U2 @ Gilette Stadium, Foxborough, MA 09-21-09

I was also directly in front of Edge on September 21 for U2's first night at Gillette Stadum in Foxborough, MA, on this tour. I think I'll post more about it later, but wanted to get some photos up now. You can see lots more photos here, but for now, here's a preview:

Best of of U2 09-21-09-15

September 27, 2009 in Life and Whatnot, Music, U2charist | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

need anything musical or for your church sound system?

I'm just catching my breath after the initial rush of demands from starting a job. Yes, as some of you have seen on Facebook and Twitter, I'm now working full-time for Guitar Center. Work in retail is tiring in some ways, but it hits the spot for my extroverted side, and it also uses some of my skills in listening (people talk -- verbally and with non-verbal cues -- about what they like, want, and need, and I reflect it back to them in a way that helps them recognize that), teaching (helping people make INFORMED decisions), and communication.

And I really needed the job. The economy's woes have hit everywhere, including nonprofits, and I just wasn't getting the hours I needed with IMPACT Boston to make ends meet. For example, I had no hours at all assigned for November.

Furthermore, The Episcopal Church's General Convention is coming up in July. I need to be there, for reasons that will become clear soon, and I very much want to be there, offering the kind of take on convention that I offered via The Witness when it was still being published, and also raising my voice when I can and it's appropriate around important pieces of legislation. But airfare and two weeks of staying in a hotel -- even the über-cheap one I've managed to find and reserve a room for, and even when one cooks a lot of meals in a toaster oven or microwave, as I plan to do -- isn't cheap, and after paying seminary tuition for two years, I know I'm going to have to scramble hard between now and June to get through convention without an insane credit card balance. So full-time work was needed at least until I could cover convention expenses.

I also needed a job where working harder and doing better immediately generated immediate rewards. We had problems with dampness in our basement that needed remediation, and that isn't cheap -- plus I needed to make up in a hurry for the months in which I had budgeted expecting work from IMPACT that, due to no fault of theirs, didn't materialize. At Guitar Center, if I can sell more gear, then the rewards are immediate.

But I didn't want a job that had nothing to do with anything I loved, and I did want a job where I felt I was helping people like the readers of this blog in their work and in balancing work with other things that bring joy. Working with Guitar Center to connect people with what they need to make music, have their sermons, soloists, and Christmas pageants heard, and achieve excellence in liturgical sound and light seems like a pretty good way to go.

So I'm hoping that you and I -- and others that you and/or I know -- can help each other out, and that you'll pardon an announcement here that's at least in part commercial. If you're in the U.S. and you need or want anything of the sort Guitar Center or Musician's Friend carries -- or even some musical or sound-related things they don't carry -- I'm authorized to make absolutely sure that you get THE lowest price available anywhere in the country on it (indeed, if you find a cheaper price anywhere else within 30 days after purchase, you get a refund of 110% of the difference!). So the websites are great places to browse, but give me a call before you buy, as I very well might be able to do even better by you.

Thinking about giving a musical instrument, an amplifier, equipment to record music or a podcast, or even a game like Guitar Hero or Rock Band for Christmas? Please feel free to give me a shout.

Need anything related to light and/or sound for your congregation?  Microphones? Affordable and professional-sounding ways to record sermons, podcasts, and services? A portable P.A. you can use in the parish hall or at the church picnic? Instruments, from tamborines and djembes to guitars and keyboards? Music software? Please feel free to give me a shout.

Is there a guitar, bass, keyboard, or other piece of musical gear you've had your eye on? Please talk to me.

Whatever you need, I'll be very glad to give you a no-hassle, no-pressure, no-sales-fib way to get any of it, and to get it more cheaply than you could anywhere else -- and one of the advantages of working for a behemoth like Guitar Center is that there's a good chance I can get ahold of what you need and a 100% chance that it will be the most affordable way to get it.

Just drop me an email with your phone number, a couple of good times to call, and a bit of information about what you need (whatever you know about it -- I'll help you figure it out if you're getting a gift for someone else or aren't quite sure what gear will accomplish what you want), and we'll talk. You'd be doing me a huge favor, and I wouldn't be putting this out there if I didn't think I that I could help you out considerably in return.

And please tell your friends, colleagues, mail carriers ... I'd really like to do General Convention -- and to produce even more of the stuff you've found helpful from me -- without breaking the bank, and I think this sound/light equipment thing just might be the "tentmaking" trade that will make the other work I do sustainable.


And with that, I'll return to our regular assortment of catblogging, observations about music and life, in and out of the church, and other things you've come to expect from me. I do hope that you haven't found this post obnoxiously commercial, and please accept my apologies if you have. I'm just trying to figure out how to do the rather unconventional work I do as a "paradigm planter" and freelance theologian for God's reign, and to pay the bills at the same time. Sometimes, it's rather strange territory!



November 9, 2008 in Life and Whatnot | Permalink | Comments (6)

amateur headshot II: the grey strikes back

The last time I produced a headshot photo, it was because I got a telephone call that woke me up on a Saturday morning saying one was needed for the brochure for a conference where I was presenting a workshop -- and they needed the photo within two hours. I didn't have one, so I rolled out of bed, put on a shirt and some mascara, stood in my hallway, and held up my digital camera in front of me until I managed to get a photo that actually included my face. I've been using it as my headshot ever since:


That was in 2001, I think, and the years intervening have left their mark on me such that I now look like this:


or this:


These were taken by my honey in the back yard this morning, because I need to submit a headshot to one of my publishers tomorrow. I think I'll end up sending the second one. I like the glint of mischief in the first one, but the neighbor's cinderblocks in the background, while adding a note of realism, probably aren't headshot material.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity ...

August 24, 2008 in Life and Whatnot | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

back to blogging and a request for help

Dear All,

I can't believe it's been so long since I've blogged! As you might have guessed, things have been insanely busy. We bought a house (which I love!), moved into it (always a crazy process), painted and patched and plumbered, adopted two lovely cats (whom you'll meet soon), and wrote like crazy (among other things, I have now completed two projects on my mind for a while -- some writing on 2 Corinthians for Church House Publishing in the UK and a chapter for the next Emergent Manifesto book with Baker Publications). And then there are some other exciting things I'll be posting about later.

But now I'm surfacing for breath and find that it's been months since I've posted to SarahLaughed.net. Wow. Quite a long break after over three years of continuous bloggins! It's good to be back.

I'd like to share one of the exciting things in the pipeline with you now. In response to the phenomenal success of An Inconvenient Truth and as further means to building an effective, grass-roots movement to increase awareness of the crisis our planet's climate is in, Al Gore and The Climate Project has invited 150 leaders from faith communities to join them for training as presenters who can take the message as volunteers around the world. I'm among those invited.

The Climate Project is providing partial subsidy of accommodations for the training, so the hotel will only cost me $80. It looks like a flight to Nashville and incidentals (getting to and from the airport and whatnot) will cost something like $300 - $350.

I've just taken leave of absence from the Episcopal Divinity School due to hefty tuition bills, and as rewarding personally as my recent writing and work for IMPACT Boston has been, it hasn't left a lot of room to pay for travel, and presenters for The Climate Project are strictly volunteers; we're not allowed to collect honoraria or other payment aside from reimbursement for expenses. In other words, this isn't a career move or a financial boost for me; it is, however, an opportunity to make a difference with respect to an issue that I'm passionate about, that affects all living things on this world, and that has disproportionate, devastating, unjust, and growing effect on the world's poorest.

Can y'all help get me to Tennessee for this training? If so, please consider donating toward the cost of my participation, and, if you feel so moved, lending your voice to the effort on your own blogs and social networks.

Thank you for your support -- both with respect to this and with all of the kind and encouraging notes and constructive feedback you've offered me. They all mean a great deal to me.



August 15, 2008 in Churchiness, Current Affairs, Life and Whatnot, Personal News, Where's Dylan? | Permalink | Comments (3)


Tomorrow evening EDS is hosting the Absolom Jones lecture. As I blogged a while ago, EDS tried something new this year at the annual lecture in honor of lecture: they added music (namely, a piece I'd written in honor of Jonathan Daniels and designed for congregational singing called "No Greater Love"). It worked well enough that EDS decided to add music for the Absolom Jones lecture, which is tonight.

Tonight, the music is a spiritual called "Great Day," in an arrangement for a choir and soprano soloist. Last time I heard the piece performed, the soloist was the absolutely amazing voice teacher who gave me lessons over the summer. I had to give them up the voice lessons, alas -- just didn't have the money -- but she did wonders for my tone and range in speaking as well as singing. I'd entered EDS thinking of myself as an alto, and the (also wonderful) choirmaster here after listening to me for a while suggested that I try soprano, which I've sung ever since. And in voice lessons, I even managed to sing a high b-flat once.

Well, the solo for "Great Day" has at its climax a nice, long (whole note with fermata) high b-flat. I haven't practiced it other than driving in my car and in two rehearsals we've had for the song, lest by singing it in my apartment I cause our neighbors' dogs to go mad and attack their owners or something -- at that pitch, and at this point in my vocal training (and lack thereof), I either have to sing at full volume or no air escapes my throat, and while my immediate neighbors graciously said they had no problem with my practicing the part at home, I just couldn't bring myself to inflict that on them. So I'm a little nervous. Can you tell?

But it was pretty much OK in rehearsal this morning, I've got one more rehearsal this evening, and I think I will be able to sing the part without sounding like a dying cat. PeaceBang deserves more than a series of UU Blogging awards (she's deservedly up for quite a few -- vote for her!); she deserves a medal for her counsel to "snarf your sinus troubles away," which prompted my honey and me to get ourselves neti pots, which let one clean one's sinuses and nose with a saline solution. It's amazing how much more those spaces in a singer's head provide resonance when they're not plagued by winter dryness and filled with crud. And it's certainly more healthy to use a neti pot to clear things out from a cold or allergies than it is to take drugs or use sprays that dry out nasal passages. So hurrah for PeaceBang, and hurrah for neti pots!

So, gentle readers, please send good vibes or anything else you might think would benefit a singer at 7:00 p.m., when I will face that high b-flat, and I hope I'll sing it in a way that honors Absolom Jones and EDS's guests for the occasion.

February 13, 2008 in Churchiness, Life and Whatnot, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

mixing it up

Those of y'all who know me well know that I love to cook, and also have a weakness for gadgets -- not just the newest or shiniest gadgets, but the gadgets of quality most useful for things that are hardest (at least for people like me) to do without them.

I have ONE chef's knife, but I think I treat it a bit like a Marine treats a rifle; it goes where I go, it cuts anything that needs cutting, and I care for it a bit more conscientiously than I do my skin. Masaharu Morimotu is my kind of guy when it comes to the honor and care due to the tools of culinary arts; the way I feel about the One Good Tool that I have in each cooking category in which I have one is probably about as close as I'll ever come to knowing what a samuri felt about his sword (y'all tell me if that's wildly inappropriate culturally; I'm grasping here).

And I have long coveted a really, really good standing mixer. One that will kneed 100% whole wheat bread dough as I did when I was a more hale and ambitious baker. One that (with the proper attachment) will grind the lamb I buy so cheaply at Costco if I want to experiment with burgers and meatloaves including such a meat (which I know a decent butcher would grind for me, but you might not know just how huge the difference in price is between lamb you buy at a good butcher's and lamb of equally good quality at Costco). One mixer to rule them all, one mixer to bind them ...

Well, maybe not quite that magical a mixer, but you get the idea.

Kitchenaid Costco today had a deal that looked pretty irresistible on a mixer that looked as though it might suit my purposes. It's a KitchenAid Pro series -- 475-watt motor -- just like the mixer I've been dreaming about for years (yeah, I dream about kitchen appliances -- what can I say?), though I'd thought that to get the motor I wanted (mmm ... 475 watts ...) I'd need a six-quart capacity. This one has a five-quart capacity -- still enough to make six loaves of bread in a batch, the box says (and the wattage supports).

And the mixer, which I'd walked by at Costco for a year, was $40 off -- down to $239.99. The six-quart, 475-watt mixer I'd been eyeing for the last several years at least is way more than twice that much.

Cooking mavens, tell me: Am I a mixing fool? Will the five-quart capacity that seems perfectly fine to me, given the power of the motor (without which true whole-wheat dough, as well as many pasta doughs are impossible), chafe within weeks? Are attachments harder to get than they seem for this odd creature, the 475-watt but five-quarter? 'Cause I think this mixer just might be The One.

August 22, 2007 in Cooking, Life and Whatnot | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

vacation thoughts

Today is the last day of a truly lovely vacation. I'm writing on the screened-in porch of our cabin overlooking a New Hampshire "great pond" (think small lake), listening to the wind whispering through the trees and reflecting on just how much good it's done my soul to spend a week getting lots of sun, fresh air, and time on the water, preparing and enjoying simple and delicious meals, watching clouds drift across the sky, and thinking.

I did some reading on development to reduce or eliminate extreme poverty. Since the U2charist has taken on such a remarkable life of its own around the world, I've felt the need to be better informed about issues related to extreme poverty. I have often preached and written about the spiritually dangerous position we place ourselves in when our response to poverty is to lob money at or in the direction of poor people such that we feel generous, but retain a death-grip on the power and privilege that keeps us in the position of deciding, in effect, through our charity who lives and who dies. I worry that sometimes when I'm talking with people planning U2charists, where the money should go and why seems like an afterthought. I think about how many times I've heard an American Christian say something along the lines of, "well, it really doesn't matter WHAT you do to help; what matters is that you try to do SOMETHING, and that your heart's in the right place." It matters a great deal, I dare say, to those who do live in extreme poverty whether what you do is effective and for whom, and I want my work to support organizations and approaches that make the most difference for those in greatest need. I think in the months to come I'll do some more blogging about what I've been reading and what thinking it's prompted, though I'm still deciding whether Grace Notes or the U2charist page would be a better venue for it.

But I haven't been spending all of my time or even most of it this week reading and thinking about development. This has been a real, honest-to-gosh VACATION, and the first one I can recall of this length in I don't know how long. I've used many vacation days over the years for speaking or conference engagements, and have sometimes been able to surround the work with a few days in a nice spot nearby to make a sort of working vacation. I've visited family or friends, usually for a long weekend and also often in conjunction with some kind of work. It's a different experience altogether to go somewhere beautiful and quiet -- no cell phone reception to speak of, no Internet access, and no intrusions of concerns from elsewhere. To post my lectionary blog, I drove around until I found an open wireless network -- and New Hampshire must be the top state in the Union for Internet security, as it seems just about everyone keeps their network locked down tight. I finally found a tiny public library -- the Frost Free Public Library, a name which must strike many as ironic in New Hampshire winters -- that was closed, but that kept its wireless up and open. But at the cabin, there's no 'Net at all, so not even Anglican politics could intrude. Lovely.


I'm finding that the Impact self-defense classes I've taken have inspired me to renegotiate my relationship with my body, which I'd been seriously neglecting for quite some time. For my honey's birthday, I arranged for us to take kayaking lessons, and we now have a "season pass" on kayak rentals that lets us try out all kinds of kayaks whenever we want for the rest of 2007. This week, I've been paddling a Wilderness Systems Tempest Pro 170, and I love it. It's a versatile kayak, suitable for ocean use, long enough to track decently, and maneuverable enough to still be fun in quieter water. It's longer and narrower than the kayak I used in our class, which makes it easier to tip and a little more difficult to get into and out of (especially for a gal with dislocating kneecaps), but it's also significantly more responsive, which is fun -- and very useful when the wind kicks up. It's got a composite hull that's lighter and seems to allow for more speed than plastic ones as well, and I've very much enjoyed paddling fast enough to get a nice breeze in my face and to work up a sweat. I'm almost tempted to say that this is the kayak for me, but I do plan to try others, and it's nice in the meantime to have a physical, outdoor activity that I actually love (other than surfing, a sport for which the Charles River and Boston Harbor are far from renowned). I think it'll be good for body and soul for the rest of the season to walk once or twice a week to the boathouse and paddle for a couple of hours.


August 17, 2007 in Life and Whatnot, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), U2charist, Where's Dylan? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

deeper IMPACT

I'm just a little bit sore and a little bit tired, but I feel GOOD.

I blogged in May about spending an intensive weekend learning self-defense, assertiveness, and a whole lot more with IMPACT, formerly known as "model mugging," where women, men, teens, and kids learn to use their voice and body to set boundaries and protect themselves. The training is astonishingly effective, and I definitely felt that I learned well what they taught in just a weekend. But it was such a powerful and empowering experience -- both in what it did for me and in getting to witness and encourage the healing and empowering work that others did in the course -- that I decided to take the class again, this time in a weekly course that met for five sessions.

Tonight was graduation from that course.

Every description I try to come up with for what it's like falls short of the reality. I work hard at preaching, at lectionary blogging, at ministry, and I have been privileged to witness some moments of transformation that just might have been as much of a blessing to me as they were to the people experiencing them firsthand. Still, I don't think I've ever seen such powerful and positive change so consistently in so many different ages and kinds of people over so short a time as I see in what IMPACT does. People who before felt paralyzed by fear and hurts stand tall, say clearly, calmly, and strongly what they need, and when it's necessary, respond to an assault from a MUCH larger and physically stronger attacker ("model mugger") in a way that would incapacitate him were it not for his protective gear. There are tears and shouts and hugs and not a little laughter, and there is amazing healing and growth.

It's a sad reality in lots of ways in our society and our world that the most help is available to those who have the most resources, and are therefore in some ways least in need. That's not at all how it is with IMPACT in Boston, though. IMPACT gives scholarships, including full scholarships, to people who want to take their courses in the community and are in financial need. They also go to shelters for the homeless and for those who have experienced domestic violence, where they teach not just self-defense and assertiveness, but life skills that will help people get jobs, find homes, and build a life that's safe and rewarding for themselves and their families. And IMPACT provides paid internships to people transitioning from those shelters that help them build their skills further and gain experience and references to get a better job, all while earning a wage that will help now.

IMPACT Boston is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. True to form, they're not celebrating it with a black-tie dinner-dance at a swanky hotel or on a harbor cruise. They're celebrating it at their decidedly modest offices -- a couple of alcoves, really, where the air conditioning mostly works off of a good-sized room where the mats get set out for classes. They're celebrating it with a day of one-hour classes -- reviews and advanced skills for graduates, and introductory classes for those who haven't yet experienced an IMPACT class for themselves. And they're celebrating by honoring people who have worked hard for years to empower women as IMPACT does -- not just those who have a lot of money to give and give it, but who pour out heart and soul and hours of time volunteering for classes, being the first ones to experience every new situation the class addresses and being there for those who need extra support or a quiet word to face a particularly strong fear or painful memory. This is a celebration in which the "red carpet" that covers the industrial linoleum will be gym mats on which we'll do what IMPACT does: learn some new skills and rediscover what we already know and can do to thwart violence and be safe and whole.

I've been making calls this week encouraging graduates to come to the 20th anniversary celebration on September 29th. It's a pleasure making calls asking for support when so many of those I talk with brighten up immediately when they hear I'm calling from IMPACT and pour out their stories -- how they took the class years ago and have walked taller ever since, how IMPACT helped them to connect with the strength they didn't know they had to get their life back after trauma, how a loved one who took the course has always been grateful for it. And this evening as I drove home from my IMPACT class' graduation, I thought to myself that I share my thoughts and my time and quite a lot about my life with y'all at SarahLaughed.net, and I would share this too.

So I'm doing something unusual for SarahLaughed. I've done it before when there were hurricanes, floods and tsunamis, and I thought I'd try it to respond to a different kind of tide: cycles of violence and poverty (these so often go together and fuel one another) that IMPACT addresses directly and powerfully. In celebration of their 20th anniversary, IMPACT Boston wants to raise $20,000 for community programs, scholarships, and new initiatives such as I've described (though not doing the power of their work justice; I'm still at a loss as to how to do that). They're inviting graduates to bring $200 or more when we come onto the mats on September 29th. I'm going to share that opportunity with you.

If you think what I do at SarahLaughed.net is empowering others, and if IMPACT sounds like something you'd like to support, I invite you to stop by this web page, donate as you feel moved -- $20, $200, or whatever you think best -- and if you'd like me to know that you did this in some way because of SarahLaughed.net, let IMPACT know by entering 'SarahLaughed.net' or my name in the box asking whom you're sponsoring. I count what you do for IMPACT as done for me and then some; SarahLaughed.net, after all, is where I use my voice to try to inspire others who want to engage God's mission of justice for those most vulnerable, and as much as I hope to grow continually more effective in that role, I think it's fair to say that IMPACT accomplishes more and more immediately in any given week than I do to empower people in a way that changes lives for the better.

If you want more information about IMPACT's 20th anniversary celebration, there's some here, on what may be the world's most basic web page (they spend their resources on programs, not web designers!), and you can find our a bit more about IMPACT in Boston here. And if you'd like to see some clips of what IMPACT self-defense looks like if a graduate is physically attacked (IMPACT strongly emphasizes that it's only appropriate to hit or kick when one is physically attacked, and that "a fight avoided is a fight won"), the IMPACT chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area made a remarkably effective commercial on a shoestring budget, which you can download in something approaching its full glory here if you have a broadband Internet connection, or here as a smaller file for slower connections.

And here endeth the IMPACT plug -- for now, at least. With what I've seen so far, I suspect that I'm going to be following their work, participating where I can, and becoming increasingly impressed with them in the process, so you just might hear more about it another day. Thanks for listening -- and thanks, as ever, for all of the ways you encourage me to use my voice.

August 8, 2007 in Life and Whatnot | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

kayak advice

I have recently been kayaking, and I love it! I love it so much, indeed, that I want to buy a tandem kayak or two one-person kayaks so my honey and I can go kayaking together often. We are not particularly interested in whitewater kayaking, but wants something that we could use for ocean touring as well as freshwater paddling about.

Dear Readers, do you have any advice for us with respect to kayak-shopping?

July 29, 2007 in Just for Fun, Life and Whatnot | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack


I haven't blogged here in a while. I still want to get back to the 'invitation' conversation; I plan to post soon a revised and expanded list of things I think there might be broad agreement about, and I hope to do a separate post as well taking up some of the questions that didn't quite fit in the conversation as initially defined -- questions such as, "What's the point of this conversation?" and "Why not just put up one or more of the traditional creeds?"

So, where have I been? I'll start answering that question now, and keep answering it in subsequent posts.

I spent the weekend of my birthday (which I'd forgotten that I share with Li Tim Oi -- even cooler than sharing a birthday with Ann B. Davis of The Brady Bunch and Søren Kirkegaard) on something very important: IMPACT Personal Safety training, better known in some circles as "model mugging."

IMPACT empowers women, men, and kids to discern whether there's a threat to their safety, and if there is, to use their voice and their body to protect themselves. It's sometimes called "model mugging" because the training includes very realistic playing out of scenarios with a "model mugger" -- a man wearing head-to-toe protection who plays the role of a potential attacker, including dialogue such as what you might hear from an attacker.

I went expecting a very effective self-defense course. I got much, much more than that. I hardly know how to describe it.

I'll start with saying that it was physically intense. IMPACT offers courses that meet once a week over several weeks. For scheduling reasons, I took a class that happened entirely over a single weekend -- 4-9 p.m. Friday, 10-7 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday. I haven't been to a gym in about five years. Also, much of my body is held together with a surgical equivalent of something better than chewing gum, scotch tape, and popsicle sticks. But IMPACT says that they're for people with all levels of physical ability (and disability), and they're not kidding. I didn't need any adaptation of the usual techniques they teach. After the weekend, I needed significant quantities of Naproxen (Aleve). During it, I didn't. Adrenaline is far, far more effective, and I had plenty of that.

Adrenaline plays a central role in IMPACT. Those "model mugging" situations are done realistically enough that they get adrenaline coursing through your veins consistently and in significant amounts. This is a very, very helpful thing. For starters, the way our brains work, we tend to remember things most strongly that happened when we were in a similar emotional state. If I go through my self-defense class feeling my usual mix of day-to-day emotions, and then a situation arises -- say, I wake up in the middle of the night to find that a man has broken into my house and is threatening me with a weapon -- I'm going to find it exceedingly difficult to remember whatever it was I learned in the calm, clear light of my self-defense class. But what I've learned while feeling fear, adrenaline pumping, I'm going to remember when I'm in a similar biological and emotional state.

The IMPACT class was very effective on that level. They show you very simple things to do that don't require a great deal of physical strength, you practice them, and then you practice them in one of those adrenaline-inducing "model mugging" situations. That's very effective.

But there's more to it than that.

I think the most effective and most empowering part of IMPACT -- and why I don't think that individual lessons with them, as much as I respect the instructors, would be anywhere near as effective as a class -- is what you experience going through it in a group.

As you may have gathered, there's a lot in an IMPACT class -- in being attacked by a man who uses his full strength to attack, and who will yell (or whisper, which is often worse) obscene, sexist, homophobic, and all other insulting, degrading, and wounding kinds of speech that people use to sap their target's strength and courage -- that could be traumatic and disempowering. But IMPACT isn't any of those things. That's partly because the instructors are there for all participants, including and especially when what's going on evokes a traumatic past. When you're being 'modelly mugged,' the lead instructor is there beside you, reminding you what you learned and what to do. Now, whenever my adrenaline level goes up, I automatically hear my lead instructor's voice in my ear: "Breathe. You can do this." When a man is attacking me, I've been there before, and I hear the same voice in my memory. I know that voice will come with me when I need to use what I learned.

But that's not the only voice that will come with me. It's probably not even the most important voice that comes with me.

The assisting instructors, to be sure, said a number of things important to me. But I also went through this class with other women. They told their stories, and those will stay with me -- especially now, in quiet moment when I reflect on what it means to be community, to be supported, to be vulnerable, to be courageous. But their voices will be with me too when I'm in one of those adrenaline-flowing situations. Every time I was attacked in class, I wasn't alone. The instructors were with me, and the other women there were also with me -- shouting encouragement, shouting instructions, shouting anger, shouting cheers. Before taking the IMPACT class, I had been attacked and had felt alone. I think now, even or especially if I am attacked again, I will not feel alone. I'll hear the voices of the women who journeyed through this weekend with me. They also faced attackers -- past, present, 'model,' and metaphorical -- and they faced mine with me. They shouted "NO" with me, and huddled before and after these experiences. Their stories are theirs to tell, and they are powerful stories indeed, but that weekend they became a part of my story too, in a chapter in which I learned more deeply and fully what real, life-giving power is, and how it can be shared.

I can't recommend the experience highly enough. In three days, I went from being afraid of being attacked to knowing that I have the physical, emotional, and spiritual resources to survive an attack with my sense of connection to those close to me, to community, and to God intact. I know because I was attacked -- at least a dozen times in three days -- and I was never alone, I never was at a loss for what to do, and I saw the love of God in some of the darkest places in human experience. I feel more empowered as a woman and better equipped as a pastor as a result.

If IMPACT is in your area, and especially if you're a priest or a parent, a counselor or a survivor, a woman or in any population that feels vulnerable, give them a call.

May 19, 2007 in Life and Whatnot | Permalink | Comments (1)