Friday, April 25, 2014

What Is In A Name?

My hands dripped with flour paste for the paper mache sculpture as I listened to Jayson Bradley's sermon What Is Your Name And Why Does It Matter. It is odd to think of one’s own name as a nemesis, but that is how I saw mine.

After my Dad left the Air Force, our transition into civilian life was challenging. Jobs were scarece and we had to move from Utah to California.  In third grade I went to three schools.  I saw myself as a burden. I knew my birth kept my Mom from attaining her degree. The moving and uncertainty was hardest on my Mom. She was pregnant and struggled to keep up with my three year old sister. I often felt in the way.

Once settled, civilian culture in a small town was very different than military life. Everyone was nice, but many found me odd. The friendships that were formed didn't last very long.

In fifth grade I came to a warped conclusion. The big thing in Sunday School the meaning of your name. The Bible said that what your name meant was who you were. Kids with biblical names were the coolest. It was easy to find an encouraging life verse to tack onto a Biblical hero.

My name fell into a gray area. Rebecca was the English spelling of Rebekah, so the coolness factor was minimal. Imagine my disappointment when I looked it up:


In my frailty it made sense:

Prisoners are bound.
Captives and kidnapped victims are bound.
An anchor is bound to a ship.
Bound was a prison.

My greatest fear confirmed; I was a burden. I was an entanglement. I was an impediment. Tearful cries began. Begging God to show me my secret name written on that white stone. I didn't want to be a burden. I wanted to be a blessing. As I grew up in Wonderland, that flawed reality only solidified.

Still praying that prayer and waiting patiently for an answer into adulthood. Then one day,  reading  the account of Isaac meeting Rebekah my point of view shifted
Isaac was walking in the field, still mourning the loss of his mother. He saw the camels…

Que sappy romantic music

Rebekah covered her face, dismounted the camel and met him. Isaac then took her into his home and he loved her, she comforted him. His grief and loneliness were bound up. She was not a burden to him. She was a gift. She captivated him.

The shift from a negative:bound to a positive: captivating began.

I am interesting.
People are curious about me.
I can help ease a burden.
I can comfort those in difficulty.
I am good at organizing in a crisis.

In reading Fearless Daughters of the Bible, J. Lee Grady points out when God changed Abram and Sari’s name to Abraham and Sarah, he wove in the Hebrew H “breath” sound: the same sound that is part of his own name.

I felt Holy Spirit’s breath seal my name. Rebekah has that same breath sound. How it is spelled is irrelevant. I am identified with Divine Love. That Holy Breath renews my soul. It frees me to grow. It redeems what I thought about myself and grants me vision of how God sees me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Escape From Wonderland: Punk Grace

Photo taken by waterdawg

Friend knew a little about my life in Wonderland. Her intent was for me to simply have fun. One February holiday I spent the night at her house then she revealed her plan.

Her boyfriend had a friend who had horses. Friend knew how much I loved horses and arranged for us to go horseback riding. Friend assured me this was NOT a date. I didn’t even know the guy and he defiantly didn’t like me. Anyway; she had a plan to keep me safe from trouble in Wonderland.

So, not wanting to disappoint my friend or having to explain why I was home early to Wonderland; I went along.

Her boyfriend and friend picked us up after breakfast.

We were simply friends.
Riding horses.
Then having lunch.

My heart found bliss with the horses. The morning adventure complete, we stopped for a simple lunch of pizza was seasoned with laughter. All piled into her boyfriend’s car they decided to drive me home.

That is when everything fell apart.

The Parentals were in the front yard. I ran into the house to keep them all safe. Before my mouth even opened, the verdict:

It was a date.
I was in rebellion.
It was as bad to God as the sin of witchcraft.

The yelling and screaming became phone calls to validate their verdict. I was put into the car and driven over to Friend’s house to “confront” her Mom. I felt ashamed. My poor friend who tried to create a safe place for me to have fun watched it blow up in her face. I sat in her living room with a bruised cheek as a Parental’s voice railed on about lies, rebellion and inappropriate behavior.

My eyes barely lifted from the carpet.

Then the real discipline happened. I was grounded until the end of the school year-four months. No phone, friends, television and only church activities they approved of.

Within the church’s youth group-The Garden-were subgroups called Seeds Groups. For two years I participated in West Seeds. The group filled with upper middle class popular kids. Part of my punishment was to be sent to the newly formed South Seeds.

With a broken will, I moved to that group. Richard-the Seeds Pastor-led the small rag tag group on the furthest corner of the church campus, away from the youth building.

Then I saw grace.
Photo taken by marce

Richard welcomed everyone. Most of the people in the group were high school dropouts, or at least in the continuation high school. Those Punks-with army surplus combat boots, mohawks, safety pins pierced through parts of their bodies-talked about the Dead Boys, Sex Pistols, Agent Orange and others. I sat and listened as they explained what the music meant to them. Richard simply loved them. He never asked them to wear something different to church. He laughed with them and through his example I saw Jesus.

We all gathered and sang worship songs. Paul, still to this day my favorite guitar player, led worship. He taught me to sing, listening between the notes to find the harmony. It didn't matter if the not was not perfect; dissonance could always be resolved.

We studied the Word and struggled to figure out how to apply it in our lives. In that Seeds group of Misfits I began to feel normal. I wasn't the only one living in a Wonderland.

There was a way of hope.
A way of peace.
A way of escape.

In our own CBGB we found hope and purpose. Our own Hilly opened a way of purpose and redemption. Those Punks taught me what grace looks like.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gentle Lent-A Good Friday

This year's great plans for Gentle Lent have fallen short. In my failure to complete them, truth emerges.

Outward Focus: Open to Divine Appointments and Kindness Risks I feel less isolated. Each and every time I pause to talk to a person, I feel a little more open. The whole house is not cleaned and decluttered, but I have a great start for the summer.

Inward Focus: The getting up on time, abstaining from social media right when I wake up did not go so well. That plan was interrupted when Counting Mutant took himself to the ER.  However, I am more mindful of the time I spend, a quick glance then my feet hit the floor.

I’ve done well in the “no cheats.” So well it uncovered a bigger problem, I have to keep it. This last monthly cycle I had no PMDD triggered anxiety. The few days of food cravings were curbed by asking this question:

Will future me appreciate the present me indulging in this?

Photo taken by j4b
However, my first day experience was much less than ideal. My conclusion is: I need to keep clean eating regularly and cheat only once a month and investigate supplements.

Upward Focus: The quiet meditation for five minutes hasn’t worked out. My daily devotionals were hit and miss. I attended Lenten services. I still feel nervous going to the Lutheran church but anxiety is waning. The boundary of liturgy during the service melts away my fear.

The result is, found myself not wanting to rush to Sunday.

I want to savor this Friday. Participating in Maundy Thursday’s communion and watching the altar be cleared by women. The emptiness the building we call church without its focus. My own emptiness.

That cross held a priest I could identify with:

False accusations have been thrown at me. My role in Wonderland was a scapegoat. There is no redemption for a scapegoat. If something went wrong, it was my fault. It was my responsibility to fix it. People believe false testimony about me and chose to cut tie, rejecting a relationship with me.

I have been abused and wounded. Whether by family members who needed to feel in control of their own reality, an icky uncle, a lost boy looking for meaning, each left a deep and lasting wound.

In turn, wrapped in a cloak of my own brokenness I gave root to that seed of wickedness within myself. Unforgiveness and resentments are a deceptive shield. In moments of anger I falsely accused, lied and attempted to control. I repaid evil for evil.

But by His stripes I am healed.

All of these are placed on him. As I kneel near that Cross today my shame melts. I see my wounds on him and weep with Mary, her sister,  Mary of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and I am not alone. My sin did not put him there. It did not kill him. Kneeling at the foot of that Cross my burden of shame is lifted. Love put him there because God desired my freedom. My Creator saw my suffering.

Divine Love made a way: a transfusion of Holy blood to wash away my own tainted nature. Through faith I can cry and grieve the wrong done to me and the wrong I have done. I imagine myself sitting with them as they gathered in that upper room sitting Shiva as they facing life without him.

I feel humble. I feel grateful.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Walk with Dogs: Fear In The Wilderness

I am terrified.

Standing on a precipice, my toes clench its lip. My throat closes. My breath strains. Vision begins to blur as thoughts scream:

What if you fall?
What if people throw rocks and laugh as you descend?
What if flying in grace is a lie?

It is these times I walk away. Close the blank page and check twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram, and in complete desperation; clean a toilet.

Yet, my feet find themselves again on that edge. If my journey of experience, strength and hope isn’t shared; then there was no purpose to the experience. No seeds of encouragement can scatter into other wounded hearts. Others may never be introduced to the deep and abiding Divine Love. The thought of wounded souls trapped in a Try Hard Faith drops me to my knees.

A Still Small Voice calls.

The terror begins with my Family of Origin. When we were called back to this Central Valley town, I understood the cost. My own Wilderness in a land of Egypt where much of myself could never be free. The Parentals and, for a time, three sisters live here- I am the oldest of four girls.

Parentals are still very active in ministry: Mom is a talented organist and Dad works within their church, with the disabled and veterans.

The relationship with sisters Two and Four is strained. In a town where “family” is the norm, the nature of our relational acquaintance makes people uncomfortable. Often I will meet people who know them. My guard goes up because my first concern is their reputation. Their integrity.

I have a working relationship with sister Three. They often call her the Black Sheep because of her fall from grace. We both wrestle with attending church. Both of us avoid knowing people in our community because of the relational overlap.


In this third tour of deployment in the Wilderness, I’ve warily vetted friendships. Conversations are carefully measured out. Each word is weighed when spoken in public. It is with protective armor on that I run errands, have lunch with a girlfriend or simply walk around the neighborhood.

It is with all this weight that I stand on the precipice of a deep healing. My heart bursts with the hope of Divine Love’s grace. In secret I began a journey of walking away from that Try Hard faith. With dancing Divine Love revealed what Identity in Christ really means. Over tear stained long distance phone calls with a Soul Sister, we worked out how to love,  stay married and mother.

It is these and many more stories I long to tell. Today is the day. Here is the place where I can sow the seeds of Experience, Strength and hope. I lean over the abyss, allowing the wind to sweep my face. My breath catches and I let myself go.

I am still filled with doubts:

Will I fall?
Will I fly?

Here begins a series of my Escape from Wonderland.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Ode to Poo

They’re cute, right?

Ase just into a toddler bed and Zany in a crib shared the master bedroom. With space to play and a huge window to watch the traffic drive by, they thought it was perfect.

Ase would wake up early, grab a few toys and give them to Zany in his crib. They would quietly play until I came in to get their day started. Ase would be changed and dressed first. Then Ase continued to play, but with one eye on me while I got Zany ready.

Then… the flu.

Ase got it first, then Zany. Both still in diapers. Carefully holding my breath I would peal back to reveal toxic waste.

After a few days, I went to the doctor. He told me about BRAT foods: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. Doctor said it worked the same as Amodium and was better for them.

Ase responded quickly. Within a day he was solid and back on regular foods. Zany was slow to improve, but as they were tucked in that night I expected he would be fine by morning.

Their quiet murmurs greeted me as I walked down the hallway next morning. With a spring in my step and the hope of a poop free day in my heart, I opened their bedroom door.

Zany looked at me with dreamy blue eyes from the floor. Diaper gaping open. Brown goo smeared all over his legs and belly. Ase sat next to him: with a clean diaper and a hand full of wipes, his golden brown eyes met mine with pride:

“Mommy! I help Zany!”

I looked over at the crib. Sheets were spotted with caramel. What could I do? With a heart filled with love for his best friend, Ase gathered all the cleaning supplies, then somehow lifted Zany out of his crib. I couldn’t get mad. This was what we were working toward.

Brothers that worked together.
Brothers who would help each other out, no matter the cost.
Brothers who would work out differences.

So… I got down on my knees and helped him clean his brother. We talked about the mess. I told him how proud I was of him. That poop cleaning really is a Mommy and Daddy job, but I really appreciate him trying. It was a very loving thing to do.

THEN I cleaned every surface of that room. Praying nothing was left behind. What happened next was Legen...dary.

They traded that crap for the next six weeks.

I began to hate BRAT foods. They weren’t a savior, they were bondage. Just when things would get solid and they would try regular food, all went loose. In a fit of desperate crazy after Oprah one day, I made up the preschool germ nuking formula-1 part bleach/10 parts water- and cleaned the shit out of that room.

God often whispers this memory to my heart when I reach out to help someone. Ase was too small, to immature to effectively help Zany. How many times do I walk into someone’s life to help them but, instead make it worse? Many times the answer is simply to love the sinner and let Holy Spirit do his job. God is much better at cleaning up shit and getting the job done.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Gentle Lent: Wrestling in the Mud

Each time the Body of Christ gets into a tussle, I groan. It hurts my heart. I was grateful earlier this week when God lifted the burden of grief. 

Yet, I still wrestled with the scar it left behind. In Lenten service a few weeks ago Jacob wrestling with a Man on the shores of a river was the topic.

Photo taken by almogaver
Jacob chased from what was comfortable and into uncertainty. He had cheated his brother and lied to his father. Alone, in the middle of wilderness, on that desperate night, with a stone for a pillow, God met him in a dream: on a ladder from heaven to earth, angels walked.

God spoke to Jacob the promise of Abraham and Isaac. Then God said something personal, “Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won't leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

Jacob’s response is this: “Truly, ADONAI is in this place - and I didn't know it!... This place is fearsome! This has to be the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!...”

Jacob saw that small corner of the wilderness as something magical: a physical place where God was: Bethel-House of God.

Years later, Jacob sat on the banks of the lower Jordan. He was again on the run, the “victim” of deceit and cheating from his father in law. Then God showed up and Jacob wrestled with him. Jacob spent the entire night, grappling and struggling with a piece of God.

Then the Man touches Jacob and injures him. Jacob hangs on. The Man tells Jacob to let him go. Jacob says, “I won't let you go unless you bless me.”

As I sat in that Lent Service and Holy Spirit whispered to me: That’s what you do.

Since my 20s, I keep coming to that river-The Body of Christ. I keep showing up in either a church or bible study. As I sit on that bank sometimes my thirst is quenched.

Photo taken by RoganJosh
Other times I dig through the mud for a handful of water for my dehydrated soul.

BUT each and every time it is to meet Jesus. To feel the breath of Holy Spirit. To experience that Perfect Parent, Creator and Divine Love.

I wrestle with Jesus and refuse to let go until I am blessed. It is not a platform for my political views, or to complete some kind of super hero agenda. I simply come to share what I have learned. The more I become acquainted with God’s love , the more I cannot resist giving Love and Grace to others.

As a child I saw the church as God’s place: a specific refuge for my battered and frightened mind, soul and spirit.

Now that I am an adult I see God has never left me. Divine Love has been with me as I wrestle in the mud.

So, I cannot walk away. I cannot abandon Christianity or the Church

No matter how dry the wilderness is
No matter how fierce the enemies
No matter how bitter the words of others might be

because Jesus hasn't.

I want to join Him as a table is set for us in the presence of enemies.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Truth Set Me Free

It happens every time.

Photo taken by Jusben
In high school, it was rock music. The debate about whether the subliminal messages or the ruckus beat interfered with a Christian’s spiritual growth. In junior high I watched as my mom smashed her Beatles, Monkeys, The Carpenters and a few miscellaneous others all for our spiritual protection.

At church our youth group was filled with musicians. Some even became professional in adulthood. They listened to rock music and played it during jam sessions. When I worshiped alongside them, I felt Holy Spirit’s presence. It was just as strong as when I listened to my Mother play and lead worship in corporate service.

To say I was confused was an understatement.

Then came:

Sex before marriage.
Dress codes.
The correct way to pray.
Interpretations of Revelation.

I could go on…

Each and every time a culture war erupted, my heart would grieve. Like a black hole in my chest, I could feel God cry.

Mourning the hate.
Lamentening for those who were the focus of the anger.
Angry about how God was being portrayed.

AND most important, how God’s redemptive story compromised for absolute rules.

Last week was no different. World Vision and the Noah movie left me feeling like I had been kicked in the chest.

Monday I woke up under a cloud of depression. I forced myself to walk the dogs. To eat. To fulfill my chores around the house, then that afternoon, a cry for help.

Molley at A Mother Life began sharing a potential injustice. She, an immigrant, was facing investigation from Homeland Security. It consumed my afternoon. Checking her Facebook and Twitter, my heart found a new focus of lament.

My imaginary interweb friend faced being ripped from her family. I began to pray. With breathless hope I prayed,

For justice.
For mercy.
For our divine Mediator to bring peace.
For confusion to become clear.

Photo taken by kconnors
With these prayers in my heart I fell asleep. My night filled with nightmares of myself being abducted by aliens. The Mutant standing by helplessly as my kids were ripped from my arms. Aliens taking me in their ship to Ayers’ Rock and depositing me in the middle of that wilderness. The rest of the dream was filled with my crawling back to my family and home.

Throughout the whole dream I knew it wasn’t about me, it was about Molley. I continued to pray through the whole night.

Next morning first thing I did was message her to tell her about my prayers for her. Not something I usually do.

She messaged me back right away with a Thanks and a link: The Truth Shall Set Me Free.

It did.

In ways she never intended.
You see, the whole thing was a rouse. An April Fool’s prank.

I sat on my bedroom floor and felt: angry, relief, exhaustion and finally JOY. With tears I laughed. I giggled all day long. The cloud of depression was cleared away by my tears of relief and laughter. I realized it all works for good. God’s Good.

If I focus on my calling-to love my neighbor-God takes care of the rest.