Written from our farmhouse in Iowa while in self-quarantine during COVID-19.
Four years ago, I heard this calling walking down the streets of Chicago. “If I was coming from a speaking engagement, I would feel fulfilled.” That was such a surprising voice to hear as preaching and ministry was a calling from decades ago. In my teenage and early adulthood years, I felt called to the ministry. Growing up the son of Southern Baptist ministers, this was understandable. It was real. It was personal. There was a problem. Given the state of affairs at that time, I did not trust the messenger, the message, nor the platform. I spent nearly 20 years sorting out this disconnect. Apparently, it was time to trust the messenger, determine the message, and build the platform.
So, we left the noise and bustle of the city for the quiet and solitude of the country. We went to the promised land to which I had been called since first visiting 15 years before: Iowa. I began to isolate myself from the noise and chaos of social media as well. I needed to get away from it all so I could find my voice, manage my anxiety, and find the restorative healing necessary to return to the public square. I found some lovely Quakers to burrow myself in with, a renegade therapist, the lovingest dog, and acres upon acres of open and quiet land. I began to slowly dissipate connection from the many people who have played wondrous parts in my life - from Seattle and New York to Lompoc and Camas, from Washington, DC to Chicago.
I introspected like a mad fiend - walking through the house that is my inner sanctum to find the rooms that were bolted, the dark closets and debris from traumas and neglect in my past, the disorienting and unnecessary clutter of my rooms. I threw open doors and marveled at what I discovered. I shone light in every corner of every room and faced what was there. I cleared everything out, throwing away so much while cataloging the place they held in my life. I returned very few things to their places so I could make room for the life I am living today and each moment that comes after.
Through the course of this journey, I began to discover my natural groove and find my way toward loving my natural being. I explored what gifts I had to cultivate and what visions I had to manifest. I tried on different relationships to people that could work for me to re-emerge into the public square and take up my calling while sustaining my livelihood. Spending the month with my parents as my father transitioned from this life and my mother transitioned into her new life solidified my confidence. I was able to show up wholly and fully as the person I wanted to be without being able to control the variables and surrounded by those same people and belief systems that sent me on this journey in the first place.
I have found my way toward knowing and trusting the messenger (mostly ;-), understanding better the message (expanding capacity for creative love), and the platform (brewing potions for humanity).
Now it is time to reconnect myself to the world. In this time of chaos, I have been digging how artists and other creative generators are pivoting to offer their unique gifts to the world. I have also been appreciating how networking opportunities are now available across time and space. So, it is time to connect. That makes me nervous as hell and excited as all get out. How do I do this thing that brought me such anxiety in the past? Understand how it created anxiety and find a way to ease that. Also, find what compels you to it, and lean into that.
Last night it came to me: find the rainbow connection. Part of what made me so anxious was all the nastiness and violence that people expressed in these disembodied spheres. That won’t go away, but I can sort through all of that to find the lovers, the dreamers, and me. I can find those people and those entities and initiatives that are seeking for a world that is more just through means of loving-kindness using practices of grace. I can find that Rainbow Connection. I think that’s what “On Clouds” was really about - I’ll find it by following that curious voice, tumbling down rainbow slides, and singing in my heartiest voice to call others to connection.
Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.
It’s something that I’m supposed to be.
Someday we’ll find it.
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.
-Paul Williams & Kenneth L. Ascher