National Musings or My Amalgamated Life
We got off the plane in Indianapolis and trudged across the airport to the waiting rental car. I was full of apprehension and excitement for the upcoming National Annual Gathering. My first time attending! What should I expect? Will I make any new friends? Will I have to eat meals alone? I made Brian promise to eat at dinner with me. I was uncertain. Nervous and full of anticipation. I was wearing a dress. I don’t normally. I felt naked.
We arrived at the facility and found our way to the check in location. The greeters were friendly, but not forthcoming with much information. It was awkward. We went to lunch. There we found some other Region 1 folks. Everyone was polite, but it still felt strange. This was not my VDC . These were not my people. Had I made a mistake?
At this point I should tell you that from the beginning I was a trouble maker (I know, this surprises you). It all started with confusion at the airport. I had previously alerted them to the fact that Brian was renting a car, and I didn’t need transportation. However, they sent someone anyway and that person wandered the airport looking for me until they finally called and I reminded them that I had a ride! Then, upon our arrival at the university, we discovered that they had us in the wrong rooms. Brian’s room was under construction due to a water leak, and mine had other people in it (the horror!). They quickly got that straightened out, but moving me meant my palanca bag and t-shirt were in the wrong place. I had to go back to the coordinators several times to get everything straightened out! I kept assuring Marcia, the Registration co-chair, that I was not really that high maintenance, but I don’t think she believed me!
The next stop was orientation for first-time attendees. Now, I don’t mean to be age-discriminatory, but the whole meeting was “how to access the website from your phone” as the agenda was to be paperless. We all know technology can be challenging, but this was unnecessary and an hour of my life that I will never get back. The young millennial beside me was, let’s just say, not impressed.
Next up, business. It is always amazing to me how ‘human” humans are. Even (or maybe especially) Christian humans. Where two or three are gathered in His name, there will be chaos among them. And chaos erupted at the first business meeting on Friday morning. Hurt feelings that had been buried for a few years, erupted violently in the form of a request from one of the secretariats for formal reprimand of the board. Dirty laundry was aired in front of the entire body. Emotions were very close to the surface and many were visibly distressed. They were not practicing grace with each other and they were not practicing Christian reconciliation. Having never been to a national gathering before, I was surprised and uncomfortable by the display and I was not optimistic about the outcome. But, they brought in the pastors and Head Spiritual Director and the offended parties went behind closed doors and emerged with at least a preliminary reconciliation agreement and the request for reprimand was withdrawn. God is Good.
As I watched all of this unfold, it occurred to me, that we can be somewhat clicky in our organizations. It can begin to feel “clubby”. There were obvious divisions, north and south, new and old, and most definitely east and west. We out in Region 1 had a little bit of a “step-child” feel. As a first time attendee, at times it felt difficult to break in. The people that I found myself most drawn to were the younger crowd, the other first timers, and the other Region 1 attendees. But as the weekend progressed, the walls did begin to come down and I met some amazing people who touched my heart and who are now “my people”. I had not made a mistake in coming.
Other divisions did continue, however. Some barriers are difficult to break through. This was particularly obvious during the elections. It was quickly apparent how closed some parts of this community can be and how resistant to change. It is always hard when you take a risk. But God has His own plans and they are not always ours. (Jeremiah 29:11). Sometimes we just have to breathe and let Jesus take the wheel.
Over the course of the weekend, I learned two important lessons. First, I discovered just how blessed and “normal” we are at Light in the Desert. We have our “sand paper moments” that often result in the smoothing out of rough edges making us fit better. We are blessed with so many great members who give and give and give some more to make sure that our weekends continue to thrive when other secretariats are having to cancel weekend after weekend due to lack of participation. We have a plethora of talented and amazing Spiritual Directors, when other secretariats struggle to find even one to serve on team. We have members who have shown the same commitment and passion at VDC 31 as they did at VDC 1 so that we can continue to grow as a community. We have newer members that bring life and vitality to our movement. And despite the sometimes disparate viewpoints of the two groups, it is that enthusiasm and dedication to the overall message of VDC that keeps us alive. We have a Lay Director who has so much passion for the movement that he continues to donate time and resources so we can move our music, our technology and ourselves into the 21st century. (I also discovered that Brian and I are a bit of technology/music snobs and we are not impressed by mediocrity, but that’s another story). And I learned that growing pains are normal and healthy and essential for progress. I learned that when we “let go and let God”, when we truly allow Him to move through us, we can do all things!
Second, I learned that in spite of the aforementioned difficulties, the national VDC organization is a body of amazing Christians and we have much to learn from each other. We are blessed with members that want to infuse our communities with new ideas while retaining the essentials that make us Via de Cristo. We have a rich and wonderful tradition that each secretariat interprets in their own way. We are blessed that we can share in the similarities, rejoice in the differences, and celebrate the variety of ways that we honor our Lord through VDC weekends. I learned that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing at LITD and we are exactly where God wants us to be. And thankfully, we have a multitude of wise and wonderful people in our midst and in the community at large whose experience and knowledge can provide a vast amount of support and insight as we continue to grow our secretariat.
One of the speakers referred to this coming together as amalgamation. The union of separate groups into one. She reminded us that we are the amalgamated body of Christ. That each of us, with our own strengths and weaknesses are necessary to form the complete whole. This struck a chord with me and throughout the weekend, the words “my amalgamated life” kept coming to my mind. We often tend to keep ourselves separate. We remain clothed and afraid all the while longing for connection and completeness. But when we come together in unity and trust, when we allow ourselves to be “naked” with one another, that is when true “amalgamation” occurs. For it is in community that we truly see the face of God. I saw the face of God this weekend. I saw Him in Brian. I saw Him in the new friends that I met. I saw Him in the crisoistas that were warm and welcoming and I saw Him in the people that were clubby. I saw Him in every face I encountered. And I remembered that even in our broken humanness, He is present. He is present in ill-timed grievances aired publically and in the subsequent reconciliation that occurs. He is present in mediocre music and poorly executed technology and He is present in the patience and flexibility of the attendees. He is present in the passionate sharing of ideas and in the quiet bonding between new friends. He is present in silly games and moments of shared laughter and fellowship. He is present in you. He is present in me. I showed up “naked” and afraid this weekend and I returned transformed. (I’m pretty sure there is a song in there somewhere)
I love this amalgamated life I have chosen to live with my VDC community. I love that I can be raw and naked and “me” in this space. I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you on this adventure. It was an amazing journey. My heart is full and I am forever changed.
Your National Delegate
Sept. 19-22, 2019
National Annual Gathering
July 30-, August 2, 2020
“The Colors. My name is Barbara Grubaugh.” When I think about it that way, it doesn’t make much sense, does it? When my brother, Jeff, visited our team meeting last year, our ”De Colores” greeting really sounded strange to him. Just like it does when I say,“The Colors” to you. Yet, I’ve watched you. When you say, “De Colores,” and the whole group echoes it back, you smile and get all fluffed up. I’d like to propose to you that this greeting signifies so much more.
Why is this saying so meaningful? I’ve been giving this same greeting for almost 15 years now, yet every time I hear it, it still makes me happy. Saying “De Colores” to each other certainly links us to our Cursillo roots. We might have learned it from a silly chicken skit, or Spanish song, but no matter how we learned it, when I greet you with our common salutation “De Colores,” that greeting is immediately recognized by you all. We are unified by our shared common experiences. Under normal circumstances, if I met you out in the “real world,” I would just say, “Hi” or “Hey,” or “Good morning,” to you and then we’d move on. But, not here. Not us. I say,”De Colores” and you echo it back to me. We now have a bond.
I have come to believe that when I say “De Colores” to you something happens or changes within me. I move from just a lighthearted greeting to a more profound connection with you. It signals that you and I are now in the same state of grace. What I am actually saying to you is this greeting: “The Lord be with you.” And when I say, “The Lord be with you” you will reply…., “And also with you “ or “And with thy spirit.” I greet you with the colors—let a spirit of beauty, majesty, and wonder of the Lord be with you and also with me. Nice, eh?
The greeting, “The Lord be with you” in Latin, Dominus vobiscum, and its response Et cum spiritu tuo. are ancient in their origins. (First noted in the Bible in the book of Ruth when Boaz greeted the harvesters.) It was a salutation used by the common citizens prior to, during, and after the life of Christ. This greeting is so full of meaning. What I would like to propose is that familiar greetings can still be used by us in the same way intended by the early Christian communities as an invitation to have God come in among us.
As people of God, we are led and invisibly supported by the Holy Spirit of Christ, but we should also form true and visible families. The De Colores greeting connects all Christoistas together as a true family. This is necessary to bring to life what was lived in those first Christian communities, when all were one in mind and heart. When we gather around the Eucharistic altar, we form a small community dedicated to experiencing this same unity of family and to expressing this unity as love. So, next time you say “De Colores” to me or to someone in our community think of this: We are joining together in a family of grace, and we are inviting the Lord to be with us all. This is a special bond that we share. This is what our “De Colores” truly means.
So, “De Colores, my name is Barbara Grubaugh”
Calling all Light in the Desert Community Members! VDC#31 is rapidly approaching! Get your team applications in! Pilgrims are needed!