Another Mother;’s Response

I have read the ” I am Adam’s _________Mother” article and I am shaken to the core.  It hits me in a place that I cannot fully describe to many people, it makes me hurt, because on some levels she is describing my oldest son.  Some will read this and comment that my son is not capable of such behavior, he would never talk to anyone in those voices or threaten another human being.  If you believe that, I invite you to journey with us for a day or two, or talk to our closest neighbors, who he plays with on almost a daily basis.

while I have read the account, I relate, but I also caution us to take what is happening with a grain of salt.  To pin this type of madness on a presumed mental illness is dangerous and uneducated–the truth is, it is hearsay.  We don’t know the motive, the life he was living, nor the depth of his personal pain.  We are too quick to jump at what may seem  as easy conclusions because the reality of the situation is too heavy for us to bear.  We should not have to bear such horrendous acts, we should not grieve at the senseless killing of children, but more importantly, we should be crying out for the senseless killing of anyone–not just children.

Where is our outrage when gangs are killing in the streets, or hours from where I live the suicide and addiction rates are some of the highest in the nation, with a poverty rate the lowest in the US?  Where is our outrage when first and second grade students “quit school” and sit more time in the principal’s office instead of the classroom because most of the male figures in their lives are already in prison and they are just waiting their turn?  Where is our outrage when we use words as swords to lash out at each other, demeaning how we live, and love? Where, oh where, is our compassion?

Where is our compassion when we allow people to slander one another in the name of anything because it elevates their own position or opinion?  Where is the understanding that we are each as different and unique as each snow flake that falls each winter.  I am from the midwest people, and them’s a lot of snow flakes from many many winters.  I am as different from you as you are from me and we are as unique as every one of those snowflakes ever made.  That baffles my mind to even imagine!  I celebrate that difference…hell, I rejoice in it!

My oldest son has a double diagnosis, a double mental illness…and I hope and pray through every day with him.  He is not a madman waiting in the wings, he is a little boy with an abundant zest for life, too much intelligence, and a spiritual understanding that astounds me.  He can also lose it, big time.  He has a diagnosis, but more than that, he has a name and a life that I want to be full of hope and promise and light and love.  He has a name and an identity and a sparkling personality which he uses to drive me up the wall quicker than any human being…and I love him for it.  He worries me, causes me to fret and stew, to tear my hair out, to walk around with my heart outside my body—and so does his brother–and I love them for who they are.  His intelligence will not dictate his actions, his moral character and spiritual grounding ( or lack thereof) will spell out his future.  As a parent, I have to pour everything I can into both of them and believe that I, and others that I have trusted to care for them, have instilled the right and proper and strengthening ideals into them.  I have to watch them walk out into the big world everyday and relinquish them into someone else’s control….whether that someone is a school, a job, a loved one, or someone aiming to harm them.  I have to trust that I have done my job as a parent and that means trusting myself to let them go….and to admit that in the end, they are not really mine.  OUCH!!!! That hurts, doesn’t it.  My boys are not really mine.  They are on loan to me and I am the blessed one charged to their care for this time and this place and in this moment.  There will come a time when I am asked to allow them to continue in their journeys, and like every parent, I pray it is never within my lifetime that I am asked to give them up to something bigger than me.  They are gifts for this time and this moment, I struggle to remember that, because I want to believe that they are solely mine.

The reality?  Yes, I have seen my son wig out…I have seen him beg me to get a gun and kill him, I have been the butt of his threats and his violent anger…and I have held him, cradled him, and sang him to rest time and again.  I would do that for anyone.  I would do that for anyone because I know that anyone of us could lose it at any moment.  That is right…Any one of us could lose it at any time!  Think back to stories we hear of babies being shaken and we are shocked when it happens….horrible, yes!  Put yourself in the position of that person who has had that child screaming for hours on end, already tired, worn out, and nothing they do helps alleviate the screaming…..Understandable how a person can be pushed to their limits?????

When we put it in perspective it is not hard to imagine a person pushed to the edge…we are one thread away from it.  THANKFuLLY, there is compassion, common sense, and love that covers us most of the time.  Let’s walk carefully the lines of blame we draw, lest we wrongly paint a whole faction of people who struggle with learning disabilities, mental illness, or any other politically correct label we want to use as violent and deviant.  The fact is, we are all violent and deviant in our own ways…..ever flipped someone off who cut in front of you?  I have.  Ever swore under your breath when you see the cop lights flashing behind you?  I have–out loud.  Ever said something so awful to someone you love in the heat of hurt, anger, betrayal, and injustice?  I have and I have had people do that to me.  Ever wanted to hit someone so hard that they did not know what was coming at them?  I have and hated myself for it later.

Have you ever had someone apologize for a wrong they had done to you?  Has grace come knocking and shown you mercy and forgiveness even when you knew you did nothing to deserve it?  How about love?  Has someone poured their life into yours, knocking down your barriers and your walls to see the ragged soul you carry and loved you in spite of your messy self? I hope so.  I hope you have been loved with a fierceness that takes your breath away and that you can extend that to others.  i hope you know what it means to be pursued in a way that makes you feel wanted and needed and important because you are you and no one else.  I hope you know what it feels like to pursue someone else in that fashion…I hope that you know yourself as a beautiful and necessary human being deserving to be seen, heard, and loved every day of your life and for eternity.

What happened Friday is beyond tragic and has dominated much of my thinking the last couple of days, but it has also served as motivation.  I am beginning to uncover my own areas of outrage at things happening all around me and I see an obligation to stand in the midst of it and be light.  I feel a call to cast light into the darkness, reveal the truth, and walk doggedly into it with wisdom and compassion.  I hope I am smart enough not to go alone….I pray I am not walking alone.

My son has a couple of mental illnesses….but more than anything, he is my son, the first-born to 2 parents who love him, sacrifice for him daily, and would walk through fire to protect him.  He is part of my body, my soul, and my heart walking around out there for the world to see.  He is one of 2 of the best things I have ever done….when you see him, love him for me–protect him and keep him safe when I cannot.  I am counting on you to be the light just as you can count on me.  Can we count on each other?

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Open REAL EYES to REALIZE what is before us.

According to a recent Pew poll released on in Oct 2012, the United States has dropped below 50% of the population subscribing to a Protestant faith.  The numbers show that the US is now at 48% down from 53% in 2007.  The largest group to see growth is what researchers call, “The nones.”  A similar report dated October 2012, more than 13 million atheists and agnostics and nearly 33 million claim no particular affiliation.   About 20 percent of U.S. adults say they have no religious affiliation, which is an increase from two decades ago when about 8 percent of people were deemed so-called “nones.” Nones are described as young college students, second career individuals, and those just beginning their families somewhere in their middle 30’s.  Most would claim they have a spiritual faith, but as one man stated, “Saying that you are an atheist no longer carries the stigma that it did in years past. More and more are recognizing that you can be good without a belief in a god.”

This leaves the field wide open in terms of Christian faith.  Instead of shrinking back in disbelief at these statistics, I consider this a wake-up call to action for us whom we call brothers and sisters in the faith.  Colin Hay, musician and lyricist offers these words in opposition to this call to faith and may provide the backdrop for many of the feelings society is facing.

All around is anger
Automatic guns
There’s death in large numbers
No respect for women or our little ones
I tried talking to Jesus
But he just put me on hold
Said he’d been swamped by calls this week
And he could not shake his cold

And still this emptiness persists
Perhaps this is as good as it gets
When you’ve given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes
Now I leave the party early, at least with no regrets
I watch the sun as it comes up, I watch it as it sets
Yeah, this is as good as it gets

Can you feel the desperation, the loss of hope resignation in these words?   If the above poll numbers are true, this is the feeling that our young people are experiencing—believing the present conditions are as good as it gets.

BUT!!!!  We know something different, my brothers and sisters.  WE know a different reality and a more solid truth don’t we?  We know that this is not as good as it gets.

Turn with me to John chapter 14

Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me.[a] 2 There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. 3 After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. 4 You know the way to where I am going.”

5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t even know where you are going! How can we know the way?”

6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Jesus answered. “Without me, no one can go to the Father. 7 If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need.”

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.

 

There is hope and redemption in those words, I invite us to consider what the Message gives us in further? – paraphrased (might be a better word) translation.

1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

5 Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

8 Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

And then we’ll be content.  Ah, there it is.  And THEN, we’ll be content.

Will we be content after a tumultuous election?  Will we be content with a higher paying job or a better car?  Will we be content if more people love us or we add more FRIENDS on our Facebook page?  How about when all the moments of frustration cease?  Will we be content?

What will it take?

It takes the command that Jesus gives us in verse 11.

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.

We become content when we take off the blinders and REALIZE how to look at our world and God’s people with REAL EYES.  That sounds like a tall order, so there is an implicit help given in that command from Jesus.  There is a Spirit (an Advocate) which Jesus promised would always be with us, to empower us to see others as Christ sees them.  WE are not alone, we have power in the Spirit to realize that this is not as good as it gets.  There is more.

There is more heaven here on earth than we allow ourselves to see and hear.  Yet, the louder voices of desperation, rejection, hurt, anger, and hate seem to engulf  our spirits, wanting to fool us into believing this is all there is.  How have we responded?

For some, for the many whom the “nones” are watching, we have embraced the voices of slander, malice, anger, and hatred…creating a hell on earth where we mistrust one another…we operate out of fear instead of the promise that there is more.  We do not serve a God of fear; we serve a God of…redemption, love, and compassion.   I believe that we have forgotten this.

In the non-profit that I work in in Sioux Falls, I have the chance to see in a practical way, the essence of the Spirit moving in places and doing things I could not see otherwise.  I see people coming together in a garden, slinging compost, laughing and building—together.  GROUND WORKS operates out of a mission to practice being a great. does this break off here? …where have we heard this command?

“I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing.  You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.”

The mission question you ask of yourselves today is answered in that statement.  How do you remain faithful?—by doing the things that Jesus did and practicing the things that Jesus said.

I cannot give you a nice, neat method to perfectly sewing up your faith and keeping it intact.  I would be doing you a huge disservice if I told you that the older you get, the easier it gets.  It doesn’t. I look at my own children, who so easily embrace the world they see and I am amazed at it.  When did my filter become so polluted?

It became polluted when I decided that the world and its opinions means more to me than seeing people for who they really are==as beloved children of Christ.  It became tainted when the voices of the multitudes screaming that getting my own is more important than loving the least, the lost, and the lonely.  It became dirty when I embraced the belief that poverty is shameful and those who are impoverished are somehow less than me.

Have we forgotten that we are all poor and that the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven?  When did poverty become a 4-letter word meaning something that we eliminate or cut out of our society?  When did following Christ mean that I have the right to sit in judgment over anyone for any reason?

It didn’t.

When I asked my former seminary professor how to write a sermon a number of years ago, he smiled at me and said, “Go, look in the mirror and ask that person what they need to hear.  What does she most need to hear and what does she need to see the most today.  When you are quiet and allow the Spirit to convict you, the message will come to you.  That is the offering you bring-no more no less.”

See, I told you it does not get any easier, the older that you become.  It gets harder to force out the ingrained methods of thought and deed to be present in the Spirit and to do the things that Jesus did.

Ok, so what did Jesus do?  A couple of years ago, I served my first unit of Chaplaincy at Avera Behavioral in Sioux Falls.  I worked over 1000 hours journeying with children, teens, men, and women living in the midst of hell.  I heard their stories and the Lord revealed something during that time.  It is a mantra that I believe is at the heart of all that we say and do.

People want to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.  Let me repeat that.  We want to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.  And the third time is the charm—I want to be seen, to be heard, to be loved.

If we take that principle and the command that Jesus gives us –to remain faithful we do the things that Jesus did, the rest becomes pretty clear.  So, what did Jesus do?

Jesus showed up.  At a well, in a garden, on a sea, on the road, and in the home, Jesus was present.

Jesus saw.  He saw the diseased, the forgotten, slandered, abused, and mistaken.  He saw them for what they are==beloved and blessed children of HIS Father, he saw them as brothers and sisters of great potential and light and love.  He saw them for what they could be instead of what the world was telling them they are.

Jesus heard.  He listened to the words of the heart, the ones we keep hidden and he responded.  He heard the stories from people desperately wanting healing, to those empowered to simply touch his cloak, he heard and embraced their humanity and spoke to them in it—not content to allow the lies of the world to fill their heads, he came to deliver a promise of something sweeter—something more divine.

Jesus loved.  Pure and simple.  There is no other act of love than to see us through REAL EYES and REALIZE the way to save us would be to die—to give up his own humanity so that we might believe and do the things he did and follow the things he said.

Sounds like pretty easy application, right?  So, you’re saying if we show up, see, hear, and love===all the rest will take care of itself….RIGHT!!!!!

To do this requires more of you and me than we initially believe.  It requires all of us.  The song that you heard this morning as we were walking in speaks to this.

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

Where are we in this?  Where have we given in to selfish pride, to arrogant love of self and what we can do?  Where have we forgotten the ultimate sacrifice of love covers the world’s hurts than any amount of money or man power can?  When did we begin believing that we alone can do anything?

Do we really want to do the things that Jesus did?  Do we really want to see people with REAL EYES and realize them as precious human being that a Savior loved enough to give up His own life?  Do we really want to hear their voices and to love with the same love that Jesus loves us.  Do we even want to admit that Jesus loves “them” with the same fervor and passionate love that He lavishes on us….we are the chosen ones, aren’t we?

In the gardens in Sioux Falls, Jesus has shown us Himself.  A couple of weeks ago a young 13 year old girl who resides at the Children’s Home Society came to a catered meal and took center stage to share a poem about what a garden means to her.  She talked of a seed being planted and
watching it grow.  She talked of a place where she can go when the entire world is happening around her.  She said, that (a garden) is, “A place that needs me to stay alive.”

Does she realize that she is the seed- that place of great potential and opportunity?  Does she see herself as the seed in need of care and love and growth?  Does she know that Jesus can be the place where she can run and hide a place to go when sad or glad?  Does she know that Jesus needs and wants her to stay alive==that HE desires for her to live and BE alive—to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved?

Do we know the same?

Do we know that to be faithful means to believe that GOD wants to see us, to hear us, and to love us?  Do we believe that to realize that promise means that we are to see with Real eyes the world around us, and we are to respond.  We are to love with the heart of Christ and to do that we have to adopt the heart of Christ.

We have to see with the eyes of Christ, eyes that see beyond poll numbers, political affiliations, social and economic strife to the heart of each individual person…to recognize that their soul is to be cared for and loved==just like ours.

We have to hear the words that are said and to those unspoken.  We have to listen beyond the rhetoric and the pat and easy responses we give on a daily basis.  We must hear their stories, to hold those stories, and to honor them as precious…after we have heard them—really heard them we can hear how beautifully our stories intersect with one another.  We have incredible impact==we have the chance to turn the tide toward Heaven instead of Hell.

We have to love with the love of Christ; fierce and on fire and smoldering and peaceful all at the same time.  A love which consumes all the darkness and forces light into the hate and drives it away.  A love that embraces poverty as desirable because it means we are in the presence of the Risen Savior.  A love which knows no limit to compassion-knows that no amount of money or power or control can take the place of being held and seen and heard and loved.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us not grow weary in the race set before us, my same seminary professor has become a life mentor to me and reminds me often that what we are doing is a Marathon, not a Sprint.  This is not a race that has an out the gate running start or an ability to maintain that pace for the duration.  It is a marathon of building of seeing with REAL EYES what we can REALIZE in Christ.

I end with an adaptation of the Jars of Clay lyrics you heard earlier.  May this be the prayer to remain Faithful—doing the things that Jesus did, in the manner in which He did them.
We look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what our life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more We need you now,
we owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
we gave up not so long ago
So steal our heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse our pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things we cannot hide
take the beauty, take our tears
the sin-soaked heart and make them yours
take our world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that we despise
speak the words we can’t deny
watch the world we used to love
fall to dust and thrown away

Take our world apart.

Bushwhacked

Bushwhacked

What began as a friendly game of capture the flag amongst the neighborhood kids quickly turned a new direction as the older children took control.  The majority of them had played together in the same backyard for years, coming home to toss their bags in the house and run to the sanctuary of play.  Aside from the occasional argument over whose turn it was next, they gave and took turns and blows with general good humor.  The motley group of boys and girls ranged in ages and the bigger kids looked out for the little ones and parents young and old agreed that this was a great group of young people.

Lately, though there seemed to be a shift in attitude, as though with the onset of middle school the invisible lines were drawn and camps created.  Today the innocent game seemed to have a frenzied sense to it, as though there were an undercurrent running that no adult would be able to see or feel.  The hits a bit harder, the barbs a bit more cutting, tackles that were meant for touch only sound more violent, harsh.  Then the words, the comments riddle the air.

“Take that one, freak!  You’re going down tonight; I’ll make you wish you were like the rest of us.”

“I told you not to talk to me when I’m at that table with the rest of the gang; you’re not one of us.  Get that through your head.  You’re not welcome there.”

“Gawd, no!  I will never walk into that dance with you!  Dude, what is wrong with you!”

The barrage of complaints rain down on their fellow neighborhood player.  Where yesterday they traded “who’s your mama” jokes, today the jokes are replaced by hate and threats.  The ambush of rage spewed forth, these young teens choosing to bushwhack one of their own, to make them pay for something beyond their control.

“Hey, step off; I haven’t done anything to you!  What is your deal?  All I did was wave your way in the lunch line, is that a friggin’ crime?  You’ve only spent whole weeks at my house and vacationed with my family every summer.”

“You are a freak!  Get this through your head; you made your choice when you decided to “come out.”  You knew what would happen, man, you coulda rode the high all the way through school, and you had to declare who you are so the whole damn world would know.  You don’t think people wonder about me?  Man, you’re so dense!  It’d be better if you’d just transfer or just… Ah, hell.  I’m outta here.”

He took the rest of the group with him, leaving one alone, bushwhacked, bombarded, and beaten.  Maybe it would be better to transfer or, there are other options.  Yah, there are always other options, there is always another choice.

The hate, where do we learn it?  When does the familiar companionship of a neighboring game of tag become something sinister?  What motivates us to turn against each other so easily?  The blows of a tackle may heal and the bruises fade, but the words and the intentions remain.  Those don’t lose impact and can do far more damage than any broken bone or wounded ego.  The tapes play for a lifetime, shaping ideas of identity and limiting potential.  How unaware of the impact we have on one another.

The Creator looks at each of us with joy and love, unconditionally.  Where we see a flaw or imperfection, or a different way of behaving in the world, God sees pure perfection and potential.  All of creation is embraced with a love that knows no bounds, no barriers, and nothing can separate any of us from that perfect love.  It does not matter who we love, how we love, what we have done, said, or left undone; we are called and claimed as beloved children.  In that moment of conflict in the backyard, the love for every one of those kids overflowed from the Creator, the same love covered each of them and will continue to cover them no matter what happens tomorrow.  That unconditional and fierce love covers each of us, no matter the age, experience, past, present, or future.   That is an impact which can move mountains and tame even the most hateful tongues.  The impact of steadfast love now and forever holds true.

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.
John 15:17-19

I embark

I have put aside the autobiography for a time to work on something which has captured my attention as of late.  I am choosing 3 verbs from the English language beginning with A and ending with Z and writing a devotional idea to go with it.  Devotional can be no longer than 1 page and must tie biblically.  Here are the first 3 attempts.

Accentuate

“Accentuate the positive!”  The words ring out as shrilly as the platinum blonde bleached into her hair.  She punches the air, making sure the staccato beat of her platform heels is in perfect time.  She knows that to fool the masses, you have to make them look beyond what is really there.  Any good performer hones that skill from birth and to make a director’s head turn, you do what you can to make yourself stand out from the crowd and that is just what she is teaching these young ladies today.

“Backs straight, head held high, suck in the gut; never-ever reveal a weakness.”  The young ladies, all dozen of them hold their 9 year old heads a little higher and look down the line at one another, making sure they are just a bit straighter, a tad taller.  At the end of the line is a quiet brunette of slight frame, angelic demeanor, and quiet strength.  Instead of casting a glance down the line, she straightens a bit taller, closes her eyes and begins mouthing something to herself.

Perhaps it’s the litany of “Backs straight, head high, never a weakness.”  Maybe she can Ac-cen-tu-ate  pos-i-tive as she practices plies at the barre.  Whatever the reason, there is an assured look on her face, one of almost pure joy, in stark contrast to the other girls’ grimace of agony.  Madame’s pitch creeps higher and her heels pick up pace even faster.  Sweat breaks out on many faces and she screeches to wipe it off, “never let a judge see you as human.  You are more than human; you are super human—act like it!  20 more minutes!”

Up and down the line Madame shrieks louder and she stops dead in front of our quiet one and demands to know why she is smiling.  “You look like you are clueless, that is no way to push yourself to the top.  Always standing there, smug and quiet, you are so infuriating!  Why are you like that?  You know you will never rise to the top of the class and be a star without the killer instinct.  Rise higher, reach further, push, push, push.”

“I have been taught that our world looks at the outer package. We judge each other on how we dress, walk, talk, and how we attractive we are. I know in my heart that what is seen on the inside is more important than how I look on the outside to others.    I am of more worth than all the fake nails or high heels in the world.  The Creator of the Universe sees to the core of who I am, not who I pretend to be or what a director may think is acceptable for a show.  I tell myself each day I am here to accentuate the inside gold, not the outside fake.  That Creator gazes at you in that way too, Madame.  Accentuate your inside gold.  Push to the inner recess of your heart, accentuate that pure gold.”

1 Samuel 16:7

The Message (MSG)

7 But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

Adopt

They stare out from their secured cages, brought in on trucks or in cars.  They have been found on the streets, rummaging through garbage bins, wandering fields on their own, or a family finds they cannot support them any longer.  Whatever the reason, they watch the doorways, listen for footsteps, hope for a loving young girl or boy they can shower with love.  Maybe this group will be my forever home, maybe they will adopt me and make me part of their family.

Tails wag, mouths hang open, and barks escape as they paw at the metal fencing.  Dancing on all fours they hop up and down in anticipation.  “Pick me!  Pick me!”  Can you hear them?  “Please, please.  This is special adoption weekend.  Can you find a place in your home, your heart? Won’t you adopt me?  Chose me?”

The eyes tell the stories of some of them, the lives they have lived, and their past-the solitude of their journeys.  In compelling compassion they lock contact with you, gazing at you, begging in silence to deliver them for their present reality.   Feel the joyful energy coursing through them as you click a leash on their collar, interested enough to try for a walk around the facility.  See the prideful way they pick up their head, walk through the door and out into the sunshine.  Imagine the relief when they can call corner in your room home.

We don’t need to sit in cages and wait for a special weekend to be picked.  Our place at the table has already been set, it is waiting for us.  We have been adopted, ushered into a family without constraints, without ridicule, absent of cold or loneliness.  It is a place where we belong no matter how scrappy we look or how many miles we have traveled.  There is peaceful and comforting warmth which envelops us, if we are brave enough to embrace it.  The beauty of being adopted into this family is that it is royal.  We become sons and daughters of a King, a King of such radical love; we are incapable of describing it.  Our brothers and sisters of times past, present, and all future have also been adopted into the royal family.  The house is teeming with all ages, stages, hopes, dreams, and stories and all are accepted at the table.  There is always enough, more than enough of all that we dream.  There is more love than we can imagine, always more forgiveness, always.  There is no need to make ourselves noticed so that we will be chosen; we have been seen from the beginning-the adoption papers signed.  We belong just as we are, blameless and wonderfully created to love one another.  Imagine the joy in our Creator’s gaze as another brother or sister understands the comfort of waiting arms and runs to join the celebration already happening.

The celebration of your accepted invitation to be part of a whole family, anxious to know you, care for you, and love you; just as you are.  Come and rest.  Your searching is over and now you can breathe the sigh of relief, confident that you are where you belong.  It is a pleasure to welcome you home my brother, my sister, my friend.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
1 Peter 2:8-10

Advocate

In the education circles the letters, IEP carry special significance.  Those parents whose children are on one also know the importance of those letters; they mean regular meetings, constant evaluations, and incessant conversations with teachers, administration, parents, and students.  Sometimes it seems a rat race of connections until that glimmer of hope peaks through a haze of confusion.  The onslaught of verbiage that only educationally trained people speaks.  Wading through the paperwork appears to be never-ending, as does the guilt that gnaws at the back of the mind.  “Am I the reason they have trouble reading?  Do I do something that makes it impossible for them to concentrate in school?  Are they doing this on purpose?  Who will know I failed?”

For the student, they are oblivious to the world of special education or an Individualized Education Plan.  All they may be aware is that some subjects in school may be more difficult than others, or that their attention span seems to tank around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  They are unaware of the countless hours that moms, dads, grandparents, or other family members sacrifice in order to help them succeed.  A bag is magically packed and ready for the next day, homework is never tackled alone, and someone is always watching out for them.  They have no idea the conversations that take place over the phone, internet, or in person.  They never see the tears fall as their loved ones try every day to make today a bit easier than yesterday; never do they hear the inner voices screaming at those family members that this deficit is their fault-as if it could be blamed on someone or something.

While they remain unconscious to those moments, they are also naïve to the cheerleading and work that is done on their behalf.  Within mountains of paperwork and conversation and evaluation are people who are pulling for the success of that student.  They will join forces and stand strong to do whatever is necessary for that young person.  It may be as simple as helping to read for an extra half hour after supper, or as involved as assisting them in every area of life.  Whatever the case, the support exists and remains strong.

There are times though, when the hours are long for those fighting, when a blissful night off seems like the perfect respite.  Moments when the fight wares on the soul and the plea to be let off the hook feels like it falls on deaf ears.  There is One who hears, however.  One who chooses to stand in the midst of the fight and advocates on our behalf.        There is a constant who decided in the beginning that each life lived was worth the struggle and climbs into it with us, who will spend the extra moments in quiet prayer or tempered promotion.  The Creator who set all the stars in heaven believes that we are worth more than all creation combined and does not hesitate to enter our world and join us in whatever we may encounter.  Nothing is too large, no darkness too bleak, no amount of red tape and paperwork too daunting for the One who experienced life in all its mountain top and valley moments.   What appears overwhelming for us is a chance for the Creator to fight for and protect the beloved.  Like a mama bear protecting her cubs, we are fiercely loved and fiercely supported, by an advocate who continues to advocate on our behalf.

“As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:9-11

Do you See what I SEE?

It begins at 6:30 am, 7:00 am-if I am lucky.  Up from his spot on the floor, because neither of my children will sleep in their own rooms, my oldest will jump up  and run tearing through the house, looking for the next sleeping victim to rip from their slumber.  Because the youngest is a nightowl, I am lucky to see sleep by midnight…Weary and bleary eyed, I listen to my oldest son scream at planes he has made the night before and turn the TV up louder than snoring can cover.  I sigh, knowing another day has begun.

I love my sons with all that I am.  I would do anything for them and will advocate and fight for and with them my whole life.  There is nothing that I would not do to make sure they grow to the men I pray they become.  I lay awake at night and wonder what more I can do, what more I can supply for both of them.  Often, I am left still wondering and hoping I am doing the right thing….whatever that means.

I watch and I listen.  I watch what I remember as my oldest was a baby  and he fussed and fussed, who would not let me put him down–who would not let me out of his sight the whole first year.  Who continued to grow into a toddler, with a verbal expression and physical control that amazed most people.  He was shooting baskets at 2 1/2 and speaking in full sentences.  I was astounded, and already tired.  Already full of energy, able to feel his way through situations, and with an intelligence that was evident, he hurled toward toddlerhood as I brought my youngest into the world.

The gloves were off, now I had an angry 3 year old coupled with a newborn I was nursing.  I was convinced I was gonna do this right!!  no matter what it cost me in sanity.  What is right, anyway?  My oldest was livid with me for daring to bring another into the family–so was my dog.  We had to let her go when I found her using my pillow on my bed as her personal toilet.–that’s another story.

My oldest hated that child and hated/loved me more fiercely than I had seen him.  Almost exclusively attached to me, I worked  hard for him to establish his independence, which he did–and he flourished.  Even bigger gains in intelligence and understanding took place, but the energy and activity level sky-rocketed to highs that saw him clawing at the window blinds and banging his head on the wall in anger and frustration.  THIS was my first born, the one who had been with me the longest…what had I done to him?  What had I not done for him?

I remember a day when he becme so angry at my youngest that he tried to attack him with a metal baseball bat….I stepped in between and took the bat swat from my son instead…I threw the bat away as soon as I was calm enough to gather my thoughts.  That day saw my son ripping curtains in his room and clawing at the walls….I still do not know what set him off, I don’t think I ever will.

Onto my lap I pulled him and set him so his back was against my chest and rocked him back and forth like I did when he was tiny….I whispered, I shushed, I sang, he was enraged.  He threw his head against my nose, heard it crack, and he laughed.  I fought back tears and forged on…I had to save my son.  That was the longest afternoon I remember, there have been others, but none when I have been so scared.  I will never forget that, yet I wonder, what did that moment say and do to my son?  I am not sure I will ever know.

Fast forward to school and 3 solid years of worry and fear.  Test after test after IEP meetings….NO!!! he is not special ed, not able to comply or function.  He is my son and he has a name.  PLEASE!  Won’t someone see the constant chewing of fingernails and any other non-food item….please someone advise me how to handle a passionate and strong young man full of energy that he appears like a tornado the moment he wakes up and sleeps only when his nighttime med allows his body to rest.

Someone please watch his face when he is frustrated with the fact he will never be perfect and he doesa not know how to reconcile that.  Tell me what I am supposed to say to my oldest who asks me to find a gun and kill him, or continue to bang his head against the all–with his fists, or whatever is handy.  Someone please tell me it is not because I am adopted or that I had medication when I carried him or that I have genetically passed something on to him…I know all of us want someone or something to blame when there are no answers, but someone please tell me this will resolve.

I continue to watch, to monitor.  My oldest would still like to “take out” his brother.  He has said horrendous things to me, has destroyed much of the furniture and his toys, and is still attached to me like none other.  He is also sweet and understanding of global pain and heartache.  He knows about prayer and God and creation and possesses a deep spirituality which he questions with logic and inquiry.  He is smarter than any person I know at that age, except maybe my older brother….his uncle.  He is compassionate to a fault, yet will turn around and without batting an eye will choke my youngest and throw him to the ground.  There are times I cannot get there in time….when my youngest will take matters into his own hands.  Sometimes I have to let it happen, sometimes I don’t know what to do.

I am not sure what I am seeking…maybe nothing.  Maybe I am just a tired old mom, who does not want to feel so old and tired at 37.  Maybe I just want breathing room or the chance to feel like it is not my fault or that I am walking on egg shells all the time.  Maybe I want to experience my son without a bated breath of what will happen next, maybe I just want to breathe—AND!  to use the bathroom all by myself 😉

The constant noise, onslaught of questions and need and emotion from this wonder of my son–it takes a toll.  I know there are other parents out there dealing with this….I know they are my age and younger.  If someone is out there reading this who is older–please listen and see!  Sometimes when they are telling you, I need a break, they are not making casual conversation.  There are times when the pressure and exhaustion of it all gets to be too much, yet most of us (women especially) will never say when it’s too much.  They will put their head down, swallow the fatigue and guilt, and march bravely on to the next day.  We will walk out to get the mail or take out the garbage and swipe at tears coursing down our cheeks, we will rejoice in silence of a grocery store trip alone, or blare the music on full blast and sing out frustration on the way home….BECAUSE we can and we HAVE to!  We look for excuses to extend a trip alone a bit longer, when sitting with people who are older and kind and wise mean more than we can articulate.  When the idea of sleeping the day away sounds like heaven on earth.

Please, See what I see..hear what I hear…Please?

shalom,

cahl.

To BE SEEN, HEARD, and LOVED.

  • To Be Seen, Heard, and Loved
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  • There is a cartoon which depicts a small child standing in front of their mother and the only words we hear from the little one are ,” Mom, mom, mom, MMMMom, MOMMMY, MOM!!!!” As soon as she looks down, a bit exasperated, we see the child flash a wide toothy grin and reply, “HI!” as they run off to play.
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  • I giggle to myself as I replay this scenario, imagining my 2 boys doing the same. They do, in fact, stand there and wait for me to look at them and laugh heartily when I do and all they say is “Hi!” and then take off running. I think of that often as as message plays in the back of my mind. It is a message that came to me a little over a year ago as I worked at a behavioral hospital as a chaplain. It did not matter the age of the person sharing, or the story of pain and regret they were sharing, one message was clear, “People want to be seen, heard, and loved.” This message presents itself as I think about the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.
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  • Many of us have heard and read this account, and we have our own opinions about her and Jesus reaction and treatment of her. I invite us to listen and read with a different perspective, I invite us to listen as though we are interacting with a young child.
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  • From the Gospel of John in the Message, “
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  • John 4:5-42
  • The Message (MSG)
  •  4-6To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
  •  7-8A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
  •  9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
  •  10Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
  •  11-12The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
  •  13-14Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
  •  15The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
  •  16He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
  •  17-18″I have no husband,” she said.
  •    “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
  •  19-20″Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
  •  21-23″Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
  •  23-24″It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
  •  25The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
  •  26″I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
  •  27Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
  •  28-30The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.
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  • I have always loved this interaction with Jesus and the woman. In the hottest and most wretched part of the day comes this woman to draw water—sustenance for all life. Everyone else had gathered before now, had been privy to the latest news and gossip, drawn for themselves what they needed for their families, so what remains has been dipped into and drawn from many times before this woman comes. I envision Jesus watching her, having observed the group and knowing the treatment she would receive. I imagine Jesus waiting to have a minute alone with her so he can speak to her, an image of Jesus aimlessly drawing in the sand with a stick comes to mind. When she steps forward to draw the water, he asks her for a drink. Big Idea number 1, Jesus saw her!
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  • We may refer to this person as Woman ( she never appears again), but she may be any nationality, race, gender, educationally trained, young or elder. She may be wise or book smart, may be dirt poor in possessions or the richest person in wealth. It does not matter. In this moment, as a Samaritan woman, plagued with guilt and sin, she is unwelcome to speak to this Jew, this teacher, This MAN! He speaks firsts and asks her assistance, knowing full well who she is and what she represents.

     

     

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  • The woman isn’t searching for anyone. All she wants is water. Jesus is seeking her. One must go to Samaria if you want to reach Samaritans. He doesn’t avoid Samaria; he doesn’t hurry through it. Though she does not know it, this woman has a “divine appointment” with the Son of God.
  • The conversation begins with a simple question from Jesus: “Will you give me a drink?” He is tired and thirsty and she has the water he needs. He was thirsty and knew it. She was thirsty and didn’t know it. The woman did not come to the well seeking Christ, but he came to the well seeking her. In his approach we see the reat heart of our Lord Jesus is without prejudice. It matters not to him that others would not go to Samaria and others would not speak to this woman. He welcomes all and shuns none.
  • As Jesus converses with her, we begin to see the story continue to take shape.He draws her into conversation, asks her questions and WAITS for the answer. He knows the answer, but wants to hear from her experience, her voice what she has come searching to find. BIG IDEA # 2 He HEARS her.
  • How many times have we thought how wonderful it would be if someone actually heard what we had to say? Lately my oldest son has taken to watching Airplane Dogfights and WW2 battles on Netflix. I have no interest in these historical accounts whatsoever. Days after he has seen an episode, he will recount the entire 45 minute program complete with his own embelishments, 10 minutes into the account, I am thinking, “I hope he does not ask me a question about this, because I have not hear a thing he has said.” Shame on me. Shame on my lack of attention and the lack of listening and really hearing my son. Clear out the clutter of his story and what is he telling me? “Mom, this is really important and I have not seen you all afternoon and I am really interested in this and I want to share it with you. Please hear me, please hear what I am not saying.” Aren’t we all crying that someone would look past all that we think we hear to ask the real questions.

Into the clutter of this woman’s life. Jesus chooses to enter and to ask about her life. From that point on she decides to test the waters by grilling his knowledge of Jewish Law and tradition and Jesus speaks to the heart of the issue instead of becoming sidetracked in theology and history. He knows they are both aware, but he want to know more. He wants to know more about her. This Jesus reminds me of the same Jesus we encounter in the 1 chapter of John. We learn that in the beginning the word became Flesh and walked among us

14The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.

 

There is something so comforting about this Man, Teacher, Rabbi, Prophet, and Messiah to be flesh and blood and move into the neighborhood. Places were people reek and their clothes are tattered and torn, areas where drug deals happen across the street from a 13 year old girl selling herself so she can buy food to put on the table for her 3 other siblings who wait at home. This same teacher watches and listens as fights break out over who travels on what side of what track or road. He shakes his head, knowing that if either side could understand the need to be heard and seen by the other, many of the conflict would dissolve.

HE does the same thing with our Samaritan woman. He calls out her sin, but in a more non chalant way he asks her to go and get her husband, he knows she cannot produce one. HE continues to push in her direction where she gives him half the story.

Does Jesus love this woman? Yes.  He knows the truth and still offers her eternal life. Here is the wonder of God’s grace. Only someone who loves you can look at your past without blinking. Real love means knowing the truth about someone else and reaching out to them anyway. He’s not ashamed of her past but he cannot help her until she gets beyond the shame and admits the truth.

 

This same Jesus chose to eat with sinners, convict royalty, bless the children, and speak truth and grace to all he met. It did not matter how filthy the person speaking looked, how badly they reeked, whether they had shoes on their feet or a place to call home that night. It did not matter if the sin consisted of a lifetime of drugs and addiction, or abandoning children, or murder, the same Christ enters into real and engaged conversation to learn the story and reflect on last BIG IDEA #3 He LOVES her.

 

No matter what position she may or may not have in the commuinity, in this moment and in this place. She is loved and honored in that. There existed berween them 4 different walls that Jesus needed to overcome in order to reach the soul of who she was. There was a spiritual wall===what does she know in her head and what is she willing to embrace through heart and spirit? There is a racial wall, Jesus is a Jew, educated and able to move in other social circles, she is a Samaritan woman and with quite a checkered past. If not completely shunned, she would at least be fearful for her safety. Gender and morality represents the last 2 walls. She is a female, the lowest common denominator is a woman of ill repute. She does not deserve to have this conversation, does not deserve nor would be welcome to gether at the earlier time to gather water. This community is not her friend, they judge and find themselves lucky that they are not her. Yet, instead of condemning her for her life, he moves on to discuss a way to freedom.

 

Part of that truth is accepting grace where it simply is. This Jesus is the same one that rolls up his sleeves and walks right into the neighborhood and interacts with whatever they are grappling with at the time. Some of it is wonderful and celebratory, and other times it is steeped in questions without answers, and anger and betrayal. Jesus promises to walk in the muck and gunk with us and appears to be unafraid and unapologetic about it.

 

BIG IDEA reminder…He WANTS to SEE us, He DESIRES to HEAR from us and ABOUT us, and HE YEARNS to LOVE us==no matter how badly we reek, how tattered our clothes appear, how many times we have made it to worship in a year. He wants us as we are, not all cleaned up and looking pretty.

The story of the Woman at the Well becomes even more remarkable when we see what happens with love empowers another. She becomes a disciple, telling everyone she can about the Messiah and Teacher that she had met. She spoke of the transformation that she felt knowing that this Man held her story and did not condemn her. I imagine Jesus again playing in the dirt as she describes her indiscretions and he seems unaffected when he tells her that he is not going to judge her and to go about her life in a different manner. HE has heard and he has seen who she is and what she can become with the influence of grace, compassion, and love. She responds to that and takes it back to her community and shares what she has learned. She shares who she has become and who she will continue to become because she is willing to share her story, admit it, and live into what it means for her life. Notice that the story does not become her life, it is part of her life, but the central focus of what she understands is Christ saw her, heard her, and loves her.

What WOULD i say?

After I posted my Father’s day message to my sons, my mother asked me via Facebook chat what I would say from a daughter to a father.  The question stumped me.  I have no idea what I would say.  As i worked yesterday, I wished each male a “happy man day” knowing that not everyone is a father, but we all came from one in some fashion.  It is the same with mothers.  Not everyone is a mother, yet we all came from a woman and were given life.  So, what WOULD I say to a father from a daughter….let me try my pen at that one….

 

1)  No hitting, kicking, screaming, clobbering, or taking any anger out on your little girl.  Reserve the physical and verbal displays of anger for working out or a good wood pile.–She will remember a lifetime the comments you make to her.

2)  She needs heroes and you are likely to be the first one she sets her sights on, let her down gently when she realizes you are not perfect–allow her not to be perfect too.

3)  Tell her every day that she is beautiful and smart and capable.  She will doubt this most every day the older she becomes.

4)  Treat her mother with all the love and care that you can, she is watching you for the example of the future mate she chooses.  Help her choose wisely.

5)  Teach her modesty in dress, make-up, and hair styles.  Remind her that her worth does not come from what she looks like, but the genuine nature of her heart.

6)  Show her it is ok to work hard and be strong–likewise allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to show your true emotions.

7)  Encourage her to ask tough questions of herself and those around her, encourage her even more to discover the answers.  Be there for her when the answers are not quite what she expects.

8)  Never take chocolate from a woman.

9)  Keep talking to her as she grows up, a time will come when you will feel awkward around her.  Remember this is a tougher time for her, she need not lose her childhood and her father all at once.

10)  Learn the difference to the names: Father, dad, and daddy.  If you are a daddy know why and count yourself amongst the luckiest men in the world.

11)  Become a daddy, she will need one her entire life and will be too scared to let you know that she yearns for one with her whole soul.

12)  Get in the dirt with her…show her it is right to get dirty and gross and smelly–remind her she is beautiful when she does.

13)  Compete with her in games…whether they be sports, mental, or otherwise…do not always let her win.

14)  Do NOT do NOT do NOT go out with her looking like a complete dork.  This will cause endless embarrassment and she will wonder what she did to make you do that to her.  REMEMBER, she is likely to take everything personally.

15)  Take her out on dates, nice ones.  Show her how to expect to be treated.  She will treasure the time to dress up and be treated like a young woman.

16)  Keep talking to her and making special efforts to connect with her as she ages.  She will fight with identity and her place and all the roles she feels she has to fill her whole life.  Remind her to breathe, often.

17)  Take her mother out and romance her…she will roll her eyes and then journal about it or text on the phone for days afterward.

18)  Let her see you cry, do not apologize when she does.

19)  Show her the appropriate way to be angry, keeping in mind controlled emotion is more powerful when coupled with logic, love, and grace.

20)  Teach her to build….campfires, bed frames, book shelves, make sure it is practical and that it can be decorated by her artful touch if she decides.

21)  Instruct her in changing a tire, pumping gas, changing oil, and basic maintenance.  This application will save her tons of fear when stranded on the road alone.  Take her call when she is out there alone and help calm her.

22) Do not tell her not to cry, be there when the tears have ended and she needs to talk it through, no matter how many times she chooses to “re-hash” the same conversation.

23)  She will love animals, foster this in her.

24)  Touch her in kind and daddy-like ways all her life…she will need that re-connection with you.

25)  Laugh with her, calling her that cute nickname from when she was tiny.

26)  Remember how it felt when she placed her little hand in yours, NEVER forget that…protect that image and that little girl as long as you can.

27)  Teach her to stand up for herself, to fight for what she believes in, and not back down from something she believes is right.

28)  Insects are freaky…take them out.

29)  Include yourself in the conversations even when it “appears” she is not talking to you.  She is watching and noting your reaction.

30)  Treat her brothers like the men you want them to be, instilling a strong sense of family and connectedness–support them when inclined to fight for their sister–bust them when they dishonor her.

31)  Do not let her become the “little princess”  boundaries and the word No have to come…gently and kindly with good reason applied.

32)  heartbreaks are real, hers will be no different.

33)  Show her the importance of faith, listen to her when hers crumbles and she knows not where to turn,

34)  Tell her that you were proud of her at every step and that you are even prouder of the woman and/or mother she has become.  Tell her WHY you are proud of her, and mean it.

35)  Offer to hang with her husband or life partner…connecting with her loved ones shows her you are interested in her life.

36)  Ice cream, dipped in chocolate…WITH SPRINKLES!!!!! Lots of em.

37)  Remind her she has a song in her soul that is uniquely hers…help her sing.

38)  Tell her OFTEN, “You are beautifully and wonderfully made.  And. I. Love You.”

 

that’s all she wrote,

from a daughter,

cahl

 

 

To be or not to Be….

So, the major fundraiser on which I was working as part of a team is over.  It went smashingly.  All the work and collaboration coming together toward a common goal, it was amazing to see.  It was more amazing to watch people as they enjoyed themselves at the event, the energy was palpable.  I had mixed feelings, wanting to see more people there and more cash flow coming in, but one of my challenges is to find the joy in the moment and relish it for what it is.  Ah, the standards I possess.

One item has become clear, above all the titles that I may hold or have held over the years, the overwhelming call that rises to the surface is that of communicator.  If I look at the Strength Finders assessment, I find that WACA fits….Woo, Activator, Communicator, Adapter.  We always knew I was WAC~  As I work with Community Development, it makes sense for me to embrace this idea of Communicator above all.  All the others flow logically into it.  A good communicator can take any message, dream, call, and tailor it for the people that need and want to hear it.  It does not matter if it is written or verbal.  I am grateful to have been trained and gifted in both.  I have spent years searching for the “perfect” title to describe my existence…Eclectic?  Maybe.  Nah.  I am a communicator.

Even if I chose to be a certified Spiritual Director and Chaplain, I still communicate.  I have the privilege to convey a message of hope and forgiveness that we all need to embrace.  I found that marketing and connections proved important in this endeavor and I found them easy fits for me.  Who knew that I would be putting these to work, marketing, months before I graduate with my MDIV.  The truth is, there is ONE that knew the entire time.  There is a sense of liberation that comes in this understanding.  Maybe I do not have to search for the consummate title that will encompass my existence, much less justify it.  Maybe I can be comfortable with effectively communicating the stories I have been given from others, or from my experience to help someone else.

The height of the night for me was not counting the spoils, or taking the pics.  It was the food, although that was WONDERFUL….part of the joy was sitting back and watching people enjoy themselves…hearing the laughter from people who love each other and the mission we represent.  I truly love the team that I work with day in and day out.  My boss and our other comrade are top notch people and I love them like family. We fight, laugh, tease, argue, argue, laugh, work, and love–hard.  Whatever we are doing, we do hard and committed.  We have shared dreams, goals, hurts, frustrations, tears, giggles, laughter, and more dreams.  We have each other’s back and that is worth more than anything in this fear-laden society where one has to be on constant guard.  We do not fear with one another, we do not fear the board we serve..we love them–dearly.  I wish I could adequately communicate how much we would do for them and how honored we are to partner with our board.  Aside from the monetary finances, (which will come–we hope), we are a gifted staff, with people and connections that build us as people and as an organization.

I know this is a more boring blog than what I normally write, and I have not commented in quite awhile.  Grant me some lee-way and I shall continue my writing.  For those interested, I am on chapter 3 of the book, and feel new compunction to complete this project.  I also sold 2 framed pictures recently…more than the pictures, was the story that went with them–that is worth more than the $ amount they brought.

A sidenote, telling those stories, bringing people together, and remunerating the mission of what we are doing was the best part of my night.  I felt alive, I felt real, I felt like me…hand me a chance to talk with people and convey a message and I am the happiest camper.  Now, how doth one receive payment for something like that?  Does one receive payment for that????

Blessings in all your communications, may they impact you to the core! 

SHALOM,

cahl.

Pride, it Goeth.

Pride, it Goeth..

Pride, it Goeth.

<a href="http://http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x7gab9
Pilate And Christ Jesus Christ Superstar by roniyy“>

I feel compelled to scribe more on this topic of pride and identity, especially since it may not be just me that struggles.  One of my favorite artists is U2.  The moment I hear the word pride, I instantly go to the song, inspired by the life and work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I always smile ruefully to myself as the lyrics play in my head and I again commit to be part of making a difference in my generation.  It always serves as a moment of inspiration for me, then the smack-down of the real world sets in and I realize what an attempt that would be.  Still, there is always that flicker of a bigger flame that is fanned.  Much as I would love to shove down the passionate change advocate, she rears her ugly head and demands that I reexamine the chance to set the world on fire.

I have to admit having to examine my motives for fanning that passionate flame.  I have to ask myself if I   be part of change because there is a desperate need to see real and positive change happen, or because I have a need to be elevated?  That is a tough question, one I am convinced the great social and political change artists wrestled.  I hope they struggled, I hope they did and do as much as I feel called to tussle.

It is not an easy question.  I explored it when I first became a teacher.  Did I want to teach for the glory of standing up in front of a classroom and speaking to a new generation?  What were the real reasons that I wanted it?  The fact is, the more I did it, the more in love with “my kids” I fell.  There are many that I have as Facebook contacts, many that have emailed upon marriage, or a new baby, or when life has gotten away from them.  I consider that a holy honor.  There was always that nagging idea of my motivation at the back of my head.  If I were not teaching, what else would I do?  Without that title, who and what was I?

Fast-forward that same notion to 2012.  I entertained the idea of a lead pastor in a congregation and realized about a year and a half ago that was not my intention.  I can do the administrative work, but I would rather not.  Every stinking inventory test that I took confirmed that.  I had a battle of sorts as to what that meant as an MDIV grad if I were not in charge of a congregation…any congregation, including the big ones.  Now as I work on a non-profit and in the mix of all the nitty-gritty work it entails, I find that the question comes into focus again. 

I am forced to ask myself why I am involved, why I feel so passionate in telling the stories of those affected.  Is it the energy of starting something new?   Is it the impact and potential difference that doing the work and telling the stories provides?  What happens if it blows up and nothing happens?  Am I still ok? 

Henri Nouwen, writer and philosopher, invites me to consider a couple of understandings.  Our society relegates us to find our validation in what we own, what we do, what others say about us, and what we believe about ourselves.  Every conflict that I can think of falls into one of those 4 categories.  Either I am at odds with what I am, people say that I am, what I have/or don’t have, or what I do/don’t do.  Most of the conflict I encounter entail ones where I am at conflict with myself.    When I hear other people comment on appreciating me for who I am, I want to scream.

That is correct, I can acknowledge that there are many people in my life that I love like family–to whom I am not related, who would walk through fire for me, simply because I am me.  The concept of that makes me want to tear my hair out.  WHY??? What have I done to warrant such a connection? If that means that I have done nothing to warrant it, that also means that I can do nothing to keep it.  I think that scares me most of all.  As humans, we are conditioned to expect the worst from other people–to expect that given the opportunity, they would destroy us in a heartbeat in order to get ahead.   I spoke to a relative the other day who told me about how someone had gone off at them for no apparent reason.  This person mentioned that it would be ok and necessary to totally cut off people who intentionally hurt another.  I thought that that made sense, but at the same time was so sad.  I know there are many times when I have either intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else.  I also know how bad it makes me feel to know that I did so–regardless of the reason. 

I also know what it feels like to be cut out of someone’s life.  There is no more hollow feeling than to know that a person that once regarded you as either a friend, colleague, or family member no longer believes you worthy of their acknowledgment.  That is the main reason that I cannot stand apathy.  At least when we hate someone/something, we care enough to hate it.  Apathy is a void of caring–it feels so hollow, so empty, so alone.    I would rather someone hate my guts than to refuse to believe that I do not exist.    I have felt that, experienced the painful void of connection.  It stinks in a place that I cannot describe.  It is what makes it almost impossible for me to believe that someone would care about me simply for who I am, not what I do.  I cannot wrap my mind around this concept.

It is also the same reason that I struggle with the idea that Abba Creator would care about me unconditionally and without reserve.  I must have done something to earn it, therefore, I must keep doing in order to make it last.   I know the last statement from a  faith standpoint is wrong, yet my experience shows me different.  If, then, my reasoning and faith are in conflict, one must rise to the forefront of being more right or acceptable.  (sorry, debate training in full gear here)  If my faith is more acceptable, then my reasoning has flaw.  If that is the case, then what I have based my understanding of acceptance as is also flawed.  What do I do with that?  How do I respond?  How do I let go of personal pride long enough to embrace a more faithful understanding of acceptance?  Do I have the courage to do that? 

Someone challenged me to embrace the idea of accepting other people’s care for no other reason then that they care.  This idea scares me to the core.  I am terrified that if I do not perform or meet their standard of my existence, then I will lose their care, and ultimately, their love.  I know intimately the feeling of losing that, and am terrified to risk the gamble again.  You may call out my hypocrisy here as I type this and know full well that I would never hold my children to this standard.  That I tell them each day that no matter what they do, they are dearly loved.  That they are beautifully and wonderfully made.  They know this to their core.  I want to scream from the mountains that of all the ideas that fill them each day, they KNOW this!!!! YES!  Today, that hard work is established.    Even if they become mass murderers (which they won’t), they know that they are loved without expectation, without reserve.

So, what of my pride that will not allow me to breathe in the love from others not related to me?  What of this pride that requires that I push ahead and never let up?  My mother told me something yesterday that hurt the second that I read it.  She mentioned that I have always pushed and pushed and pushed to do it right and perfect and to have it happen NOW–and that I never change.   It was the last statement that hurt so deeply.  It felt like I had been disregarded and written off because I struggle so.  That is my struggle, and not one that she can fix for me.  I am not sure what I would have liked her to say instead, I just know how raw a chord that struck with me.

Again, I refer back to JC Superstar and this silent king that exuded such grace, such compassion.  I want to emulate that.  I want that more than I have wanted anything in the world.  I believe it is the hallmark of some of the heroes of social and faith change that I look to for inspiration.    ” An amazing thing, this silent King.”

I need to sit with that, I need to ponder what that means and what application that has for our world in 2012 as well as in my personal life.  If it was the extreme and rare concept then, it is even more baffling today.  How do I embrace that, and how do I model that for my generation and for those following?  This is a burden I feel intensely, and the flame of passion will not subside.  I pray for the courage to boldly love in compassion and mercy, and to accept it wholly.

Shalom,

cahl.

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