Singing For Our Lives…

“If you are mesmerized by televised stupidity, and don’t get to hear or read stories about your world, you can be fooled into thinking that the world isn’t miraculous– and it is.” –Anne Lamott in Grace Eventually: Thoughts on Faith

Earlier this winter, Pete Seeger died. Pete was a folk music legend and a protester. The kind of man who sang stories of relentless optimism and agitation….of workers uniting, of Central American Freedom movement struggles, of nonviolent resistance and international disarmament, of caring for the environment, of his love for America and dream for what we could be as a country if we realized our interconnectedness.

Pete’s songs were songs of protest. Songs which refused to get into bed with the status quo. Songs which prophesied of a better way. Pete was prolific songwriter; he believed that folk music was the music of the people and it was meant to be shared and sung together. For him, singing was the way to stand in the moment and say: “here we are, standing here, fully human, fully alive, and demanding better, singing for our lives.”

For me, the space of optimism that Pete held in the face of injustice and oppression was what drew me to him. Much like Lamott’s quote, Pete saw the miracle in life because he was fully engaged in it. I’m afraid sometimes that all of our gadgets fool us into thinking that we are living, but really, we are experiencing a screen at best, and televised stupidity at worst.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to wake up. The old kick-in-the-pants routine. Wake up. Take control. Sing.

The busyness of life can lead to fatigue and a rote routine of daily decompressing by turning on the TV, scrolling through facebook, or watching the latest must-see You Tube video. We can end up consuming so much more than we create and this doesn’t work for the human spirit. It doesn’t ask us to be our best selves. We lose passion and purpose. And sometimes, our voices.

Have we lost the miracle of a sunset? Have we lost the miracle of the complex biochemical processes that must occur for an apple to be digested in our bodies? Have we lost the miracle of living in a community of people who know each others names, stories, and dreams? Have we lost the miracle of helping each other or working for a cause that is greater than ourselves? Have we lost the miracle of eating a fresh tomato from a garden that our hands toiled in? Have we lost the miracle of confessing our joys and concerns to each other? Have we lost the miracle of crying together? Have we lost the miracle of aching for our significant other? Have we lost the miracle of a drenching rain seeping into a scorched earth?

Have we become so disconnected with the earth and each other that we cannot feel anymore?

Being a human is a miracle. But if we forget that, we can one of the most destructive forces ever.

It’s easy to do with all of the notifications to keep up with. Sometimes, it’s easier not to feel, or examine our belief systems thoroughly, or wonder who are best selves really are. It’s easier to consume music than to create it. It’s easier to consume ideas rather than create them. It’s easier to ignore our dissimilar neighbor than to love her. It’s easier to live carelessly than to live consciously. It’s easier to keep tearing down trees as if we own this earth, than it is to plant them and work to help ecosystems thrive. It’s easier to ungraciously read biblical texts than it is to actually research them. It’s easier to criticize than to innovate. Its easier to turn on the TV instead of engaging in vulnerable conversation.

It’s easier, but it’s not better….because we are fooled into thinking that life isn’t miraculous.

And, it is.

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Anne’s Call To Mobilize: Thoughts on Anne Lamott’s Nashville Talk

Recently, New York Times bestselling author, Anne Lamott graced Nashville with her presence; more specifically, she graced the Nashville Public Library’s Salon series, which seems so appropriate as she is a relentless advocate of the necessity of public libraries. If you are reading and are not familiar with Anne, I would suggest you pick up the nearest Traveling Mercies available. With all due haste. Make it a date night to go buy this book then read it with your significant other…

ASC End celebration 006

I promised that I would share some of Anne’s thoughts, which are really, all of our thoughts, said in a profound and hilarious way…

Anne spent most of the night conversing with another NYT bestselling author, Ann Patchett, who co-owns Parnassus Books, one of Nashville’s last independent book stores. The two were just hilarious, feeding off of each other, with elevated dialogue laced with grace and introspection.

Lamott covered the gamete of topics ranging from her new grandson, Jax, to faith, to writing, to activism. In her dialogue about writing a good story, she stated: “If someone will write about the mess with a sense of humor, I’m all in. Tell me a story. We are a species who is fed and enlivened by stories.” She also noted the discipline of writing is where the joy comes from and that being published is not (publishing makes you even more mentally ill than you were before, according to Anne).

Informing us about her grandson’s most recent sagacity into her slight tendencies to become over-committed, she quoted from Jax: “Nana, you are carrying too much and you are going to fast.”

By far though, my favorite part of the evening was her discussion of activism. “Listen young women, we [older, female activists] have fought for you to have the freedoms you have today… and our backs are tired and our feet hurt and our vision is failing. We need you to mobilize.”

Ultimately the evening ended because we were out of time and Anne had to use the ladies room. But I left with a sigh of relief on my breath, gratitude in my heart, and the fortitude to persist.

So Millennial women, what do you say? Can we elicit change? Can we carry the baton which is extended to us by generations of oppressed women?

Never Enough: Thoughts on the Art of Scarcity

As the beginning of 2013 approached, I was feeling some internal pressure to write an obligatory New Years blog post… stating all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful moments of 2012 and then conversely all that I look forward to in 2013. And though I think reflection is incredibly important, I didn’t quite get that written in time. So in typical drive thru fashion, I’ll quickly state a few things that stuck out for me (and I’d love to hear some that stuck out for you too), and then move onto a topic that’s been heavy on my thoughts: scarcity. More to come on that in a second.

2012 Highlights (in no particular order):

1) A trip to Asheville, North Carolina: A city of activists… a place I’d love to end up.

2) Chopping off my hair: Having short hair is the most economical decision I’ve ever made. Saves time and hair product expense. And it helps me to not look so nerdy all the time. I can use all the help I can get.

3) Writing for BioLogos: A organization that explores the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.

4) Shaking Anne Lamott’s hand

5) Hearing Ani Difranco sing “32 Flavors” live

6) The Our Emptying Church blog series, which has brought more joy to me than many other things in 2012.

7) Exploring the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with two of my favorite chicas in the world (and getting to reunite with a long lost friend).

8) Meeting the very cool and talented Chris Adams at a conference and later joining in on a Lifeway Women’s Generational Discussion, which taught me how productive graceful dialogue can be.

9) First reading Rachel Held Evans blog and then getting to have a conversation with her. What a beautiful, beautiful woman. I’m so thankful for her voice, which has given dignity to folks… especially women, encouraging and empowering them to love God and love people. Eshet Chayil!


10) Sitting down to many coffee dates with ministers who are working towards justice, peace, and love. And then having the privilege of sitting under their instruction.

So there’s a couple highlights for me though the list could go on and on… I have met some absolutely beautiful people in 2012.

Now I should probably dive into the obligatory New Years Resolutions, but I’d rather talk about something a little less discussed, but that I’d like to focus on big time in 2013. Scarcity. The feeling of never having enough. Enough money. Enough love. Enough time. Enough security. Enough success. Enough power. Enough perfection. We live scarcity everyday.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book about her research on vulnerability and shame, called: Daring Greatly.

Dr. Brown quotes Lynn Twist, a global activist who writes about scarcity:

“For me and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it…. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something…. This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life” (The Soul of Money, p. 43-45).

We are very aware of how much we lack. Our culture, via the media, perpetuates unattainable visions of perfection and those pervade our thoughts and dictate our worth. I love what Brene says… which is, that we are comparing ourselves to fiction!

I think worrying about scarcity can take many different forms. Most obviously, we worry that we don’t have enough money. Maybe just as frequently, we worry about our physiques. But I think the elephant in the room may be that we worry about power. Does our church have enough power and political influence? How can we control culture? Will my children listen to me? How can I control the people in my life? How can I control my significant other? We relish control because it gives a false sense of security. Control makes us worried and scared and frankly, at one another’s throats.

Dr. Brown’s research shows that the counter-attack on scarcity is not abundance, but rather, wholeheartedness. The idea of living with vulnerability and worthiness, facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks while knowing deep down, that I am enough.

I want to make a clear distinction between fighting scarcity and being content with the status quo. There are some things in this state, this country, and this world that I am not and will never be content with, most of which include inequality, patriarchy, discrimination, and injustice. Regarding these things, I have no excuse to remain silent or content. However, I completely identify with Brene’s research. In 2012, I tried to cut out a majority of time spent on TV, news, the radio, and even movies because I felt a little bit angry about the images I was being fed. I was angry about the way the media portrays women’s bodies as objects, about how the news channels frequently feed hysteria, hype, and fear about anything and everything you could possibly imagine, about how video games and movies are incredibly violent and portray war as something glorious. I was angry about receiving subtle messages about how I should think or vote. Isn’t this my obligation to research, reflect on, and decide for myself? I was angry about the amount of time I spent listening to someone else’s fictional life.

It turned out to be a good decision for me. I plan on cutting back even more media in 2013 because I want to live. I don’t want to salivate at fictional representations of perfection and then claw my way through life trying to match them.

To define my worthiness by how I love, how I treat folks, how I listen to people who I disagree with, how I give up power and invite in vulnerability… these are the things I am interested in. I want to be able to accept that I’ll never be extremely wealthy, the most trendy chica on the block, or the best statistician in the bunch. I want to be content with that.

And I think it’s possible, with great intentionality and discipline, to slap scarcity in the face.


What are some of your beautiful 2012 moments? What are you resolved to do in 2013?

**If you’d like to check out Brene’s new book, Daring Greatly, here’s the link. I’d highly recommend it!

I’ve Crossed Over To the Other Side

What I’ve come to realize is that I’m attracted to vulnerability… to baring one’s soul.

…like a hummingbird is drawn to a feeder of a red sugar-water cocktail, so I am drawn to vulnerability. Not in a subservient or helpless kind of way—but the stuff of transparency kind of way.

Anne Lamott, a favorite writer of mine, has written best-sellers containing story after story about her recovery, subsequent motherhood, path to faith, and her struggles with bulimia, with self-image, with the war in Iraq. Why is she so widely loved and quoted even in the non-faith community? Because she writes about such life stories that the reader is almost always able to say, “me too!… I can’t believe she struggles with thigh size too!… I can’t believe there are some mornings when she can barely emerge from bed too.” It’s real stuff… transcending her writing studio into the spirits of needful readers.

It reminds me of folk music… a genre full of hand written melodies that span generations… sung by laborers toiling and citizens insurrecting. Ani Difranco is one of my favorite contemporary folk artists. She is loved and endeared by her fans for her blunt, often course, albeit powerfully moving lyrics. Writing about rape, anger, chauvinism, judicial injustice, racism, heartbreak, love, and motherhood, she seems to have the artistic genius and certitude in her songwriting that adds a whole other dimension to folk music. She is completely raw and vulnerable. And yet this state of being so very exposed is something that I am completely attracted to… something that I think is called vulnerability.

So I’d like to breach this subject of vulnerability for a moment. And I’d love for you to come with me.

First off—let’s get one thing straight– in reference to the “v” word, I’m not talking about posting a status about all the day’s occurrences or the 2.5 seconds of anger you experience towards a TSA agent which causes you to impulsively tweet about the injustice of modern airport security. (Although I will say the full body x-rays and rather intrusive “pat downs”—both of which have recently occurred in my life– do force one to take the plunge into a sort of vulnerability). Rather, I’m talking about relationships… I’m talking about friendships… I’m talking about loving a friend or a partner so much that your soul is stirred when you make eye contact with them. At that moment, you know that you have reached the deepest level of emotion possible.

It takes you off guard and it scares you to death. See now, you’ve got to figure out what to do with that emotion… how to translate that emotion into communication.—

How do you tell him/her? Alas, here comes the ugly business of vulnerability. The fear that creeps in that insists you just aren’t good enough to love that deeply, that you don’t know enough about love, or that maybe, and most detrimental of all, you don’t think you deserve to feel that emotion… that you are somehow unworthy. You cannot treat yourself kindly because you feel you don’t deserve that love… after all, loving yourself is an embellishment and not a necessity, right?

Piling on to that is the idea of fear of when you do somehow navigate vulnerability, you open yourself up to being absolutely taken apart… able to be cut deeply by the ones you let in. Exposed like fresh, pale, winter skin being drenched in the summer sun’s radiation.

So bare your soul? Well… to let you down lightly and in the gentlest way possible… I’m not entirely sure.

I’m not sure because I’m not good at this lets-let-everyone-see-the-flawed-yet-beautiful-Kate business. But what I am starting to find out in my own imperfect way, is that being vulnerable is the path that leads to the deepest, most sincere, most unpretentious connections with myself, with my spirituality, and with other humans. It’s like saying…—“Hello world! This is me: here I am with my tiny little, unresolved issues like fear, guilt, inadequacy, pride, and an uncanny ability to be stuck on myself. It’s nice to meet you, what’s your name?!”

As scary as the whole being exposed business sounds… it’s actually quite freeing because here’s a secret… most of us are in the same boat too. We’re scared… we weren’t given operating instructions for living in this crazy world… we aren’t quite sure how to do all of this. By being vulnerable, I am showing those around me, me. The real me. And thus, I am welcoming them to say “oh—that’s me too… wow, I’m right there with you!”

I’m not so idealistic as to believe that being vulnerable with a friend or partner isn’t closely accompanied by pain and deep hurt.
It is. You let someone have access to cut you deeply (and they will), but you also open yourself up to loving that person thoroughly in the most profound of ways. Love that makes you ache. Love that brings you to tears of joy.

Maybe vulnerability comes in different flavors for all of us.

Maybe to you it means that you’ll stop trying to predict or control every situation.

Maybe to you it means that you’ll start seeing yourself as worthy to belong and be deeply loved.

Maybe to you it means that you’ll start letting yourself feel the gamut of emotions like grief, shame, joy, disappointment, fear and then being honest about feeling them instead of numbing them.

Maybe to you it means you will start being okay with imperfection.

Maybe it means to love with no guarantee of the love returned to you.

I think for me… being vulnerable is a little bit of all of these things. But maybe most of all… it means to me… that I’m fully living.

Grace…… eventually…


“When Jesus was asked about beauty, he pointed to nature, to the lilies of the field. Behold them, he said, and behold is a special word: it means to look upon something amazing or unexpected. Behold! It is an exhortation, not a whiny demand, like when you’re talking to your child— “Behold me when I’m talking to you, sinner!” Jesus is saying that every moment you are freely given the opportunity to see through a different pair of glasses. “Behold the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil or spin, and yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” But that’s only the minor chord. The major one follows, in his anti-anxiety discourse— which is the soul of this passage— that all striving after greater beauty and importance, and greater greatness, is foolishness. It is ultimately like trying to catch the wind. Lilies do not need to do anything to make themselves more glorious or cherished. Jesus is saying that we have much to learn from them about giving up striving. He’s not saying that in a “Get over it” way, as your mother or your last horrible husband did. Instead he’s heartbroken, as when you know an anorexic girl who’s starving to death, as if in some kind of demonic possession. He’s saying that we could be aware of, filled with, and saved by the presence of holy beauty, rather than worship golden calves.”

Anne Lamott in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith

Traveling mercies, my friend.


I went backwoods camping recently with my three life-long friends, known affectionately as the Who-ha’s… a knockoff name derived from The Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood. Armed with the strength of a sisterly bond, the fierceness and determination of the female species, and the love of Yahweh, we trekked on to our next great adventure. We tend to welcome the outdoor adventures that require a certain sense of survival sweetly mixed with the desire to sleep among the stars, sunsets, and sunrises. Our first major endeavor some years ago was a 3 week road trip across the greater United States that took us nearly into Canada… we camped, we feasted over the campfire, we visited old friends, we took pictures, we sang hymns, we laughed, we drove, we quoted Thoreau, we prayed, we conversed, we star-gazed, we hiked, we met new friends, we sweated, we danced. This past weekend lacked nothing as we reunited to repeat these things once more… picking up where we had last left off. What a rich life. Our time together got me thinking…

I’ve been savoring my reading of Anne Lamott as of late. The San Francisco Chronicle writes: “Anne Lamott is walking proof that a person can be both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime. Sometimes even in the same breath.” Lamott is irreverent, but she writes about grace as if it is desperately needed, as if it is her salvation. She can write like this because she has a codependency on Christ that leaves you realizing that Christ is literally her Savior through such personal grace that only she can know. She’s been through it all and back. She is endearing with her funny stories, crude language at times, fervid political beliefs, and her dreadlocks. She is ruthlessly honest in her pursuit of both life and grace. I love her writing; I see more grace in it than in many religious writings, excluding the Holy Bible, of course. In her book, Traveling Mercies, Lamott explains that she derived the title from her pastor, the Reverend Veronica Goines and her congregation who wish other members traveling mercies when they are about to depart on a journey away from the congregation. “Traveling mercies: love the journey, God is with you, come home safe and sound.” These are the sentiments that they wish each other; this reminds me a lot of the Who-ha’s, our individual and collective journeys, and the traveling mercies that have followed us through the years.

Later, Lamott writes about Bee, an old friend who had weathered the years and was close to her last breath. Anne sat with her during this sacred time, held her hand, and whispered something so profound as her old friend was slipping away to Glory: traveling mercies. So that’s what I wish to say to you today: Love your journey, know God is with you, come home safe and sound. Traveling mercies to you, my friend.