On gold…

I have tried to write this several times without being too sappy or trite – because sappy and trite are things of which I am fond.  However, it could not be done.  With that warning, here goes.

On Gold…

The first time I met “Mary” she was less than two months away from her death.  She was nearly catatonic, and the only words she would ever speak were “Oh come let us adore him.”  Mary’s skin was paper thin, and I could every blue vein in her tiny body.  She had these huge shiny brown eyes – where – when you looked into them – you felt a sense of kindness you never knew existed.  On her left hand she wore tiny gold band had left a permanent mark on her forth finger.  When I walked in the room to meet Mary, everything felt different.  The sun was setting and as it sank in the sky it came through the windows and lit up Mary’s hair – making the gray strands appear golden.  Mary was – the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  Every patient and nurse at the hospice was drawn to Mary despite the fact that she could barely move or speak.

I have heard stories about gold since I was a young whippersnapper (yeah, I know I still am).  I remember hearing that gold was the most precious of all metals.  It is so precious it was gifted to Christ, thought of as God poop by the Aztecs, and is traded in tons every day around the world.  For hundreds of years, gold is a thing for which people have sailed across oceans, killed women and children, starved nations and raped the earth.

Beyond being a tangible metal, gold is also quite symbolic.  Several religions tell of beautiful things called auras.  In simple terms, aura is the energy that a person radiates. Some believe that auras can be so astounding that within moments of meeting a person, you can tell whether his/her energy is bad (and you want to run away) or good (and you feel drawn in).  The most sacred (and rare) of all auras is the golden aura.  The golden aura is symbolic of wisdom, intuition, divine protection – and – enlightenment.

Moving away from metals and auras and back to Mary….  Since Mary could not speak, the first time I met Mary I decided to read to her.  The hospice has only two books on file – both of them by Helen Steiner Rice (cheesy rhyming wizard to the stars).  With one hand I held the book and flipped through the pages and with the other I grasped Mary’s thin flesh.  I read a few terrible rhyme schemes straight out of cruddy Hallmark cards before I landed upon another story about gold.  This one was titled, “The Windows of Gold.”

The story is about a little boy who lived on a mountain.  Shining off in the distance from the boy’s mountain home he sees gold.  The little boy admires the gold so much that he leaves his mountain town to find it.  The little boy walks and walks until he comes to a city.  In the city, he finds that what was shining was not gold – but the reflection of gold from the city in which he came.  The story ends on …. “Is not a far distant place, somewhere.  It’s as close to you as a silent prayer.  And your search for God will end and begin.  When you look for Him and find Him within.”

At this point, I am reading to a dying woman – watching the gold radiate from her body.  So yes, I started crying. 

That is the thing about gold.  People spend years searching for it.  They give it to others, they think it is God poop, they kill for it, rape for it, search for it, do everything for it.  However, I saw gold.  I saw the most precious thing in the world.  And I did not find it by murdering women or children or digging through the mines of another country.  I found gold radiating from the aura of a dying woman.  It was so strong that it radiated from every pore, every cell and every gray hair on her withering body.

Mary will forever be one of the most amazing people I have ever met.  She is amazing because she was the first person I met who realized that gold is something that comes from within.  Mary found gold through a life of prayer and devotion, as symbolic in the only words she would speak… “Oh come let us adore him.”  However, that is not to say that there are not millions of ways to find gold within.  Prayer, meditation, silence, mounting climbing, baking, sewing, knitting, hiking, anything that involves self reflection.  Gold is there.  It is in all of us – just waiting for that moment when we realize it has been in us all along.

On a moment…

On a moment…

I work for a billion dollar company that hires thousands of people throughout the world.  As a worker for my company, I work within another billion dollar company that employs thousands of people throughout the world.  So, as you can imagine, on most days I feel quite small.  To add another level, I work for a data company that produces something like 40,000,000 new bits of information every single day.  That means I learn something new every day, but it also means that most days you are left feeling relatively inadequate and uniformed.

But today – just a few seconds ago – I had a moment.

I was asked to pull data for someone.  I am the lowest possible person on the totem pull where I work.  But a manager asked me to pull data that she wants to share with a vice president of some company in New York City.  The thing is, in order for them to get the data I need to go through this fun legal process song and dance (the treaded third party agreement – shudder….).  At some point during this several hour long ordeal – my brain clicked.

I realized that I am a peon sitting at the desk of the largest cereal maker in the world pulling data for the largest market research firm in the world.  BUT in order for this cereal maker to move with this other company in New York City – they need my help.  Yes, someone else on my team could do it, but it is on me.  And at this moment, if these two companies want anything – I am the conduit, the power cord, the electric tape holding it all together.

So I will manage the legal process.  I will pull the data.  I will do everything that I can to help.

But in my world of billion dollar transactions where no one knows your name – for this moment – for this one split second – what I did mattered.  I helped.  I was supportive.  I was there.  I did my job.  I had a moment.

On priorities…

Today, I was blessed to attend a very big event at work with six or so of my co-workers.  The event was suit and tie.  There were 500 people.  The food was catered – there were FOUR CHOCOLATE FOUNTAINS – there were presidents – there were CEOs of companies floating around – there were huge powerpoint presentations – and the words ‘synergy’ and ‘holistic’… you get the point.  After about one hour of presentations, I looked to my left and to my right and I realized “Crap – I am the youngest person in this room of 500 people.”  I felt totally overwhelmed and thought “Why am I here?”

To make things more intense, I was seated next to my boss.  I will call him “Boss Dude.” Okay, I was not seated next to just any boss…  I was seated next to an “Executive Vice President” who has enough power to crush my life and my career.  Seriously, this guy manages thousands of people and has enough sway to do just about anything he wants.  Boss dude flew in from some big city just to attend this event and meet my co-workers.  I was excited, flattered, and nervous about sitting next to this bro-ham.

A few speakers did their thing, and then it was time for a break.  The first thing “Boss dude” did was get up and walk away from our table.  Everyone else at the table did what people do and have a discussion, but boss man made it clear he could care less about having discussions with his employees.  Then, when Boss Dude came back he was… miserable.  He talked about how many meetings he had, he talked about how he missed his family, he talked about how he was just ….. BLAH.  Every time someone at the table spoke he brought the conversation back to himself and then said something negative.  I kept trying to be witty, another worker kept trying to be witty, we were all trying to be positive and nice.  However, this Boss Dude must have been having a bad year, because he had the ability to suck ALL of the joy right out of the room.

As of right now, I feel bad for the Boss Dude.  From what he told me directly, he travels quite a lot, sees his family very little, and has a high stress job.  From all that I gather – he is miserable.  From what I deduce – he does not even see how miserable he is. What fascinates me about the Boss Dude is that every other person around me seemed to idolize him – or at least his title.  They did not seem to enjoy his presence, but they listening to him ramble on about how miserable he is. I hope that Boss Dude is happy.  I am sure he is a nice guy with a lot going on.  However, he is just missing the point of it all.  He does not seem to know what his priorities are and that they are in conflict.

After about an hour of listening to captain negative’s miserable ramblings – I became overwhelmed with happiness.  I was overwhelmed for three reasons: 1) I realized that I may not have the power this man has or his stature.  However, I am incredibly happy.  He has worked hard.  He is accomplished.  But he is miserable – so what is the point?  2)  I realized that although Boss Man could crush my career, he has no power over me other than what I give to him.  I felt like others at the table kissed his butt a little bit and let him be a jerk.  Being me – I did not do that.  He was complaining for a while so I asked him, “Do you even like your job?”  I did not care if my question hurt or helped my career, because at that point we were just two humans having a conversation.  My question stopped him in his tracks.  He did not even know if he was happy.  3) I was on a track to have a miserable life.  I could be rich – or at least wealthy.  I could have had stature and power over people and a big house on a hill.  I could be stuck in a job where my co-workers are judgmental and unaccepting of who I am.  However, I left that life behind me.  I realized that life was not what I wanted, and trying to attain that life was slowly killing me.  I had the power to realize I was unhappy – and I changed it.

There are so many things that make up a life.  You have work, family, church, hobbies, kids, goals, the dog, travel, vacation, meetings, the bills, money, your pride… you have so many things.  Trying to align these things carefully to maintain happiness can be quite a difficult task. I was happy I was invited to the event, but the table at which I was seated was filled with misery and discontent.  So you know what I did?  I left at the break.  Yeah, that is right.  I could have stayed and let Boss Dude suck the soul from my body.  But I left.  I then called my boyfriend to tell him about the event – that I love him – that I miss him – and that I am so happy to see him tonight.  I imagine that if I stayed I would have brought home anger and misery.  I do not want that.  I know what my priorities are.  Although I do struggle to keep those in line, I feel like leaving the event today was a reminder of how I am the only person to control my priorities.

If you are in a room full of 500 people and you cannot look around and be amazed – you do not get it.  I was amazed at the chocolate fountain; while the Dude Boss would not get up from his table (I know, right!).  If you are traveling all of the time when all you want to do is see your family – you do not get it.  I am not saying travel is good or bad, or family is better, or that I know what the formula to life is for every person.  What I am saying is that if your priorities are in conflict, it will often lead to discontent.

Today, I was easily the youngest person in the room.  However, as I sit here typing I really believe that the Boss Dude (and a few other people in the room) could stand to look around and ask themselves…. “Why am I here?” and more importantly… “Is there somewhere else I want to be?”

On poor Christian leaders…

It has happened again.  I was going through some survey feedback and someone said, “You are too expensive for a Christian business.”
Really?  What is that suppose to mean?
By saying anything is too expensive for being a Christian business, you are implying that “Christian” anything should be cheaper, more affordable or less expensive.

But why?  Why do people have this expectation that Christian stuff should be cheaper?

I have also heard a lot of people I know complain about tithing.

“They just EXPECT me to give them MY money?  It is my money, and they are a church.”

What is that suppose to mean?  Name me ONE other service in your life where you can walk in, expect the service people to me ALL of your needs and you pay nothing?  Oh yeah, there are none, because they do not exist.  How much you feel you need to tithe is between you and God.  But it is hard for me to imagine that you go to church every week and God says, “Just leave, give them nothing, that’s totally awesome.”

Three things:

Thing one:

Churches are a business.  Well, not exactly.  But keeping up a church involves many of the same things need to keep a business up.  Many church services exist in buildings that must be maintained.  Maintaining a building involves: rent fees, maintenance fees, upkeep, electricity bills, water bills, etc.  Buildings are managed by people: secretaries, maintenance, treasurers, etc.  Church services – be they Sunday service or extra-curricular – are run by people.  People – need – money – to live.  People want so badly to believe that churches are run on some type of magic where they can survive simply off of wishful thinking.  But, well, that just isn’t true.  Churches – need – money – to exist.

Thing two:

At the end of the day, whether you like it or not, we live in a capitalist economy.  And even in a socialist economy, things still get paid for via taxes.  So if you want a good or service, you have to pay for it.  I get that things are tight and money as tight and – let’s be honest – you are really cheap.  How do I know you are cheap?  I know you are cheap because I work in market research, where the bottom line is the only thing that matters.  You, my dear consumer, are cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap.  You want everything for the cost of nothing – including any “Christian” service.

Thing three:

I am quite sick of the expectation that those who are Christian servants should be very poor and suck it up.  I have heard people use the “they are servants of Christ” to justify paying people WAY less than they deserve.  Christian professors get paid way less because they are “doing God’s work.”  Missionaries, pastors, priests, nuns… they are expected to live, eat, and take care of their families – all while serving dozens of people – making below poverty line wages.

“Well, God calls his servants to give up earthly goods and just be poor.”  If you think about it, we are all called to do God’s work and to serve God’s people.  So if you give me that thinking, then it is fair for me to expect that you should live sparsely as well.

The thing is, excluding those rare tv pastors who rake in money, I don’t know a single pastor or pastor’s family who lives above the median income.  Every single pastor I know – by government definition – is poor.  Which means, my dear church-goers, you are living every day of your life okay with that fact that the person you want to serve you at your wedding, your funerals, your family’s funeral, and basically – every beck and call moment of you life – sometimes doesn’t have enough money to: pay rent, buy groceries or even buy clothing.

That, to me, is wrong.  The fact that people expect someone to be at their beck and call, but then give them nothing for it – is not right.

Pastors and missionaries don’t need to be millionaires, but neither do you!  They do, however, deserved to have enough money to take care of their needs.

On being nice…

I had a strange thought whilst walking around the park pondering things to my little self.

In third grade, our teacher (Mrs. Stewart – yes, she had a beehive) gave everyone in the class a list of each other’s names.  Then, we went down the list and wrote two or three nice things about everyone.  For Christmas, she pinned the compliments on little pretend gifts on the bulletin board Christmas tree (yes, back when Christmas trees were street legal in public school).  Our Christmas gifts to each other were compliments.

I remember going to the tree for days and feeling disappointed.  I was sad because all that I wanted was for someone to say that I was beautiful.  I remember other girls getting compliments under the tree about how attractive they were.  One girl was “cute” and another was “pretty.”  However, I was sad when I got to my compliments, because they said that Stephanie Klomsten is “nice” and “smart” and “good at Math.”  I can still remember rolling my eyes.  I kept those compliments for years, staring at them in agony.

Nice, I thought, is a cookie cutter compliment. Grandmothers are nice.

Smart, I thought, did not matter if you didn’t have the looks to go with it.  Ugly people are smart.

Good at Math, I thought, was worthless because no one cares about Math skills (you know, except bankers, and stock brokers, and scientists and EVERYONE).

Today, I take back all of the resentment I had about those compliments.  The thought finally hit me… “What if all of those things are true, and they are good?  What if I really am nice and smart and good at Math?”

So I thought a bit more about it.

Except for a stretch in ninth grade where I was a devil woman and a cruddy phase my junior year of college, I think I am pretty nice.  I like being good to people and helping them.  I care about how other people are doing.  I genuinely want people to be happy.  I am nice.

Perhaps I am smart.  I feel guilty even saying or admitting that.  Like saying you are smart is bad or cocky.  I have been told I am smart quite a lot – at least once or twice a month.  What if… it really is true?  I know there are people smarter than me, I see that.

But on the IQ curve, I am closer to the top than the bottom.  I am smart.

What if I am good at Math?  I feel terrible saying that, like I am bragging.  But I can’t say “It isn’t like I have never been in the top of my class” because I have been in the top.  And I can’t say “It isn’t like I use Math every day of my life and get paid for it” because it wouldn’t be true.  Sure, I am not sending rockets into space, but when I am in Math classes, I do well.  And I do Math every single day of my life.  A few hours ago I sent off a research project with no less than 100 Mathematical equations perfectly presented in a lovely chart.  I am good at Math.

So I take back the resentment.  I take it all back.  Who cares if I am not pretty or beautiful or whatever?

I am Stephanie Klomsten.  And I am nice.  I am smart.  And dang it, I am good at Math.  I can even make you a chart to prove it, well, if you would like one.