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Friday, July 25, 2008

Gearhart the Mystic

The instructor of our session is a lithe, ex-gymnast, named Andrea, and she leads us through the presentation as if she is executing a floor routine. She is jumping, twirling, and doing somersaults across the room trying desperately to sell us on spending $495 to attend a forum which will change the direction of our lives. She is teaching us how to create a new possibility for our future. The first order of business is to tell our partners how we heard about Landmark Education.

Gearhart swivels around in his chair and we share.

"My neighbor invited me," I say.

“One of my clients told me about it,” he shares. “I’ve really sensed a major shift in her energy since she’s been here. So I was curious.”

And I am curious too. What does he do? He answers my question before I can voice it.

“I’m a mystic,” he says shyly. Andrea calls our attention back to the front of the room, and as Gearhart turns around a goofy grin spreads across my face. I am thrilled at the prospect of spending the evening sharing my deepest thoughts with Gearhart the Mystic. To understand why I'm so thrilled, you have to understand that there is nothing I enjoy more than meeting people who are totally and utterly different then myself.

He looks nothing like any mystic I've ever imagined. He looks more like a golfer, in fact, a golfer from Florida with his black polo, tan woven fedora with black ribbon around the brim, and long, distinguished neck.

Andrea ushers us onto the second order of business. Phase One: make a list of the areas in our life that aren't working. My mind casts out restlessly. I'm not really in the mood to reflect on my discontent. But knowing that I am going to get to share this with Gearhart, I pick something - writing.

Gearhart turns around. We hold our booklets, ready to share. "You first," he says.

"Well, I'm a writer," I say. If you think that I share this bit of information without feeling like a twit, you'd be wrong. Everyone in LA is a writer. Just like everyone in LA is a producer or an actor, or an agent. Case in point - Gearhart's answer.

"Oh really!" says Gearhart. "I'm an agent." He goes onto to tell me that in addition to being a Mystic and an agent, he's a TV producer.

He shares with me that he's disappointed with the way his TV show is going. He's producing a show about his work as a Mystic but the last three episodes aren't coming together. "But they will," he says with a sense of assurance.

The best part of talking to Gearhart is that he's assured about everything. As if he's already known it.

"I like your necklace," he points at the abalone shell hanging around my neck.

"It's from New Zealand," I share.

"Yes, I know."

"My sister lives there," I add. He smiles kindly, nods his head and says, "Yes, uh-huh."

Not only is he sure of where my sister lives, he's sure of my current state of being.

After Andrea encourages us to share what we're not doing in our lives to help make our dream future happen (I swear this session is just one long jaunt into self-defeat!), I tell Gearhart that I think it's time to brush up on my writing skills. Attend a workshop or two.

"Yes," he says excitedly, "You need to get your mojo back." Most of us go around trying desperately to communicate with people. We work all day trying to help people understand what we mean and where we're coming from. It is a little disconcerting then to talk to some one who seems to be tracking with you so completely.

Hence the reason why Gearhart's response catches me off gaurd. It sounds like an echo of my voice. I must look surprised too, because Gearhart immediately explains himself. "You need to get your inspiration back. That's what I'm sensing from you."

Ah - my inspiration. I hadn't realized it left.

Toward the end of the workshop, I decide to change tracks. I'm tired of talking about writing and the lack of my writing career. Instead, I decide to create my new possibility around making friends. We're moving at the end of this week to the North side of LA. The hot side.

So when Andrea asks us to share with our partners our new possibilities, this is what I tell Gearhart, "I want to be beautiful. Not just physically, but I want to be winsome. I want to draw people to myself." This sounds stupid to my own ears and ridiculously self-centered, but it's honest. And if a girl can't be self-indulgent at a self-help session with a Mystic, then really - when can she be?

Gearhart thinks for a moment and then says quietly, "Well that's not going to be very hard."

I almost give him a hug.

He wants to say more. I can see that. He opens his mouth, nods his head, and then sits quietly.

Maybe he sees my future in our new home. Maybe it is rolling out in front of him like a long thread, the people, the locations, the experiences. But he's not telling me. I suppose, unlike Landmark Education, Mystics can't hand out peoples' futures like candy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


At the doctor’s office, I quickly stripped Noelle down to the nude (as is required for each weight check) and trotted up to the scales with a bright smile. Nurse Debbie stood back and watched as the dial whirled around. I looked away, wanting to heighten the anticipation. Weight checks are my favorite part of the doctors visits, because it's the surest way to see your baby grow.

“I’ll have to give you sixteen pounds on the nose,” Nurse Debbie leaned over and tapped Noelle on the nose.

“What?!” I thought. “That’s not right.” I glanced down to check for myself, and sure enough the black needle hovered over the numbers. I stood stunned. My daughter hadn’t even gained one pound in three months. In an instant, she dropped from the fiftieth percentile to the tenth percentile in weight, all with a single stroke of Nurse Debbie’s pen.

Debbie turned back to the patient room and said over her shoulder, “Dr. Goldin’s not going to like that.”

In the moments between Nurse Debbie’s weight check and Dr. Goldin’s arrival, I paced the patient room holding Noelle close to my chest. I could feel the panic rising up inside me. Noelle jabbered and squirmed happily in my arms. She had no idea the glacier of emotion pushing it’s way through the surface of my composure.

When Dr. Goldin came she asked me how many times a day I was feeding Noelle and what I had been feeding her. I told her that I nursed Noelle multiple times and fed her three square meals of solids.

"It must be your breast milk," she said, scribbling some notes for me. I peered over her shoulder and watched as the list of foods I was now supposed to give my daughter grew longer: egg yolks, ground beef, vitamins with iron. But her words echoed in my thoughts - my breast milk wasn't enough.

Nothing unhinges a mother more than the thought that she is not feeding her baby enough. Whether it be nursing, bottles, or solids. Mothers cultivate life, and in the most literal way, food equals life.

For this reason, the most traumatic part of being whisked away to the ER during the second week of Noelle’s life was not that I was bleeding severely, or the ambulance ride, or that my husband was working to keep me conscious. The most traumatic part was having to tell Dwayne to take Noelle to our friends’ house because I knew I couldn’t feed her.

I recently spoke with a vibrant friend who has beaten cancer. I can’t tell you the stage or kind. I can only tell you that she was in the hospital many days, and underwent months of chemotherapy. She shared with me that the most traumatic part of that entire experience was not necessarily throwing up, or loosing her hair, but it was not being able to get out of bed and give her children cereal when they were hungry. That weakness haunts her to this day, even as she stands fully recovered in her kitchen, bright eyed and full of energy.

The other morning, I was feeling particularly weary and tense, so I took a bath. I let myself relax into the warmth. Immediately, my milk let down. Tiny pearls of milk dropped into the water and curled out into white wisps. Patterns of liquid lace.

Was there ever a moment when the life giving attributes of a woman were more evident? Just when she lets go, just as she releases all inhibitions, the gift of nourishment comes trickling out.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mom the Spoken Word Poet

I wrote this for the current series at Mosaic called, "Practical Wisdom" and performed it twice this weekend.

Dwayne says I should post the poem. So here you go.

Proverbs 3
(An Interpretation)

What I'm about to tell you
Will lengthen the line of your days
Will harvest a crop of hope:

“In all your ways”
in every road where you put foot to path
in every street where you pass lights and lives
admit that there is one bigger than you, truer than you,
more real than the very breath you are now taking

“and He will make your ways”
straighter than the truth that has pierced your heart.
He will walk the trail you are now treading
And wear out every curve of confusion, every angle of apprehension.

“Don’t be wise in your own eyes”
be wise in the eyes of one who peers into your soul,
who sees what is not, and what cannot
be fathomed by those such as us,
dust as we are,
fading from one temporary moment to the next.

“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom”
it will be like he found a small child by the road
sat with her and heard the thoughts of God
held in the mind of one so innocent.

Those thoughts are deeper than Time
Simpler than a single note.

Beautiful are the traits of wisdom
“Nothing you desire can compare with her”
because nothing you desire brings peace
nothing you desire brings life
nothing you desire brings honor

But wisdom has laid these out like a laurel wreath
Ready for us to take with both hands.

That’s how God laid the foundations, placed the heavens, split the depths
That’s how he formed each one of us -
With sound judgment and good sense.

Cherish wisdom and know this:

The One, whose beginning and end meet on the other side of existence,
“He will be your confidence”
Though you fall, stumble, blunder, trip
He will keep you from breaking beyond repair.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Shack Review

Well, after writing about this book, and my hesitance to complete it, in my last post, I wanted to do a quick review. I did finish it!

There are so many blogs out there reviewing this book, especially on it's theological merit. I would direct you to Scott Daniel's review to get the down low on all that.

Not being a theologian, I'll just give you a quick over view of what I thought from a "story" point of view.

What I liked:
  1. I liked how Young handled the tragedy in this book. As I mentioned before, it deals with the abduction and brutal murder of a little girl, a topic that could easily become melodramatic or sensational, especially written from the perspective of the little girl's father. My hat's off to Mr. Young for managing to navigate these emotions in a way that was believable and not off putting. This tragedy set the stage for the impending revelation, and made the rest of the narrative much more gripping.
  2. I don't think it will spoil anything to tell you that much of the narrative is a conversation between the narrator and God. Again very tricky material to deal with. How does one characterize God? I believe that Young did so successfully. I came at it a bit sceptically but I gotta tell you I really liked that God was neither a single person, nor male, nor white. I found this refreshing!
  3. As I mentioned above, this book has sparked so much debate in the theological realm. I'm not sure I can keep my head in that conversation, but from an average person's point of view, I really enjoyed how Young addressed our misconceptions. I appreciated the perspective he has on how a loving God can coexist in a world where there is so much hurt and suffering. In other words, it made sense to me.
What I thought could have been better:
  1. In terms of craft, the writing is readable and engaging, but not particularly brilliant in anyway. There are a few pleseant turns of phrase, and a couple places where the figurative language is good, but to be honest, I didn't feel that I was reading groundbreaking stuff in terms of literature. What is ground breaking about this book is that it addresses apologetics in a creative way.
  2. There is an awful lot of dialogue and explaining in the book. Especially on the part of God. I found myself skimming a few passages, because my brain was just getting overloaded with too much exposition. A little bit of scene sprinkled into these parts would have helped, but with that said, over all the book was a page turner. There was enough action to keep me going.
Overall rating:

I'll do what Josh Jackson does on his blog; give it a number rating. Taking into consideration the critiques listed above, and the pure enjoyment of the book and satisfaction by the time I was done reading, I'd give The Shack a 7/10.

I would say it's worth picking up.