Stream of Consciousness

teardropI am a seeker ― with far more questions than answers, and in recent days, my queries have been dramatically outnumbering my explanations.  Fortunately, in the past decade, my lifelong spiritual quest has led me to the sagacious sphere of one Dr. Joe Clifford.  And that’s why I pen this post today.  Alas, I am struggling with his recent announcement that he and his family will be leaving our frazzled city in less than a month. Intellectually, I know this sadness will pass, and Dallas/#DallasStrong will persevere somehow, but I still feel an overwhelming sense of  loss.

References to Joe’s canny wisdom and his super-human pastoral care shimmer across the pages of my blog like freshly cut gems.  Since 2009, the content I have crafted here has included both professional and personal musings ― more like a meandering stream of consciousness than a stake in the ground, but these ideas started spilling forth way before Twitter was cool and Snap even considered Chatting.  And, this stream has definitely ebbed and flowed . . .

Now, thinking about the soul-rattling events of recent weeks and days, my own profound healing journey over the past seven years, and Joe’s impending departure, I can’t help but recall one of the first posts I was ever inspired to write. It was about a “Joe sermon.”  And several years later, I actually had the good fortune to do some “official” blog writing for First Presbyterian Church ― helping amplify the impact of Joe’s insights and the Word of God.  A career highlight and honor. 

An excerpt from that April 2009 post:

Joe has an extraordinary capacity to inform and enrich my path in ways that are difficult to articulate. Today was an excellent example. He talked about the celebration of Easter wearing off as we entered a week punctuated by the bleakness of tax day, difficult professional challenges ― real life, etc. Then, he said a friend forwarded him the Susan Boyle link on Wed ― the astonishing performance of the unassuming 47-year-old on Britain’s Got Talent, who has captured the world’s imagination. He says he does not have time for all the forwarded email he receives, but he opened this one for some reason.

He said he wept ― and he asked the congregation how many of us had seen it and wept. Most of those present raised their hands. He went on to describe theologian Frederick Buechner‘s take on the origin of these tears. I now cannot get enough Buechner. He ponders:

How do you listen to your life? How do you get into the habit of doing it? How do you keep ears cocked and your eye peeled for the presence of God or the presence of anything else? One thing I have said, which I think is true, is to pay attention to any of those moments in your life when unexpected tears come in your eyes. You never know when that may happen, what may trigger them. Very often I think if you pay attention to those moments, you realize that something deep beneath the surface of who you are, something deep beneath the surface of the world, is trying to speak to you about who you are . . .

They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are. More often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and summoning you to where you should go to next.

Joe said we have a profound, spiritual reaction to joy ― to God. And it’s not enough to experience the moment ― we must use it as a way to discover our own life’s calling, what God has called us to do and be.

The world is hurting ― facing daunting challenges. I believe we are called to pay attention, be vigilant in our consciousness, and bare our hearts. Thank you for helping us do all of those things along the way, Joe.  Godspeed to you and your family . . .  with a smile and a tear.

This may not be Susan Boyle, but it’s a moment ― for now.

Making It

“Our most important decisions are discovered, not made.”
– Anne Wilson Schaef

Not too long ago I saw duct-tape marketing guru John Jantsch speak at the Social Media Club of Dallas. I really do admire these entrepreneurial guys in the social media marketing space who have managed to morph their marketing savvy and strategy into an actual, lucrative businesses. Chris Brogan wrote something recently in his blog about a tangible tool called “booth tag” by Bill Finn —sort of a social media commodity that impressed him as a proof-of-concept for trade show interaction.

“Marketers are service providers. They make
things that stop the moment they stop (normally).
Yes, they make ads or whatever, but those
are in service of other people.”

Brogan is right on target here. Monetizing services is tough. It’s really only sustainable if the service in question enjoys a very high perceived value, and the gigs keep coming. Attorneys and doctors have managed to ratchet up the hourly rates historically, but even they are feeling the pinch of the limping economy. I have come to believe that so much of business and even success, in general—is directly related to “discovering”—a precise brand of enlightenment that allows one to see when and how to leverage an idea, product, relationship, or service into a broader application. It’s a canny awareness that positions you at the right place and right time with the right preparation. It may even be unconscious. Theologian Frederick Buechner talks about this on a much deeper and spiritual level. “Listen to your life,” he counsels. “See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. For in the end, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

We all tend to go through our moments, our days, or months, and our years—and sometimes, even our lives on auto-pilot—numb to who we are and disengaged from our own realities. We become so caught up in “doing” that we often stop “being.” Only when something major, even cataclysmic, occurs that rattles us to the very core do we start to examine our raw, vulnerable, exposed souls in the harsh light of the storm’s aftermath or in the ongoing tumultuous sea of stress and upheaval. Then, we may ask, “Who am I?” “What am I here to learn?” “How is this series of events informing my journey?” More important, “What the heck should I do now?” “How can I make the money I need to support my family and still care for critically ill parents?” These are all understandable questions, but it’s frightening to feel so uneasy in your own skin at such a seasoned age—when you are supposed to have it all figured out. What’s that schmaltzy song about clowns—“Isn’t it queer? Losing my timing this late in my career. . .”

Socrates said, “Beware the bareness of a busy life.” How timeless is that? How apropos for 2010. And how easy it is for feelings extreme loneliness to engulf us in the waves of hubbub and chaos—even with so many well-meaning people around. There always seems to be so much to juggle, so darn much that demands our attention—especially as a single mother of two teenage boys (one college-bound, I hope); a herder of a dog and two cats; a niece of an 86-year old infirm aunt, who is all alone; an ex-wife, still engaged in an awkward tango—and the daughter of two recently incapacitated parents. The sandwich generation, a double-decker, and I’d definitely say I’m in a bit of a real pickle.

Back to the paying attention part . . . Just where do we start? How should we be? How have you handled the most difficult transitions and challenges in your personal or business life—as individuals, as family members, and as communities? How did you get through? How can we support each other in these difficult times when the path seems so unclear and the outcomes so murky? Share your thoughts.

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about social media and self-discovery. Contact her at elgantz()yahoo.com.