Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Simple Gifts

Every so often something happens that grabs my attention and changes my perception. I call them cosmic 2x4s, as in "I got hit over the head by a cosmic 2X4." I've been working pretty hard on our church's Lenten programs. I'd been recruiting speakers from other faith traditions to talk about how their faith influences their choices at the difficult times of life. I delegated the first week of the series to our priest who wanted to make contacts within one particular denomination. It wasn't going well for him and I was pretty close to just canceling the first week in the series. Disappointing, but not a total disaster. Then I called to confirm with a speaker and that fell through. Now I'm thinking things are not looking good for the series. I'm a determined soul -- some say stubborn. I called a friend in Kansas City who suggested I call the Jewish Community Relations Council in Denver and explain the situation. "Hello," I said to the person who answered the phone. "I have a difficult request and I understand if there's nothing to do about it. I need a speaker this coming Sunday or the following week to talk about how their faith informs their decisions in challenging times." Janet Sherman, Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, faces challenges straight on. She had a couple of ideas, she sent out an email and other people forwarded the email and a couple days later, my phone rang. So, I've already seen one cosmic 2x4 in a woman who didn't just blow me off, even when she had every reason to do so. Now I'm about to be hit by a second cosmic 2x4 -- Ilan Glazer. This young man is an ordained maggid -- a storyteller and inspirational speaker -- and he is available to talk to our adult ed class on Sunday.
To make a long story short and, I admit, it is a bit late for that already, Ilan was one of the most successful outside speakers we've had. He had "frozen chosen" Episcopals humming traditional Jewish tunes the rest of the day and searching Amazon.com for CDs of Jewish music. People have been repeating the stories he told.
So just when things seemed to be falling apart, something happened that was even better than what we hoped.
The themes of the Shaker song, "Simple Gifts," have been coming up in my head ever since the inauguration. "'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free, 'tis a gift to come down where we ought to be..." We don't have to be the gift, we just have to be open to letting the gift work through us, to "come down where we ought to be." It seems to me that Janet and Ilan were where they needed to be when they were needed. I was lucky enough to go along for the ride.

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