All posts tagged: Faith

I Lost $52 Million and Lived to Tell About It

“I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but I promise you this is the very best thing for the business,” he said. “Yup, I know. I’m 100 percent on board,” I exhaled. And with that, my then CFO and I knew we were ending a $52 million contract. Making that decision was the best thing I’ve ever done for my business. I’m here to talk about failure, but, to be clear, losing this deal wasn’t my big failure. Sure, I felt like a failure to my team. We felt totally incompetent, like we had been playing a game of checkers when my supposed collaborators had been playing chess. And, sure, I felt like the business was going to take a nosedive towards a dramatic end. But still, those things didn’t make me feel like a total failure. The failure was in ignoring the warning signs that had been looming for at least two years. Anyone looking at my predicament could have spotted this dramatic, climactic ending 50 miles away. And when I look …

My Proof God Wants Us to Keep Laughing

When I was a kid attending church with my family, the worst offense we could commit was to laugh in the middle of the service. Which is why my siblings and I regularly prodded each other into laughter so forceful that it seemed to emit from our mouths, noses and ears. My brother and sister and I were regularly reshuffled to opposite ends of the pews by parental glares set to “SALT PILLAR” until the moment Miss Smith arose and called the kids to follow her out for Sunday School. The lesson was driven home at an early age: God and humor do not mix. So I was so delighted, as an adult, to find a church in my adopted hometown in NorCal where a) our priest is an accomplished stilt walker and never misses a chance to explain a parable from ten feet overhead; b) the send-off gift to newly ordained seminarians as they head to their first big jobs is a flaming Bible (to be used ironically, of course); and c) when a …

Why I Keep the Fact That I’m a Muslim to Myself

You wouldn’t know my secret by looking at me. You wouldn’t see me walking down the street and give me that knowing nod of understanding. Because, honestly, you can’t tell that I’m a Muslim. I’m a middle-aged woman (first time I wrote that out… ouch), born and raised in the states. Blond hair, blue eyes and a totally American name. And I don’t cover. There are a few reasons I choose to be anonymous with my religion. I don’t need to talk about my religion or get people to convert to my side. I don’t need to debate the merits of my religion versus another religion or having no religion at all. I know what I believe and I’m firm in my faith. I have no desire to make sure you believe what I believe or to give you some spiel on why I needed to change religions. My husband and I are private people. We don’t share our news with the world. We keep that between us, so it’s reasonable to think that our …

I’m Not Religious, But I Believe in Pat

Had I posted a classified ad when I was searching for a nanny for my kids, the copy might’ve read something like this: Wanted: Delightful woman to impart kindness, manners and respect to my children. Infectious giggle a real plus. And wouldn’t you know it? That very person knocked on my door, arriving a few months before my second son was born. She stayed for 20 years. Pat’s few shortcomings as a nanny (she could be a dangerous laundress and a mystifying cook) were far outweighed by her loveliness. I remember calling my house from my office to hear her answer the phone with her charming Guyanese lilt and perfect enunciation: “Hello, good afternoon, may I help you?” she’d trill. It was all I could do not to hang up and call back just to hear her say it again. Pat had endless patience for rambunctious boys and a true appreciation for games. She actually enjoyed playing Chutes and Ladders, while I only pretended to do so. She declared my children both geniuses and gifted …

Faith in Boys, Bikes and Wallpaper

I had all kinds of faith when I was a kid. Faith in Christmas presents, in the sweetness and chaos of my brother, in pathological lip-gloss reapplication, in swimming pools, in ketchup all over everything, in my bike. I had faith that my mother would remain fierce and beautiful and my father funny. I had faith that I could be those things if I paid attention. I would cherry-pick and incorporate. Season myself to taste. I would control myself. Everyone thinks they can do this. I didn’t know that then. But I had faith that concentrating really hard was the answer. Sometimes I notice myself being the things that they are, all kinds of things, and their voices are suddenly inside me, finding their way out. I’m surprised every time. Like I’ve belched in public. I have faith it doesn’t show. Did you read that on my face? I’m very good at not showing. I ask all the questions. I have faith that asking all the questions will fill me up. My story and others …

Finding God and Letting Him Find Me Too

I have never known a time when God was not in my life. He was a foreboding presence from my first memory. God was everywhere, critically watching everything. I never questioned his existence. Not the way I did Santa when I realized there was no chimney in my house for him to come down. There may have been no Santa, but God was absolutely real. I grew up going to Pentecostal churches with my mother and my younger brother. First in D.C., where I was born, and later in Philadelphia, where I lived from the time I was nine until I went to college. My father believed in God but saw no need to go to church. In both cities, my church was predominately black. You dressed up for service. Men in suits, women in dresses — never pants. The adult women like my mother typically wore lace coverings that looked like doilies over their hair. The differences between denominations were confusing for me at that time. I just knew Pentecostals to be a lively …

Margit’s Note: The Martin Mixtape

As a kid, I used to get Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr.’s names mixed up. Actually, I imagined one was the other one’s father. That the “King” one was the Dad. Blame it on growing up Lutheran and the fact that both names shared substantial storylines in my six-year-old head. Ironically, and somewhat unintentionally, I spent some time with both Martins over the last two days — watching MLK videos and reading from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and visiting the awesome Morgan Library where they’ve got a great exhibit on the elder Luther, a priest who defied many of the teachings of the Catholic Church by pinning Ninety-Five Theses (his rebuttal) to church doors, jump-starting the Protestant reformation 500 years ago. Even though I’m not religious, it was a thrill to see one of the old documents in real life — it’s like a bit of social media pioneering before there was social media and one of the first uses of the printing press. For anyone who works with words, it’s a powerful piece …

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The Story of the Rescued Giraffe

As I headed down Broadway toward the gym, I passed a woman pushing a stroller. Its occupant, a boy of about two, was pitching a fit, crying, straining at the straps and attempting a jailbreak with all his might. His mother cooed at him, but he was not to be comforted. I smiled to myself; I’d been in her shoes. As the mother of two sons myself, I know that sometimes nothing can soothe a savage little beast in the midst of a howl fest. But a block later, I spied the actual cause of the boy’s conniption. There, in the middle of the sidewalk, lay a small stuffed giraffe. I scooped him up and turned to call after the mother, but she was gone. I trotted back to the corner and looked around. No sign of them. But something pointed me eastward, and I jogged across Broadway and up 93rd Street. There! A block ahead, I spied them. My jog became a sprint as I took off, my big gym bag bouncing against my …

How Music and Loss Led Me to Become a Pastor

I don’t know when exactly it was that I realized that I wasn’t going to be an opera singer, but I do know when I realized I was going to be a pastor. Growing up in Montana, church was my favorite place to be and my favorite thing to do there was sing. It seemed that singing was my gift, so with one degree in music under my belt, I moved to Maryland to begin a master’s degree in opera. I worked my way through my graduate school by being a soloist in a large synagogue, a director of music at a Baptist church and working at the University Bookstore where I met a cashier who would one day be my husband. In 1994 my husband and I were married and moved to NYC so that I could pursue a career in opera. [pullquote]In choir, they were not “men living with AIDS.” They were musicians and not every part of them was sick.[/pullquote] I’d lived in the city for nearly a year when I received …

My Daughter’s Mysterious Illness — And My Own

Exactly one year ago, my teenage daughter got sick. Really sick. One day, out of the blue, she woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. Up to this point, my then 14-year-old daughter had been a wildly healthy, state-championship swimmer who played the cello in an honors orchestra, earned straight A’s in all her classes. She was heavily involved in leadership positions in our church and in an assortment of other extracurricular activities at school and in the community. She’s beautiful, talented, smart, kind, friendly, and if you were to ask anyone from a neighbor to a stranger meeting her for the first time, “totally put together.” And then on March 19th, 2014, she woke up achy all over, vomiting, with a high fever. The first day of illness, I just assumed my daughter had the same flu that was running rampant through our community; the classmates of both my children had been sidelined for days with a terrible flu. I had no reason to believe my daughter was experiencing anything different. [pullquote]I was …

Comfort and Oy! Raising Kids in a Mixed-Faith Household

When my daughter was eight years old, she came home from school troubled. “Someone in my class said that Santa is not real,” she said. Her younger brother laughed. “But of course Santa is real! Otherwise, who’s that guy at the mall?” Thankfully, my daughter seemed satisfied with this answer. I sighed with relief and, not for the first time, thought, “I am completely unequipped to handle this Santa stuff.” I grew up Jewish, in a suburb of Boston. We celebrated Chanukah. We did not have a Christmas tree, or give each other Christmas presents. On Christmas day we did what all Jewish people do: we saw a movie and then went out for Chinese food. Many of the kids in my neighborhood, and in my school, were Jewish, so it never occurred to me to feel left out, or different. I married an Episcopalian, and while neither of us is terribly religious, both of us feel it’s very important to pass our family traditions on to our children. So we celebrate both Easter and …

Margit’s Note: I Say a Little Prayer

I stand at the top of my cushy workout mat (it’s decidedly not a yoga mat) and stretch to the sky. A fire engine roars down Flatbush Avenue as I whisk it out of my mind. I close my eyes, breathe in, give thanks, offer prayers to my ancestors (my Zimbabwe-born neighbor hipped me to that one), the health of my family and friends, hope that the girls in Nigeria will be returned, to the people of Nepal, to the men I worked with at the Bowery Mission who deserve a second chance, a request to allow God’s breath to blow through me in whatever way the spirit deems necessary, and hope that today will be a good day. For now, this is my religion — my faith. Growing up Lutheran, with a mom we affectionately dubbed Kirche Frau, attendance was generally enforced and Sunday school was de rigueur… even if my sister and I used my confirmation necklace as a punk rock medallion when we transformed my brother into Billy Idol. I always have …