Tag Archives: battle

Never Shaken: Thoughts on The Media and the Dallas Shooting Tragedy.

For one second last night,  I was afraid to walk through my neighborhood.

My husband wanted to take me to dinner.  There are several restaurants close by, so when we go, we usually walk.

But for one second, I felt glowing white.

Like a ring on a bullseye.  Shoot here.

When I recognized the way my mind was wandering, I was so mad.  Mad at the situation.  Mad at myself.

Bullies make me mad.

There are many bullies in this world, but, today, I think the biggest bully is the media.

I’m not even convinced the young man in Dallas shot those officers.  “I want to kill white people?”  It just seems too convenient.

Whether he did or didn’t, I guess the point is that I don’t believe even half the news I hear.  I don’t know anyone who does.

And yet, it just rolls on and on.   And we keep watching.

And we know we are being manipulated.  And we keep watching.

We absolutely need to deal with issues at the roots.  Especially as the church.  Every voice needs to be heard, and there is no doubt that there is work to be done.

But the endless irresponsible newsreels are not helping.  They are bullying us into a corner.

I was encouraged to hear of a report on NPR that most people interviewed are sick of the sensationalism and ready to turn it off.  They just haven’t turned it off, not quite yet.

The headlines always seem to disintegrate.  From simple facts to screaming emotion.  Anything for ratings.  Anything to keep the audience reaching for one more view.

In the Dallas headlines, today, I see words like “division, fear, and terror.”

It is a tragic thing.  The victims deserve our honor and our grief.

But division?  Fear?  Terror?

That’s not news.  That’s bad prophecy.

Honor and grief and even outrage are part of this process.  But, division, fear, and terror–these are my choice.

Not to diminish the pain in Dallas in any way, but tragedy happens every day all over the world.  Why should the media dictate to me what my emotion is supposed to be today?

I will not let the media tell me that I should be anxious and worried today.  I will not let the media tell me that my world view should be different today, and then change again tomorrow, based on the ever-shifting sand of ratings.

I don’t allow anything to tell me that I should be anxious and worried on any day.  Why give the media special power or authority over my emotion and my state of mind?

Unity and love.  Deep solutions.  Conversations.  Voices heard.  Changes made.  These will not happen in the climate that the unchecked media will create.

I did walk to dinner with my husband last night.  “If  I die, I die,” I thought and put on my lipstick and marched out the door.

And strolled through crowds of beautiful people.  Every possible expression of Divine Creativity.  Every imaginable shade of skin, every impossible color of hair.  And we smiled at each other and said hello.  And we ate together.  We broke bread together.

I could have stayed home.  I could have changed my plans.  I could have missed a great night enjoying the people around me.

As a friend of mine says, there really is only one race.  The Human Race.  Breaking bread together.

***

I pray we can get the facts we need and filter them through the eyes of love.  I pray we know when to turn off the news and ask The One Who Made Us what He has to say about it all.

I pray we do not let ourselves be bullied, by media or any other thing.

I pray we are filled with the courage that passion can bring, passion for something bigger than our own personal safety or desires.  And do what it takes to see real change.  I pray for miracles.  We are catalysts for miracles.  I pray we focus on love and are willing to look inside ourselves and do the hard work that has to be done. 

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Psalm 112:6-7

Jedi Training Academy

Oh, Disneyland.

I know.  An overpriced tourist trap with two hour lines and twelve dollar soft drinks.

And I love it.  No apologies.

The rides, the lights at night, the beauty and the attention to detail absolutely everywhere.  The deliriously happy kids, and adults laughing like they haven’t laughed in years.

One of my favorite Disney attractions is the Jedi Training Academy.

I adore this show.

The set up is this:  a great number of powerful padawans are identified and brought to the Jedi Training Academy.  These padawans range in age from 3 years to 12 years old.  They are dressed in the brown robes of the Jedi, with sparkling princess costumes and Spiderman tennis shoes peeking out from underneath.  They are issued light sabers and given lessons on how to battle their enemies.

Not the least of which is the importance of fighting fear.

The teachers prepare the children with different light saber maneuvers.  They show them how to swing, duck, and attack.

And they remind them of the importance of believing that they can win.  Of knowing that they have the advantage over the dark side simply because they are on the side of light.

Have faith, young padawan.

After walking the kids through a few training routines for the crowd, the students are arranged in front of the stage in two lines.

In a cloud of smoke and a flash of light, the stage transforms into a spaceship.  And two villains from the dark side emerge, sometimes the Seventh Sister, sometimes Darth Maul, and always, Darth Vader.

The kids snap to attention when the villains appear.

They are Disneyfied villains–down to the last gleaming button–in black fabric, swirling capes, and tall wicked boots.  And they are miked to a sound system, and they are scary.  That Darth Vader breathing machine, that nebulizer of death, wheezes over the loudspeakers with a sharp and evil intent.  The Seventh Sister moves over the children like a panther.  They threaten and posture, and the kids back up a little, their dragging and playful light sabers held suddenly at attention.

But the Jedi instructors are still there, shouting direction and courage.  The kids glance at them and nod and look back at their opponents.  There is the occasional smile or older boy who has played this game before, but to most, it is serious business.  This battle is real to them.

And one by one, these toddlers and youngsters line up to give this fight their best shot.  Darth Vader towers over them.  The Seventh Sister is light on her feet and hard to catch.  Some of the smaller children stagger back at first, eyes big and round.

But what amazes me is that, of the one hundred children I have seen go through this process, I have never seen one cry or even look out into the crowd  for a friendly face.

They may hesitate, and their fear is real, but these little guys dig deep.

And they stumble forward, they swing tentatively, and then harder, and then harder, and they duck and they jump as the Master calls out direction and help.  “You can do it!  Fear not!  Swing to the left!  Cut to the right!  Cut to the head!”

And, miraculously, the kids win every time.

Darth Vader, Darth Maul, the Seventh Sister, they all stomp away, furious and defeated.

Then, the Jedi Master teaches the children one more thing.

“For your last lesson, know that even if you win the fight, you have not fully beaten your enemy if you fear him.  It is actually fear that you must defeat, not another living being.  When you beat fear, there is no opponent that has power over you.”

When you beat fear, there is no opponent that has power over you.

You’ve got this, young padawan.

Your Master will never leave you.  You will never face an opponent alone.  You are guaranteed every victory when you fight for light.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  Is 41:10

A Good, Good Father.

These dads.  The difference they make for mothers and for children.

A great father brings identity.  The lack of a good father can steal it.

A study published in 2013 says that the absence of fathers in mice   causes brain damage in offspring, in the part of the brain that controls social and cognitive behavior. The implication is that the same could be true for humans.

But, we already know that.

Children do not need scientists to tell them how much pain is caused by an indifferent or angry parent, how they question everything about  who they are and why they were born when a parent is cruel or habitually careless.  Or how much fun a Dad’s love can bring, and confidence, and courage.

The wonderful inverse of this fact is that the presence of healthy fathers encourages healthy brain development in children.

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The good news is that, no matter the condition of our earthly fathers, each one of us has a devoted father in the form of Abba God.  He made us and loves us and likes us, even in our brokenness and mess and mistakes.

No exceptions.

And in that unconditional love, we get to see our worth. Our value.

When my husband came in to my life, he saw me for who I was.  He saw my wounded and damaged heart.  He saw my hopelessness in relationships.  He saw my cynicism and my anger.  And he promised to love and cherish me in spite of all of it.  And he has done so, every day since.

I knew he was the one when he came over to paint my house.

I was in the middle of trying to fix up a horrible dump that I was renting in a terrible neighborhood.  I was young enough to think that painting the brown walls a pale yellow would make up for the strange man that walked through my yard at night, whistling ballads from another time under my window.

That one act of kindness would have been enough to show me who he was, but then he showed up with a box of tools.  And he went through the whole house fixing everything.

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He worked two jobs during the week, and, on the weekends, he drove two hours to come to my city. When he wasn’t working on my house, he came to the mall and waited for me to finish my shift so he could take me to dinner.  He walked the mall while I worked and bought me presents to pass the time.

He wasn’t flashy. He wasn’t a smooth talker.

He was good.

He was quiet.  He was tall and tan.  He was dark-haired, but there was such a golden glow about him that my mother always called him blond.

He was generous, and he was a caretaker.  “He would make such a great dad.” I remember being surprised at the thought.

A great dad. That was one of the most important things to me that he could be.

I wasn’t even dating him at the time, and he still wanted to be around me, no agenda.

I felt safe with him.  I didn’t feel that queasy twinge of regret, vaguely wondering why I was with him.  I didn’t feel a mania either, but something different, something deep and sure.

He was unexpected.  And yet, he felt like someone I had known all my life.  He always says he wished we met and played in the sand box as kids.  He wanted to share his whole life with me, even the moments that had already passed.

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I was dating someone else, and once, just once, he told me, “I hate to see you with him.  You deserve someone who treats you better.”

And then he waited.  And he worked on my house.

And I came to my senses, and I left the other guy.  And I went with him.  And he treated me better.  And we got married.  And we had a bunch of kids.  And he’s still treating me better, all the time.

And watching him be a great dad to our kids is one of the best gifts of this life.

So thankful for my good man and for all the good men.

You make a difference in this world just by doing your best, giving your all.

You can be so hard on yourself.  Please know that just being here means you are helping us live our best lives.  Even in situations where you can’t be there all the time, thanks for making yourself known with cards and calls and texts and gifts.  Everything you do to reach out, we notice, and it has an impact.  Nothing is wasted with a child, with relationships.

Early mornings and late nights at jobs that are sometimes boring and challenging and infuriating and uncertain.  Trading your time to pay for football helmets and baby food and stuffed animals and college tuition.  For the things a family needs, for houses and medicine and braces and cars.  Thanks for fixing everything around here, for opening jar lids and for cleaning all the yucky messes.

Thanks for being generous with yourself.  For giving your all and not giving up when women are moody and the kids are testing.

There is a song about the way the love of a good father influences his children.  I love this line,

You’re a good, good father.  

It’s who You are,

It’s who I am.

It’s who I am.

The love of a good father defines his children as good.

Thanks for your love and for all that it carries.  Thanks for showing us that we are good.

Thank you for everything.

Sometimes I Consider Throwing in the Towel, but That Would Only Make More Laundry for Me.

Laundry.

Sometimes I keep up with it, homemade dryer sheets and all.  And I even enjoy it, the daily rhythm of sort, wash, dry, and  fold.

Other times, I wash and dry as many loads as I can before I stop and fold.  When I’m in a laundry-folding-procrastinating-phase, sometimes I pile load upon load upon load on top of the dryer.  It becomes a game, how many loads can I pile before the whole thing starts to molt, scattering socks and dish towels as the dryer does its thing, rumble and toss.

And then, when the pile threatens to come crashing down, I start stuffing it.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  Cram it down.  Not a game anymore, this is war.  Me against gravity, my silent protest against years of housekeeping.  Screw it.  I was made for more than this.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  One more day, I bet I can make it one more day.

My sister says that I manage my laundry like I manage my feelings.

Sometimes, I keep up with them.

Other times.  Well.  You know.

Stuff, stuff, stuff.

And I am not aware of them until life does its thing, and I feel it, and I am rumbled and tossed, and I am scattered.  The pieces fall where they may and land, jaggedly, on whoever stands the closest.  I used to land on my kids, hard and loud, but the pieces of me fall more evenly, now, and more in a heavenly place.

This is the post that didn’t want to be written.  It still doesn’t.  It is still stuffed down inside of me.

Some things are crammed in the middle of the pile, like laundry Jenga.  Pull too hard on those jeans, and everything explodes.

You just have to start at the top and work down.  I’m working my way down.  Some layers get stuffed in there for so long, they are molded in that stiff dried clothes formation.  How does that even happen?  It’s so weird.  A soft washcloth, let it dry all wonky in that hard little wad, and it’s never the same again.

Thankful for the great laundry service in the sky.  Fold me, Lord.  Deliver me from the endless loads and hard little wads that try to take over my days.

Jesus.  Your load is light.

Speaking of a light load, I have a few left to do today.

See you on the other side of the teetering tower.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . .  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  Mt 11:28, 30

{WATCH} Compassion Hot Sauce Challenge

My son loves the show Brain Games.  If you haven’t seen it, it is fast paced and entertaining and puts different psychology studies on display and to the test.  Pop psychology at its best and, possibly, worst.

But it is an introduction to certain concepts, and we enjoy it.

Once in a while, he asks me to sit and watch an episode with him.

This week he wanted to share a Brain Games study on compassion.  (If you are in a hurry, start at 3:50 and watch the last minute and a half.)

As I watched, I laughed and felt convicted.

And also hopeful.

I have been that person pounding on my horn.  Nothing like L.A. traffic to make you lose your cool.  And compassion.

Last week, I shared that I have also been that compassionate person at times.  And have questioned it.  Until I look over and see how deeply touched a person can be by an unexpected kindness.

This episode of Brain Games gives evidence that suggests just how touching, and contagious, compassion can be.

When confronted with negativity, your kindness can change everything, even if you aren’t involved in any way in the original problem.

I think we inherently know this, somehow, and it is so biblical, but I love seeing the science that backs it up.

And the Death-level hot sauce analogy is just so fitting, don’t you think?

How much “hell” are we willing to give another person back when they hurt us or mess with our day?

Who are we serving when we seek revenge?

Who are we serving when we choose compassion?

I’m praying that, more and more, I will be that person who chooses compassion, with or without the kindness of another person’s influence.

Compassion literally makes the world a less scary place.

It has to start somewhere.

It has to start with someone.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great… Luke 6:35

CLICK HERE  to view Brain Games Compassion Hot Sauce experiment (all green words in articles indicate links).  

 

 

You’ve Got to Get Back On. Nancy Velvet Forever.

So.  It happened like this.

I was about eight years old, madly in love with all horses.  My uncle had a farm, and he let me ride all over his land.

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I could have told you then that bliss smells like horse sweat and pine needles.

But, everybody knows that.

Sunlight streaming through shade trees, a peaceful stallion grazed in the dusty light.

I sat quietly on his back for days, thinking if National Velvet could solve mysteries like Nancy Drew, then that’s who I was.  Nancy Velvet.  Did Nancy Drew like burned marshmallows, I wondered, and glanced over at the field full of cattle sleepwalking in the perfect heat.

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One afternoon, they gave me a different horse.  I was disappointed; the other horse and I, we were best friends.  He was going to miss me bad.

But, a horse is a horse, right?

So, I pulled on my boots and walked out, expecting a day of traipsing through tall grass and butterflies, Queen Anne’s Lace.

When I climbed on the horse, he wasn’t friendly like my uncle’s stallion.  He was jumpy and shaking all over.  I thought when he recognized the advanced level of my horseback riding skills, he would calm down, and we could ride on.

He did not.  Recognize them or calm down.

He bolted.

Until that moment, I thought horses understood me and loved me as much as I loved them.  I thought I was a girl in a book, and the horse would know that.

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He and I had not read the same book.

I screamed.  The world was a blue-green blur, and a fence was rushing straight at us.  At the last minute, the horse jerk-bucked a hard turn to the left, and I flew off his back to the right.

I lay in the brown grass in shock.  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t see.  My heart was broken.

I didn’t get back on him the way they always say to do after a fall.  I couldn’t lift my right arm, and the only horse available to ride at that moment was the one who had just pitched me across the corral.

I sobbed my way to my grandmother’s porch, where they fed me Kraft cheese singles and cold Pepsi in a metal cup—Arkansas smelling salts.  My mother found my glasses in the grass and brought them to me.  My uncle stood looking at me, mournful.

Someone said weakly, “she should get back on,” and we all looked out at the horse, now, finally, grazing peacefully.  Everyone looked away, and my grandmother brought me another slice of cheese.

I had known fear before that day.  Night terrors, alone in the dark with every evil creature staring red-eyed across the room.  Fear of an adult’s anger, fear of injury in childish games.

But, this was the saddest fear, laced with betrayal.  My shoulder was dislocated.  I couldn’t hold reins or get in the saddle for a long time.

I never really rode again after that.

Until a couple of years ago, my husband took us on a vacation to the Rocky mountains.

He wanted me to have a chance to get back on.  He knew that I had prayed a thousand times for another good ride.

I told the lady, “a three-legged nag, that’s all I can handle.”

She laughed and said, “Oh, you need Daisy.  She’s perfect.”  Daisy was a spotted gray horse, an Appaloosa.  She tossed her head when I walked toward her.  I looked at the guide.  She said, “Just climb on.  She loves this ride.”

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I thought my lungs would explode.

All I could do at first was clench the reins in sweaty fists and pray and pray and pray not to die.  Pray that none of my family would die.

It was a long way down the side of that tight, narrow trail.

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We rode single file through closely spaced pine trees.  The air was thin, and the shade was cold.

I watched Daisy’s feet stumble over rocks and thought I was going to vomit.  Chad looked back at me and smiled.  I smiled.  Gagged.

I could hear in my mind, reassurance, a peaceful sound.  I so wanted to be healed of that moment, such a long time ago.

The trail guide called out, “plan to stop a minute when we come into the clearing.  It’s a lookout point, beautiful!”

When we stepped out of the dark woods, the horse in front of us stopped, and before I said, “whoa,” Daisy stopped behind him.

I bravely took a picture of the back of her head before looking up to see the view.

I breathed in and sat on that old gray mare and cried.  Tears streaming down my face, the sun burning my neck and a cool breeze blowing, I knew blessing.

Snow covered, majestic green and craggy, the Rocky Mountains faded into white clouds.   The wide valleys rolled out like a carpet.  The sky was so blue.  So blue.

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In that moment, I could have told you that the purest bliss, the purest of all, smells like mountain air and horses and freedom.  It smells like redemption.

What do you need to “get back on?”  What old hurts have caused fears that keep you from your fullest life?  What are those old hurts and fears costing you?  What will it cost you if you never face them?  What could open up for you if you do–healing, freedom, joy, something else?

Prayers.  For you to get back on.  Remember Lady the Fearless and her lightning water?  Have a cup.  Heaven’s smelling salts.   And get back on.  

Nancy Velvet forever.

 

 

Deception. The Adversary Hatches.

The egg cracks, and a forked tongue flicks into the night air.  Fragments of the shell, thick and dark, fall into the moldy soil below.  A tiny serpent, grotesque and deformed, oozes out of the broken mess, one long and writhing body, two heads.

In a room high above the nest, a woman sleeps.  The castle walls are too smooth for the serpent’s slick belly, but the vining ivy proves a perfect pathway to her window.  The double-headed snake slithers its way along the vines and over the window sill, down the heavy curtain, across the floor, and up into the bed beneath the coverlet at her feet.  It pauses a moment, basking in the warmth of legs covered in filmy white silk.

The brains of the tiny snake, vague and primitive, see thoughts in images, and something like firelight plays through its consciousness.  The tongues flicker, and it continues on, following the warmth of her body, leaving the covering of her sheets, and,  finding her head covered in shining curls, it slithers into her ear.  She stirs, but sleep is sweet.

It more thinks the lies than speaks them, and the woman hears its thoughts louder than her own dreams. And, so deep it goes, hiding itself inside her head, that she believes its thoughts are her own.

Each head sends a different message, one of fear and one of pride, and it feasts on the confusion it breeds. The woman holds her head in her hands and cries tears of indecision.  

Her soul opens to Deception.  The little beast settles in, and without waking, she gives it a home.

***

Every good story needs a terrible villain.  Lady the Fearless?  She battles lies.  Fear and pride.  Dream stealers.  They come in when we believe deceptions about who we are, when we dozily accept any thought that wanders through our minds.  Too bad the sleeping maiden left that window wide open.  Too bad she doesn’t put up much of a fight.

If she would jerk herself awake and slap that little two-headed snake, it would fly across the room and crack its tiny skulls.  And the maiden?  She would find herself that much closer to Lady the Fearless.

So many things in this story could be different.  What if someone were on snake patrol, getting the eggs before they could ever hatch?  What if the castle had a more conscientious gardener?

The window could be guarded.  There could be snake traps in the bedroom.  The little maiden could jump up, throwing back the blankets, kicking like a ninja!   She could protect her ears before she slept, some barrier the lying creature could never breach.

What lies do you need to slap, right across the room today?  What barriers could you put in place against lies?  What fears are trying to take you down, infiltrate your thinking, and steal your dreams with thoughts of failure and risk?  What prideful nonsense is invading?

Every healthy person I know deals with lies and fear and pride; it’s an ongoing matter of what we accept and how proactive we are, how often we go on snake patrol, take inventory.  How sleepy are we when lies try to creep in?   Because they are sneaky, and we do love our slumber.

We have got to get control of ourselves, for heavens sake, and give the little beasties a slap.

I’ll share some of my strategies for slapping fear out of my head in the next post, but would you share some of yours in the comments?  What does courage look like for you in those moments of choice, those moments when you could choose to believe a lie or step out on truth?

Lady the Fearless. What a Character.

“Lady the Fearless.”  People are starting to call me by her name, and I’m happy to answer for her, though I have not arrived.

Sometimes, the minute I conquer one fear, another one seems to take its place.

I’m learning.

Lady the Fearless is not really me.  Or, maybe better, she’s not only me.  Lady the Fearless is an essence, a zeitgeist.  She’s a character.

And, what a character.  She is every woman or girl in fiction or in truth who ever fought any battle.  She is courage.  She is grit and joy and abundant life.

I want to know her well.  What she looks like, what her bravery  requires, how she’s punished for it, and how she inspires.

I’m hoping that her bravery, like fear, is contagious, and I’m praying for an epidemic–bravery in the air, in our lungs, pumping in our veins.

I look at the next generation of young women and men coming up, the teens, the young 20s, and I’m blown away by their beauty and their depth.

The glossy viciousness of the world they are growing up in, the world we are all growing up in, is stunning.  But, the one thing I will not do for them or us, is fear.  I choose hope.  I’m putting my trust in the bigger thing at play, the greater thing happening as we run into a fierce world, and it sharpens us into warriors.

It is a dark and stormy night.  

Lady the Fearless steps to the edge of the cliff and lifts the heavy helmet from her head.  She holds it out to collect the rain coming down in sheets.

 She brings it to her mouth like a goblet and drinks.  

“Lightning water.”  She sighs and smiles down at the full moon reflected in the river in the canyon below.  

She is not afraid of death or of the battle raging in the darkness; she will ride into it on her white horse like she has done before.  She will fly planes into it.  She will carry children into it.  She will show them how it’s done.  

She will shine.