Say Yes – Raised Catholic episode 52 (1st anniversary episode!)

The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic Podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.

photo by Kerry Campbell

Oh friends, it’s our first anniversary, and I am so glad that you’re here! 

Today is episode 52: Say Yes

This Advent we’ve been exploring some seasonal themes, like giving and hospitality, and as we celebrate a feast day for our Mother Mary this week, I thought it would be fitting to talk about her ‘yes’ and about our ‘yesses’, too. As we think about how Mary’s ‘yes’ changed the whole world, we can reflect on how we can use the power of our ‘yes’ for ourselves, our communities, for our hurting Church, and for the world.

Because she lived so long ago and because of so much of the art and music around Mary unfortunately presents her as kind of unreal and untouchable way up there on a statue, we can forget that Mary was a human being just like you and me. When the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, she was afraid just as we would’ve been.  And when that angel presented God’s plan to her, she had questions, just as we would have. Mary would have had no idea what her ‘yes’ would lead to, the great privilege and the great suffering that it would bring in her own life, yet her ‘yes’ was simple, straightforward, and obedient.  Mary was faithful to God, and she understood that she, like all of us, belonged to God, and so she assented to this crazy plan of bringing forth Jesus into a waiting world even though she was just a kid really – fourteen or fifteen – and could not have understood what that would mean, radically changing the trajectory of her life and all our lives.

You and I say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to things every day, all day long, but there is something about the nature of an invitation from God that does has a completely different and sort of unearthly feel to it.  And I wonder if you’ve ever experienced anything like that. I have, and I’ll tell you about some of those stories in what turns out to be a pretty personal episode today, but first I’ll tell you what all of these experiences have in common.  Like Mary, I have experienced questions or invitations from God in a way which immediately felt set apart from my own thinking or discerning.  Honestly, these were not ideas or thoughts that I ever would have generated on my own, because each ‘yes’ that I’ll tell you about today represented an uncomfortable and even scary new thing that required tons of learning and work on my part, and I did not have any idea as where they would lead me. As I look back on each ‘yes’, I can see very good fruit and that’s reassurance for me that it was an invitation from God after all. But at the time, in each case without exception the endeavor or undertaking or goal was so out of character for me as to feel literally insane. In many cases, these were things I had openly said I would never do, yet here we are. So, on the first anniversary of the Raised Catholic Podcast, first, thank you so much for being here, and as a small offering to you, here are some stories of some of my ‘yesses’. And friend, as you listen, maybe you can reflect on your own history and discover some ‘yesses’ of your own.

The first ‘yes’ I’ll tell you about happened in early 2003. A friend from church, Jodi, asked me in passing after mass one Sunday whether I had ever been on a cursillo retreat and whether I’d like to join her on an upcoming weekend. Now, at the time, I had never heard of cursillo – it sure sounded like a weird word to me. I had two little kids at home, and I did not really know Jodi very well yet at all.  It made no practical sense for me to go on retreat at that time, especially one that I knew nothing about, but as I stood there in the back of the church, I felt the ‘yes’ come out of my mouth somehow, almost unbidden and that ‘yes’ has changed everything.  I did have a wonderful retreat, and I’ve been a part of many cursillo weekends over the years ever since; leading, helping out, and giving talks. It’s not an overstatement to say that in that retreat house, I reclaimed faith for myself as an adult, met spiritual leaders who have completely changed my life, received a spiritual toolbox of sorts that I continue to use as a resource, discovered my gift as a writer and speaker, and found the most beautiful Christian community that I have ever known. I can’t quantify how my service in that holy place might have impacted the lives of others, but there’s no question that that ‘yes’ at the back of the church that day – well, it changed everything for me.

The next ‘yes’ happened just a year later, in 2004. During a time of terrible budget cuts in our town, I actively worked for more funding for our schools.  I was one of those vocal Moms who wrote letters to the editor and stood up in town meeting and worked on mailings for overrides, that kind of thing. But let me just say here – I wasn’t always ‘that kind of Mom’ or the kind of person who would ever lead or speak out, but I firmly believe that my cursillo experience planted seeds of leadership that were then just starting to take root.  Anyway, there was a critical vote one Saturday, and the consequences of failure to pass it would be horrific: a shortened school day for the kids, no music, art, or gym, no sports, computers, languages, so much more.  When I learned that evening that the override had failed, I was mad.  I got down on my knees and prayed to God, even though it probably sounded more like yelling to God, but I asked, out loud, “How could you allow this to happen? How can little kids grow up without music?” Knowing the huge impact that music in public school had had on my own life, I called out to God asking what He was going to do about this mess, and I heard His reply immediately and as clear as day in my spirit: “You do it.” And though I was a stay-at-home Mom then and had never ever considered teaching early childhood music and didn’t have the least idea about how to do it, somehow I found myself saying ‘yes’. I started researching and teaching for free once a month in the town library meeting space, very much learning as I went.  Friend, that was almost twenty years ago, and it was the genesis of my music program, Exploring Music, which I’ve since taught with many hundreds of children in area schools, dance studios, libraries, and much more.  I’ve made real connections with children, teachers, parents, and educators from whom I’ve learned so much and some of whom are dear friends. That ‘yes’ changed my life and the lives of many others in a way that I can’t yet fully measure but which has absolutely seen remarkable fruit.

There were similarly unexpected ‘yesses’ in the years that followed – to my sister Molly’s invitation to begin running at age 41, after never having run a step before that, and to a friend’s recommendation to meet her amazing therapist, who has since become my therapist and whom I now recommend to all of my favorite people. In each case, God was speaking through another person, which is one of His best ways and it’s why our openness to being used by God to speak to the people around us is so important. Anyway, as I look back on saying yes both to running and to therapy, I cannot believe I went along with it on those days, eagerly and without a fight in both cases, and it’s amazing to me how both of these practices literally changed everything, and not just for me. Positive effects from my running and my therapy have flowed out to others as well in a way that I can’t really describe here. But all of this is very much how a movement of a loving God would work, don’t you think? Person to person, each ‘yes’ leading to a bit more flourishing in the family of God.  More open doors, more possibility from a God of abundance who really does know and care for us in our details. So, I wonder as you listen to all of this, friend, if you’re thinking about scenarios in your own life, opportunities that were presented that may just have come from God, open doors that changed your life and others’ lives for the better with your ‘yes’? Or maybe you’re thinking now of a gentle knock that you may be hearing repeatedly these days, inviting you toward some new action or even a new letting go, a new frame of thinking or a new openness to where God might be leading you next? How exciting.

As you consider that question, I’d like to finish this episode with the story of my ‘yes’ to making the very Raised Catholic Podcast that you’re hearing right now.  It’s been a full year of weekly episodes, which is completely unbelievable to me given its origins, and since it’s our first anniversary together, friend, here’s the story of how it all began.

I had been writing on faith issues for quite a while on my blog and on Instagram.  At the same time, as a cradle Catholic music minister, I was starting to hear a lot from faithful friends who were really struggling with church – I could totally relate, but more and more they were coming to me with apologies because even past the sexual abuse crisis, even after its aftermath, they had now reached a tipping point.  Too much hypocrisy, too much judgment, too much clericalism, too many homilies with themes and preaching that just did not sound like Jesus to them. They were coming to me in the grocery store and in DMs and in quiet huddled conversations at parties because they didn’t know where else to go, I guess. Then I started hearing similar stories everywhere from the wider Christian Church, from lots of Christian denominations. These were people who loved God and wanted relationship with Him but who were deconstructing from a tradition that just did not seem to represent Him well.  In prayer, I started feeling an invitation from the Holy Spirit toward making a podcast that would create scaffolding for a judgment-free space for faithful people like this to consider their faith and to grow in relationship with God both inside and outside of church walls.  And I remember hearing this call clearly and I also remember saying no, like, out loud no.  I had literally no idea how to make a podcast. I knew the huge investment of time something like that would likely take, and I had already created tons of written content plus three failed book proposals over the years – and emotionally, I just did not have it in me to sink that kind of time into a new project, for free and likely fruitless, again.  So, I said no.  

It was on a long run in the late fall of 2020 that I felt God invite me to do this again for what I knew in my spirit was the last time. I felt His loving voice say He’d give the work to someone else if need be, but that this was something He wanted us to make together. I recognized His voice and I remembered His faithfulness, so I said yes. My ‘yes’ to this podcast was a bit reluctant, it was a lot worried, and this ‘yes’ is truthfully still ongoing because, friend, I still don’t know what I’m doing.  I’m still trying to be obedient in making this space for us, not knowing where it will lead.  There have been exciting opportunities this year to connect with other creatives in this space that are signposts for me of good fruit, but mostly it’s in hearing from you – that the words in an episode were just what you needed at a particular time, or that you’ve never been given permission before to wonder or to question, or that you feel that God is speaking to you in this podcast, that keep me at this work.  I don’t know what the future will bring for the Raised Catholic Podcast, but like Mary I am trying to birth something into a broken world, and I am trusting a loving God with my ‘yes’, praying that it is truly Him in me that you hear and see each week. And so, friend, how about you? 

Well, happy Raised Catholic anniversary, friend. I am so grateful to those who are helping to build this space by sharing the podcast, rating, reviewing, and subscribing, all the things. As I said in the very first episode, we are very literally building this together, so thank you.  As always, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. There are resources in the show notes that might help you to explore the topic of ‘saying yes’ on your own in a deeper way, so do check those out, but for now, let’s pray together.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Dear God, help us to hear your invitations with a quieted and trusting spirit.  As we labor with you in your vineyard, let the work of our hands produce good fruit that brings comfort and encouragement to your beloved people, and glory to you. Thank you for each person who’s hearing these words, and for their vocations that are your gift to them and to the world.  We love you and we trust you. Let your kingdom come. In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.

Well, thanks so much for listening, friend, and I’ll see you next time.

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