“Watch Out, 2014–I’m loco no more; I am NO MO CO!”

by Rev. Pamela Anne Bro, Ph.D.  Dec. 24, 2013

Last night, I went to Starbucks to avoid my pain and loneliness, and when I got there, it was empty–totally empty! What? But God is good: it was time to face the music—my life’s music. I’ve been loco—crazy, out of whack, running myself ragged with serving folks and trying to get them to love me. and now—
No more loco. I declare myself NO MO CO!

What is No Mo Co? “No More Co-dependent”!

(OK, I’ll be practicing this new belief system and behavior for a while but I’m starting TODAY.) Oh, I’ve been working with facing my codependence for decades. Years ago, my dear friend Pamela gave me a book on a 12 step program for women who were too busy, too hectic, too doing-everything-for-everybody. I worked the program but all by myself. You could say I was a “closet recoverer” which I now realize totally defeats the program. I felt like a failure if I let anyone know that I was not living a balanced life of caring for others and caring for myself. That was part of my dis-ease.

Now after having a slight (or major) breakdown last May realizing I was co-dependent with my church family (they never taught us to watch out for that in seminary–the Messiah complex—to save everyone you can)—and after discovering someone in my close circle of friends is now a crack addict in order to deal with their awful inner pain, and being exhausted wishing my life were different—I’m ready, God. I’m ready for the 12 steps—and I’ll begin with the first–

Which is to admit “I’m powerless to cure my addictions to workaholism and care-aholism by myself”—You see, God, I’ve gotten so much praise for being these things—from my congregants, to my children and mom, to my professors and friends when I got my Ph.D., working full time and raising two daughters…it was hard to give these strokes up. But now it’s harder not to.

Friends, I want to invite you to join me in this endeavor of reality-facing. Of course, many of you reading this are far ahead of me—wait up! No, don’t. Part of what I’m learning is that I’m responsible for myself and only myself; and the corollary is that you are responsible for yourself. How freeing, how liberating!

Instead of looking for someone to rescue in 2014, I’m looking to rescue myself. To love myself more by doing fun things, by lightening up and not carrying the world’s suffering on my back, by taking time to rest, to read, to sit by the Bay and wonder at the beauty of creation and the creatures, to read to little kids while I hug them, to jam with my musician friends in a few filled-with-the-lonely bars–

Oh thank you, Higher Power, Wiser Power, Kinder Power, for hanging in there and loving me until I could start loving myself. I know I’m a joy to many others; now I will be a joy to myself. And then I can truly sing, “Joy to the World”—watch out, here I come!

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Give Free Hugs!

“Giving Free Hugs on the Boardwalk Last Sunday” July 14, 2013
What an adventure! Mom and I were part of a 5 day course called The Art of Living, and our assignment for Sunday was to choose to do an activity that would get us out of our comfort zone and would also benefit the community. Immediately what popped up in my mind was the Youtube video on “free hugs”. amazingly, the 10 others in our group bought the idea.
We went home Sat. night, drew posters, and met down at Starbucks at 31st st. Yes, I was a bit anxious about the response, or lack thereof, we would get, but in the spiritual course, we’d been learning not to assume other people’s intentions, and we would be more free to act and to give love.
So there we were rounding the corner, and I’d barely gotten my sign up when the first two lovely tourists came right over and said, “I’ll take a free hug!” She not only hugged me but all 4 in our group! And the frolicking began! One of our members, G., didn’t feel comfortable giving hugs, so she had brought a sign, “Free Jokes”. And after many folks got their free hugs from us, they went over to G. and demanded, “Now give me my free joke!”
It was all in good fun. It was intriguing to see that the majority of those who hugged us were black and we were 3 whites and one black person. Hugs are color-free.
Of course, there were those folks who saw our signs and quickly looked away, or those who waved us away if we came too close. But I was fine with that. Maybe I wouldn’t let a stranger hug me–but I knew the people in our group who had such open hearts and light spirits. And I realized that indeed we ARE all one family on this planet, and any day from now on that I can get (or give) a FREE HUG, I will. The more free love on our planet, the better, I say.
I dare you to go give someone a big free hug right now.Image

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“Lazarus, come forth!”

“Lazarus, come forth!”

“If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.”  (Bob Dylan)

 

By Pam Bro  (PamBro.com)                                                   May 7, 2013

     You may remember the story in the Gospels.  Lazarus, one of Jesus’ best buddies and brother to Mary and Martha, has died.  The sisters are devastated that Jesus was not there to save him.  When Jesus arrives days later, Lazarus is wrapped, dead and locked in the tomb.  His response:   “Jesus wept.”–the shortest and most poignant line in the whole Bible.  Then Jesus cries out, “Lazarus, come forth!” And lo and behold, Lazarus stumbles out into the daylight, drawing an agonizing breath.  But the eager embrace of his sisters and Jesus steady and warm him—and he’s on his way to a new life.

     I’ve been Lazarus lately.  The dead one.  Oh yes, I thought I was alive; other people did too.  But I was dead.  How?

     Well, I’ve been the founder and pastor of a little church for 7 years, and through those amazing, challenging and heart-warming years of community worship and service, I had continually asked the people for very little commitment and support.  Though I cherished being their pastor/friend, lately the struggle to earn a living was becoming untenable.  What should I do?

     Then last week I had an epiphany.  The Spirit showed me that I had a fear of rejection, and most of my flock had a fear of commitment.   

     Now their fear is understandable. Our culture scoffs at commitment, inundating us by every means available with choice upon choice—of partners, consumer goods, worship communities.  Why commit to one when you can have it all?  Why risk being a part of a group where you’ll be asked to give, to grow, and to be more fully engaged with your soul and the world?

     And what about me?  I didn’t fear commitment—I had shown up 50 weeks a year for the last seven years to preach, even when I was bald and near death because of chemo.  But the Spirit did show me that:

  • I was mistaken to feel that people could reject me.  Living Waters Sanctuary was never about me.  It was about what God wants us to do together to help bring healing, understanding and love to our community and beyond.  Yes, I was a necessary catalyst for our spiritual community but never the wellspring.
  • God could always use me somewhere else–this crazy, caring, striving, irreverent Pamela Bro– God had few enough servant leaders as it was. 
  • Did I want to die before I realized, “Oh my God, you mean we at Living Waters could have done that and that and that together to help our poor world, and we never even tried!”  Did we want to be the living dead?

     Suddenly Jesus stood before me, weeping over my premature demise in my self-made tomb, and then belting out,

     “Pamela, come forth!” 

     I woke up!  I stepped out—dancing, with my grave cloths flapping wildly around me.  I wanted to kiss everyone I met.  I still do.

     So last Sunday, I shared my revelation with my people, urging them not to fear making a stronger commitment to each other and to God’s work, or it was time for me to step down.  But if they stepped up, a new kind of life would await them. 

     And they rose up, too!  They committed! 

     It is ironic but true that it is only by committing ourselves to a few specific and imperfect people that we can actually regenerate the larger world.

     Listen, my friend.  Do you hear someone calling your name?  Commanding, “Come forth!”

     The world needs you now—fully alive.Image

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We’re All Terminal but God Cherishes Us like Precious Flowers

Here’s a golden treasure gleaned from one of the darkest cave times of my life.

     The same summer I met James Taylor while training as chaplain in a New York City hospital, I chose to serve the population of terminally ill children.  Because I had always loved children, I imagined that I would go into their rooms, cheering them up with my theatrical and musical background, and offering them some joy for their pain-filled days.

     After working in the hospital for a month, I slipped down into the abyss of the “dark night of the soul.”  I was a basket case—depressed, weepy, sullen.  I certainly wasn’t entertaining the children.  I couldn’t bear to witness the children’s suffering anymore, or listen to their screams while I held them down and the nurses stuck them with needles or pumped them up with medications that burned their tender skin.

     To my credit (and amazement), I kept showing up.

     Though I tried to cherish every child, I admit I had a few favorites on the ward.  I befriended a little girl named Tara, a name I had imagined I might give a daughter of mine one day.  Tara had already lost one leg to cancer, but she never complained.  We loved singing Broadway musicals together, especially Annie.  We hammed it up gloriously.

     One morning as I began my rounds, I eagerly poked my head into Tara’s room to see her.  Surprised, I saw that her bed was stripped of its sheets.   Confused, I found a nurse and asked her where Tara was.  Shaking her head, she informed me that Tara had died in the night.

     Tara’s death pushed me over the edge.  Even with my worldview that God was all-loving and no soul was ever lost, I couldn’t bear another one of those sweet young children dying so cruelly.

     Back in my dorm room on that sweltering July night, I threw myself on my bed, so furious with God that I yelled right out loud:  “It’s not fair!  It’s not fair!”

     Sobbing in my helplessness to save the children, the words of the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, sprang to mind:  “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

     And rage I did.  “No more dying!  No more!  Please!”

     Finally, sapped of all desire or strength to fight God’s inscrutable ways, I gave up.  I gave in.  I surrendered.

     “OK, God,” I thought. “You win.”

     Total silence descended upon me like a soft blanket.  Without effort, my heart opened like a lotus to embrace the darkness.

     A kind, gentle voice whispered to me:  “My dear Pam, don’t you see?  You’re all terminal.  It’s just that some of you know it and others don’t.”

     Me, terminal?

     I was stunned.

     After some moments, I realized that the voice spoke the truth.  I was healthy and young and felt as if I would live forever, but I was going to die someday.  I could be hit by a truck tomorrow, but I wasn’t mourning the loss of my life today.  Yet there I was, mourning these children before they were dead.

     I found my treasure in the darkness:  these children were living children.

     From that day on, I was able to do my ministry with them, singing  and laughing with them, teasing them, hugging and tickling them to death—I mean, life.Image

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Boston Marathon Bombings: A Plea for Care and Prayer

The Boston Marathon Bombings:  A Plea for Care and Prayer

 Rev. Pamela Anne Bro, April 16, 2013

 As I was driving to my yoga class this morning, I spied something round and dark creeping across my lane.  I jammed on the brakes and realized it was a turtle, tentatively making its way across the pavement, totally unaware of the danger it was in.  I pulled my car to the side of the road and got out so I could rescue it, but the traffic was coming too fast and heavy.  My heart sank when I realized I couldn’t save it.  Crushed by the probable death of such innocence, I fought back the tears. 

 And immediately the Boston Marathon bombings came to mind—how could anyone possibly do such a horrendous act to such innocent people? 

 “Where are you in this, God?”  My anguished pastor’s heart cried out.

 An hour and a half on the mat did little to calm me.  There I was breathing in and out in peace while others up in Boston and around the country were in agony, grief and pain.  Marathon runners a target of vicious violence? 

 I silently shouted, “Free will is too high a price to pay!  We can’t handle it, Jesus! We’re going to hell in a hand basket, all of us, even runners and little children and slow-moving turtles who hurt no one.  What is happening to our country?  And where is the justice?  Where is your loving God???”

Jesus on the mat, usually so responsive, was mute.  Revenge, hatred, fear—I felt all these emotions well up in me.

 Then I remembered…

 Scientists now confirm that thoughts carry energy, real energy and power.  That means that when we dwell on dark (and justifiable) emotions, they go out into the ethers to gather with similar thoughts into an energy field.  Our world is already too full of hatred and terror.  We mustn’t contribute to that black hole. 

 So friends, here is my plea.  Let us strain with all our might, like valiant runners, to transform our negative thoughts to ones of comfort and healing we send to the victims, their families, and any suffering person standing right before us, right here and now.

 Yes, I’m still reeling from the insanity of the bombings:  no place seems safe now in our public lives.  And yes, prayer and care can seem like flimsy responses to such a diabolical event.  Yet, just as we desire the quick apprehension of the bombers, may we also join our hearts and minds to re-shape policies and thoughts that will protect our citizens, our children and our fellow creatures. 

 Outside again after class, I was heartened to find no sign of the turtle anywhere.  Prayer and care may be all we have right now–but let’s use them.Image

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5 Tips to Welcome Spring!

5 Tips to Welcome Spring  by PamBro.com

 1.  Spring clean your whole house.  (J) 

Now how many of us actually do this?  Then we feel like a failure.  Here’s how to break that cycle.  I invite you to clean out only 2 items:

  • Your medicine cabinet and
  • One kitchen drawer.

You’ll be surprised at what you find:  the lost blush stick, your favorite little bottle of perfume, a box of tiny screws—as well as what has expired and needs tossing.  You just need 15 minutes and a garbage bag in hand, and VOILA!  You are doing spring cleaning—and you’re a success!

 2.  Spring clean your thoughts. 

Choose one consistently negative thought you have and replace it with a positive one.   For example, say you hate being criticized.  Replace this thought with “I can easily handle criticism.  It’s not personal.  I can sift through it and find what’s useful to change in myself, and then throw the rest out.”  Which leads us to Tip #3…

3.  Spring clean your list of good friends.

That is, honestly look at each friend to see if they are a positive or negative influence in your life.  If they’re always critical of you or too HM (high maintenance), have the courage and wisdom to spend less time with them or completely let them go.  Sigh of relief….

 4.  Buy an essential oil or room spray.

Science is showing how stimulated your brain will be by odors that please you.  They can actually calm you and send out endorphins, those good-feeling chemicals.  So intentionally pick out a scent that will delight you:  lavender, rose, lily, lemon or linen…breathe in deep and slow….ummm…

 5.  Bring one object of beauty into your home.

Whether it’s the bold yellow of sunflowers, or the dainty and delicate daffodils for your kitchen table, or a new painting of love birds cooing for your bedroom wall, lavish yourself with a little beauty.  Beauty breeds beauty!

 ImageWith these 5 easy tips, you are now ready to greet spring with a spring in your step and a happier, fresher you!

© 2013

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Preparing for 2012

Friends around the world, how I wish I could reach out and embrace each one of you! Tonight my heart is full as we move into the momentous day of 11-11-11. Let’s radiate out our love to the planet, the creatures, and to the whole human family. Only love can cast out fear. Let’s open our hearts to the energy from the stars, from our precious Mother Earth, from her creatures, our brothers and sisters. Be bold and brave messengers of hope in a new future for us all, living together in peace–i know it sounds impossible, but what better dream can we give our lives to than this? Let’s join together to save the world for our children and the next 7 generations, as the Iroquois Confederation has taught. Hanta yo, Tokah Hey! “Prepare the way in a Holy way!”

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