“In my own worst seasons, I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon... until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.” – Barbara Kingsolver
How have you taught yourself joy, over and over again? What have you looked hard at for a long time that has brought you back from despair? What helps you to persevere?
These questions are not rhetorical. We really want to know your answer and then we want you to post it on the bulletin board in the religious education hall. The theme for February is perseverance and the staff has created an interactive bulletin board this month so that we can inspire each other with beautiful images that make our perseverance possible.
My friendship with the Rev. Scottie Johnson was a relationship that made my perseverance possible. She started at Perkins School of Theology two years after I did. Before that, I was the only Unitarian Universalist in a Methodist seminary. When she arrived at Perkins, I felt less alone in my striving to make sense of what I was learning and how it matched up (or didn’t match up) to my UU faith.
Scottie had been a long time lay leader in North Texas prior to enrolling in seminary. She had co-owned a Montessori school and helped to establish the Red River UU Church in Denison. She persevered through seven years of seminary, not knowing if she would be ordained or serve a church. About one year before she died suddenly at the age of 70, the church ordained her in San Marcos.
There’s a photograph from her ordination that I have as a screensaver on my computer (along with many other photos that remind me to teach myself joy over and over again). I delivered the prayer – the blessing – at Scottie’s ordination. I also delivered the prayer at her memorial service. The photo is of the prayer at her ordination. She is sitting surrounded by colleagues and friends. In the photo you can see the back of my head. Scottie is looking up at me in utter bliss, receiving the blessing. The photo pops up as my screensaver every once and awhile, usually right around a time or a moment in my day when I most need to be reminded that I can persevere. I have persevered, but I did not do it alone.
What is it that props up your perseverance? What is it that holds your focus so that you can fall in love with your life again? These are not rhetorical questions. I want to know what makes your perseverance possible.