Yesterday I launched the Authentic Freedom Academy Sunday Service. Today, I am overflowing with gratitude for all who have supported me in the on-going evolution of Authentic Freedom Academy in all its manifestations! Yesterday, brought it all full circle and I feel that in many ways, the puzzle is finally complete. THANK YOU to my family, friends, clients, students, classmates, teachers, counselors, etc. etc. etc. etc. who have believed in this crazy dream and who have participated in all they ways you have! THANK YOU!
If I’d known twenty-some years ago when I first responded to the “brick to the head” homily that drew me into active ministry, I might have turned and run away! Back then, I would have been content to ride on the coat tails of our Pastor, Fr. Jeff, but when he left the priesthood to marry his soulmate, everything changed. I was quickly dragged into the pits of a grieving community while trying to tend to my own grief. The priest sex abuse scandal had just erupted and working on the inside, I soon became witness to the grievous sins of the institution. The Catholic Church that I had lived and loved plummeted to its death from the pedestal on which I had placed it. The election of Cardinal Ratzinger as pope only hastened its demise. I soon discovered that my home was no longer a home. Yes, I had a choice. I could stay, comply and die the slow death of strangulation and spiritual execution, or venture out into the wilderness to see if God would make me a way. God did, but mostly I felt like the Israelites in their 40 year journey through the desert, wondering where in the world I would find food and water and what the hell was I thinking leaving my slave drivers behind? At least I had food on my table and a roof over my head. In the desert, I quickly learned, you’d better be creative, learn to eat unfamiliar foods and expect to be paid in unexpected ways (or not at all!).
It’s been a slow and arduous journey, but what I also discovered is that the desert serves an important purpose – to teach us what really, really matters and how to rely on God. Because in the desert, there is really nothing else but God and your own ability to find God where God might not otherwise be found. I have found God in some of the most interesting places. Student loans and credit cards first come to mind. How else does one survive in the desert when there is no other nourishment to be found? Not unlike the Israelites who wondered, “what the heck is this stuff on the ground you are asking us to eat?????” (which may in fact been some sort of insect….ewwwww!) Won’t I die or at least get shunned by society for accumulating debt related to my time in the desert? Maybe. But it’s the choice God gave me. That and the lesson of how to receive donations and help from family, friends, and even strangers. “Get over your pride Lauri, and learn how to receive, and for God’s sake….quit judging. ‘Good girls’ DO take out loans to support their businesses and your loans are nothing compared to what others have asked to receive for themselves. Get over yourself and be grateful for the choices, however unconventional they might be!”
What else matters in the desert? Family, friends and strangers who bear the face of God. First of all – my children. My children mean more to me than anything else in the world and for them I have made many sacrificed while journeying through the desert. They too have made sacrifices and for their willingness to do so….I am grateful. They unconditionally believe in and support the work I do (perhaps because they know that my love for them absolutely comes first!) and if it means we still have fat TV’s….then so be it.
Family. There are no words to express my gratitude for my family for putting up with the path on which I’ve been led. My parents especially – for all the ways my path has challenged or confronted their own beliefs, attachments, familiar ways of knowing and understanding things. I’m sure it hasn’t always been easy….but love has always won out in the end. My parents are the best and I am so grateful for all their love and support!
Friends. I could not be where I am today without my community of friends and fellow world changers….in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, of all places. Many of us are not from here and wonder what the heck we are doing in Oshkosh and what brought us here of all places. Yet, here we are….and we all found each other. For those unfamiliar with Oshkosh, it is conservative, traditional, parochial and a smallish town of only 50,000 some people. And Oshkosh is very separated – by a river, by a highway, by a railroad track, by religion, by “East Side” and “West Side.” Oshkosh is a town full of contrasts and dualities – the last place in the world you might think to find all these “lightworkers.” But, here we are. Perhaps it is all this separation that drew us because the need for unification is so great? I don’t know. But, it’s been a great place to raise a family and my friends here just rock! The people are reserved, but friendly and if you are patient and wait long enough, the bonds here grow very deep such that those who let you in would literally give you the shirt off their back. And for those who have given “their shirts” to me, I am eternally grateful!
Special thanks to a hand full of friends who have the same kind of crazy dreams as I do and who have believed in and supported my crazy dreams (as I have supported theirs), especially when I have been tempted to stop believing myself! And thank you to my online family at TWYH! Your words and journeys have sometimes been the only thing keeping me afloat.
So, here I am looking out into the promised land. My journey has come full circle with the original vision still intact – the vision to bring forth a new/original way of being Priest(ess) and Church in the world. And the funny thing is that while the Institutional Church might not see it this way, what I am doing is One with the mission of the church. So while I thought I was leaving the Church behind, I find that I never left at all. (more on that later this week!) God is funny that way!