought I knew. But yeah, at the same time, I do feel more confident.”


This one is for the gentle souls, the moldable, the learners, the wandering, the wondering. There are always seasons aren’t there? Seasons of play, seasons of excitement, seasons of hope, seasons of comfort, seasons of challenge, seasons of disappointment, seasons of self-doubt, seasons of disillusionment. Well, tis the season. I’m exhausted right now. I’ve been thinking a lot, but not quite ready to publicly share a full post.

Instead, today, I would like to share with you the lyrics to one of my favorite songs. It is called Lost Stars, sang by Keira Knightley, in the movie Begin Again.* I’d recommend giving it a listen too.

Lost Stars
Please don’t see just a girl caught up in dreams and fantasies.
Please see me reaching out for someone I can’t see.
Take my hand, let’s see where we wake up tomorrow.
Best laid plans; sometimes are just a one night stand.
I’ll be damned; Cupid’s demanding back his arrow.
So let’s get drunk on our tears.

And God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young.
It’s hunting season and this lamb is on the run.
We’re searching for meaning…
But are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?

Who are we? Just a speck of dust within the galaxy.
‘Woe is me’ if we’re not careful turns into reality.
Don’t you dare let our best memories bring you sorrow.
Yesterday I saw a lion kiss a deer.
Turn the page; maybe we’ll find a brand new ending.
Where we’re dancing in our tears.

And God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young.
It’s hunting season and this lamb is on the run.
We’re searching for meaning…
But are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?

I thought I saw you out there crying…
I thought I heard you call my name…
I thought I heard you out there crying…
But just the same…

And God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young.
It’s hunting season and this lamb is on the run.
Searching for meaning…
But are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?
Are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?

 

 

*According to Wikipedia – “The song was written and produced by Gregg AlexanderDanielle BriseboisNick Lashley and Nick Southwood. It is also performed by actress Keira Knightley in the film. The music was recorded in New York City at Electric Lady Studios in mid-2012.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Stars

Inspiration and Creativity – Emily Eldridge

This month in weekly Formation we’ve been talking about creativity. Last week, we watched a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love). She talked about the pressures of creativity, and how inspiration used to be seen as something outside of the creator. Genius was something that came from someplace else, choosing to speak through one person or another, not something some people had. I was thinking of her words yesterday when we had a project to do and I said I didn’t have an inspiration gremlin.
All of that is to say that I got home tonight knowing I needed to write a blog post and I had not a single inspiration gremlin for it. Yesterday Henry suggested using my lack of inspiration as a subject for the project, so that’s where I decided to start with tonight’s blog post.
Creativity is not an easy thing, but I often think it comes to me easily. Except, of course, in those moments when inspiration is absent. And while it can be easy for me to create, it gets much harder when you add the expectation that what you create will be shared with others. That was part of the TED talk too: creativity is vulnerability. Especially because genius is now thought of as personal, we feel that what we create is only worth sharing if it’s amazing, and we fear other people thinking that what we create isn’t good.
This also applies to this blog post. Though I am creative in general, a pretty good writer if I do say so myself (I get it from my dad), and – I am coming to realize – I process thoughts best and communicate most clearly on paper, writing blog posts scares me. Writing in a journal, or even publishing an anonymous post, would be a lot easier than trying to find the right words to share.
The TED talk came to the conclusion that you should create anyway. Even if the gremlin isn’t showing up, even if you don’t think what you’re making is good enough: create anyway. So this is my blog post about not knowing what to blog about, and this is the painting an inspiration gremlin showed up for yesterday.20171219_111452.jpg

Dealing With Death – Anthony Suggs

It’s been a little less than a month since my grandmother died, the day before Thanksgiving. She had been sick my whole life and had gotten her “6 months notice” from her doctors around 5 years ago, so we’ve been enjoying lots of extra time since then. The last few weeks had been especially hard with over a decade of reduced oxygen from lung disease taking its toll on her mind. In hospice, she became increasingly delusional and was put on heavy medication to keep her at peace. She passed after two days, in peace, with family around. I wasn’t there for her passing, at least not in person.

For Thanksgiving this year, I decided to drive from Denver to San Diego to visit a good friend from college who I hadn’t seen since around the time of our graduation. This required two full days of driving and lots of energy bars, PB&J’s, fruit, and Doritos in the passenger seat; not to mention a night camping out in my car just outside of Zion National Park. The first day of driving was the day she was put on medication and the second was when she passed. I had been in San Diego for a grand total of 30 minutes when I got the call from my mother. The first thing I heard after that call was my friend’s voice saying, “1/4 of you is her. She’s alive and well in you, right now, right here.” She was right.

Dealing with death is a complicated process and it’s almost never the same for each person or situation, but here’s how I did it and continue to do it. In my situation, her death was a given. Granted, death is a given for all of us, but it becomes much more obvious when chronic illness is involved. However, because of that chronic illness and the idea of extra time after her “6 months notice,” she and I were able to have a handful of moments together where we were positive it would be the last time we’d see each other. Those “see you later” moments really helped me begin the process of dealing with death before it happened. Death often takes us by surprise; but not this time.

With my car in San Diego as the funeral plans were being made, it became apparent that it was not going to be possible for me to make it to the funeral. So, I decided to celebrate her life by continuing to do something she loved: road trips. She and my grandfather were big road-trippers. With their RV, they’d make trips near and far to enjoy creation and time with each other. So, every desert, mountain, forest, river, lake, bluff, rest stop, souvenir shop, and gas station I encountered, I encountered for the both of us. Every picture I took, I took for the both of us. All of it was my own way of remembering  and celebrating her. Dealing with death is never easy, but the only way to do it is to start.