The Day I Wrecked My Bike, or, Paul Revere’s Ride.

I am a patriot. Not gonna lie.

I love the US. I love American history. I love our flag. The Fourth of July, Mom, and apple pie. Love it all.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the weekend with a bike ride from Lexington, Massachusetts, where the first shots of the American Revolutionary war were fired, to Boston, Massachusetts, and then back again to Lexington.

Yes.

On Easter.

We are rebels.

Appropriate, I think.

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The Battle Green in front of the Old Meeting House in Lexington, where the first shots of the Revolutionary war were fired on April 19, 1775.

 

When we parked our cars in Lexington, I picked up a few leaflets announcing Patriot’s Day activities. I was thrilled to find that a reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride into Lexington would be held in town that very night.

I get more excited about a Paul Revere reenactment than any band live in concert that I can think of.

I am a patriot and a rebel.

And a nerd.

I announced to my family that we would be staying in Lexington after our bike ride until 11:30 pm to witness this exciting event. Much moaning and groaning commenced, but I was not deterred.

“Hush,” I said. “We are staying, Paul Revere is going to be here, and you are going to love it.”

More groans.

The bike path in Lexington is an award winning Rail- to-Trails path. If you are a biker and ever visit there, it’s a great ride. Only about 12 miles to Boston through beautiful communities.

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Along the way, it occurred to me that our return would mirror Paul Revere’s famous ride from Boston to Lexington.

I prayed for our country as I rode. That the original godly plan for our nation would be realized. The Land of the Free. Home of the Brave. Justice. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.

It was our first real ride of the year. A high sun and a cool breeze. People everywhere with spring fever smiles, and a city planning to celebrate its patriots.

We rode through Arlington and on to the Charles River across from the Harvard campus in Cambridge. We stopped to rest by the water. Boston was just a few stoplights around the corner.

When we jumped back on our bikes, I started praying again. Angels for our country. Freedom and peace.

My kids swerved left in front of me, and as the last one cleared my view, I saw the cause of their changing course. A man was running toward us with no sign of turning. And I was riding straight for him, a pedestrian game of chicken.

I made a decision in a split second. I pulled my bike on to the pavement from the soft shoulder to avoid hitting the runner. When I did, the front tire caught on the edge and then went full-on serpentine. The path was full of people, and I didn’t want to hit them either. I thought I could brake the bike, and it seemed to be working, so I put my foot down.

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Never do that.

When I planted my foot, the bike was going too fast for me to stop. I saw the bike swing forward and then swerve left in front of me–with my right leg still on it. It twisted my whole body forward around my left leg, and I felt more deep pops in my knee than I could count. The bike threw me back, and I landed on my hip and then bounced over onto my shoulder. I was in so much pain, I think I left my body for one flashing second.

If the runner stopped to see if I was ok, it was in that second. As far as I know, he ran on.

But Good Samaritans are alive and well. The runner did not stop, but he was only one who passed me by. So many people took time to help me.

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The banks of the Charles River, across the street from Harvard in Cambridge, just a few minutes before the accident.

 

I prayed before I hit the ground that I would not have a serious injury.

But I confess that, as I went down,  actually two thoughts went through my mind: One, an arrow prayer, “Oh! God! No injury!” And, two, this gem, “Dangit!  I’m not going to get to see Paul Revere!”

Priorities, people.

A few minutes later, I tried to stand on that knee, and it buckled under me. The ambulance came soon after, and my rescuers lifted me onto the stretcher.

Delirious with pain and adrenaline, “I like your moons,”  I said, pointing to the lunar phase tattoos on the arms of the shaved bald beautiful girl that buckled me into the stretcher straps.

“Why would I want to spend the day with Paul Revere when I can spend the day with you guys? First responders, my heroes!” I said to the guy that rode with me as I patted his knee and prayed for his safety. He smiled at me, only slightly patronizing, looking as young as my daughter.

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Six hours and nine X-rays later, I left the ER with an extension knee cast and a pair of crutches.

My kids pushed my wheelchair out the front door as my husband pulled the van around to pick me up. All day, I had been watching the clock creep toward evening. Eight o’clock, nine o’clock, now almost ten. I was holding out hope that we would be in Lexington  for Paul Revere’s ride and that, since I was injured, my family would do whatever I wanted.

I was not wasting this incident, I can promise you that.

When we got in the van, I said, “I really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh.

Silence.

I said again, “I just so really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh. Sigh.

Silence.

I waited a minute.

Then, “Well, so sad. I guess I won’t get to see Paul Revere.”

 

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Paul Revere’s house. Boston, Massachusetts.

 

My husband’s turn to sigh. He said, “I think it’s crazy, but you are the one who got hurt. You can decide if you feel like waiting until ELEVEN THIRTY at night and then driving home.”

Yes.

I felt like it.

I felt like I had been run over, but I felt good enough to wait for Paul Revere.

We got to Lexington to pick up our cars. My husband stopped by the pharmacy, and I waited and watched the clock. I became aware of fatigue, along with a little nagging sense that this might not be my best idea ever. But I wanted to see Paul Revere. So, so bad.

 

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I wanted to live in a moment of pure passion. To put myself in the place of flawed men of the past and catch the vision they had for our future.

Yes.

It is worth it to me to stay up late and hobble to a restored historical site. To stand on the same ground where blood was shed for my freedom, for our country’s freedom. To catch a little glimpse of what it really meant and what it really means now to be a Patriot, someone who believes in freedom enough to be willing to die for it.

I wanted to stand there for one moment among the minutemen and peer through the shadows at history. I wanted the strength and the courage and the fierce honor to fly through the air and hit me with the force of centuries.

 

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One if by land, two if by sea. The belfry tower of the Old North Church where the lanterns hung to tell Paul Revere of the British approach.

 

Paul Revere was also interrupted on his ride to Lexington, a part of his story that we rarely hear. He was captured by the British in between Concord and Lexington, and I’m sure, for a moment, that he wondered if he would be able to complete his mission. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were waiting for information in Lexington so that they could determine their next move.

The British soldiers weren’t sure what to do with Paul Revere. Apparently they decided he was harmless and took him back with them to Lexington. After a short detainment they let him go, presumably with orders to stop being so rebellious.

Unbeknownst to them, they delivered him to his exact destination.

 

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The house where Revere met Hancock and Adams in Lexington.

 

After his release, he rode straight to the Hancock house to warn John and Sam that the British were in town with warrants for their arrests. He helped them escape just a few hours before the troops marched into Lexington and the first shots of the war were fired.

My family thought we could drive in closer to the house, so I would only have to hobble a few feet. But the streets were blocked, and the guardians of the event were not impressed with my injury. We would have to “pahk in the pahking lot” and walk the quarter mile with everyone else.

We tried to access the house from every possible angle. My family looked earnest in their desire to humor me, and also earnestly exhausted. And the more we drove, the more fatigued I felt. My head hurt. My leg hurt.

“Ok,” I said, “You’re right. I know. We tried. We should go home.”

Back to the parking lot we went for our other car and left the city, my husband in his truck and me driving my van like a tin man, stiff legged and far away from the wheel.

As we drove away, I thought I might cry. I had missed my chance. I might not ever come this way on Patriot’s Day again. I had ridden from Boston to Lexington, raising up a prayer of freedom for our country, a prayer of all that was intended for this nation from the beginning.  And I wanted to end it with the breathless sight of Paul Revere leaping off of his horse, interrupted but unstoppable.

We pulled to the last stoplight on our way out of town, minutes before the great event. I was fighting back tears, and then, out of nowhere in the dark, there he was.

Striding down the street in his long blue coat and tricorn hat, manly ponytail bouncing and dramatic.

I’m sure he saw me. And I’m pretty sure we nodded to each other, a dignified patriotic salute.

***

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Jn15:13

Through all our history, to the last, in the hour of darkness and peril and need, the people will waken and listen to hear the hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, and the midnight message of Paul Revere.  ~ Longfellow

Written on Patriot’s Day, 2017.

The Revelation of Memory: A Process of Emotional Healing

Some things stick so sharp in memory, like blades thrown hard in a turning board.

And those memories reveal more than just the details of an event.

Memories reveal truths about the person remembering them, things we need to look at in ourselves. Rather than make accusations, or lay blame, or look to others for resolution, when a painful memory arises we have an opportunity to see something that has been hidden.

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My earliest memory always troubled me. I saw home videos of myself as a child, giggling and playing. So I know that I had those moments, but that is not what I remember early on.

My first memory is of a family altercation that left my mother in tears.  I remember feeling angry and protective of her, as little as I was, around three years old. That memory would come up at random times and stab away at me again.

I shared the story with women friends last week. We were praying for each other and agreeing with one another’s desire to go to a new level of health and strength. They asked me if I wanted to pray through the memory with them.

“Of course,” I said. “I want to be done with this.”

I have recommended a book several times on this site, and it’s becoming a staple around here. Praying Medic’s book, Emotional Healing in 3 Easy Steps, is so simple that it seems like it can’t be real.  But it works.  I’ve used it alone, with others, and now I’ve had friends walk through it with me.  It’s powerful and deceptively simple.

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My friends were familiar with the book and started praying and talking through the method with me.

It really is three easy steps.  The book is more thorough and gives anecdotes and testimonies, but, basically, you bring up the memory in your mind. You share the emotion that you feel when you focus on the memory. And then you give that emotion to Jesus.  Repeat the steps until there is no negative emotion left, until you feel peace.

When I first focused on the memory, I felt anger. Absolute rage. I remember taking a box of tissue to my mother and being furious that someone would be so mean to her to leave her crying like that.tissues-1000849_640

I saw Jesus standing there.  I gave the rage to Him.

My friend Ginny said, “Ok, now go back to that memory. You are standing by your mother. What do you feel now towards the person who hurt her?”

Disgust. A wave of disgust that felt like it could knock me over. Horrific gobs of disgust.

“Ok,” she said. Give the disgust to Jesus.”

“Ok.” I gave it to Jesus.

“Now go back. What do you feel now?”

Still disgust. Not surprising, really. There was a lot of disgust.

“Ok, that’s ok,” she said. “Sometimes you have to give it to Him more than once. Just say, ‘Jesus, I give you this disgust.'”

And I could not do it.

I’m not even kidding. I could not do it.

It surprised me. I am an emotionally aware person, and I wanted to be healed. But I could not let it go. It was a physical sensation even, a tightness in my throat.

Why would anyone want to hold on to it?

And I didn’t really, but I couldn’t let it go.

The women prayed, and we just waited. I couldn’t say the words. Did I mention that it was 3 am?

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Perfect love doesn’t watch the clock.

It was like digging out a dandelion root. The Holy Spirit was leading me down and down and down to something so deep that I didn’t even know it was there.

I have been to more counselors and pastor’s meetings and prayer groups than I can count. I have read books on healing and had multiple experiences with deliverance in many forms. I have forgiven much. And I am so much stronger than I was. None of it was wasted, and I have been healed of so much pain.

But I was confused that night because I was looking for more pain at the roots of these old things. I thought that when I let go of the disgust, I would feel more pain. But pain and hurt were not present. I’ve been healed of so much of that.

When I finally was able to choke out the words, “I give You the disgust,” it felt like some great covering was wrenched from me. I felt wide open, exposed.

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My friend said, “Ok. You are back in the room. Now what do you feel?”

I thought I would say “pain.” But it wasn’t that.

It was fear.

A sharp and bright little burning flame of fear. A child’s world rocked to the core. It scared me so much, the screaming and the crying. And as a child, I guess I went straight to disgust and anger to protect myself. And then carried it all around for years like a shield.

I think the pain actually came later, as the implications of the problems became more clear, the waste and the disappointment. But in the beginning, it was just simple fear.

Fear is at the root of so much of our junk.

“Ok,” Ginny said. “Give Jesus the fear.”

So I did. That part was easier. But I guess that fear and I go way back. Further than I even thought. It’s a battle I’ve fought for a long time. And the Lord spoke “Lady the Fearless” over me when I asked Him the name of this blog.  He meant it.

He’s speaking “Fearless” over you.

And He means it.

We are getting healed. Together.

***

When you remember something that stabs at you, what is the heart, the soul, the spirit within you trying to say about the past and what needs healing and release?  

Praying Medic’s book can help you.  Find it here.

Perfect love casts out fear.  1John4:18b

And a thank you to the women of Facebook at Lisa Palieri Perna’s Daddy’s Girl conference. You know who you are. May you be richly blessed.

Calling All Daddy’s Girls! Conference in Review.

When you have a vision and talk about it, it has the potential to come alive.

Lisa Palieri Perna of Touched by Prayer saw that happen last week.

Lisa had envisioned a gathering of a group of women, many of them encountering God in an intimate way for the first time.  She prayed over it.  She spoke to other women about it.  She asked for God’s help and for a team to support the vision.

And it happened, on March 17, 2017, just like that.

It was an honor to be there, to watch the women experiencing God’s love and receiving inner healing, finding freedom.

So many women, coming together, just to love.  Maturity, wisdom, generosity, kindness.  And with none of the games that often go along with gatherings of women.

No competition.  No cattiness.  No cliques.

Just love.

When you encounter love like that, Holy Spirit love carried to a certain depth, there is an indescribable peace that fills the room, the interactions, the atmosphere.  A peace that says, “You are accepted.  You are safe here.  You are free here.”

It makes sense.  Perfect love casts out fear.  It brings peace.

The relief that comes along with that kind of peace, it’s also indescribable, I think because we encounter it so rarely in most group settings.  It’s something I pray we will see more and more in our lives.   It’s a kind of permission to be ourselves. It’s something we are all longing for.

Many thanks to Lisa an to all the women who came to serve.  I’m so blessed and encouraged and inspired.

A vision realized is a beautiful thing.

***

The planning for the next Daddy’s Girl conference is already in the works.  Follow Lisa at Touched by Prayer on Facebook to get the deets as soon as they are available!

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  Matt 21:22

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L-R.  Lisa Perna (Touched by Prayer), Margie Moorman (speaker), Mitzi Hanna (writer).  Photo used with permission.

Why Vault 7 is the Most Sherlock Thing to Ever Happen in Real Life

Just so you know, I get that this is serious.

But honestly, it’s also a rush.  After so much opinion and spin in the news, the transparency from WikiLeaks is somehow, at the same time, both terrifying and reassuring.

Whatever happens, whatever the debate, there is no doubt that these are exciting times.

And more than anything, I appreciate WikiLeaks for being one of the few places in our modern media that isn’t talking down to us.  Kind of like Sherlock.  Julian Assange is a Sherlock fan, I’d bet my pipe on it.

Love, hate, or just don’t care about WikiLeaks and the CIA, this is the work of brilliant men, criminal masterminds, heroes, & villains.  And there is a lot of debate about which one is which.

If you haven’t been following the recent (practically nonexistent in the MSM) news about Vault 7, here’s the short version.  This story is the most Sherlock thing I have ever heard in real life.

In February, Julian Assange, founder of the controversial Wikileaks organization, announced the release of new information coming on March 7, 2017.

Some have said that Vault7 got its name from the release date, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that.  Assange loves to speak in clues and riddles.

Assange went dark in October of 2016, not long after the release of the now infamous Hilary emails.  He was presumed dead by some followers, after all, how many high profile people must desperately want to see this man put out of business?  However, Assange has made allusions to a “kill switch” on WikiLeaks.  In other words, he has suggested that there exists an understanding between unknown members of the Assange network, so, were anything to happen to Assange, incriminating files on some world leaders would be released.

This is strange to us who live in a 9-5, bread-and-butter world.  But, to the players of chess in politics and leadership, this is business as usual.  It’s just that, now, it’s finally in the open where we can all see it playing out, thanks to the transparency provided by Wikileaks.

Back to Vault 7.

On March 7, Wikileaks tweeted this encrypted image.

 

 

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And the next morning, the password to decrypt it, “SplinterIntoAThousandPiecesAndScatterIntoTheWind.”

Like all things WikiLeaks, the password has more than surface meaning.  It is an excerpt from a larger quote by JFK referencing the need to dismantle the CIA, which he believed was gaining and abusing power.

That was in the 1960s.

Decrypting the photograph then revealed an image of a piece of artwork covered in phrases in many different languages.  Link to more images and details about clues here at heavy.com.

If the riddle interests you as much as it does me, you can read about it at the link above.

One image after another, hinting at the contents of the Vault 7 release.  A seed vault.  A mailbox.  A jet engine hush house.  Nazi gold.

Now we know that the documents in Vault 7 contain a volume of evidence showing that the CIA has been hacking government and private citizens all over the world.

Some were disappointed that this information was the subject of the anticipated release.

In the current climate, many people consider some measure of surveillance to be expected.  It has been normalized through years of seeing ourselves on recorded video–in stores, elevators, our own phones and devices, etc.

We have been conditioned over time to accept a scenario that was regarded as sinister and unlikely in the famous novel, 1984.

But it appears that there is more evidence in Vault 7 beyond what has become ignored and dismissed as garden variety surveillance.  Evidence that the CIA has overstepped in ways that would trouble even the most jaded and overexposed.

It remains to be seen.  I’m watching for the big reveals.

But it’s clear, if it wasn’t before, that we are in a war.  Whether it feels like it or not.  An information war.  A war that is being fought on the internet, in the media, in entertainment, and technology.

Amid all the noise, Wikileaks’ strategic moves are quietly epic.

The response will, no doubt, be the same.

***

The greatest battles are fought in the mind.  ~Casey Treat

And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.  Mt24:6

Sometimes I Sit Down in the Middle of a Mess and Play Webkinz for an Hour.

I don’t know how.  It just happens.

Two weeks ago, my kids and I drove to Boston to stay with my husband while he works in the area.

We have a great hotel.  I’m blessed.  I love it.  I get to be on vacation while I’m doing life.  It can be hectic traveling so much, but, most of the time, it’s fun.

But Saturday was one of those days that was not fun.  A sprinkler head for the fire system started a slow leak in our hotel bathroom on Friday night.  We put a towel down and watched it to make sure it was the sprinkler and not some child spraying water everywhere.  By Saturday morning, it was obvious.  Sprinkler.  Definitely.  Leaking.

I let the hotel know, and an army of maintenance men showed up at my door.

They wanted us to change rooms.  Just in case they triggered the whole system and made it rain inside.

Ok.  Good.  I don’t want to be in here if it rains.  I don’t want my stuff ruined, and it’s super cold.  Let’s move.  Whee.

Down the hall, a few doors over.  We just got all our belongings wedged in to this room, but so what.  No problem.  Easy.

But then I got down there, and the room looked different.  Everything was dirty.  There were holes in the walls and in the ceiling .  And then I found a piece of surgical tape stuck to the kitchen counter.

I peeled that tape off the counter and stared at it sticking to my finger.

A little tear started to creep out.

I took the tape to the hotel desk.  They were horrified and sent maids and the maintenance guys to our new room.  They had the holes fixed in five minutes.  And the housekeepers did a walk through, but after what I had seen, I didn’t think I could rest until i sprayed the whole thing down with bleach.

I called my husband.  “I need bleach.  And sponges.  Stat.”

He delivered them, said I was awesome, and went back to work.

I looked around at the piles and the dirt and the clothes everywhere.  My youngest was having a meltdown.  She is my type A kid, everything in little rows and neatly labeled.  She was looking for a nail file and couldn’t find one.

“Oh, no, it’s going to be like THIS,” she said.

I bleached the fridge so I could put away food.  Bleached the kitchen floor and the countertops and all the chairs.  Then I sat down with a glass of water and told the kids to bring me my laptop.

Once in a while, I have an urge to play a game called “Pizza Palace” on Webkinz.  Usually at the worst possible time, right in the middle of some domestic disaster that I should be casting out like a demonic plague.

Usually, right about then, I want to play Pizza Palace.

The kids stood around laughing.  They were amazed by me and my mad pizza making skillz.  And a little bewildered.  “Mom?  Do you want us to put away our clothes?”

“Um, yeah.  Whatever.  I don’t care right now.  I’m busy.  Don’t talk to me.  I’m on level 8, and it’s getting hectic.  These penguins are the worst.”

I made my oldest daughter get off her math website.  She was slowing down the internet.

I told them to get out their tablets.  Bewilderment became shock and disbelief.  I never tell them to get their tablets.  I’m always the one taking them away.

We sat around a freshly bleached counter with our gadgets and gamed.  Surrounded by a mountainous mess.

And we laughed.

I cleaned up the mess later.  Bleached the whole room top to bottom and put everything away.

I love what Ginny Wilcox said to me recently, “Children know how to play.”

And we are God’s children.  We get to play.  Yes, we need to work hard and do our best, and that mess had to be cleaned up.

But, anytime I rest, it is a confession of trust and faith that things will work out without me killing myself to get them done.  And if I’m hitting my limit, I need to stop a minute.  I need to play Pizza Palace.

I need to laugh, and put my feet up, and recharge.

Sometimes it’s ok to play.  Right in the middle of a mess.

***

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Neh8:10

Why Milo is Rising and Why You Should Care 

Berkeley burning.

I saw the images, and I was stunned.

I had already dismissed Milo Yiannopoulos, without ever hearing him speak, as an absolute show-off with fabulous hair.  But when Berkeley decided to burn itself down over his visit in January, I had to know what he was saying that was so terrible and incendiary.

I took a crash course in Milo over the next week. If you aren’t familiar with him, Milo is a gay Jewish Catholic British Greek journalist in the U.S. and the U.K.  Read that again if you need to.  I’ll say up front that he is R-rated, and I don’t agree with everything he says.  But, that much, I expected.

What did surprise me was how much of what he said, getting past the bear-baiting and f-bombs, that I did agree with.

I listened to Milo talk about the war on boys in public school.  A personal issue for me since taking my son out of a school that was humiliating him, lying to me, and certain to insist on medication as the path to his success.

I listened to Milo talk about the bullying tactics of third-wave feminism and the importance of truly giving women choices, also a personal issue for me since leaving an academic path to stay home with my kids.  When I had my first child, the academics I knew were visibly disappointed, and I knew the things that would be said behind my back.  A woman that had made the same choice before me had been called “a waste” and her choice “a shame.”  Older women that I knew called me during my baby’s first year and told me over and over, “You know you can go back to work now.  It’s time for you to go back.”  I didn’t want to go back.  I thought feminism was about giving women a choice?

I listened to Milo talk about women proudly videotaping abortions, his support of the Catholic church, his concern for the cultural confusion around the problems of radical Islam.  He was laughed at, screamed at, even assaulted onstage.

And I found myself cheering him on.

For standing up for stay-at-home moms?  For families feeling the pressure to medicate their otherwise healthy boys? For Christians and their right to free speech?

Yes.  I’m cheering him on.

I saw a post on social media saying, “shame on Milo.”  Many headlines emerged after the fires at Berkeley, incidentally, the place, should anyone forget, that birthed the concept of the peaceful protest.

Headlines that read, “Milo Incites Outbreak of Violence at University.”

Last time I checked, we still have a constitutional amendment that guarantees a person’s right to say what they think.  It’s called free speech.  And burning buildings is still against the law.  It’s called arson.

And yet, people are afraid to say much of what Milo is saying, even if they think it.  And as Milo is escorted out of Berkeley for a very real threat to his life, and police stand and do nothing, it starts to look like their fears are founded, that there is indeed a very real war on free speech in our country.

You should care about Milo, because if his right to free speech is threatened, censored, or reframed in the media, your free speech can be, too.

Let me repeat:  Protestors throw fire into a publicly funded building and the main media headline is “Milo Incites Violence at Berkeley”?

Here’s the thing:  Milo never spoke that night.

He didn’t get a chance.  Rather than shut down the violence, police let it rage, and Milo was taken off of the campus.

You should care about Milo, because if his right to free speech is threatened, censored, or reframed in the media, your free speech can be, too.

I hesitated to do this blog. Considered keeping my own mouth shut on this topic. Google is censoring Milo’s name, so anything containing it is damaged in SEO. But one great thing about being small is that you don’t have much to lose.

And this is Lady the Fearless.  I can’t be quiet for fear of speaking up.

True freedom is always associated with free speech. I’m for freedom.  I’ll support free speech whether I agree with all of it or not.  And I’m not running to a safe space if I feel challenged. I am an adult.  I do not need play dough to recover from hearing someone else’s opinion.  And I don’t plan on starting a fire if someone says something shocking.  Call me crazy.  I just don’t think play dough and fire are the right avenues for me.

But I do feel suddenly like raising my voice in a new way. It feels weird. All fluid and like I scare myself a little. Like I might say anything.

It feels like freedom.

***

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2Cor3:17

Jr. High Gym Class. Oh, the Horrors.

Gym class was the worst.

No.  Wait.

Seventh grade gym class was the worst.

The heat.  The clothes.  The coach’s shorts.

Our locker room was concrete blocks, painted–no–slimed is a better word, a pale and institutional mucous pea green.  So shiny.

I hated it.  I can’t think of a strong enough word, so I’ll settle for hate, but I mean, I hated it.  I dreaded it.  It became nearly a phobia.  Maybe a full-on phobia.

I was never a great runner as a teen.  I discovered later that I had a mild case of asthma.  It would have been nice to know back then, why I always came in last, why I couldn’t breathe.  It would have been nice to be able to tell the coaches, with their barely restrained eye rolls, as they clutched their stopwatches and waved the stragglers in.

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At home we played some mean badminton on the weekends.  But softball, football, volleyball, basketball?  Ummmm, no.  Never.

And it didn’t help that I went almost my whole seventh grade year without glasses.  Even though my prescription is in the -5 category.

I did fine in my classes, I just couldn’t see a softball coming to save my life.  At least not until it was close enough to hit me.  Nothing like throwing a softball at a blind kid and telling them to run.  “Come on, kid!  Catch it!”

I spent that six-week-unit out in left field.

Literally.

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It didn’t help that I had gone to a friend’s house the summer before, and a bunch of kids there thought it would be fun to play softball.

I have learned that some things are not fun for me.

Softball is one of them.  Also Starbucks at 6 am.  I don’t get it.  Not fun.

They got a game of softball together in the front yard.  And I went out to left field.  My destiny.

But my friend forgot to tell me that her dad had strung up a single strand of electric barbed wire that was about knee-high on a twelve-year-old.  He put it there to keep the cows out of their yard.  I grew up in Arkansas and, hot wire, it’s a thing.  But I lived in town–no cows, no barbed wire.  I didn’t see it.

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When the ball came my way, I decided I’d actually try to play.  Unlike gym class where I usually wandered off to the bushes in the middle of an inning.

I took off running, stretched up, arms out, glove open like a cradle.  I was going to catch it, one more step, and I would be right under it.  The kids were shouting.  I thought they were cheering me on.

And then.

I connected with the barbed wire, and those electric barbs sunk deep in my knee.  And on a hot wire, I was stuck there a second, shocked and vibrating.

When I finally pulled back and broke the circuit, I was done. Just done. The little white ball rolled innocently to a dip in the pasture.  A cow gazed at me, chewing, and looked away.

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I heard my friend running behind me, “I was trying to tell you!!  So sorry!  I thought you would see it!”

Well, I could see it now, thanks, but just barely.  One string of wire against a green and brown lawn doesn’t exactly stand out.

I was over it.  I completely ignored her.  I dropped the glove on the ground and started walking to the house.  Forget softball.  Forever.

Blood streamed down my leg.  I wasn’t even embarrassed.  I was just done.

I went into the house.  I probably should have had stitches, but I didn’t want to deal with it.  I didn’t show my mom.  I stuck a bunch of bandaids on my knee and never looked back.

After that, I hated anything to do with Phys. Ed. even more.  As if.

I did the least activity I could and found all kinds of excuses to sit out.  I slow counted my crunches and my cotton pickers. I faked sicknesses.  I hung back.  I made it through with a B grade, some coach’s mercy.  And I still had to take two more years of gym class.  I limped through it and was never more relieved than when that last credit was done.

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Fast forward a few years, and my daughter asked me if she could play softball.  I said yes.  She had a friend on the team.  They giggled and wore matching shirts.  They liked meeting each other at the softball field and getting juice boxes after the games.

The first time I visited the field, the wind blew and shook the chain link fence.  The rattle of the metal was Pavlov’s bell, in a bad softball field kind of way.  I broke out in a sweat, and a mild panic rose  up in me.

Shame is an awful feeling.

It takes everything.  Freedom, joy, delight.

When that fence rattled, it took me back to all those years of being picked last, softballs flying toward me that I could not see.  I hated taking my daughter to those games.  I could barely watch, and the rattling of that fence rattled me.  I stood outside the group of moms, trying to focus on my daughter, sweating, and counting the minutes til the game would end.

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One afternoon, I stood and listened to the fence jangle, metal rings on metal rings in the wind, and I watched my daughter play.  She was the sweetest thing, eight years old, all unicorns and cupcakes.  Her smile was so big I could see her teeth from the sidelines.  She was having so much fun.  Out in left field.

The other kids were tearing it up.  Hitting the ball hard, running for dear life, sweating, red faced, focused.

And all the while, my daughter and her friend were lying down on the ground, looking at the sky.  Making dirt angels.  Picking daisies.

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No pressure.  No shame.

And something fell away from me, that fast.

My heart reconditioned in one soft and sunshiny moment.  And that chain link fence suddenly sounded like a song.

It has happened to me over and over again, walking through an old ugly thing in a new way with my kids.  Their joy heals me.  Everything is reframed.  New memories push the old ones away.

What a gift.

***

Children are a gift from the Lordthey are a reward from him. Ps127:3

A Willing Vessel: 9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

I love movies.

Not all movies.  But the well done and uplifting ones, I love those.  The wisdom of a lifetime compressed into two short hours:  Seabiscuit, Queen Elizabeth, and William Wilberforce, and now, Bernie Webber, from start to finish, in the time it takes to paint my nails.

I’m grateful.  I need all the life-school I can get.

The Finest Hours is based on the true story of the most daring small boat rescue in Coast Guard history (Spoiler Alert).  It’s a simple film, easy to watch unless you are upset by rollicking ocean scenes.  It is not complex in the sense of subplot or psycho-drama, but it is a great tribute to a group of heroes who faced their fears, not to promote themselves, but to save the lives of 33 men stranded on one half of a ship destroyed by a raging storm.

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If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that Chris Pine, also cast in recent years as the new Captain Kirk, is almost unrecognizable as the windchapped and head ducking rule-follower, Bernie Webber.

I love seeing actors lay down their vanity.  It’s a different kind of bravery.

The movie takes place on a night rocked by terrible winter storms and is based mostly around a Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts.  Not only one, but two tankers were torn in half by the storm that night.  Most thought that Bernie and his crew were being sent out on a suicide mission when they went out to help the S.S. Pendletion.

Throughout the movie, I was struck with Bernie’s absolute unwavering determination.  He and his crew were in a tiny open boat, sometimes completely submerged in water, four men on a huge and angry ocean.  I watched it twice.  And some things stood out to me about courage in the face of a challenge.

9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

 

1. Face your fears, and then do it afraid.

Bernie’s fiancée, Miriam, is afraid of boats and water.  When he finds out, he immediately wants her to get on a boat.  Bernie tells her, “We all get scared out there.” Don’t stuff feelings, admit them.  Bernie does not cover up his fear.  He does what he has to do in spite of it.

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2. Keep it simple, and shrug it off if you have to.  

Miriam says in reply, “I’m not scared of the water, just what’s underneath.”  Bernie shrugs and smiles and says, “Just more water.”

And later, when everyone around him tells him that he will die if he goes on the mission, he shrugs again, respectfully, and responds, “The Coast Guard says you got to go out.  It doesn’t say you have to come back in.”

Whatever it is, don’t overthink it.

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3. Knowing your why helps with your how.

Bernie joined the Coast Guard to be a protector.

And so had his crew.  They all volunteered.  A Coast Guard officer has the ability to command a crew, but Bernie didn’t have to take unwilling sailors.  One volunteer, Ervin Maske, says, “Well, someone has to go out there and save those guys, right?  That’s why I signed up.”

If you’ve never written a personal mission statement, it’s a helpful exercise.  When life gets distracting, difficult, and confusing, I go back to my mission statement.  It helps me know what decision fits with my ultimate purpose; it helps me remember who I am when I’m being pressured to be something else.

It helps me choose my battles.

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4. So does being prepared.  

Show up, and work hard, even if you don’t know the end game.  Bernie had been on rescue missions;  he had completed his training and knew the local waters well from his patrols.  He could not have anticipated the shipwreck that particular night, but by doing what he was good at every day, getting better, gaining skill and knowledge, he allowed God to prepare him for the biggest rescue of his life.

When the time comes, it goes a long way to know that you have the skill you need to do the job He’s asking you to do.

The years of training and boating allowed God to use these four men.  At the same time, in some ways they weren’t experienced enough.  Just showing up with the knowledge you have is half the battle.  He can use a willing vessel.

As Heidi Baker says, “If you don’t quit, you win.”

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5.  Be singleminded.

Once the leaders in the film make up their minds, they stay with their decisions.  Bernie Webber, Station Sergeant Cluff, and Chief Engineer Sybert on the shipwrecked S.S. Pendleton, all are singleminded men, even in the face of raging criticism and undermining.  And they insist on unity from their teams, that everyone around them be singleminded as well.

Though these men are surrounded by doubt, they do not allow themselves to be distracted and lose focus. In this particular situation, it was key.

If any of them had wavered, many men would have died.

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6. Courage doesn’t come from our peers.

The men at Chatham Station tell Bernie that he should pretend to follow Cluff’s commands, to motor around the harbor, and then come back in and say he couldn’t get out.  Bernie tells them thank you.

And then he goes out anyway.

As Praying Medic said to me recently, “Most friendships are temporary.  I can’t change what I believe just because a friend asks me to.”

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7. At the same time, it helps to have at least one person that believes in you.

Chatham Bar, a shallow sandbar off the coast, was also known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”  It was difficult to cross, especially in a storm.  Bernie pauses when they reach the Bar and looks at the huge waves crashing toward them.  Engineman Andy Fitzgerald calls out, “We got faith in you, Skip!  Anytime you’re ready you just go, ok, Bernie?!”

Bernie wants to go, but he is unsure at times.  He knows what is at stake, and he knows his decisions put his crew at risk.  Fitzgerald’s cheering strengthens Bernies’s resolve.

Courage doesn’t come from friends, but believing in each other goes a long way to bolster courage.

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8.  Don’t give fear center stage.

On the S.S. Pendleton, Chief Engineer Sybert plans to run the ship aground and wait for help.  Another sailor, Brown, berates him and questions his decision, implying that he cares more about the ship than saving the men.  Sybert replies, “I got a life, same as you.  I’m scared, too, Brown.  Just don’t see the point in sitting around and talking about it.”

At the same time, on the Coast Guard boat, Richie Livesey is shouting at Bernie everything that is wrong, that they should go back. But Bernie already knows that they are in danger, that they have lost their compass, that the storm is getting worse.  When Fitzgerald hears Livesey, he goes from supporting Bernie to agreeing with Livesey, “Maybe Richie’s right!  Maybe we should just go back!”

Once spoken, Richie’s doubt becomes contagious.

It’s the only time Bernie shouts.  He will not listen to doubt or make a decision based on fear.  “We aren’t giving up on ’em! Not on my watch!”

Don’t give fear all the air time.  Give hope the sound instead.

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9. Faith, not luck, is on your side.

The men on the S.S. Pendletion pray when the ship is torn in two.  Later Brown yells at Sybert, “This ship is just bad luck!”  Sybert replies, “It’s got nothing to do with luck.”

Bernie Webber’s father was a pastor, and Bernie considered the ministry before he joined the Coast Guard.  Bernie always said about that night, “The Lord’s hand was on my shoulder.”  (ChristianNews.net)

In one of the few scenes that is not completely true to the story, Fitzgerald sings an old sailor song, and all the men join in, a sign of solidarity and a way to strengthen themselves.  In reality, they did sing, but not a sea shanty.  They sang the old hymn, Rock of Ages.

Bernie had a strong inner life.  He leaned on faith to do the impossible.

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One last thing that struck me as I researched this rescue was the absolute humility of these men.  Bernie always gave credit to the whole crew, even refusing a gold medal unless the crew received the same honor. One of the men’s wives didn’t know the full story of the rescue until years later. They chose bravery and self sacrifice, it was how they saw themselves.  And then they just lived it, without asking for glory.

It’s a beautiful story.

If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you learned from this film in the comments.

If you haven’t, it’s on Netflix right now.

Enjoy.

***

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.  Jn15:13

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.  Phil2:3

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle–victorious.  ~Vince Lombardi

The Best Possible Light: Respond to Others and Change Yourself

Sometimes, the places that hold criticism and neglect shock me.

Even though I guess I should know by now, I can’t help hoping that some relationships will change one day.

In the same way, sometimes the places that hold  encouragement and cheers surprise  me as well.  Sometimes a total stranger sees us more clearly than anyone we know.

I remember getting off the phone with someone one time and thinking, “Wow, after the things they said, I could be really hurt, and mad, and offended right now.”  And then, something else took over, and I thought, “But.  I just don’t want to be.”

It was a turning point for me.  I realized I had a choice.

Practicing that choice is a practical way to change everything about my day, my feelings, even my physical health as I refuse to allow stress and pain to take over my life.

I realized that I like being happy more than I like being offended.  I like having peace and moving past insults without having my day interrupted by anger.  I like enjoying my kids instead of taking out other people’s mistakes on them.

And I love thinking of all the people who have hurt me as their best possible selves, seeing them in the best possible light.  I love imagining the fun we would have if we could all be our best selves with each other, all the time, every day, no matter what.

It will be that way in heaven.  I’m looking forward to it.  Until then, we have a choice.  God, help us choose well.

***

How do you choose to move past hurtful things?

Count it all joy… when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  Jas1:2-3  ESV

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  Jas1:2-4 NLT

13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

Friday the 13th.

Mine was great.  How was yours?

I’ve never been especially superstitious, but I do remember a time when numbers, bridges, black cats, and ladders made me think twice.  Now they make me smile.

So, in honor of Friday the 13th and all the good gifts God gives on any given day, here are

13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

  1. Positive messages.  Start pumping them in.  Right now.  Whatever.  Whoever.  A comedian you love, songs, speakers, TED talks, podcasts, redemptive movies and television shows.  Tons of great preachers have free videos on YouTube.
  1. Pump OUT the positive messages.  Fill up on joy to spread joy.  Make yourself a veritable font of joy.  LAUGH.  Joy is strength.  Learn from people who make you laugh, listen to speakers who make you laugh, create a culture of humor around you.  Plan to make someone else laugh.  You reap what you sow.  So, instead of ruminating on negative statistics, politics, news, gossip, and complaints, sow some joy, and reap some strength.couple-1846208_640
  1.  If fear does not budge, you may need a deep healing work in your life.  Most Christians believe that God does deliverance, in other words, cleanses us of any spiritual influence that is causing fear and replaces it with peace.  Get counseling from someone who understands emotional healing and deliverance.
  1. Hope.  For something.  Believe that things can get better.  Believe that you can be free and victorious.  Believe that your dreams can come true, in some form.  Believe that you were made with a plan and a purpose and that God has not brought you this far to drop you.
  1. Do something.  Don’t give up.  Don’t back down.  Just keep swimming.  Forward movement is always better than wallowing in emotion.  Remember, no matter how little you are able to do, doing something means you are running circles around the guy sitting on the couch.  running-573762_640
  1. Raise up your voice. Talk back to anxiety.  Recite scripture.  Just say “no.”  Just say “Jesus.”  Say something, anything, to cheer yourself on and give yourself much needed strength.  The most powerful people I know speak over themselves constantly.  It’s a habit that has to be learned and practiced—put up post it notes with verses and sayings, and then SPEAK THEM!  Don’t let random thoughts rule your life.
  1. Move in the opposite spirit. This means that when circumstances look bleak, you look for the rays of sunshine.  Stop blaming everything on the devil and looking for demons in every drawer.  It is not about being Pollyanna, it is about looking for the Easter egg, the silver lining, the hidden treasure of goodness, and focusing on that instead of anything else.  If you can’t see it, ask God to show you.  Ask Him to tell you what moving in the opposite spirit looks like right now.
  1. Watch the crowd you hang with. If everyone around you is constantly spewing negativity, fear, and doubt, it is going to be harder to find courage.  You don’t have to drop everyone, but make your inner circle a circle of courage.  active-1822704_640
  1. Watch the influences you allow. So many of our emotions flow from things we did yesterday or last week, or things that happened to us years ago.  We can’t control everything, but we can control some things.  What are you reading, listening to, watching, thinking about?  Watch your responses to movies, conversations, news reports, etc.  How is your heart rate?  Are your palms and pits cringing with sweat?  Are your shoulders tense?  Do you feel restless and wish you could get away?  Are you reading/watching/listening out of obligation or peer pressure?  What is your body telling you?  Listen, and limit influences that rob you of strength.
  1. Love and draw near to God and draw identity from Him. The more time spent in His presence, the more like Him we will be.  There is no anxiety, fear, stress, or frustration in God.  los-cabos-68861_640
  1. And, as God reveals His identity to you, saturate in that. Pay attention to His love languages with you, like armor, doves, hearts, thunder, etc.  What do “God winks” look like to you?  And then watch for these things.  Billboards, radio, people, little signs.  Wear them, find clothing that reminds you of what He’s shown you.  Jewelry, stickers, artwork, furniture.  Let Him weave His message into every part of your life.  Write down every instance and reminder in a journal, and pull that baby out and read it often, not just on the bad days.  And spend time with people who understand identity.  Celebrate these encounters and reminders with them.  It’s amazing and encouraging to see how much He is communicating with us when we plug in.
  1. Forgive.  Yourself and others.  Confess something if you need to.  Let old and new things go.  Quickly.  Don’t ruminate and take offense.  God is for you.  Forgive and move your focus to the plans God has for you.
  1. Know your why! You’ve heard me say it before:  Your why will help you with your how.  Why do you want to beat fear?  Who is watching your example?  Kids, family, friends?  What are your dreams?  What do you long to do?  As the old question asks, “What would you do with your life if you had no fear?”  Knowing why you’re fighting the good fight will help you push through the hard days.

What habits do you cultivate to keep anxiety at bay and your mind on things above?  When anxiety creeps in, how do you kick it out?

***

Anxiety is doublemindedness.  –Neil Anderson

Peace I leave with you; my peace I leave with you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not be troubled, and do not be afraid.  Jn 14:17

Goodbye, Fear. Hello, Love.