So, I have spent this weekend participating in Brian McLaren's Deep Shift conference in Chicago. It has been pretty intense and it wasn't necessarily because of anything Brian had to say. A lot of the time he was just rehashing the book and I felt the book was pretty simplistic for my level of engagement anyway. As Frederick Buechner says in Telling Secrets, "One particular sermon I will always remember though I cannot be sure that it is exactly the sermon he preached because of course it is the sermons we preach to ourselves around the preacher’s sermons that are the ones that we hear most powerfully." However, since there were only 250 or 300 people at the conference, and because I was considered an organizer (although truth be told, I did very little real organizing, just showed up and answered people's questions), I got to interact with him personally and I felt he was extremely genuine and warm.
Let's go chronologically, shall we?
Arriving at the conference on Friday night was everything junior high never was for me: a barrage of people I knew and loved coming up to me to say hello and to offer me a place to sit next to them. Take that junior high, high school and college cafeterias!
I mean, seriously, my Dad and I walked in and registered with my pastor, Nanette. While we were registering, Julie, one of my favorite bloggers, called my name and hugged me with her beautiful pregnant self. Then, we went to talk with a group that he and I both knew: Jeff, the developer for Josiah Community, Mary Nelson, one of the Board members of CCDA, her friend and Brian McLaren himself, who is speaking at the CCDA conference in the fall in Miami. We spent several minutes talking with them and while we there, all sorts of people came up to say hi. One of my favorite people from my old church, Mike, came walking down the aisle and gave me a great hug and big smile. He was the most unexpected of the evening and I was so pleased to see him. While he and I were talking, Nick from church came to talk with me a little. The most beautiful college graduate that I know, Kate, came up next to say hi and to point out where her parents, Mark and Michelle were. Mark was president of the board where I used to work and he and I became good friends over lots of lunches at Lou Malnati's. Then Jessica from church found me, hugged me and pointed over to where her husband and Nick were sitting. I wrapped up my conversation with Mike at that point to talk a little bit more with Mary, then followed my dad over to sit with Mark and Michelle (they were his only other friends there so I figured I'd let him choose where we'd sit). :-) While saying hello to them, the pastor from my old church came by and gave me a big hug and his wife Liz talked to me very specifically about what I've been up to lately since she hasn't seen me lately, which made me feel very good because she's not a traditional pastor's wife (which I've always respected) and I always kind of thought of her as aloof but it turns out otherwise. I was also glad that Daniel doesn't hold a grudge about the fact that I left the church. However, he may rightfully hold a grudge since my dad still can't get the name of the church right after knowing him for five years. Julie's husband, Mike, my good friend and the up/rooted coordinator, said hello and sat nearby. Scott from my church came to say hello and took a bunch of pictures. Helen, from Off the Map, who comes to our up/rooted.city gatherings gave me her beautiful smile and hugged me, too. Just as the presentation was getting started, I saw Michael from church a few pews ahead and I ran up to hug him and give him a smooch on the cheek. I love the smile in his eyes when he says hello to me. The final relationship delight of the evening was to look to the pew across the aisle to my right and see Juanita, one of the women who has been most influential in my life, smiling and waving at me with the little barrettes holding her bobbed hair back over her ears in the cutest little-girl style that worked stunningly on a seventy-ish woman. She also smiles really well with her eyes. I thought to myself, "disruption be damned!" and scurried across to hug her.
Whew! That's a lot of hugs and a lot of links. That's all I have to report from Friday night, though, since Dad and I had to bail out a little early to do a little dog-wrangling for my brothers since Daniel's future mother-in-law was in the hospital unexpectedly while he was caring for my other brother's dog. It's enough to report, though. I was so grateful for where my life has come.
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