What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see the ubiquitous Nike swoosh?
You probably didn’t have to think very long about that: Just do it.
I wonder if the marketing geniuses who came up with the swoosh and its slogan had any idea they were creating a global call to action and not just an annual marketing campaign for a tennis shoe company?
Several years ago I embarked on my own call to action: a year of saying “yes.” I had begun to notice that when faced with a risk or something brand new (which as you all know OF COURSE translates to “scary”) or something really horrible like too much spontaneity, my go-to answer was often no. So I decided to start saying yes to opportunities and invitations. Just do it. I made the mistake of sharing my new mantra with the congregation one Sunday morning which is how I found myself in an innertube on ice cold waters just downstream of Slaughterhouse Falls on the upper Roaring Fork River after church one frigid fall day. But I digress.
You see, I sometimes get stuck when thinking about a new idea or starting a new venture. What happens to me, and maybe to you too, is that my head gets in the way of my heart. From mountain biking to book-writing I convince myself that everyone is better than me so why bother. And if they aren’t better than me then they already have an edge somehow – they have years of experience or a PhD or a research team or a robust list of contacts or maybe they just have time on their hands to dedicate to being the best at…whatever! It’s a cycle for me: getting stuck, getting unstuck, getting stuck, getting unstuck.
So lately I find myself wanting to be fiercely confident. (Again.) I am reminded that I don’t have to knock it out the park at the first swing, but I do have to step up to the plate and, well, bat! On top of my planner/notebook I have written in big bold letters SO WHAT IF IT FAILS. Not a question. A statement. Because the truth is, all of our grand ideas might fail. And so what.
At the end of the day, after every flop and failure, every mistake and every setback – yours and mine – guess what remains? We do.
We’re still standing and the Lord, who goes ahead of us, will be with us and not fail or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). They are, after all, earthly things we chase after: experiences, achievements, material goods, accolades. Strip every little bit of that away, move yourself into a tent somewhere in the woods with nothing and no one, and you will be left with one magnificent and holy thing: you.
God has given you a spirit filled not with fear but with love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness. And living by that Spirit, you will be guided by the Spirit (Galatians 5:23-25). So be bold. Just do it. So what if it fails. For goodness sake – for everyone’s sake – be YOU. And I promise I will, too.
I won’t forget the morning I had with humpback whales off the coast of Hawaii. They are astonishing creatures and I am so grateful they have been protected. Without such protection, they would be gone since the world lost nearly 95 percent of these mammals before their recent slow comeback. It is hard to imagine the world’s oceans without them.
Humpbacks are massive. They grow to nearly 40 tons and 60 feet in length. As big as a school bus, humpbacks live up to 80 or 90 years. They migrate up to 5,000 miles per year, more than any other mammal. The ones in Hawaii make the annual trip from Alaska to the warm tropical waters not only to feed but to calve newborns. Many people recognize humpbacks by their body shape as well as by the shape of their tails or flukes.
On the morning we were sailing and observing the whales, we were captivated by their movements, power, size, and grace. But it was when we lowered a hydrophone below the surface of the water we were most awed. It was then we heard one of the most unique sounds in the world. The sound of humpback whale songs. Click here for an example.
While both males and females make sounds, it is the male humpback that is known for making sounds that are song-like, can last for up to 20 minutes, and can be heard underwater for up to 20 miles away.
As I sat listening to the music of the humpback, I was struck by the realization that had it not been for the hydrophone, we never would have heard the other worldly songs of these magnificent creatures of God. We never would have heard their sounds if we listened, even intently, only above the surface of the water.
In some ways, in my own faith journey, hearing God has at times been like trying to listen to the sounds of a humpback whale. There have been passages in which I have stayed above the surface of the water, so to speak, and not put myself in a place or space in which I could hear God.
Distractions, noise, busyness, fatigue, technology, and the like all keep us above the surface of the water, where it is difficult to hear God. To hear God, we don’t need a hydrophone, but we do need to go deep and into places and spaces in which there is quiet, peace, and few interruptions. It could even be that in listening to the songs of whales that we are hearing an example of the incarnation of God’s voice in creation.
I invite all of us to frequently create the space, time, and place to make God’s voice more accessible. To that end, I ask us to contemplate how we each can go below the surface just to listen?
“Hold space.” Two little words that have come up for me again and again over the last several months.
I want to tell you a cute little story from our Chapel Christmas pageant rehearsals. But first, can I ask you something? Can I ask you to notice how your body is positioned right now? What are you doing with your hands? How is your breathing?
Would you take a slow, deep breath? Would you put your hands down in your lap, relax, and turn them up towards the sky?
It was beginning of December and a group of children were at the Chapel on a Saturday morning, working out the details of the Christmas pageant. Townsperson One approached the Inn Keeper, presented her room reservation, and was directed to stage right where the room was hypothetically waiting, “Right this way,” the Inn Keeper said. Townsperson Two was next in line, presented her reservation, and also was directed to the space reserved for her, “Right this way.” Enter Joseph and Mary. They approached the Inn Keeper, asked for a room, and that’s when the Inn Keeper went rogue. “Right this way,” she said.
You guys, this is the greatest mistake ever made! She went totally off a 2000+ year old script, and it was BRILLIANT!! She giggled at her mess up. She was embarrassed. And she was SPOT ON.
Prior to a recent funeral held here at the Chapel, Charla prayed, “allow us to be present and ‘hold space’ for this grieving family.”
When I consider the intent of our Chapel MOPS group, or our youth groups, or our small groups and parent groups, it occurs to me that one of the richest parts of gathering together in community is not about the curriculum, not about what we’re learning from the text, but about how we are showing up for one another. How we listen. How we empathize. How we support. How our palms are open. How we literally and figuratively, hold space.
A friend asks to go for a walk in the middle of a busy workday. A teen lingers, like they have something they want to say. A child asks to play. It’s Gay Ski Week in Aspen, people who are often marginalized flock to our town. The Bible sits there on the shelf, unopened for a while.
How does our script go? Have we left a vacancy so that the God of the Universe can enter into our daily lives? Or are we so filled up, so busy, so set in our ways, that the friend, the teen, the child, the marginalized, JESUS himself, is sent out to find comfort in the barn?
Our little pageant Inn Keeper rewrote the script, and it was perfect. Let’s live palms up, friends. Let’s love each other. Let’s be able to say, “There’s room for YOU here with me. Right this way. Love wins.”
Let’s hold space.
My name is Crichelle Brice, and I am so excited to be joining the Chapel family as your new Youth Programs Coordinator! I have been involved in ministry my whole life. My clergy family served in London’s urban east end for my first decade, and then we moved to a 450-year-old boarding school where my father was the chaplain, before moving to America when I was 16. I graduated Aspen High in 2013, and then from Texas Christian University in 2017. Since returning to Aspen, I have worked at the Pitkin County library, and serve as the vice chair of the Pitkin County board for Senior Services. I am passionate about advocating for intergenerational mentorship and access to health care. I am the advisor for two clubs at Aspen High School, where I have been substitute teaching for the past three years. I get along especially well with teenagers (much to my own surprise). I love learning, and inspiring others to discover their gifts. I look forward to serving and growing our children and young people. I care deeply about faith in action, and ensuring that every child and young person feels like they belong at church. I am excited to get to know all of you! I am available to meet with parents and youth for coffee (but let’s be real, I’m actually making you the best cup of British tea you’ll get stateside). Shoot me an email! We also have some fun youth events planned in the upcoming weeks, and I hope that plenty of kids and teens can make it!
With love and respect,