Being Jonah Friday, Apr 20 2007 

“What was that like?” I asked.
“It was like being Jonah, it was an overwhelming experience.”

A friend was telling me about hearing God. The difference is when most people say that they are speaking metaphorically. We usually refer to a “hearing” of God when we are having somewhat of a leading not an actual physical experience. Mike had had a very in body experience, not ethereal, but physical. A very clear and powerful directive from God Himself telling him to move to Sacramento. Hearing Mike talk about it some thirty years later I could see it still freaked him out a little, it freaked me out too. Not because I didn’t believe him and thought it strange, but precisely the opposite, because I did believe him and that requires a completely different set of rules to govern your life by.

I have often thought that if God would simply tell me exactly what to do and where to go, I would quite happily walk along content in the knowledge that I was right where I was supposed to be, and perhaps somehow life would be easier. Honestly though, after my conversation with Mike I wasn’t so sure I wanted that anymore. Knowledge comes with a responsibility to take action. Knowing exactly what is expected of you can be frightening, especially when there seems to be no common sense to it.

Mike Roe is an incredible guitar player and songwriter who knew from the time he was a teenager that he wanted to use his music to bring people to God, and now God was telling him to move to Sacramento. Sacramento in the 70’s wasn’t exactly a magnet for great musicians. No one in his right mind would move from San Francisco to Sacramento to jumpstart their musical career. So Mike, using logic and rational, and tinged with a bit of fear, did not move to Sacramento, at least not immediately. Instead he found himself not too much later in the belly of his own whale – a psychiatric hospital in Southern California. God will get us where He wants us to be, by any means necessary.

By the time Mike finally arrived in Sacramento, Warehouse Ministries had been growing for nearly five years. Patterned after Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, “the Warehouse” as it was known, was not only home to legendary Saturday night concerts but soon their studio was pumping out some of the best music on the cutting edge, Christian or otherwise. One of the first albums they released was “Ping Pong Over The Abyss” by the 77’s, a band fronted by Michael Roe.

I honestly don’t know if Mike has fully realized yet how his listening to God has affected so many individuals, I personally know quite a few of them. One of my dearest friends, Van has told me on more than one occasion that the album “Ping Pong over the Abyss” helped him “get through” high school. He listened to it so much he wore out two copies. Last summer I left him a voicemail at midnight while standing at the side of a stage at the Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois. I couldn’t wait to tell him that I was there watching the 77’s play again. Van called me the next week and said when he listened to that message he almost cried. Like so many of us Mike ended up right where God wanted him, though not before first running away, just as Jonah had.

Which brings me back to Jonah, or rather God brought me back to Jonah a week later. I’ll admit after talking to Mike I thought I should go back and read Jonah again, it’s only four chapters after all, but I’ve seen the Veggie Tales version several times, I know the story, I grew up with it. What else could I possibly learn by reading it again? So I didn’t.

I hadn’t been to my little church for a few weeks, and so I was pleased to see the place overflowing once again on this Sunday night. After worship Tommy invited a young man to come up to give his testimony, something that happens on occasion in our church. He was in his early thirties, and his name was Jonah.

Jonah had one of those stories that I cannot relate to at all but am still awed by. The wounds of his life had left him at a point where he was addicted to drugs and doing everything he could do to get the money to buy them. He had been to church, had felt the need for a change in his life, but drug addiction is a beast and it wouldn’t let him go. Jonah was so broken he felt that he wasn’t worthy of salvation or love.

Fortunately about 10 months ago he was caught with drugs and stolen property and was hauled off to jail. The arresting officer told him she saw something, sensed something in him that was different. He was a good person she thought, he just needed a chance to get past his drug problems. She asked him if there was anything else she needed to know, anything else he needed to come clean on. “No” he told her bluntly. She told him to clean up his life and that she believed he could do it. The next morning waking up in jail, facing five felony charges, God worked a miracle in Jonah’s heart. He knew now, beyond a cerebral knowledge, but a true knowing, that God loved and forgave him. “He put in my heart that He loved me,” Jonah said. “That I didn’t have to hurt myself anymore. And I was able to quit drugs, quit smoking, quit drinking.” He was released on bail five days later.

What Jonah did next is what so amazed me. He went home, stood in his house and looked at an additional four thousand dollars worth of stolen merchandise. He knew what he had to do, God was telling him what he had to do. “Take it to her” God said.

What would you do?

Jonah listened to that voice. “God put it in my heart that I had to take it to the police department and take it all to this woman that I had lied to, who was giving me a chance. I packed up four thousand dollars worth of stolen electronic equipment in my mom’s car. My mind was just screaming, ‘Don’t do this, sell this on the street, get rid of it.’ (But) God was telling me ‘You have to turn this in, face the music for what you have done,’ only then could I move on and get healed.” So Jonah walked back into the police station that night, found the Sergeant who had arrested him, believed in him, trusted him and this time came completely clean. Miraculously, when he left the station, he was facing only the original five felonies. He had done the right thing, finally, and a weight had been lifted.

“Jonah believed he had no character of his own, so God was going to make him do things His way to prove to him he does have character.”
Tommy Green. October 8, 2006

A few weeks later, while driving to a one-day temp job at Home Depot, Jonah asked God to “Let me be a light, an example of what You want a Christian to be.” Several hours later while stacking cinder blocks a woman approached him.

“You’re a Christian aren’t you?” she asked out of the blue.
“Yeah, I am,” he answered – a little stunned at the proclamation.
“You’re just like a light,” she said “Your kindness and everything that your doing; you’re just like a light, I could tell you were a Christian”
Jonah started to cry, “It was like my Holy Father reached out and gave me a hug and encouragement in everything I was trying to do.”

Because Jonah had courageously done the right thing, the sergeant who had sensed in him a depth of character recommended leniency. Five felony counts were reduced to one, and instead of jail time he was given three years probation. I don’t know what the next few years of Jonah’s life will look like, but I know what he will look like, he apparently will look like a man of God.

Tommy returned to the microphone and said that because he’d been talking to Jonah earlier that week he had be inspired to go back and read the book of Jonah and was going to teach about it that night. Apparently God was going to tell me what I needed to hear – one way or another.

When Jonah (the one from the Bible) heard quite clearly the voice of God telling him to go to Nineveh and tell them they were to repent or be destroyed, there were many reasons he didn’t want to go. The main reason however seems to be that Jonah, simply put, hated the Ninevites and did not want them to have the opportunity to be saved. He knew God was merciful and would hear their pleading. At the end of the book he actually is screaming at God, angry as can be, that God had allowed them to repent.

“But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Oh Lord is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ “ Jonah 4:1-3

I never saw myself as having any similarities with Jonah, until Tommy began to talk that night. He spoke as he often does, of the big picture and our inability as human beings to see it. The fact is God sees things in His eternal light and we are temporal creatures and extremely shortsighted. Tommy went on to say:

“Nineveh centuries later became the capitol of Assyria, the same country that God ordained to come and judge the Israelites. It’s interesting because Jonah didn’t realize his place in history, God sends a dude in there years before we see them become who they are, and who they were was bad. So even in the roots of the nation of Assyria, at one point God had sent someone in there to tell them who God was.

“This is the best part. Jonah doesn’t realize that the things that God does in him over the next forty years could result in impacting lives generations later. Just like Jonah didn’t realize that preaching to the Ninevites and having them switch, he didn’t see that as having anything to do with (Israel) later on. It’s all a part of the plan. Jonah you have no idea who you’re going to effect. But the reality is, because of the message that God puts in our hearts you share that with what God has given you and you let God deal it out. You don’t know, but you could flip the whole destiny of families, and people, and scenes and cultures. If you don’t understand that God has set us here for just a short period of time for a specific reason, you’re going to feel like you don’t have a place.

“You don’t know what God has for you but every one of us has a destiny with God, He’s ordained the days of your life. He knows where you’re supposed to go and how you’re supposed tot get there.”

I knew God was trying to tell me something. It was clear, as it usually is, that something was going on. But I’m human and therefore pretty darn stupid sometimes when it comes to spiritual matters. So I waited, quite impatiently and started looking for Ninevites.

I looked for them everywhere. That is everywhere I would have felt comfortable finding them. I would find myself screaming out loud sometimes, “Just tell me already” when God would put little reminders in my path to go to the Ninevites. Frankly I was beginning to get a little worried; I just wanted to know where I was supposed to go, what I was supposed to do.

It didn’t take very long really, my Ninevites showed up a week later. But I didn’t want what was obvious and right in front of me to be the answer; it was too close, as close as my skin. Surely God wouldn’t put this on my plate, I didn’t have the strength for it and He must know that. It was my soon to be ex-husband. I sat still and prayed that there were Ninevites to be found elsewhere, and I kept looking.

I have never been one that adheres to the idea that God creates pain in our lives, but what I’ve learned over the past few years, the experiences that I’ve had, have shown me that what I want to believe, what I am comfortable with is irrelevant. The character of God is constant and He will do whatever it takes to put us on the right path.

I had been separated for nearly three years and my marriage was over, completely. I considered myself to be divorced; the paperwork simply hadn’t been signed. I had no hopes for any kind of reconciliation, my only hope was to somehow, someday land on soft ground. I longed for a relationship with Dave that would at the very least be civil both ways, for our sake and for the sake of our children. I never got it.

I knew how I should pray, I had known for years, but I was never been able to bring myself to it. I knew I should pray that God would do whatever it would take to get my husbands attention. To soften his heart and break the hold that anger and resentment had on him. Anger and resentment towards me for leaving, towards his mother for dying, towards his father for giving up on life and pouring himself into a bottle.

I was never able to pray that prayer, because I knew in my heart from what I know of the character of God, that He would answer, and the answer would very likely be something that would be a wound to my children. I had actually talked with my father about it two years ago and he said that he would pray it for me. I simply couldn’t do it, I didn’t have the strength, my instinct as a mother was to protect my children. But my mother, someone stronger than me, had been praying as well.

One day at her Wednesday Bible study she shared with her group that she saw Dave as Saul, and she prayed that God would do what He had done to Saul on the road to Damascus – bring him to his knees. The next day, December 14, while riding his motorcycle to work, a car pulled out in front of him. He hit it going thirty miles an hour, flew thirty feet through the air landing on the curb. He shattered his ankle, punctured a lung, broke several ribs, and collapsed both lungs; he nearly died. He was airlifted to USC Medical Center where the next day a CT scan was performed to check for internal injuries, what they found left everyone stunned, Stage IV lung cancer – terminal.

The moment I heard I knew what I had to do. I packed up my kids and when Dave was released from the hospital we moved back into the house I had left three years earlier in tears. I don’t pretend to imply that it was easy, it was in actuality the most difficult thing I had ever done up to that point, even harder than leaving my marriage. But it wasn’t a decision I made, I simply recognized where I had to go and I went.

God had led me to it, He had been preparing me for this moment for years. He had pushed me, shoved me, than cradled me in His arms. I had been allowed to fall, to fail, to suffer. And through it all God had taught me things in ways that gave me the strength to be a woman who could, with compassion, take care of a man who had shown her none for years. But even as strong as I had become, this was still beyond me. It had to be done with complete and utter faith, and the prayers of hundreds of people.

For two months I had been listening to Mike, Jonah and Tommy over and over again in my head. God was speaking to me through them. There was no audible voice as Mike had heard, but a quiet gentle knowing. On one hand going back was a very easy thing to do, because God was allowing me to see a glimpse of that big picture Tommy was talking about. The future generation I would be influencing, that I would be effecting for decades by my action or inaction was my own children. I could look directly into the faces of the boys I had given birth to, whose characters were being formed through this experience, who would soon become men – men of God I hoped. I knew that what God had laid before me, was the opportunity to minister to them, by ministering to their father. I was given the gift to do something that would affect their future, the rest of their lives.

It is remarkable to me how God gives us through grace exactly the tools we need before we ever know we need them. Because of His understanding of who I am, how He created me, He had whispered in my ear for weeks – “Something’s coming”. He placed little things in my path knowing that I would string them together, that I would look for a clear picture from seemingly insignificant, unrelated events. My personality is to find commonality in random moments of my life, then try and chase them down to a singularity, at which point I start looking for the purpose in it. That is the only reason that I had the strength for this. He had prepared the path for me, placed in front of me the tools I would need, led me to them, than let the decision be mine. I simply continued to do, what I have been striving to do for 32 years; hold onto to the hand of God and walk, reluctantly perhaps, where He was telling me to go. It was very much like being Jonah.

Dave died six weeks after being diagnosed. He had the opportunity to say goodbye to his children, to see how many people truly loved and admired him. He was given the gift of knowing that his time here was nearly over. He was able to make sure he made everything right, as right as you can make a life from your deathbed.

I don’t pretend to know why Dave got cancer and died at 48, leaving behind three young boys for me to raise alone, but I know God will use it for glory if we allow Him to. Dave and I were able to lay down most of the baggage we had picked up over 16 years. We were able to show our children that no matter what, they were of the ultimate importance to us both and that God is holding them through it all. I know that in the big picture, the one that I still cannot see clearly, God will use the wounds of my children’s lives. The wounds I was so desperate to protect them from will become scars, that may someday help heal the hearts of others.

I don’t think trapped in our humanity we can truly ever catch even a small glimpse of what is really happening to us. God our father does for us what may seem to be cruel sometimes, He allows us to experience the painful repercussions of a life lived by self-determination. But He also gives us direction along the way. Situations that may appear as roadblocks, which we may interpret as punishment or cruelty I think may be placed there to stop us, to cause us to make a turn sharper than we ever would have without a brick wall suddenly rising up in front of us.

God will use every loss, every hurt, all of our suffering to expose our purpose here. To rip away the veil of fear, the insecurity we cling to. He will draw us out, violently if necessary, to force us to use the gifts He has given us for eternal glory. To see ourselves as He does – worthy. We so often disregard as insignificant our abilities until we are cornered and required to use them as He walks us through the fire.

“A thousand roads, a thousand ways.
Why am I so afraid to move?
I crossed the line, I’m stepping out so come what may
I give it all, ‘cause I’m drawn to You.

As long as my heart is beating….

Where You lead me, I will follow.
Where You lead me, I give my life away.
Where You lead me, I will follow,
Forever and a day”

‘Where You Lead Me’ by Mercy Me.

I have never been able to reconcile the reality of what my marriage was, with the reality that God had, years ago quite clearly told my husband and I both that we would marry each other. He spoke to each of us years apart and in different ways, and we both listened; yet what we made of that marriage seemed to be nothing that was of any use to God. But I know there is purpose in it.

I have always scoffed when people say they have no regrets because every decision they made has brought them to where they are now. But with age and experience I can now understand the sentiment of it. There are things I have done, decisions I have made, that I hope if placed in front of me again would see me making wiser choices. But even through my mistakes, my selfishness, my humanness, God has delivered me right where He wants me to be, here.

Perhaps there was a smoother road I missed which could have gotten me here as well, but I doubt it. I don’t think I would be as useful to God, that I would be strong enough without having gone through that fire. ` As Tommy is fond of saying, “It’s the wounds that make us who we are.” I think he’s right, but I also think it is how we experience the healing of those wounds that reveals the true depth of our character.

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Filling in the Gap Tuesday, Nov 28 2006 

There comes a time in every person’s life when a little assistance is required. When they encounter a gap in the road, no way around, no way across the chasm they are confronted with. Poised on a precipice which separates who they are from who they could be if simply given the chance to reach the other side. The distance may appear to them impossible to traverse, but the canyon they face may in actually be quite small and crossed fairly easily with just a bit of help from another.

Recently while having dinner with a few friends I was relating a seemingly insignificant incident which occurred this year involving a couple of members of my family and was quite shocked at one friends response to it. A little background is required to get a clear picture of the situation. My sister has only two biological children, but has “adopted” dozens of others simply by opening up her heart and her home to them. They come to her when they need a bed to sleep in, a shoulder to cry on, or a prayer said on their behalf. As a result my parents are also now considered “grandparents” by dozens of hard-core, tattooed and pierced teenagers. My mom delights in cooking them special vegan and vegetarian dishes, not an easy task when you grew up on southern cooking. But she’s quite creative and the kids are always surprised and appreciative when she makes them something they can enjoy with the rest of us. She prepared her first “Tofurkey” this Thanksgiving to the delight of many who had not been able to find suitable sustenance at their own family’s celebrations.

The story I told my friend was this. Last March Dawn and I were in Nashville visiting some friends but not all of the kids in her small town knew that we were not in California that weekend. About 4 AM Dawns cell phone rang. It wasn’t one of her two kids or even one of the other four who were living with her at the time; it was Adam, Josh and Joseph. It had been snowing in the local mountains all day and always up for an adventure they decided to take a drive to check it out. They brought with them no chains, no snow tires, just excitement and the ignorance of youth.

It continued to snow all day and late that night as the boys tried to make it up and over the last hill before freedom was theirs, the reality of the situation smacked them square in the face. They ended up sliding into a snow bank and armed with nothing but their wits could not get themselves out of it.

These boys are from San Bernardino, where it rarely gets below 50 degrees so they weren’t exactly dressed for 25-degree weather and 10 inches of snow. Being in the mountains they also found themselves without cell phone service. So there they sit at two o’clock in the morning dressed, well – like teenagers from Southern California. Luckily the people who live on this particular stretch of road are used to stranded motorists and actually sit on their porches when it snows to watch the “lowlanders” slide down the hill into each other. My mother and I were rescued in the exact same spot, by several teenagers who lived on this street not one week earlier. Not only did they bring shovels to dig us out, but also their mom took my kids inside her home and gave them hot chocolate while her heroic children rescued us. So when these boys walked up to a house at two am, knocked on the door and asked to use the phone, they were welcomed in with open arms.

At four am in Nashville Dawn gets a call, “HELP!” She explained to Josh the she was two thousand miles away but that she would call her dad who lived near by in the mountains to see if he could help. So, at 2 am my 66 year old father, drags himself out of bed, puts the chains on his truck, loads up some coats, more chains and ropes and he’s off to rescue some teenagers he’s never even met. He couldn’t pull their car out that night so instead he loaded them into his truck and brought them home for the night. The next day he took them back to their car and called a tow truck, which managed to pull their car out of the snow bank. You would think when talking to these boys now about their little adventure that night, that they had been lost at sea for a week with no food or water and that my father had come steaming to the rescue bringing the entire US Navy with him.

When I related this story quite casually, to my friend Steve his first question was to inquire which of Dawn’s kids it was. “It wasn’t one of her kids” I said “it was friends of her kids”. “Why were they calling her then?” he asked indignantly. I just sat there and stared at him confused. “Because they knew she would help.” I said. He couldn’t believe it. “They’re not her kids she shouldn’t be helping them, they should be calling their own parents.”

This little story tends to makes Steve sound like a jerk but in truth he really isn’t. Which is exactly the reason I guess that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from him. I argued, to no avail, that they were after all somebody’s children and human beings deserving of help no matter how foolish their actions may appear. He was unwavering. They should not be rescued. In his opinion they should have been taught a lesson. I tend to disagree that being left in a car overnight in below freezing weather is an appropriate response to a teenager’s reckless need for adventure; after all, it’s exactly the type of thing my father would have done at 16 – or 66 for that matter.

It may not seem like something very significant, it wasn’t to Dawn or to my dad, they have rescued people out of much more dire circumstances I assure you and on occasion have been in need of some rescuing themselves. They are always there when someone needs help, even at two am when it’s snowing – it’s just their nature to help someone when asked.

Upon hearing Steve’s reaction I began to wonder why it is such a difficult concept for so many in this day and age to understand, the simple idea of being a helping hand.
I do not understand the argument that a teenager in crisis is not my problem. If I don’t take action when no one else does that teenager may fall through a gap and become everyone’s problem. Prisons today are filled with good people who were left to fend for themselves when no one showed up to help bridge the distance. Stranded on the wrong side, I have often wondered who they may have become if they had managed somehow to reach the other side.

I have heard many people question the worth of not only my parents life spent dedicated to other peoples children, but now Dawn’s tireless efforts on behalf of these kids. She works a full time job, which is over an hours drive from her home, yet she sees her real work, her purpose in life when she walks through her front door.

She has tried to bring others in to help on occasion, but they usually want signed releases from parents saying it’s ok to feed their kids, or take them to church or to a concert. One person even mentioned getting liability insurance! Perhaps a prudent coarse of actions considering the wild and crazy Tuesday nights they all spend at Bible Study in her living room. These kids don’t come with disclaimers, they come with broken hearts.

Most people just stand in awe of her – as do I. Many have given not only praise and prayers for Dawn’s home, but furnishing, food and occasionally a little financial help. But it’s the few who never give, but seem overly concerned with the details, not having any understanding of why she does it; she gets no grants no subsidies after all. It’s those few people asking the value in it, the purpose of it that confounds me.

Numerous people have asked me why she does it. Because they are there, they just show up needing her. Does she get financial help? No. What about the parents of these kids? That is a question I do not have an answer for. Some come from wonderful homes, some have survived home-lives I cannot begin to relate to. But here they find complete acceptance of their music, their tattoos, the searching for their own identities.

My sister has on her wall the lyrics to a song entitled “Mercy Live Here”. She practices it and simply put that is the answer to why these kids keep showing up on her doorstep.

Mercy Lives Here
Words and Music by Derri Daugherty
From The Choir album:
Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen

An empty street in Ohio
Lookin’ to kill some time
We stumbled into Cairo
Egypt must be divine
And the jukebox plays
While a little clown sways
Hey it’s two songs for a dime

Mercy lives here
Oh mercy lives here
At home with the saints and the sinners
Mercy lives here

A girl in the corner is crying
The silver haired lady’s alone
And the queen of the boulevard’s trying
To hustle somebody home
The smokin’ man shakes
While the broken girl aches
And the clown starts to sing his song

He sings mercy lives here
Oh Mercy lives here
At home with the saints and the sinners
Mercy lives here

Mercy, oh mercy
Mercy, oh mercy

Dawn’s cupboards are always bare. Several rooms in her house smell like “teen-age boy”. She gets very little sleep. But she would never turn her back on someone in need. My parents and I help out as much as we can; however we can. Most of the time it’s just prayers, hugs and a shoulder to cry on, but sometimes it’s a snowy midnight rescue at five thousand feet.

Occasionally Dawn will find herself rescuing a child on the edge of that precipice, most often not even aware that they are about to fall in. It is those times, that we can look back and see days, weeks, even months later, a clear picture of the broken road they were on, patched like quilt work, every stitch directed by the hand of God. It is in those moments that I truly understand how a simple gesture, an outstretched hand, can not only mend a heart but fill the gap as well.

Not to get all political but… Tuesday, Nov 7 2006 

Seeing that today is Election Day here I go. I have in the past enthusiastically encouraged everyone I know to get themselves to the polls and vote. I’ve stopped doing this recently not only because it seems hopeless, but because I realized those who I took so much time convincing to vote were voting exactly the opposite of myself.

What seems so hopeless to me is that no matter what the outcome of an election, there will be it seems very little if any change to the welfare of those oppressed around the world.

I recently read “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau. I don’t remember ever reading anything by him before and only think of Waldon Pond upon hearing his name. But I saw it at a garage sale and remembered I had just been told by a nineteen year old less than twenty-four hours earlier, “How do you expect to become a better writer if you don’t read”. Ok he’s apparently smarter than I am.

So I read it, only 48 pages, but that’s all he needed. I never knew Thoreau was such a rebel. Well I knew he was a rebel, but not THAT kind of a rebel, you know the kind that agrees with me. He obviously must be right.

First take into consideration the context of how he came about writing this declaration. Thoreau wrote “Civil Disobedience” when he began practicing it, he wasn’t all talk no action as most of us are. In 1849 he had been arrested and spent the night in jail for refusing to pay a “poll tax” in protest of the Mexican-American war and slavery. Upon his release he went home and wrote ‘Civil Disobedience”.

I think Lincoln must have read “Civil Disobedience” before he said, “Government should ONLY do for the people what they cannot do as well for themselves.” Perhaps he hadn’t read it, perhaps, just maybe less than 100 years after our nations birth, the ideas this country was founded on, the ideals of Payne, Jefferson and Franklin were still very clear to thinking Americans. It was a pleasant surprise to read Thoreau referring to States rights versus the Federal Government just as Jefferson did 100 years before him, which tells me the idea of it had not yet been lost. I was taught in school, and quite wrongly, that when America was founded the overriding, accepted principle was a strong centralized Federal government lording over the people. The concept of States governing themselves without much intervention or interference from the Federal is barely ever mentioned in today’s textbooks, although the debate for a less intrusive limited government actually won the day.* Our children are taught, as if it were truth, that the Founding Fathers believed in very limiting States rights. I have to wonder when we lost the notion of people governing themselves. I guess it must have been during the Great Depression. The idea that “We the People” are not in actuality capable of solving our own problems, that we must look to the government to step in and govern to protect us from ourselves seems to have gained prominence then.

The “New Deal” did solve many problems, but it was a quick solution to serious problems many of which remain to this day. Look closely at those problems and you will see they were caused in great part, BY the government overstepping it’s bounds in some areas, and neglecting for political gain those areas for which they were responsible. A solution that stops the bleeding on the surface while the actual wound remains under the skin is not the healing of it, it only hides the wound and gives a false sense of well-being. So was the New Deal and yet it changed everything. It fostered a notion in the American psyche that the government not the people should be the solution to most problems, not only financial and legal, but social as well.

We as a nation have headed down this path of relying on the government to be the solution to our problems for three generations and I pray it stops, if not with mine than with my children’s. But the idea of individual responsibility, of a single person being able to effect change seems to have been somewhat misplaced even in Thoreau’s day.

“I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name—if ten honest men only—ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefore, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. But we love better to talk about it: that we say is our mission.”
H.D. Thoreau
‘Civil Disobedience”

The idea Thoreau was trying to get across is a simple one. Do not expect the government to take action on your part. Voting does not dismiss your obligation to humanity to act on your principles. Go ahead and join Bono’s “One Campaign”, I have, but do not think that you have done your civic duty when you cast your ballot. You are required to act upon your ideals, not just vote for them.

Of voting Thoreau said, “All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote. “

The simplest way that I can put it is this. Get off your butt and DO something. If you think your hands are clean because you are not actively participating in injustice, or because you have gone to the poles and voted your conscience, you are wrong. If we do not get down in the muck, crawl through the dirt and fight tyranny face to face then we are dripping in the blood of the innocent. We cannot as our grandfathers did, say, “We didn’t know about the gas chambers how could we stop them.” Mass media has changed that; the oppressed are in front of us every day, there is no excuse any more for non-action. There are children being slaughter and victimized every day in Africa, listen to their screaming, their blood cries out, and it’s crying out to you and me.

It is not great thinkers who have changed our world; great men who took action have changed it. The ideas of Martin Luther were nothing, until he not only wrote them down, but also took a hammer and nailed them to the front door of the church. He saw injustice and tyranny in the form of religion and he knew it was wrong, so he took his life in his hands and acted.

In the same way Martin Luther King not only had a vision – a dream, but he formed a plan and carried it out forcing change through civil disobedience. He was a spark that helped instill in others the boldness to risk their safety and take action.

I am not a radical, I am not advocating sit-ins and peace rallies though those can be useful tools to bring about awareness and change. Risking a little physical comfort or your financial security seems like a small sacrifice compared to what others in the past risked to change the world for all of us. I am talking about actually becoming a participant in the solution. Not hoping for a solution to come from government or an impotent United Nations, but taking action and becoming the solution ourselves.

The probability of becoming a martyr is slight in this day in age. But the possibility of actually making a difference to the future of another human being by not only reacting to a situation but also responding with action is immense. One man’s vote may not make a difference, but one man’s actions always will.

http://www.womenforwomen.org
http://www.one.org
http://www.twloha.com
http://www.invisiblechildren.com
http://www.feedthechildren.org
http://www.savedarfur.org
http://www.WorldVision.org


• Read the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers
http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/
http://www.constitution.org/afp/afp.htm
http://www.wepin.com/articles/afp/intro.html

How Does God See You? Thursday, Nov 2 2006 

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed.”
by John Newton 1779

How does God see you? I think how we interpret the way God views us determines what OUR relationship is with Him, which in turn determines what kind of God we show the world. He is the same, though our response to His love, His mercy is often based on the relationships we’ve had with other people, especially our earthly fathers.

Unfortunately I have witnessed too many Christians use the dysfunctional aspects of their own relationships to justify the condemnation of others and do it in the name of God. We each seem to regard our relationship with God as the word-perfect gospel truth, the obvious way He meant it to be, then we attribute and assign our ideals to Him rather than to ourselves. The church has pushed so much the idea of a God who looks at us with anger and disdain, waiting quite happily in heaven to punish us, that it has become the complete representation the world has of Him. I think though the reality of our punishment actually breaks God’s heart, in fact I know it does.

Why did Jonah refuse to go to Ninevah? Because he viewed the Ninevites with absolute contempt. Sound familiar? They were dirty and unclean sinners, not worthy of Gods grace and love – according to Jonah. To really grasp a true understanding of why Jonah refused to go one should read the entire account, it’s only four chapters after all, less than two pages in my Bible.

God told Jonah he was to go and proclaim to the Ninevites that they were to repent or be destroyed. One might think Jonah would be elated to deliver to his enemies a message direct from God of their eminent demise. But Jonah knew something of the character of God. He knew a magnanimous God, one of truly abundant grace and mercy.

In the last chapter we see a clear picture of why Jonah was so adamant in his refusal to go – HE DID NOT WANT THEM SAVED! So angry was he at God’s mercy towards the Ninevites after their repentance that he actually begins yelling at God!

Jonah 4:1-3
“But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Oh Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now O Lord, take away my life for it is better for me to die than to live.’ ”

It seems that quite often we go about witnessing to others with the same attitude as Jonah had, not with love and the hope of their salvation, but with anger, seeking condemnation. Do we think we are fooling God when we do this? Can we honestly go to the lost, indignant, with animosity and bitterness, then say to God, “See, I told them of You and they refused to hear it.”

What of love and compassion. What of acceptance, not of the sin, but of the sinner even while they dwell in sin. The church has placed itself in the position as the oldest son in the Prodigal Son parable. When the prodigal son returns home and is not only accepted with open arms by the father, but also is given everything in the kingdom – do we rejoice? No. We are jealous, angry and resentful and at that moment at least, we look nothing like Christ.

What I have found in the New Testament is a Jesus sitting comfortably with sinners who were still in their sin. It’s God’s inexhaustible unconditional love that draws us to Him, not His condemnation. In your relationships with others do you seek out those who condemn you or those who love you no matter what your failings? If that is our nature then, to seek acceptance, why would anyone ever desire to be in the presence of a God who despises them? But that is exactly the picture of God that the church is giving to the world. When the world looks at Christians, condemnation is what they see. Until we can move beyond our hatred of the sinner, until we can separate the sin from the soul, we have no hope of bringing them to Christ. We are not showing them Christ, we are showing them us, and we are a very pale imitation of grace on our very best day.

My nephew handed me a track last week. He had visited a church youth group with a friend and was asked to pass out these tracks to total strangers on the street. I thought the days of the handing someone a piece of paper which told them they were good-for-nothing excrement that God could not possibly love in their sinful state was over twenty years ago. Unfortunately I was mistaken.

These tracts were made up to look like money. The same size, same color, a picture of a president on the front. It even had the texture of money. Christopher told me how they would hand people walking by these worthless pieces of paper, and watch them at first get a slight thrill, then when they realized it wasn’t real money, see disappointment and disgust wash over them. Should the initial introduction of Jesus to an individual be based on deception? Isn’t a true picture of Christ enough to cause someone to want a relationship with Him?

I was appalled to say the least. But I hadn’t even read the tract yet. I hope that most people who come across these things simply throw them away without reading the fine print. Because what it had to say, is the very reason the church has so miserably failed at having any kind of positive impact on the world.

It read in part: “The million-dollar question. Will you go to Heaven? Have you ever…..” It then proceeded to list some of the favorite sins of the church, the Ten Commandment ones. But the statement that followed the listing of sins so many of us have committed ourselves is what blew my mind. “If you have done any of those things, GOD SEES YOU AS A LYING, THIEVING, BLASPHEMOUS, ADULTERER-AT-HEART.”

I almost threw up.

Is that really the God we want the world to see?

I know I was blessed as a child. My parents are two of the greatest human beings to ever walk the earth, I say this knowing their faults and failings because I see the same failings in myself. But because of what they have shown me of themselves, I have a clear picture of God as a loving and compassionate father.

When my dad would punish us, before the punishment was soled out, he would take us into a room alone, set us down and talk to us one at a time. He was often angry, but always more quietly disappointed than anything. The talking was the worst part of being punished to me. I just wanted the spanking or the grounding or what ever else was going to come to be given out and for him to stop talking already. The reason was not because I felt unloved by him, quite the opposite in fact. I had done something that brought disappointment to my father, and I could always see it in his eyes. But instead of yelling at me, viciously, angrily telling me he could not bear to look at me because of what I had done, he sat there, loving me.

I had disappointed the man who loved me more than anyone on this earth, and knowing that would always be punishment enough. He quite often cried and always told me he didn’t want to punish me but it was necessary. No matter what the punishment, the fact that I was still loved and was always accepted, and given a second, third, fourth chance is what made me strive everyday to do everything in my power not to disappoint this man again. Because of his love I knew then and know now, that no matter what mistakes I have made and continue to make, he will always accept and love me unconditionally.

It I not a requirement to be without sin to come to God. It is not even necessary to clean yourself up to return to Him. Just as the prodigal son returned, smelling of pigs, broken and empty, so are we. Come in your filth, the smell of your transgressions still lingering. He will open His arms and comfort you. He will clothe you in His finest garments and prepare a feast of His best just for you. Because you are NOT seen by God as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer-at-heart. You are seen as His child, and His love for you overwhelms any sin you could ever have committed. All you have to do, is come.

All who are thirsty
All who are weak,
Come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the stream of life.
Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away,
In the waves of his mercy
As deep cries out to deep, we sing.
Come Lord Jesus come
Holy Spirit come
As deep cries out to deep

By Brenton Brown and Glenn Robertson

Psalms 42:7
Luke 15:11-32

ART Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

A few weeks ago, I turned on the stereo in my van and heard Bob Dylan coming through the speakers. I don’t own any Dylan I’m ashamed to say, the CD belonged to my nephew Christopher. My sister had borrowed my van the day before and as usual her 15 year old son had left behind a mix CD. Four Bob Dylan tunes abruptly followed, by some screamo band; quite a rude awakening for me.

I smiled as I listened to Blowin’ in the Wind, Knockin’ on Heavens Door, and Ballad of a Thin Man. Not so much because they’re incredible songs I haven’t heard in a long time, but because my nephew has “discovered” Bob Dylan on his own.

A week later we were driving together for several hours, he had been playing his screamo/hard core music just a little too long for me so I put in Peter Gabriel’s “So”, he suffered through it well enough. When it was his turn to pick a CD again I begged for something we could both agree on, he brought out the Dylan. We listened and discussed the lyrics and how his voice had changed over the years. Christopher had read a book about him, I had recently seen the documentary by Martin Scorsece. This music isn’t 40 years old to Christopher, its brand new. Every lyric, every note could have been written yesterday. Watching someone get excited about something you’ve taken for granted for years makes you appreciate it as if it were new to you as well. One of the miraculous beauties of music, any art form actually, is it’s ability to transcend time. My nephew and I don’t agree on much music, but Dylan brought us from Underoath and Peter Gabriel, to common ground.

A songwriter friend of mine, when I interrogate him too long about his craft, always responds the same way. “It’s only a song. It’s not important. It’s like a painting. Someone might work on a painting for months, and when they’re done somebody buys it and hangs it in the bathroom or the hall. There are other things that are more important, right now somewhere there are children dying.”

Every time he says this, I want to punch him in the head. He doesn’t like museums so I’m assuming a great painting doesn’t move him as it does me. Besides, it’s an invalid argument anyways. It’s like telling your child to eat everything on his plate because there are children starving in Africa. It’s irrelevant, a non sequitur. Your child could eat everything in site, he’ll simply get fat and children will still be starving in Africa. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

Art, almost every kind is extremely important to me and I seem to find it everywhere. I believe the manifestation of God’s artistic expression is us. The ability to create art is one of the greatest gifts He’s endowed human beings with. We are created in His image, and art is the outward expression of the human soul. Is it sacrilegious of me to say we are continuing what God started with our creation when we use the abilities He gave us to create?

Even the Universe when looked at through mathematics is art. I recently saw an interview with Stephen Hawking. When he mentioned Einstiens Special Theory of Relativity he smiled, “It’s so beautiful,” he said, “it has to be right.” Hawking sees God in the equations of physics, I hear God in music. I do not understand the creative process of writing a song, nor do I understand the physics of the universe. But I will always be awed and inspired by them both, because in them I see the beauty of God’s creativity.

The creative expression that impacts me the most, will always be music. Sometimes I’m stunned by how profoundly music affects me. There are so many songs that have connected my heart and my thoughts with my experiences. But there has also been music in my life that lifted me out of where I was, to somewhere beyond my experience.

The music during the flying bicycle sequence in ET makes me believe in magic, but it’s the final scene of farewell that always makes me cry. First with the sadness of goodbye, then with wonder and awe that I can still believe in a special friendship of an awkward grey alien and a wounded little boy. It’s a wonderfully crafted movie, but it is the music that emotes those feelings. The end of the theme is remarkably emotional. The melody carried by a lone flute, taken over by French horns, echoed by a single trumpet, joined by tympani then the entire orchestra into crescendo. It doesn’t matter how old I am I will always believe in ET.

When I go back and listen to any John Williams theme from a Spielberg film, five notes in and I’m overwhelmed again ,with the same emotions I was full of walking out of the theatre. Blown away by the wonderment of Jurassic Park. Knowing the human spirit will always triumph after watching Empire Of The Sun. Being unable to move, filled with too many emotions at the end of Schindlers List. Go back and listen to the anguished, lamenting cries of Itzhak Pearlmans violin, and you’ll be amazed at the emotions it may stir in you. Scientist say the sense of smell is the strongest sense we have linked to memory, but I think they’ve forgotten about John Williams.

MUSIC FROM THE FILMS OF STEPHEN SPIELBERG
Various Artists released May 10, 2005

Two years ago, I stopped at the post office on the way home. A new CD from The Choir was waiting. I didn’t know what to expect, it seems every album they’ve put out in the last 15 years has been a surprise. But even knowing that I was taken aback.

The third song ripped at my heart. Even before Derri’s sweet and empathetic vocal began, some kind of sadness in the drums pulled me into it. I listened to it three times sitting in the driveway.

“She’s Alright” was written about a woman going through a divorce. The beginning of the third chorus Derri’s voice is almost alone, it hit me hard and I found myself weeping.

“She’s alright,
She’s alright now,
Flying over mountains,
Comin’ through the clouds.
She’s alright,
Like an eagle in the wind.
I know she’s gonna make it through,
Cause shes got true blue friends.”

I was going through a divorce, which may have been part of the reason those emotions were so easily brought to the surface. But hearing Derri sing those lyrics, knowing that he had also recently been through a divorce and knowing how much he still cares for her, I think I was crying for him as much as myself. I called him immediately and asked how in the world he was able to sing that song. He said nonchalantly it’s what he does, he’s a professional. I’m still amazed. I don’t listen to it often, I can’t get through it without weeping. Steve and Derri were was once again able to craft a song, that made me feel sorrow, joy, hope and grief all at once. It’s a rare and precious gift.

O HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN
The Choir
buy it at http://www.thechoir.net
http://www.myspace.com/thechoir

There is one song, which is probably more special to me than any other, because of my experience with it. You may laugh but it’s “Return to Pooh Corner” by Kenny Loggins. I’ve always thought “Winnie The Pooh” had the greatest wisdom of all cartoon characters.
While pregnant with my first child I went through my hope chest and found my favorite teddy bear, I’ve had it since I was six years old. I took it out, being careful not to losen the button eye that was about to fall off, and placed it on a shelf above the crib. It triggered the memory of that song, so I found the album and the last three months of my pregnancy I played and sang that song to my son every day.

I had a easy pregnancy but it was a difficult birth. Many complications left me weak and barely able to sit up for several days. The night we brought my son home from the hospital he wouldn’t stop crying. He’d been fed, changed and swaddled, but neither his father nor his grandmother could get him to settled down. I managed to sit up and said “Give him to me.” They placed him in my arms and I began to sing to him.

“Christopher Robin and I walked along,
Under branches lit up by the moon.
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon.”

I looked into my son’s eyes, he looked up at me, stopped crying and I saw in those eyes the recognition of who I was. He knew me because I was singing our song. It was at that moment that I became a mother.

For the rest of my life when I hear that song, it will trigger the memory of him cradled in my arms, a memory so strong I can almost feel him there still. No matter how old he gets, that’s where he will be, at least in my heart.

“It’s hard to explain how a few precious things
Seem to follow throughout all our lives.
After all’s said and done I was watching my son
Sleeping there with my bear by his side
So I tucked him in, kissed him
And as I was goin’
I swear that old bear, whispered
Boy welcome home.”

RETURN TO POOH CORNER
Kenny Loggins

So, if you are an artist and believe your art is not important, be bolder. If you feel you have nothing new to say, be braver. If you think no one cares about what is in your heart, be more honest. But please know that it is not just a song to me, those are moments of my life you are playing.

There are great songs out there waiting for me to discover them. There is also music that has not yet been written. Whose writer may be at this very moment, experiencing the joy or agony, that will someday when penned and put to a haunting melody, stir something in my soul, bring me to tears, and heal my broken heart.

PS: All of the music mentioned above can be purchased on iTunes

A Fearless Life Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

What would you do, if you were given the gift of living a fearless life?

I saw the story on TV last year of a man, who, when circumstances found him trapped, with his arm caught between a boulder and a cavern wall, first cried, then prayed, then somehow found the strength to take out his pocket knife, and cut off his own arm. He wanted to live.

What would I do for happiness, for freedom, for the sweet breath of life – what am I willing to cut away, and when it comes right down to it, do I have the courage, the strength to actually do it?

I want to live the fearless life I once dreamed of. I want to be a courageous woman who is the embodiment of strength. But that’s not who I am, I was not born fearless. I lived a painfully shy childhood. The circumstances of my life however, dictated that I change and there are moments of change throughout my life, which I remember very clearly.

My parents were missionaries so we lived a nomadic life. By the time I was in tenth grade I had gone to 8 different schools, and two of those were 7 years combined. I had to learn to make friends quickly, it was a necessity.

“It’s both the choices I have made, and the choices that have made me.” Casey Black http://www.caseyblack.com

When I was in first grade. The cutest boy in school and I had to stay in at recess and the entire class stood outside, peering through the windows, making jokes, taunting us both. I had a choice and I made it. I finally said one of those clever things that were always in my head that I never had the guts to utter before. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember it shut them up. Now I’m 7 and I’m witty.

When I was in fifth grade and once again found myself the new kid in school. I made a girl laugh until she was rolling on the floor, I felt a surge of power that I had never felt before. I kept making jokes, I didn’t think I was being that funny, but every one around me was laughing, I was making people laugh! I couldn’t believe it. Now I’m 11 and I’m funny.

When I broke up with my first boyfriend, something I actually did twice, I couldn’t even express to him why. It was because in addition to me, he was also dating half of the phone book and not being honest with me about it. It wasn’t that anything had ever been said between us, that we would be dating each other exclusively, but we both knew there was not honestly between us. I didn’t confront him about it, I just said, “I can’t do this anymore.” That was it. I was furious, but not with him, with me. I always tend blame myself for everything. How could I blame him for not giving me what I wanted, I never told him what I wanted.

A few days later it hit me at the breakfast table, as I was talking to two of the guys who lived with my family, that it was finally time for me to be completely honest. One of these boys I considered a friend, one was a complete jerk. You learn through a life of living with a myriad of people not of your choosing, how to maintain an even keel. For the most part I had always kept my mouth shut, but this day I was not in the mood. Eighteen years of this and it was time I said what was on my mind. So I did. For the first time I was completely honest and told this idiot he was wrong, I was right, and that was that. I said it with wit and humor of course, to soften it a little. I remember the look on my friend’s face – something akin to respect. A respect I had never been given before by any one of the hundreds of boys who had lived with us. I knew right then, it was ok for me to speak my mind. Now I’m 18 and I’m strong.

I want; no I need another one of those moments. It’s been years since I’ve changed, become stronger, more courageous. I think perhaps it’s because, for so many years I accepted everything I’d been told was a “normal” life. You’re not supposed to be really happy are you, contentment is enough, and the status quo is – well – all you can expect in life.

But living with the status quo is not really living in stasis. No human being, no relationship, no life can be truly be static and actually be alive. When viewed, through the measure of time, looking back, one will always see that what you thought was static has actually changed through the years. Slipping ever so slightly, moving up, sideways or down, but never pinned to one place.

“I can live like this, it’s not so bad” I’ve said that about many situations in my life. But when I take a look back at where I was two years ago, I can see how that line of what I will accept for myself has moved. And when I remember myself 15 years ago, 20 years ago, I wonder – would I then have walked into this situation and said, “This is exactly what I want”, of course not. So why do I accept it now and what do I do about it? I change it.

A pastor at a church I visited recently said something that resonates in my soul. “I will change when the pain I feel becomes stronger than the fear of change.” Pain is God’s way of telling us something isn’t right. It may start out feeling like a tiny sliver. Learn to accept that pain and it might become a paper cut, on and on until we’re bleeding out. Through time we have a way of making pain bearable, as the pain increases, our tolerance of the pain increases as well. But if we can stop and look at the pain we are allowing ourselves to swim in, drown in really, the overwhelming flood of emotion, at least for me is “Why have I allowed this? How did I get here, this far from me? To this point of tolerance of a situation I would never have accepted out of hand.” Now I must do the unthinkable, I must find the courage to change.

“Yesterday is a kid in the corner
Yesterday is dead and over
This is your life, are you who you want to be
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose”
This Is Your Life by Switchfoot

I have a good friend, who lives in a state of fear. It seems he’s afraid of everything, especially change. Unfortunately his life has not stayed the same and he is uncomfortable, so he hides. He hides from everyone behind the walls of his house. He finds strength in a bottle, courage is there too. But when that liberating intoxication wears off he is even more afraid, because he has, in the haze of that brief abandon, exposed himself, become vulnerable – and now, he is even more terrified. Terrified of what? I don’t know. I don’t think he’s happy, because he never learned to deal with a life that is filled with movement, he wants stationary and it doesn’t’ exist here. I ache for him, he is the embodiment of pain and there is nothing I can do. I want to give him courage like the lion in “the Wizard of Oz.” I want him to know that strength is already inside of him somewhere, he just has to find it. But you cannot by wishing, give someone peace. So instead I pray. The saddest part of it to me is that you wouldn’t know it to talk to him. He’s very funny, smart, charming, and people are genuinely drawn to him. But beneath it all, he is that shy child, the same one I left behind 30 years ago.

Maybe in him I see a part of myself. I remember that pain. The fear as a child of being thrust into a situation I have no control over and having to deal with the terror of the unknown, the new. I have become a person very different from that child, and most who know me today would be surprised if they could see the frightened 6 year old I once was.

“He must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.” G.K. Chesterton on courage

I stepped off the high dive when I was 14, actually I dove off. Not a smart thing to do perhaps, but I was the first person in my class to the top of the ladder, everyone screamed for me to dive, so I dove. I belly flopped actually, a pain I will never forget. I was the only person to dive that day, everyone else, seeing my misfortune jumped feet first. I’m not sorry I did it, I wasn’t even sorry then. I was the only one who was courageous enough, or perhaps crazy enough to dare to do it. I want to be like that 14-year-old girl again. A little crazy, but the first one, the only one, the courageous one, the fearless one.

I have been asking myself lately a question that I do not as of yet have the answer to. “What am I willing to risk to be really happy, to be more than fine?” I need to answer that question and I hope, when I do, that I have the courage to follow through, risk it all, and dive headfirst.

“A Beautiful Mind” Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

My son Cole has a beautiful mind. It works in fascinating ways that often leave me in awe, but just as often leave me shaking my head unable to understand exactly how to reason and deal with him. Numerous teachers and speech therapist have told me that they have never encountered a child who has “done things” the way he does them.

On his first visit to his speech therapist she was amazed at the patterns Cole made of the stickers she gave him to decorate his folder. At first he did not seem to be making anything in particular, but as she continued to hand him the stickers one by one, each of us could see he had had a plan from the beginning, though his beginning did not start where we would have expected it to. It was complete in his mind and it didn’t seem to matter to him where he started or ended the creation, he always knew what it would be.

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” Albert Einstein

When he started pre-school last year he was almost five. When I went to pick him up at the end of his first day his teacher showed me his work. She had handed him a blank sheet of paper and asked him to draw his face. He drew eyes, a nose, and a mouth. He did not however place a circle around them; he had only drawn the features of his face not the outline. She was stunned, she had never in 15 years of teaching encountered a child who had done that. “It’s as if he has no boundaries,” she said. I was thrilled. I saw it as typical Cole. She asked him to draw his face, not his head, if she had said to draw his head I’m sure he would have encompassed his facial features with an oval. In his mind he had done exactly what she had asked him to do. He is quite a literal individual.

Five months later at the year-end parent teacher conference she showed me the same picture and a recent one he had done. She was happy that now, when asked to draw his face he would first make a circle, then draw all his features inside of it. “See”, she said quit pleased, “he’s learned how to do it right.” I almost cried, it actually broke my heart a little. They had managed to conform him to the “in the box” or rather the “in the circle” way of thinking. I on the other hand have always loved the way Coles mind works; that it doesn’t look like everyone else’s is a beautiful thing to me, even when it frustrates me. He has always made me smile and look at things from a different perspective. Because of him I’ve seen things in a way I never would have if I didn’t take the time, to get down on my knees behind him, follow with my eyes down the line of his outstretched arm to his pointing finger, and try to envision the way those things are appearing to him, translated in his very unique and different brain. I would never want to change that about him.

“Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity.” John Nash – A Beautiful Mind

Sometimes my son frustrates me so much it is hard to keep my eyes focused on his gifts. Cole was sick last week with a cold and I had to give him a decongestant before we could travel down the mountain we live on. I usually don’t force medication on him because it is more than a struggle, but this day it was necessary. He first bite my finger until it bled. Then when I asked my mom to help me hold him down so I could force the medication into his mouth he projectile vomited all over both of us and the bed as well. I went upstairs to change my clothes and when I came down five minutes later, he was standing in the kitchen staring at the bottle of medication. I asked him if he wanted to take it now. “Yes.” He took it without so much as a hiccup. Today the doctor told me he has a slight case of bronchitis and pneumonia. We caught it just in time but he will need to take two different medications for ten days, seven doses a day, that’s seventy doses of medication!!! Tonight I spent over two hours dealing with the first two doses; I don’t know how I’m going to get through the week. I love him beyond words, but he is the most contrary child imaginable. He will argue with you that the moon is the sun until you give up, then he will simple look at you and say “Look, there’s the moon.”

Arrogance to believe in the impossible is how we got to the moon after all. The declaration was made that we would land a man on the moon in less than ten years when in actuality we had not one of the tools to do it. And yet it was done, because of tenacity, arrogance and thinking not outside the box but as if there was no box at all. This is the mindset my son has and I pray he is somehow able to keep it and still succeed in life. We will both have to fight constantly to not only allow him to be creative and think as an individual, but to somehow marry that to the way the rest of the world operates.

Dr One: “ What was your last job?”
Dr. Sayer: “Earthworms”
Dr One: “I’m sorry?”
Dr. Sayer: “ It was an immense project. I was to extract one decigram of myelin from 4 tons of earthworms.”
Dr. One: “Really?”
Dr. Sayer: “Yes I was the only one who believed in it. Everyone else said it couldn’t be done.”
Dr. One: “It can’t”
Dr Sayer: “I know that now. I proved it.”

From the movie Awakenings

A few months ago Cole and I were driving down the road and he asked where we were going, I said we needed to go buy a new battery for the car. “The car doesn’t have a battery” he informed me, “the car uses gas”. I tried to explain repeatedly that the car uses gas to go, but a battery is needed to start it. He argued, and argued, and argued. I finally pulled the car over to the side of the road, took him out of his car seat, popped the hood and showed him the battery. “Oh.” he said. That was it. We got back in the car and continued on our way.

My job as his mother is not to change the way his mind works but to teach him how to live in a world that will not always appreciate his beautiful way of thinking. To help him deal with those things that make him different and steer him down a path where his unique abilities will be held as treasures. To keep his tenacity, but to foster in him the ability to work with others while somehow maintaining the arrogance that he is right…until of course he is proven wrong.

“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” –Thomas Edison on building the light bulb

He will make a good lawyer, scientist, or inventor I think. Or perhaps he will become a teacher, and maybe one day a child will come into his class and do something in a way that no one ever has before. I think Cole would be one to appreciate that.

Clarity Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

July 2005

I spent last week being a little crazy and self-indulgent.

In 1985, when I was fifteen, I went with my brother and sisters band to an Alternative Christian Music Festival called Cornerstone. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Three days of music, everything from pop to punk.

I decided last year to go back. A little crazy perhaps for a woman my age, but what the hell, you only live once right. I had a few friends playing there, and thought it might be fun to hang with them and see some bands I’d heard of but never seen. I also thought I’d find some new music and maybe some new friends – you can never have enough friends.

A couple weeks before I was to leave personal issues arose and I almost cancelled the trip. But I’d bought the ticket, had the hotel and car reserved and was still going to see some incredible music. So off I went, with a heavy heart.

Boy did I see some great stuff. Mute Math blew me away. Kids in the Way was the first band to bring tears to my eyes (not difficult these days but still – not a normal site at one of their gigs I’m sure). Sleeping at Last was incredible. So many great bands I could go on all night. But Saturday, the last day of the festival was worth the trip, because I had one of those incredible days where God shows you what a wuss you are.

Before I went, I had gone onto the Choir website and found a couple of people there going to Cornerstone who gave me some survival tips. I met up with them on Thursday at their beautiful campsite – camp 77. They’re all rabid 77’s fans and therefore pretty cool people all around. Now one of the great thing about Cornerstone is the atmosphere. No one is a stranger, everyone is willing to help anyone, it’s just a really cool vibe. So I hung with David Cervantes, Dan, Elwood and Linda as well as a few others for a few hours. I was instantly accepted and Dan and I had a couple good conversations about how the entire world is one big conspiracy. I dig a good conspiracy theory.

Back to Saturday. No need for the details here, but because I don’t always make the best decisions and can be a real bitch sometimes (trust me I can) I was having arguments with some good friends and was generally in a very foul mood! Let’s just say texting can be good, and texting can be very, very bad. On my way to the festival grounds I missed my last turn. When I realized and went to turn around I saw a tiny graveyard next to the highway.

I LOVE GRAVEYARDS. I have since I was a kid, we lived next to one in Malaysia and I used to play there often. I like reading the engravings and trying to imagine who these people were, how they lived, their stories. So I stopped, got out with my iPod, put on my worship playlist, and began looking at tombstones. What I love so much about graveyards is the clarity it gives you.

Now I was having a crappy day, feeling angry, bitter, and more than a little sorry for myself. I hadn’t seen my beautiful boys in a week and I felt like an idiot for making the mistake of coming all that way for a little music.

I looked for the tiny grave markers, I am always amazed at the mothers who buried two, three, four children. I cannot fathom their pain, it’s not even in the realm of my reality. So I sat and cried a little while, for the woman who 120 years ago lost four children under the age of two, and went on to live another 40 years. Did she have more children that survived? I’m still curious about that.

Late that night back at the festival I first saw Bradley Hathaway, a young, very cool poet perform “Hug Me” asking Jesus –“ did you ever just hug people?” The thought of a bear hug from Jesus – HOW AWESOME would that be!! I cried and shared my Kleenex with the girl next to me. Them I went to see Leigh Nash, a beautiful acoustic set, a beautiful woman with a wonderful spirit.

Back into my little story comes Dan, my new conspiracy friend. Somewhere during the end of Leigh’s set he got an emergency phone call. It seems his neice’s ex-husband’s plane had crashed, he was killed as were her two daughters, the step-daughter and her son were gravely injured. Dan, completely shaken and numb, returned to the tent, I’m sure he didn’t know what else to do. As Dan returned Leigh introduced her last song, “It Is Well With My Soul” which she sang a capella with the audience. I cried again, though I didn’t know of Dan’s tragedy yet. A thousand voices singing together :
“That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”
What a moving experience.

I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child, and pray dear Lord I will never know it. So even greater then was the joy I experienced a few days later, watching my children run down the sidewalk towards my car, jumping, screaming at me “mommy, mommy”, grins from ear to ear…what joy is this? What a blessed gift from God.

I looked up the lyrics to “It Is Well With My Soul” the story of it’s creation seems more than apropos in light of Dans story.

I will choose again today to walk in the light, any light God sees fit to bless me with. Whether it be sunlight that burns my skin, moonlight to dream by, or million year old starlight that stirs my soul.

“And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight.”

The Story:

“In 1871, tragedy struck Chicago as fire ravaged the city. When it was all over, 300 people were dead and 100,000 were homeless.
Horatio Gates Spafford was one of those who tried to help the people of the city get back on their feet. A lawyer who had invested much of his money into the downtown Chicago real estate, he’d lost a great deal to the fire. And his one son (he also had four daughters) had died about the same time. Still, for two years Spafford–who was a friend of evangelist Dwight Moody–assisted the homeless, impoverished, and grief-stricken ruined by the fire.
After about two years of such work, Spafford and his family decided to take a vacation. They were to go to England to join Moody and Ira Sankey on one of their evangelistic crusades, then travel in Europe. Horatio Spafford was delayed by some business, but sent his family on ahead. He would catch up to them on the other side of the Atlantic.
Their ship, the Ville de Havre, never made it. Off Newfoundland, it collided with an English sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and sank within 20 minutes. Though Horatio’s wife, Anna, was able to cling to a piece of floating wreckage (one of only 47 survivors among hundreds), their four daughters–Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie–were killed.
Horatio received a horrible telegram from his wife, only two words long: “saved alone.” Spafford boarded the next available ship to be near his grieving wife, and the two finally met up with Dwight Moody.
“It is well,” Spafford told him quietly. “The will of God be done.”
Though reports vary as to when he did so, that belief led Spafford to pen the words to one of the English language’s best-known hymns. Some say he wrote it on the ship to meet his wife, around the place where his daughters died”:
It is Well With My Soul
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

A Storm Is Coming Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

Oct 15, 2006 6:45PM
To Dawn, Janae and Christopher

Something’s coming, can you feel it? It’s like an hour or two before it rains, when you walk outside and feel that there is a certain heaviness in the air. A thickness you’re almost walking through, a mist clinging to your skin.

There’s a storm approaching. The desert lightning is striking and bursting the forest into flames. But the rain is coming, can you feel that too? The rain is coming.

There is a storm coming and it is almost here, I can feel it. Stand firm and wait for it. You have been put here on the front lines, so don’t turn your eyes – look forward. There are warriors behind you to put out the flames. Keep your eyes fixed on Him.

I had to stop on my way to church last night to write that down. I had an overwhelming feeling of pressure, not just stress but also a physical pressure as if the barometric gauge had just bottomed out through the floor. The past month has been almost unbearable. Not only have I been feeling intense stress and this pressure but I have been witnessing the same things happening to so many of those around me. It almost feels as if every person I’ve spoken to recently is having troubles in their relationships, be they romantic or platonic, business or personal. Even my tiny little church has suffered the seemingly inevitable fate of a split right down the middle of it. Something quite disturbing for a place we don’t even like to call a church but a ministry- so desperate we all are to keep away from the trappings and pitfalls of religion.

I spent one twenty-four hour period two weeks ago not only dealing with serious relationship issues of my own but having not one but three friends pour their hearts out to me, all of us ending up in tears. It just wouldn’t stop there either, my sister, my niece, my nephew, another good friend, all being thrown into turmoil, rejected or attacked by those they had only loved and cared for, suddenly and without warning.

My ex brother-in-law had taken his kids and my sister to lunch last week and told them, “When you have a ministry that is effective you must be ready for the attacks. You all have an important ministry, that is why you are being attacked.” I love Wesley to death but don’t usually expect great depth and spiritual insight from him…it’s just not his style. But he’s right. The lightening and fire is hitting right now, and they are meant to distract from the task God has placed in front of us all. But the rain is coming to douse those fires. A battle of the elements is on its way. God is about to pour out upon us His mercy, I can feel it coming though the battle is not yet here, it is about to be fought. It is patience and prayers that are required right now. “Arm yourselves”, is what I keep hearing from everyone around me.

When I did finally get to church last night, Tommy got up and started, as he sometimes does a little sheepishly. “I’m not sure about this, if it will mean anything to you but…” Every time Tommy says this my ears perk up a little. It usually means he’s got something to say that isn’t coming from him but directly from God. Last night was no different. He talked about walking through Hollywood a few months ago and feeling a physical pressure, an overwhelming sense of compromise. Like he could become anyone there, just disappear into it and no one would ever know. “When in battle, archers would shoot flaming arrows not at the front lines but over them. They did this to start fires behind the leading troops to distract them, to get them to turn around, to keep them from moving forward.” I began to cry…I had seen not armies but a storm, I had not seen arrows but lightening. But it was the same pressure, that same “something is about to happen” that Tommy was now speaking of that I had been feeling all night.

“In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
Ephesians 6: 16

Satan is frightened I think, and the arrows and lightening will continue to come. Mine showed up today in my living room, it burst into flames. I could feel it coming, yet somehow I was still not ready. Will I ever be? I can recognize it for what it is, but I’m still terrified and crushed by it. I have a battle to fight that is ahead of me and I need that rain, I am praying for a torrent of it. To not only drown the flames but my enemies as well.

Just as Christian in Pilgrims Progress we are stopped for the night atop “The Hill of Difficulty.” The full armor of God is ours, all we have to do is put it on. Steady Christian, the battle is coming. Steady.

“See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, 
a driving wind swirling down on the heads of the wicked.” Jeremiah 30:23

“My Favorite Things” Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

And on the lighter side…

A few years ago my father began a new Christmas tradition at our house. We don’t spend Thanksgiving forcing all at our table to share what they are thankful for, but this Christmas, with the fresh booty still strewn about the living room he wanted to tell everyone what some of his “favorite things” were.

Remember the song in “The Sound of Music” – A Few of My Favorite Things? None of my fathers favorite things had come in a package that Christmas. He pulled out a small piece of paper from his pocket and a few of the things he read were:

Old Cars

Watching TV around the fire with Sharon

Exploring old mines

Camping with Sharon and the grandchildren

Old Barns

Sunrises and Sunsets

Rainy Days

Waking up to Snowfall

The Lakers

Exploring old roads and towns

We’re never expecting the obvious things,” My kids, my family, my friends” Those are all wonderful but it’s the little things(or big things) that give you a warm feeling, a simple sense of joy.

At one of these Christmas’s about 4 years ago my niece Janae began to share her favorite things, she put her head down slightly, looking at the floor then at me. “ One of my favorite things is talking to Beth,” she said. I sat stunned. “I always learn something…” she started to cry, and couldn’t finish. I went and hugged her and we both cried….THAT was one of my favorite things. Here are just a few others off the top of my head:

Dove Dark Chocolate covered Almonds

Climbing into a freshly changed bed made up with high thread count cotton sheets.

Finding a song that inspires me and makes me believe – Plan B (Mute Math) is the current favorite for that.

Going to see a movie with my kids that we all end up loving

When it gets cold enough to light a fire in the fireplace again

Watching the flames of a slow burning fire consume the wood

When it gets warm enough to wear shorts again

Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Looking at a self-portrait of Van Gogh while listening to “Vincent” by Don McClean

Stumbling across a band I’ve never heard before and being blown away at a concert

The sound of the snare and the floor tom on “Waiting for Your Love” – Toto IV (Thank you Tom Knox- where are you man?)

Chad Butler’s groove (the drummer for Switchfoot) – he rocks and makes me happy

When my kids use a word that has more than three syllables (and use they it properly)

Seeing the UPS truck driving down the street

Taking pictures of my kids

Getting a flash of inspiration

Going to church, singing, worshipping, crying

Those moments when I’ve caught a glimpse of who God is and how much He loves me

Being completely honest with a friend and having a real intimate conversation

Garage Sales

Finding the perfect gift for someone

A moonless night when you can see the Milky Way

A really good kiss – or at this point the memory of one!

Hugs

Maybe when I’m in a better mood I’ll post a “Things I Hate” list. But right now focusing on the little things that make life beautiful seems more appropriate. So what are some of your favorite things?

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