Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Oppression. (American Heritage dictionary of the English language)

1. The act of oppressing; arbitrary and cruel exercise of power: "There can be no really pervasive system of oppression... without the consent of the oppressed" (Florynce R. Kennedy).
2. The state of being oppressed.
3. Something that oppresses.
4. A feeling of being heavily weighed down in mind or body

We have most recently been talking about women, and I want to expand on this concept in that context. I've got to admit I am not sure where I am going with this one even as I write it. I want to say that I've seen more oppression than I have suffered. And I also want to say that the worst oppression I've experienced did not come in a package you would expect.

I grew up in NY, Queens Village to be exact, until the twilight of my 7th year. In the middle of second grade we moved to Long Island where I enjoyed a charmed suburban life. I have scattered memories of picket lines (I started kindergarten in 1968), although I'm not sure what they were about (I think bussing...). I had a black 1st grade teacher in 1969 (I remember her beautiful face to this day). Knowing what I know now I wish I could find her and hear about her life until that point in time. Was it hard to get to where she was? I never knew.... I was the oldest child and a star student (eventually). Quiet and agreeable. Malleable. I didn't realize how politically energized the times were. Our society was in the pains of birthing something new. My teachers were coming straight out of college and war protests to the classrooms. They had big plans for me. The times they were a-changin'....

I learned to protest in my earliest days. I remember being accosted by 2 hall monitors every day at PS 34, Queens. We had a dress code: girls wore dresses. That was the code. The hall monitors (bold 6th graders) were forcing a change in policy. The policy was that girls in pants were to be sent home. They felt that if all the girls would wear pants, the administration couldn't possibly send them all home. I was terrified of those girls. (after all, I was only 6.) My mom called the school regarding the bully girls, but in the mean time the policy changed. Those little 6th grade girls made a difference. I'd wear pants. Every day. Even if I wanted to wear a skirt.

In High School I was groomed for success. I would go on to high achievement. "You can be anything you want to be" they'd say. Think big. I'd say, "I'd like to be a teacher". "Ach! Silly girl! With your brains you can be so much more than a teacher!" the teachers would tell me this...(I figured if the teachers were hell bent on preventing me from teaching, it must really suck...) The only message louder than "don't ever be a teacher" was "Stay away from boys -- only foolish girls will go the way of the boy. Foolish girls want nothing more than to marry and make babies. You are so much better than that." And I was. I believed it. I was all that. I worked hard and got straight 'A's. I was the great white female hope. I was going to go on to great unimaginable success. I was woman. Hear me roar.

My parents weren't really big on all of this. It's not that they didn't want to see me succeed. They had a more rounded concept of what that word meant. They didn't go to college, yet were very successful in life. They had a great marriage, but against all odds were married at 18 (!!). They were church going, fun loving, awesome parents. (All the kids wanted to be me.) They didn't really care about all the peripheral stuff. They just wanted me to be happy. To be everything God created me to be. (I think they still are waiting on that...) They wanted college for me -- but they wanted the other stuff, too. Marriage, grandkids, "sweet happy life" stuff. The normal progression. But I was on the fast track to somewhere else.

I went on to the academic success that was expected of me. But what a dark place that became for me. I arrived at a destination of others choosing, pursuing the goals of other lives not lived. People who knew a brand of oppression I would never really understand saw the door of opportunity open, and they pushed me through it. I somehow had the ability to arrive somewhere they could only dream of. A Brave New World. But I had my dreams of my own, and sadly my dreams didn't fit in this World. Marriage and Family were certainly not encouraged here. I once expressed delight in a group of children playing in a field during a small group session held outside on a rare warm day (seeing children was rare as well). My professor said (with both horror and disgust) "How gross --why don't you just spread (2 syllables Ga-ross, and spa-read) your legs and become a mother!" I was clearly not understanding what was at stake here. Generations of women forced into indentured servitude with no other options. I was given by God the talent and by fate the timing to have everything they weren't able to have and I was gravitating toward my maternal instincts. What a waste. How disappointing I was to them.

And now look where I am. The view from here is much clearer than it was then. Although they would never call it this in a hundred years, I can see the oppression -- even though meted out with the best of intentions. It took me a long time to say that I even like being a girl. Let alone a being a wife or mother. (I'm still not sure about the wife thing...(my poor husband...). But I also see the other side of this coin quite clearly. I understand more than ever the very real place those people who were pushing me were pushing me away from. My own husband was raised in a brand of oppression that astounds me. Shocks me. I can't believe it exists. It seems impossible. Beth Keck has described it in her recent blog. It embodies all that stuff I heard about Christians but couldn't believe was possible. All that stuff my teachers were pushing me away from. Protecting me.

The bottom line on this is simple. It doesn't matter what side of the pendulum you find yourself -- oppression is that thing that drives you somewhere other than where you wanted to go. Where you knew you should go. Oppression is someone imposing their will and influence over your life in a compulsory manner. Oppression is that thing that pushed me from my path. It prevented me from being everything that God intended me to be. What's frightening to me is that no one could really push me without some degree of my permission. Your Pastor, the Christian Community, the Religious Right, the Pharasees -- all pushing you into an arbitrary box. It wasn't terrible for teachers to have high hopes for me. What was terrible was how far I ventured from the path of my dreams to please them. Until finally God retrieved me. Saved me. For I was lost from myself. Too bad it took so long. So glad it eventually happened. He picked me up and put me back on the path of my destiny. Are you on the path of yours?

I tell my children every day that they can be ANYTHING they want to be. EVERYTHING God created them to be. And I always tell them that of all the things I am and do and will do one day, being a Mom is "the bestest one of all". And I mean it.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

I want to pick up where I left off last post, plus I want to send out an added kudo to Birgit who really unearthed some good facts for me on the question of "rapture origin" (see comments on the 10/23 post). (I'm working on the linking thing. Still just a remedial blogger) (go here if you want to read more on the subject(""))

My point in referencing the shaking-spitting-brimstone incident was to illustrate a time when I bought into (or at least allowed it to go on) something that was just not right. I don't think this is unusual. As Christians we have learned to suspend our dis-belief to a certain extent. It is part of our exercise of faith. I experienced some amazing stuff during my time with the Vineyard, and I experienced some really nasty stuff there as well. I think I have run into this in different ways in many different denominations (and non-denominations)...Every church has strengths and every church has weaknesses. When we put our faith in the church, we fall. Period. Worse, we find ourselves defending life choices that are simply not biblical -- because someone somewhere interpreted something and as a group the church has bought into it and made it doctrine. The rapture to me is a myth. A work of fiction. Here are some others: The woman's place is in the home. A woman is not to hold a decision-making position. Women are not to wear pants -- just skirts. Dancing is evil. Make-up is evil. The government is evil. Education is evil -- especially for women. Everyone outside the church has an evil agenda. Disney movies are evil. Obey your pastor -- no matter what. Watch only what he says is okay. Listen only to the music he says is okay. I can go on and on. I'm not just making these up -- I actually know people who live according to these rules. Today. It truly amazes me what people believe. I am actually blindsided by it. Come under the authority of your leaders, (unless the leader is someone we don't like...).

In his work of fiction "Peace like a River", Leif Enger says "Once torched by truth ... a little thing like faith is easy." But face it -- faith can be so easily manipulated. Seeking the truth requires diligence, and vigilance. I have been torched by truth. And I cannot tolerate the alternative. Why is it being universally tolerated in the church? Don't you remember how good the truth is? The good news. God paid the price. GRACE. MERCY. HELLO! is anyone listening?

We the sheep just seem to go with the flow of the communal flock -- wherever it may lead us. When we "give over" our lives to Christ, we seem to turn on the "auto-pilot". We don't want to make choices or question the decisions of our leaders -- we want them to do all the thinking for us. When we disagree with the leaders, we are labeled heretics. If we question them we are told that "satan is the accuser of the brethren" (so of course we are now operating on behalf of Satan) -- thus the questions can be dismissed -- and others learn not to ask. We are told that following Jesus is not comfortable. (as if it's comfortable to question someone who you know is going to accuse you of operating on behalf of Satan...) It requires sacrifice, they say. (Yet Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30) Jesus says He requires mercy, not sacrifice. (Matt 9:13)) And we end up places we never intended to go: being spit upon by crazy people who say you smell like brimstone.

I blame Satan for this travesty. Not Satan, really. Fear of Satan. If "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Pr 9:10), then I would think the fear of Satan would be the end of said wisdom. People are afraid of sin -- they are convinced they are called to "holiness" and can by some stretch of the imagination keep their lives "clean". To do so, they stay away from the "sinners" -- and the only way they can know that they are truly safe is to stay within the confines of their church community of choice. It is an amazing thing. I learned something about this recently. It is the epitome of denial. If you stay away from that which may challenge you, you can pretend you are without sin. But you're only fooling yourself. God knows. Really. And no matter how far away you stay from the real people, your sin will find you. To me, this is the truth of the buried talent. The hidden Christians, hiding in the fall out shelter they have created for themselves. Whiling away the hours, waiting for the end times. Wicked servants. We have forgotten who we were called to serve. The Real People. Called to serve them -- not to save them -- not to fix them.

And one last thought on this. (I promise I'll shut up after this.) What is so awful about life? Why are there so many people that can't wait for Jesus to come back? I want to see Jesus face to face -- but am I ready to do that today? NO! I want to be an old, old woman who is surrounded by my great, great grandchildren. I want to make the Smucker's list on my 100th birthday. I haven't seen nearly enough sunrises or sunsets. I want sticky kisses from my kids' kids. I want to cheer them on in their soccer games. I want to visit every beach and collect seashells from all of them. I want to delight in my kids graduations from High School and College and hopefully Graduate School. (Heck, I want to delight at MY graduation from Graduate School.) I want to be there for their weddings and for their children's weddings. I want to walk on a wooded path with my grandchildren and show them how cool spiders can be. I want as many Christmas mornings as I can get -- Easter, Thanksgiving and Halloween, too. (don't burn a cross on my front lawn. I've already got the "heretic" label.) I haven't begun to live. I want to hear "well done oh good and faithful servant" -- and I have too much to do still. And if I found out tomorrow that today is all I have, I will pray fervently to live. Fervently.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

I have some questions and I am inviting anyone out there who might know to please give me some answers. Where and when did this whole "Rapture" thing start? Is this strictly an American belief? I have listened to many Christian "scholars" discuss the topic and I have read the scriptures they use to support this belief. I just don't see it. And it really is a frightening thought -- That God would pull out all the believers and leave the world to be a living Hell. (as if it isn't already that for so many innocent people all over the world -- hard to imagine because it sure isn't that way here...) I have had people tell me "if you think the world is bad now, just wait until God's wrath is poured out..." As if they know. As if they can't wait.

I never even heard of the Rapture until I left the "formal church" (raised in a small Episcopal congregation by a "Born Again" mom ("saved" at a Billy Graham crusade) and an ex-Catholic dad ("spirit filled" at a Vineyard Healing Conference sometime in the Eighties...) and "re-committed" my life to Christ ("saved"). Since then I have been involved in several "non-denominational" churches -- and oh how they love to preach the end times doctrine. I was honestly amazed by the breadth of this belief -- common knowledge to many of these Christians.

I couldn't believe I never learned about this. After all, I went to church 2 maybe 3 times a week. My mom was the choir director, my parents were youth leaders, sunday school teachers -- how could we not know? I went to bible studies all the time. This never came up. What I did learn in all of those years was about Christ. His life, His mercy, His love, His kindness, what He said and who He said it to. My hero. My recommittment to Christ was for me like meeting my hero face to face. A personal relationship. I knew all about Him. Now I knew Him. That simple.

I really think I would have been so much better off if I would have just taken him home to my church.

Instead of looking for a new church.

But, I was a typical "new baby christian". I was so enthralled by these believers who saw things with a different set of eyes. A new point of view. I wanted to learn everything. I don't think that is so bad really. Only somehow I believed them when they said they knew better. "We've been at this way longer than you" "You're just a new baby (with the undertone of "you don't know any better") I even had a guy pray for me (with all the pomp and circumstance of the best of the Vineyard Bunch -- shaking, shaking me, spitting on me (!!) (He was "in the groove") He said -- get ready -- "I still smell the brimstone on this one" If I was myself at that moment I would have told him to get the @#!* away from me -- but I was still in that place where I thought that maybe--just maybe-- he was right. No one else in the room seemed to think he was psychotic. Just me.

More on this later. Gotta go.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Language is a tricky thing. Certain words have a specific effect on people. This can change as life experiences accumulate and new contexts are added to our growing wealth of data. The word "surf" once meant nothing more than very fragrant laundry detergent to me. Now I am the mother of a California 'surf' dude. (what? how did that happen..?!) I have been considering this concept lately and its application to the church; to the "body". We visited a church this weekend that had a huge congregation. My husband noted certain business terms he hadn't ever heard in context with the gospel. MBOs, Targets, 5 year plans. He liked it. He could understand why this language attracted some of his buddies. (He uses football terms that are meaningful to him (Lord, block for me -- this one's gonna be a touchdown...) (Football terms wouldn't have meant anything to me 15 years ago--now they all make sense...).

On the downside of this, certain words and phrases have been causing distress in me: "God told me.." "Advancing the Kingdom" "the biblical truth" "ministry" "cleaning the fish" "holiness" -- In my personal context these words trigger unpleasant memories and experiences in me. I understand that this is my baggage, but I also know that everyone is carrying some of their own. This makes real communication very difficult. We tread over each other's land mines. It's like the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). We think we are making sense, but we aren't effectively communicating. We form the words without realizing the real effect they may have on the person with whom we speak. A personal relationship really makes a difference in communication. If you know me, you see an expression in my face that lets you know that you are dangerously close to a land mine. "Warning, Will Robinson, Warning".

With that said, I'm experiencing the miraculous lately. I've been wandering around the internet, reading your blogs. It amazes me how many of you are grappling with the same issues I am -- sometimes using the same analogies I use. I think this is a miraculous thing really. I am a firm believer in the inadaquacy of language -- you can not know what a word may invoke in me, nor I in you. Yet we only have words, really, to get our thoughts and feelings out. I wonder if you find it equally as remarkable that someone in Idaho or South Texas can be relatively on the same page as me, the New Yorker living in Southern California. I see God in that.

And as if to remind me of how unlikely it all really is, the local radio preachers today are still singing the same "you're all going to hell" song. (Today, I actually heard a radio pastor say that he wasn't really standing in judgement, he was simply inspecting the fruit -- a new variation on the 'take the board out of your own eye before you look at the speck in your brother's eye'--- for him it is a pineapple...for me it is a kumquat). I imagined him inspecting the fruit in the same manner as the Jewish men inspecting the palm frond in the LA Times Photo.

I know from experience that 6 witnesses to a single event in time will see 6 different things. It is the combination of their 6 points of view that make a more accurate picture of an event than just 1. This is a simple concept. We fight in court over our interpretations of the U.S. Constitution (even though at 200+ the document is fairly young given the scheme of things) even though we are of the same culture and generation. A bible verse may mean something different to me today than it meant to me 20 years ago. So why do I believe, and in fact EXPECT that we should absolutely agree in our interpretation of the bible? Of Jesus? Of the Kingdom of God? I have somehow bought into the idea of absolute truth. I think, "If something is absolutely true, shouldn't we agree on it?" God is the same yesterday, today and forever. ( And all that really means is that He has probably put up with this incessent whining from generations of believers since the beginning of time.) And just when I am at the brink of giving up my hope of a community of believers, I turn to the random blogs of virtual strangers who are all barking up the same tree. We are all looking at the truth from our own angle, our own point of view. When we listen to each other, we get more of the whole picture. I'm liking what I see.

Check out Real Live Preacher (at to see his angle on the Tower of Babel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

My parents celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary yesterday. Amazing how beautiful something becomes after that much time. What a nice gift to the kids and grandkids.

Thanks Mom and Dad. Here's to 43 more...

Monday, October 13, 2003

Quick note at the end of a long weekend (or the beginning of another long week -- you decide).

A photo in the LA Times caught my eye (and heart) this week. I was browsing through a paper in my daughter's classroom, so I am not even sure what section and what day the photo ran. I think it was in Wednesday's paper. I saw it on Friday, while rifling through a discarded pile of papers waiting for my turn to speak. It was a quick snapshot of 2 young Hassidic Jewish men, preparing for the holiday. They were going about the task of scrutinizing palm fronds for the festival. You see, the palms had to be without blemish, so the young men had jeweler's monacles to review every cm of the leaf. Their eyes were squinted and their expressions were intense. My first reaction was to laugh, because they really looked comical with their young handsome faces all scrunched up like that to look at a ridiculously narrow leaf. It was clear that their objective was to reject as many leaves as possible, finding only the perfect one (s). Wow. How could any palm frond not wilt under that intense scrutiny? How could they ever find one good enough?

And then the connection came. You know how it does sometimes: you understand something deeply, before your head really gets around it. The church, the scrutiny, the monacles -- magnifying the not You, Lord.

Thanks, Jesus. I really needed that this week. I can't promise I won't come back to the worry. But I will wait for you to show me the truth--and even make me smile in the process...Bless those lovely young boys in the photo. Help them in all of their "looking" to see You....

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I worry a lot. I know I'm not supposed to. But I do.

I worry about my kids (what parent doesn't?), about protecting my kids from "bad people", about paying bills, about getting old, about getting fat, about working too many hours, about not working enough hours, about my parents getting old, about time in general passing me by, about selling or not selling my house, about spending time with my kids, about spending time with my husband, about being a good neighbor (or not), about going to church (or not) -- but the thing I worry about always -- the worst thing of all that I worry about-- I worry that the people claiming to be Christians might be right about God. Just think about it. What if they are right? What if God is as awful as they make Him out to be? What if we haven't jumped through all the right hoops? They are so sure, and I am so not.

E is a perfect example. Black and white facts. She never read a bible (she didn't read until she was much older). She was a prostitute. Her mother is an ex-con. She and all her family were illegal aliens. She refused to go to Monday or Wednesday night youth group at Calvary Chapel with the other girls. She didn't walk the walk or talk the talk. "not saved" they said. "sinner" But you saw it with me -- her heart. "People look at the outside of the person, but the Lord looks at the heart" (my favorite verse). She loved Him better than most of the people I know. She had a greater faith than most of the people I know.

I think I was that way once. I knew I was a child of God. I knew. Now I hope -- and worry.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kindgom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. " "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." Matt 23 13-15

Help me to wear Your yoke, for You are gentle and humble in heart. Help me find rest for my soul. (Matt 11:28-30.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Check out the Real Live Preacher via Worth the trip...

Monday, October 06, 2003

(okay -- the final post on this--thanks for hanging in there).

I find when I tell this story I tell it quietly, as if it is a secret. It is something too horrible for the ears of children. Yet E was only 8 when it all happened. (8 years old and all grown up...)

After they buried her brother and her cousin, her mother went about the process to get the rest of them out of there. She knew "the bad people" would be back and could no longer wait for the husbands to send for them.

(I cannot remember what became of the men, but I believe they are alive today. I wonder if I believe that because E believed it, or because it was a fact. I cannot be sure. She said they were pastors who planted a church somewhere in the United States. I never met her father, and don't remember him listed in her file. Maybe he is dead. I hope not. But for whatever reason, they hadn't connected at the time E passed through my life.)

I don't know how her mother made the connections she did, but shortly after the death of her brother, E was sold to an American Prostitute in exchange for the safe passage of her mother and all of her siblings. They lived in a room in the very brothel that E was peddled out of. Right here in Sunny Southern California. She lived this way for 3 years until her sick and tortured little body was brought to a medical clinic where she was diagnosed with Syphilis and Gonorrhea. It was at this moment that she became a ward of the state. 3 years later, I met her at the group home, my objective to get her in touch with her anger.

How could she not be angry? Her story certainly invokes anger in me even today. How could a mother sell her baby girl, and live in the very house where she is abused? How could grown men murder children in obedience to an evil government? How could God allow such evil to exist? Why E? I actually asked her these questions in Spanish when I was finally able, and she finally became angry. Very angry. The only time. Fire in her eyes, she said to me "How can you have so much and comprehend so little?" "You live like royalty without any idea what it is like anywhere else. You have all the time in the world to talk about other people's problems yet you can't see your own. Americans are spoiled children who never really grow up, yet you think you know better than everyone. God was never absent , He was with me all along! He is with me today. He was with my brother in his time of need. And my brother is with Him today."

She could NEVER be angry at her mother. Her mother did what was necessary to save her, to save all of them. E was honored to have been a part of that. Her small sacrifice saved them all. A small moment of discomfort for a lifetime of hope. Her mother never left her. Still didn't. And now she counted the days until she would be "free". She would be released from the system on her 18th birthday. Until that day, she would see her mother on her scheduled visits and ask about her brothers and sisters, some of whom had been placed in Foster Care. Like Corrie ten Boom, she saw every hardship in the light that God had intended. Thankful for the disease that sent her to the hospital and released her from the indentured servitude. Thankful that it rendered her "useless" to the prostitute who kicked her family out into a kinder, simpler world. They were here. Their land of dreams. The worst was over.

I know that E's anger was not directed at me specifically, but at my culture. I know I deserved it as much as anyone else. I was one of many people that she saw in her days in the system. She may not even remember me today. But I remember her. Every day. I believe I am a better mother because I knew her. I learned to listen to my children and learn from them. I learned to let them be who they are, not who I want them to be. I learned to point them to Jesus and let him to the work. Because I can't.

And I realized something about me that is still coming to be. I want to introduce people to my God, a God who loves the world's children. I don't ever want to "fix" anyone (even though I still catch myself doing it). Or "convert" them. These things require change and knowledge of "how things should be." We don't know that. We can't know that. And the second we think we know, we are "the poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more." I don't think God ever intends to change us the way we understand that word. He certainly doesn't want us to change others. He just "redirects us" now and then. He does that. Not me. Not the church. And without a real love for the people I feel called to, I am just a noisy gong. (1 Corinthians 13) Because without the love, God isn't coming. Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ebi est. (Where there is love, God is) I knew that in my head. But I didn't really learn it until I met E. Thank you, Lord. Thank You, E.

(How E met You, I don't really know. But oh, how well she knew You. And she forgave me for being ignorant. Arrogant. Self-serving. Pious. A Pharisee. She forgave You, her mother, the evil soldiers -- she was free. Help me to forgive them, too. Thank you for being a God that gave a tiny woman the courage to stare down evil and collect her dead baby to bring him home, and thank you that you gave her the courage to do the thing she had to do, as You did once for us (John 3:16). Thank you that all of these circumstances brought E to me, for a moment. Continue to bless her life, Lord, wherever she may be. Every Day.)

(I'm sorry to break this up like this, but I am writing during breaks and cannot post it all at once)

E was one of several children born to a poor family in El Salvador. She didn't think they were poor. They were the same as everyone else. And they were loved. She lived with her Mother and Father, her Aunt and Uncle, her brothers and sisters and all of the cousins as was their custom. She remembered that times were bad. The men of families would often disappear and the women would often cry. She remembered her Father and Uncle leaving with the promise that they would make a future for all of them in America. They would send for them. So her Mother and her Aunt took on the daily task of caring for the families, and waited to hear from the husbands. E was about 8 years old at this time.

One day the "bad people" came for the fathers. When they realized the fathers weren't there, they took the 2 oldest sons representing the 2 families. They were 9 and 13. That is how old my babies are today. 9 and 13. The boys were brave, she'd remember, but the mothers were not. They wept and were inconsolable. They prayed and prayed. E didn't really understand. She just missed them as she did her Father and Uncle. She prayed for their return. Early one morning she awoke to a noise outside and believed it was the return of her brother and cousin. She ran out to the front porch. She'd recall that it took a while to understand what she saw. It was the severed heads of the young boys, thrown onto the porch like bags of trash. (9 and 13 --- home to heaven. 8 and all grown up.)

I remember weeping when E told me her memory--this small part of her long story. (Rachel weeping for her children Matt 2:18) I still weep today. She consoled me. Imagine that.

Her mother became brave after that. She and the Aunt gathered their children and walked with them to the "bad people" where she demanded the bodies of her son and nephew to be returned to them so they could give them a proper burial. E remembered her mother's head held proudly and her voice authoritative. The bad people shrugged and directed her to a place where she could "go find them". She and all her children held closely around her went to a place that engraved itself in E's memory---Piles of headless, nameless bodies to the left and to the right---Some grown men, some boys of all sizes. They found their boys, and carried them home sometimes weeping sometimes silent --- a funeral procession led by E's mother who in her grief somehow managed to hold her head up and keep walking.

E's story.

I have carried this story with me for a long time, so my facts are a little fuzzy. I am sorry for that. The big stuff is clear, however, and I hope you will value it as I do. I worked in a psychological model group home for girls that were removed from their "home of origin" for a variety of reasons. Our objective was to prepare these girls for the "real world" and somehow we felt qualified to do that.

We had all kinds of case files in that house. All abused, some orphaned, some on probation for a variety of crimes; some had been prostitutes, some had been thieves, some chronic runaways, some gang members --- all so very young. 13-17 years old. (At 18 you're on your own...) Each girl had a case file, and we were told by the psychologists and social workers what we had to work on with that child. For E, the issue was anger. We were to help her get in touch with her anger.

E came to the United States when she was a little over 8, maybe 9. She became a part of the system at 11 or 12. I met her when she was about 15. She had a wonderful smile and a fresh face and a sense of security about her that was a little different that the others in the home. She seemed a little more mature. Unlike most of the girls, her mother would come to visit her on a pretty regular basis--once a week, if I remember correctly. Her mom was a member of a church that required them to wear uniforms, like the Salvation Army. She would come in a Khaki Green suit with a matching hat. They would speak quietly in Spanish, lovingly. She was not allowed to be alone with her daughter. She had to schedule the visits. And so she did.

E helped me with my Spanish and I helped her with English. She introduced me to jicama with salt and lemon, I introduced her to bagels and cream cheese. I helped her with her homework, helped her find an after school job, even encouraged her to go to college. I don't know if she went. I really don't know what became of her --- you don't keep in touch with the case files.

E was many things, but she was never angry. Ever. For the social workers and psychologists, this was a travesty. It was the one thing she needed to do before she turned 18. She had plenty of opportunity to get angry in a group home. After all, her roommate was an avowed Skinhead whose boyfriend had made it his personal mission to kill as many Hispanic people as he could before he died. He was successful once. The roommate, W, held on to the hate. It was all she felt she had left. She made a constant effort to get a rise out of E. E never responded. E only got angry once that I know of, and that was at me.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

I once believed I had a missional calling. I was a fixer. (probably still am -- try not to be...) I think this is a terrible thing to be. Really. The sure-fire cure for a fixer is to be surrounded by other fixers. (That's a funny thing to see -- a room full of fixers chasing their tails. Everyone looking for some imperfection in each other, some need that could be addressed by our own brand of expertise. Looking for someone to need us. Some fixers will even go to the length of damaging someone just so they can fix them later -- (sort of like denting cans so you can get them at a discount...) Yep, I've been on both sides of this dysfunction and I've got to tell you it isn't pretty on either side.) I think most of my phobias about the church these days are from too much exposure to the fixers. At least it helped me see it in myself. Dysfunctions aren't entirely bad for that matter. I know from experience that God uses our dysfunctions to get us where he wants us to be. No matter what our personal agenda, God has His own plan working out in our lives.

This leads me to a story I simply know I have to write down. It isn't entirely mine to tell, but I can't keep it inside of me -- and it changed me. So I guess it is partially mine to tell after all.

It all started with guilt. I can't tell you why, but I tend to feel guilty about anything good in my life. If I did well in school, I felt bad for those that didn't. If I got positive attention, I felt bad for the person who didn't. Don't get me wrong, I WANTED the attention or the good grades, but I was aware from a young age that how much we might want something didn't equate to whether or not we would get it. How much we DESERVED something never really seemed to enter into the equation either. If I won the race, I couldn't stand the pain of the children who lost. They tried just as hard. They wanted it just as badly (sometimes worse...). (I am aware that this is weird and dysfunctional, by the way. But I also know I am not alone in this kind of thinking.) I am an advocate of the underdog. As long as the underdog is not me.

There is an arrogance inherent in this kind of thinking. It is subtle, but it is there. If I feel guilty for getting good grades, that implies that I believe I had an advantage over the other competitors. I FEEL superior, even though I also feel negatively about all of this. I see this type of dynamic built into the "Affirmative Action" programs. Here-- you are incapable of doing this on your own merit, let me help you..." (yuck). (I see the other side of this, too -- the inability to receive help when it is needed -- that is another story for another day...)

So what did I do with all of this guilt and superiority? I went into Social Work, of course. I was a Christian, after all. I was sure to find plenty of "fish" to "clean" in the "system". They needed me, I told myself. And God could use me there. And maybe He did. But mostly He used the system on me.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

I love the stuff that kids say. Here is a list I've seen a hundred times but never get enough of...

A Sunday School teacher asked her class to write notes to God. Here are some they handed in:


Dear God:

I didn't think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset You made on Tuesday. That was cool.


Dear God:

Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don't You keep the ones You already have?


Dear God:

Maybe Cain and Abel would not have killed each other if they had their own rooms. That's what my Mom did for me and my brother.


Dear God:

If You watch me in church on Sunday, I'll show You my new shoes.


Dear God:

I bet it is very hard to love everyone in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I'm having a hard time loving all of them.


Dear God:

In school they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on



Dear God:

Are You really invisible or is it just a trick?


Dear God:

Is it true my father won't get into heaven if he uses his bowling words in the house?


Dear God:

Did You mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?


Dear God:

Who draws the lines around the countries?


Dear God:

I went to this wedding and they kissed right in the church. Is that OK?


Dear God:

Did You really mean "do unto others as they do unto you"? Because if You did, then I'm going to get my brother good.


Dear God:

Thank You for the baby brother, but I think you got confused because what I prayed for was a puppy.


Dear God:

Please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before. You can look it up.


Dear God:

I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big, but not with so much hair all over.


Dear God:

You don't have to worry about me; I always look both ways.


Dear God:

I think about You sometimes, even when I'm not praying.


Dear God:

Of all the people who worked for You, I like Noah and David the best.


Dear God:

My brother told me about being born but it doesn't sound right. They're just kidding, aren't they?


Dear God:

I would like to live 900 years just like the guy in the Bible.


Dear God:

We read Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday school they said You did it. So, I bet he stole Your idea.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I DID IT!!! I fixed the text so that my link worked!!! I love it when I figure it out! ( It's like finding a serious bargain at Marshall's -- a discovery!!) The truth is that if I would have read the instructions I would have had it sooner. Oh well. The process has value. Now after all of this effort, PLEASE -- read the outline!

Oh well. It is apparent that I am lacking in the "blog skills" necessary to post a successful "link". Please use the links on the right to get to Eric Keck's Blogspot where you will find the connections you need to get to the outline I refer to below. (by way of China....) It's WORTH IT.


I found this on Eric's site. Really Great and quite relevant to the recent topics.