Author Archives: MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Ten for Tuesday

Some yummy randomness this week, plus stories of ordinary heroism (many of which will preach, if that’s your thing).

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1. How Wonder Woman Uses Color

I preached on Wonder Woman this past weekend, and will post that sermon soon (with audio!), but in the meantime, here’s a quick reflection on the use of color in the film:

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2. Man behind new Native license plates ‘wanted the world to right the wrongs’ before he died

Apparently this man is a former parishioner of a friend of mine. Loved this story of his quiet fight to get a license plate that honored Native peoples in his home state of Nebraska. What a wonderful salt of the earth kind of man. Thank you Stephanie for passing this along.

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3. Bruce Bartlett–Why I’m Not a Democrat

I love people who don’t fit into boxes, and former Reagan/Kemp operative Bartlett is one of those. Something for everyone here… something against everyone here too:

The Trump phenomenon is the culmination of everything I hated about the Bush-Gingrich era Republican Party that drove me out, especially the anti-intellectualism. The sum total of Trump’s agenda appears to begin and end with reversing whatever Obama did; I see no sign of a positive agenda even from a conservative point of view. The Republican Party appears to exist for the sole purpose of acquiring power in order to shower rewards on those who support the party, especially those who support it financially.

I’ve grown to hate my former party. You’d think this would make me a prime candidate for recruitment by the Democrats. But I’m not. First, no Democrat has ever reached out to me. I am not insulted by this, only surprised. And my efforts to suggest ideas to Democrats have been uniformly rebuffed. Like the Republicans, Democrats are wary of apostates and are only receptive to those born into their church, it seems.

Of much more importance in terms of my reluctance to join the Democratic Party is that the party doesn’t really seem to stand for anything other than opposition to the GOP.

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4. Roxane Gay: My Body is a Cage of My Own Making

Simply put, I cannot wait to read her latest book Hunger: A Memoir:

I avoid walking with other people as often as possible because walking and talking at the same time is a challenge. In public toilets, I manoeuvre into cubicles. I try to hover over the toilet because I don’t want it to break beneath me. No matter how small a toilet cubicle is, I avoid the disabled toilet because people like to give me dirty looks when I use that stall merely because I am fat and need more space.

My body is a cage of my own making. I have been trying to figure a way out of it for more than 20 years.

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5. Perfectionism Will Do You In

I love Parker Palmer, and poet Killian McDonnell, whom Parker quotes here. (I’ll be in Killian’s stomping grounds in a few weeks when I head back to Collegeville Minnesota for a writing fellowship!)

Perfection straineth out
the quality of mercy,
withers rapture at its
birth.

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6. Flight Attendant Saves Child from Trafficking

This is an old story that came to light in February, but I just read about it today (thank you Michael). In case it’s new to you too…

In 2011, Fredrick had been passing out drinks on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco when she spotted a girl in worn, wrinkled clothes with a bruise on her leg tucked into a window seat next to a well-dressed older man. She said she knew something was wrong.

While the man was looking over the menu, Fredrick says she made eye contact with the girl and mouthed “go to the bathroom,” where she had left a note and a pen.

The girl wrote back, “I need help.” Fredrick said she immediately called the captain, and police were waiting in the terminal when the plane arrived.

The heartbreaking part of the story is the many flight attendants who saw something amiss but didn’t know what to do, so they did nothing.

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7. Is Fat Killing You, Or Is It Sugar?

tl;dr — It’s complicated. And anyone who says it’s simple is selling you something.

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8. Six Black Women at the Center of Gravity in Theological Education–NBC News

How much do I love that this topic, and these women, are profiled on mainstream media? They make the church better, every one. Proud to know (a little bit) Dr. Margaret Aymer, the first Black woman to be named a full tenured professor at Austin Seminary:

“#BlackWomanMagic speaks both to the wonder that “we stand where the white gleam of our bright star is cast,” and to the power and effort that it has taken collectively within the African diasporic community and individually within each of these women to reach these positions.”

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9. A riptide swept away a Florida family. Then beachgoers formed a human chain.

This story of peril and rescue is absolutely riveting, and it will restore your faith in humanity.

This video includes footage from the event, as well as other times that strangers came to the rescue of others.

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10. The beauty of liturgical art

I end on a personal note. You may remember reading about my experience leading the women’s conference at Mo-Ranch last month. The conference was themed “A Durable Fabric: Frayed but not Afraid,” and the post includes a photo of me standing in front of a background with red, orange and yellow strips of fabric with messages written on them.

A wonderful artist and conference participant created a stole out of these fabrics:

I am speechless. I can’t wait for Pentecost again so I can wear it!

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What has you speechless today?

 

Wednesday Words: How to Be an Activist, DeRay McKesson

People ask me all the time, “What should I do?” What can they do? And there’s no simple answer to that. But one answer that’s true for everybody is to start where you are. Harriet Tubman didn’t call me and tell me what to do to make me an organizer! I had to start where I was, and that’s the story of any organizer. You probably have an idea. You probably are thinking about an issue, but you’re waiting for somebody to give you permission, you’re waiting for somebody to tell you that that’s the one issue at matters the most, and the reality is that there’s so much to deal with. So you should do the thing right now that you think is the most important, that you actually already have some of the core skills [to address].

Organizing is about mobilizing your formal or informal networks for change. Or for an action. So when you know that family member who calls all the aunts and uncles, or maybe that family member is you, to get everybody to go and do one thing, that is mobilizing an informal network for an action. And then organizing is just taking that and scaling it up for good. So, start where you are.

-DeRay McKesson, Pod Save the People, June 6, 2017

That’s the heart of improvisation, by the way. We think that improv is about the wacky unexpected action from out of left field. And sometimes it is. But more often, it’s a series of small moves that build collaboratively and organically over time.

What do YOU think is most important? And what do YOU have some of the skills to address?

Start where you are, to make the world more equitable, just, and kind.
Make an offer.
Do what’s obvious.
Do what’s interesting.
Do what’s next.

Put Me In, Coach!

The following was sent to my email newsletter. If you’d like to get posts like this delivered right to your inbox a couple times a month, subscribe.

I was an avid fan of the television show Friday Night Lights a few years back. I loved the affectionate yet realistic portrayal of Texas, my home state, and its near-pathological love of high school football. The characters are all well-drawn and authentic, but the nerve center of the show is Coach Tim Taylor, who led two different football teams to be the very best they could be. Fans of the show know his signature mantra, which offers wisdom for on the field and off:

Coach Taylor has been on my mind recently, as I work on my certification as a personal and professional coach through the International Coach Federation. I’ve attended sixty hours of training, will soon start a stint with a mentor coach, and am accumulating hours coaching clients. When the process is completed, I will be an Associate Certified Coach (ACC).

The kind of coaching I do is different from Coach Taylor in some important ways. An athletic coach is directive, calling the plays and demanding results. A personal or professional coach’s job is to help a client identify goals and develop a strategy for meeting those goals. Coaches draw out the wisdom, creativity, and resourcefulness of their clients, helping them break through resistance and map a way forward.

As a pastor in a new church several years ago, I worked with a ministry coach for several months. This person helped me figure out a plan for managing my new role, and kept me accountable to the hard work that we often find every excuse not to do. I was much more likely to do a tough task because I knew “Coach B” would ask about it when we met!

My job as a coach is to listen deeply, ask good questions, and help clients learn to manage the stuff that’s getting in the way of meeting a goal, whether that goal is to become more effective on the job, find better work-life balance, parent with greater intention, etc. Here’s an article about what coaching does.

In today’s newsletter, I am practicing what Amanda Palmer calls “the art of asking.” Most of us love to help others, and find it much harder to ask for help ourselves. And yet doesn’t it feel good to help someone? Why would we deprive others of that satisfaction?

In that humble spirit, here are my modest “asks”:
1. I invite you to like my Facebook page, ZOOM! Coaching, where you will receive periodic links, wisdom, announcements and challenges.
2. If you’re interested in receiving coaching—or you want to learn more about it—I invite you to schedule a trial appointment. Coaching appointments take place by phone or video conference and are usually 45-50 minutes. I offer the first one for free–this way, we get to know one another, try out the coaching relationship, and see if it’s a good fit. No obligation. If the client wishes to continue, we then talk about number of sessions, fees, etc. You can access my calendar at https://zoomcoaching.setmore.com or email me at [email protected].
3. If you know someone who might be interested in or benefit from coaching, I invite you to forward this message to them and have them get in touch me.

I am excited to add “coach” to my roles as writer, author, and speaker. And as always, I thank you for being on the path with me.

Peace, joy and Yes,
MaryAnn

P.S. Bonus links!

  1. I’m on the aijcast podcast this week, talking art, inspiration and justice with Marthame Sanders. Was an honor to be on his show!
  2. This blog post about body image and my own athletic journey got a big response.
  3. My latest Ten for Tuesday: an assortment of links, videos and other goodies.

Ten for Tuesday: Featuring Yours Truly

Onward:

1. Art, Inspiration and Justice–a conversation with… well, me.

My friend and fellow improviser Marthame Sanders was in town recently, and we recorded a conversation for his podcast, aijcast. Give it a listen! Thankful for this conversation.

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2. Slo-Mo Inside a Giant Water Balloon

Gosh that’s spectacular.

It’s as if the makers of Jackass recreated that scene in Two Towers when Saruman is breeding the Uruk-hai.

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3. The Spirituality of the Ordinary is Luminous

Yes it is. I’m typing this on my back porch, surrounded by the twittering of birds. Simple. Lovely.

The post quotes extensively from Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of my favorites, including:

The surest way to suppress our ability
to understand the meaning of God
and the importance of worship
is to take things for granted.

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4. Is Your God Dead? — NYT

So, is your God dead? Have you buried God in the majestic, ornamental tombs of your churches, synagogues and mosques? Perhaps prosperity theology, boisterous, formalistic and mechanical prayer rituals, and skillful oratory have hastened the need for a eulogy.

Challenging. For many of us.

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5. Jupiter from Juno

What we’re looking at is “enhanced photography projected along Juno’s orbit trajectory to give a Juno’s eye view of its closest approach to Jupiter. Nothing added other than color & detail passes to enhance what is there in original photography, otherwise Jupiter would look like a beige ball.”

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6. Guide to Weight and Body Image, from the Girl Scouts

I can’t remember which of my friend posted this, but I’m so glad they did. Really good advice here, especially on what not to do.

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7. Letters from Former Enslaved People to Their Former Owners

Wow, these are fascinating. I loved the first one in particular. It seems frivolous to characterize it as being full of sick burns, but well, read if yourself and tell me if I’m wrong.

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8. These 10 People Wake Up at 5 a.m. (or Earlier) to Work Out

One of these 10 is a friend!

As a committed 5 a.m. runner (at least once or twice a week), I like these stories because they show how a seemingly bizarre decision can often be the best option. With tips on how to make it work, which can be applied to many areas of life.

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9. I, Too, Am America

This image came to me recently, but it’s actually from before the election. A full-page ad in the New York Times reserved for a poem by Langston Hughes:

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10. Inside the Museum of Failure

I recently posted this on my new personal and professional coaching page, ZOOM! Coaching. (More on my coaching gig in a future post, but I invite you to like my page for interesting content like this.)

What would you put in your own museum of failure?

Learning to Love the Ice Maker

I’m a sucker for the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. So many iconic scenes, but probably my favorite is one that goes by in an instant. I love it because I can relate to it so strongly.

George Bailey lives with his family in a big drafty house that’s got its share of quirks. And because George is an Order Muppet (as opposed to a Chaos Muppet), these quirks cause him no end of frustration and angst. The scene I love is when he goes to walk upstairs but the bannister knob comes off in his hand:

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but George looks at that knob, and you can see on his face that the knob isn’t just a knob. It represents everything that is messy and slapdash about his life. It is a symbol of the utter pandemonium he lives with, as a father of four who doesn’t make quite enough money to feel secure, and who feels the weight of the family business and indeed the whole community on his shoulders. How can I save the Building & Loan when I can’t even get this stupid home repair done??

A bannister knob represents all that? Yes, because Jimmy Stewart is a great actor and he makes that three-second scene work.

And because I’m an Order Muppet too and I have worn that look.

The house we inhabit is in pretty good shape–lots of pending and possible projects, as always, but basically fine. Still, the disorder takes over sometimes, usually when I’m feeling tired and overwhelmed. That’s when the pile of unfolded clothes becomes The Pile of Unfolded Clothes: a visual reminder of life’s tendency toward a chaos that will never be tamed.

My most acute source of angst has been the water/ice dispenser on our fridge. It’s one of those single-spout things in which you must press the button indicating what you want, water or ice. 90% of the time, one wants water from the dispenser, which in my mind means you should flip it back to water after you’ve dispensed ice. To me it’s the equivalent of putting the seat down on the toilet. Restore it to its default position.

The people in my house are either agnostic on this point, or they agree with me. But they do not do it, or perhaps not consistently. So I’ve been battling my family over this irritation since we moved into this house. Just switch it back to water! I say, ice all over the floor because the cubes don’t fit in the narrow top of the water bottle I’m trying to fill. With water.

I tell you this, not because I’m right and the family is wrong and I want to enlist you on my side. But to confess to you that I have carried around frustration over this issue since August of 2015.

Think about that. This has been a source of annoyance and griping for almost two years. And at some point it ceases to be my family’s problem. It’s my problem.

Or it was, until I remembered a section of the improv book I wrote (yes, I am audience member #1 for my books). It’s about the serenity prayer:

In addition to being a vital mantra in twelve-step programs, I’ve decided that the serenity prayer is also the prayer of the improviser. To me it’s the essence of yes-and: What can we change? What can we not change? OK, now what?

 

For some bizarre reason, my constant nagging has failed to alter behavior. (What?!? But it seemed so foolproof!) So now I’m working on reframing, like George Bailey does at the end of the movie, when he’s had his epiphany and he goes bounding up the stairs, but pauses to kiss that damn bannister knob. Because now it represents home and family and messy reality that he wouldn’t trade for the world.

Now when I go to get some water and I hear that familiar grinding of the ice machine, I think about the smoothies Robert makes in the morning, full of protein powder and fruit and kale (KALE?!?), and how they give him energy to work out and thrive at work and be present for our family. And I think about my kids, and how they drink ice water without complaint, despite probably preferring us to stock a bunch of soft drinks. I think particularly about my nine-year-old son, who comes home from school, gets himself some graham crackers and a string cheese, fills a big glass with cubes of ice, and proceeds to suck on them while he reads, his legs tucked underneath him on the couch.

I would say this reframing is successful 42.7% of the time. But it’s a start. And major progress for this recovering Order Muppet.