Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Early Start

I walked by the family at the front of the store and subconsciously slowed my step, curious to see what would happen.
Three young children, all varying ages under seven were vying for the attention of their parents and getting nowhere fast. As I got closer it was apparent they'd been ignored for some time, and were getting desperate. Finally the oldest, a boy about five or six, ran up to the cart, jumped up on the side, and straining over the edge of the basket, grabbed a gallon of apple juice and threw it onto the ground.
The DVD kiosk was close by, so I stopped in front of it entirely unwilling to miss out on the events that were unfolding before me. What happened next was astonishing. The boy quickly followed the gallon of juice to the floor and laid down on the big square tiling, his head right next to the purchase. When his Dad leaned over to pick up the juice his son sat up, wrapped his arms around his father's neck and said in his little southern accent "Dad, I need to tell you something. Dana needs a diaper change." The Dad stood up and peeled his son's arms from around him and said "don't you throw anything on the ground or you'll get smacked. Mom'll change her in the car" and he put the juice back in the cart.
Over and over the kids had tried to get their parents' attention. Something was wrong. In their little minds, there were really important matters at hand, an emergency even. But who they were, their size, the usual noise volume they kept at had drowned out the importance of their problems, and completely understandably so. Then, in a moment of brilliance the oldest child did something extreme that he knew would first, get his father's attention, and second, bring his Dad down literally to his level forcing him to have to interact with his son and hear what he had to say, important to him or not.
The son set aside the risk of punishment for what he did because he was looking for the results of his actions, not the cost. He put his toddler sister's needs before himself, laid on the floor, and did what was necessary to make sure she would be taken care of, because in his young mind, he couldn't be certain.
Standing there at the 99 cents a night film rental kiosk, I watched one of the most vivid, astonishing and aggressive displays of leadership I've seen in a long time come from someone four times younger than I am.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

becoming accustomed

I fell asleep the other night only to awake a few hours later--something was crawling on my shoulder. I sat up a little and a spider dashed frantically from my right shoulder, across my bare chest, and off into the heapy pile of sheets I generally sleep next to. Needless to say, I was quite awake. I turned on the lights, stepped on several legos (yes I have legos) and tossed the sheets around a little. If the tiny demon had a heart it was racing as he fled across the bed and leapt...right into my trash can. Triumphant I immediately then and there, took out the trash. 
Having moved rather quickly with barely any notice (just about a month) from Denver to Arkanasas, I find myself approaching old nemeses.
Hello, bad attitude and poor outlook on life. Haven't seen you two in such a blatant, bright light in quite a while.
Who is that at my door but the old feelings of depression and occasional loneliness? I've kept you from visiting me just by sheer busyness these last few years. I thought we'd ended things more permanent than this...
Self-doubt and insecurity? Why are you here?
And the list goes on.
Yeah, why ARE you here?

Arkansas has more spiders than Colorado. While this is an unscientifically founded statement, it sure as heck is true for me. At home in Denver, I'd seen only maybe a dozen spiders over the past few years concluding with the one that ran across me in the middle of the night. Here in Arkansas...nightly I see them every time I set foot outside. There are loads of them during the day scurrying around underfoot and along walls or curb sides, and even more at night. I guess they love to bask in both sunlight and moon glow. It's a little disturbing I guess. But now I'm more used to them. Last night I was talking to my sweet Jessa on the phone and I found myself absentmindedly watching four of them tackle each other, long writhing, spindly legs poking every which way jerkily.
In Denver, a spider was something that caught my attention. I woke up during the night knowing something wasn't right, and it wasn't. There was an intruder, an eight-legged problem that needed to be solved.
Here in Arkansas, I live with them. Maybe it's the lower altitude, the warmer weather, or more friendly humid climate. But they're here, they're everywhere, and it's normal.
What bothered me last night was that many times more of a bigger, uglier, grosser breed of spider was playing in front of me and I was alright with it. The one in Denver was smaller but still pretty big, and it scared the righteous daylight out of me.
I have become okay with living around so many spiders.
And I don't like that.

J.I. Packer wrote "Sin invades the switched-off mind. Jesus said in John 8:12, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" As I address these things invading the privacy of my world and my mind, I do not ever want to be okay with them. The creeping feeling of eight-legged depression, selfishness, pessimism, self-doubt and so on...I want to never just watch them play on the wall beside me. It isn't about where I live, that's secondary. The world is full of places that have tons of spiders and also have none. I will travel and live where there are plenty or few, and I will live in plenty or few myself. It's about the struggle, and about my decisions.

The average age of a full-term newborn is approximately 7.5 lbs. I've had the opportunity to work with babies  that have only reached 30-31 weeks in the womb. The tiny ones that weigh almost nothing, cannot breathe or eat on their own, and have the tiniest little tubes coming out from their bodies. They simply do not have the bodily coordination to breathe or swallow yet. Heart wrenching, breath-taking, and amazing, it is a physical manifestation in the most literal sense of the "miracle of life." It was over a year ago that I got to work with them and their anxious, hoping, and more than dedicated parents, but something that has stuck with me since then is that those children were fighting. Every day, moment-by-moment, the tiniest human beings on earth fought for the chance to live. We are built with that sense in us from conception, the drive to live and survive.
It makes what I go through each day pale in comparison. It is that encouragement that I found recently.
I was not created a "defeated" person with problems so inset in me that I can be considered just a series of failures. No, I was created with a purpose, created lost so I could be found, and with failures that bring me back to my knees and back to who Jesus is.
Psalms 36: 1-2 warns of what I could be "an oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin."
God, please help me to always hate the things in my life that directly go against what you want for me. To never get used to them in my life and make it a normal thing that they bring me down, like I deserve it. Help me be like the neonatal infant baby who doesn't ever stop fighting and doesn't know otherwise. I don't want to eat or breathe on my own.

Hebrews 3: 13 says "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness and become accustomed to the spiders."

Psalms 32:8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you."

Monday, October 4, 2010


The Captain leaned back against the door frame and he began to explain."I had to leave my job as a Nurse for the prison. I couldn't do it anymore."
My mind leaped ahead as I thought "sure. The prisoners were cold, violent and lied all the time. I can understand that." That wasn't it. What he said would haunt me for a long, long time.

"One day I had a patient kill another patient." The room grew absolutely silent--the Captain was being sincere and vulnerable with us.

"One of my patients told the other one that he was going to kill him. The patient begged and begged the guards to keep him away saying "please, please don't let him in the medical ward. He's going to kill me. He said he's going to kill me." The man came in anyway through the hall that leads to the medical ward which comes right from out there in the yard. You have to be searched to get in, but somehow the man was able to bring in a ten-pound weight and homemade knife. "

The Captain then proceeded to quietly describe the relentlessly cruel, cold, and indisputably most brutally violent murder I'd ever heard of in my life.

"The only way he could have brought that weight in was if one of the guards had let him. That's when I realized that in the future I might one day make someone mad by not giving them a med they ask for and they could just come in and kill me. So I quit my job. But that wasn't what I couldn't reconcile.
The man who killed my patient had consecutive life sentences--he wasn't set to be released until the year three thousand thirty-five. My patient, the one he killed, was an outspoken child molester who was in prison for the fifth time and set to be released in a week. He had told the man "when I get out I'm going to find the first seven year old boy I can and--." That man killed him because he didn't want my patient to ever be released from prison.  "

I sat in silence. This story the Captain told, it had no conclusion. It was...a behemoth that devoured soullessly. Where was the redemption in what happened? Was that justice was served to the man who deserved it? That both men were in the prison system? Did the guards pay the man to carry out the unspeakably horrific act?
I couldn't--I couldn't understand this.

Here was a problem so huge it cannot be fixed. The justice system, Federal employees, murder, all was too much.
Saturday night I drove. I drove and drove and drove. My mind dogged the subject, at once both exhausted tirelessly. What was the answer? Was there one?
And slowly, slowly the shattered glass began to reflect light.

Everyone on earth knows of The Problem. The problem of humanity, the problem of pain, the problems of evil and sin. Whether or not they choose to believe in how and why these things are or take place, is up to them. Wealthy and starving, Christian or atheist, the world knows it's not perfect.
What was it that Jesus did in a world with so much hurt?
He reached out to individual people. The forgotten, the well-off, the prostitutes, those ready to believe and those who were about to stone in righteous anger. Jesus began his work at a very young age by teaching in the Synagogue, by doing the miracles of the water into wine and by healing the sick or the blind. Jesus healed not by abolishing blindness, but by spitting in the mud and wiping it on a man's eyes.
Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, they changed humanity by changing hearts.
On an individual basis.

This problem of a man who brutally murders another man, the guard who allowed it to happen, the victim who lived a sick, twisted life and desired to do unspeakable evils, this problem is not unsolvable. There is a fix. And it begins by hearts that are changed. The prisons, the judicial system and every other area of the world that is so apparently fallen can be changed by individuals who reach out and change hearts. By following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and sharing Jesus with them. The guard, the prisoner, the murderer and the evil man...each one of them needed the same thing.
And it's the same thing I need.
It's by grace alone I wasn't the guard, killer, or child molester. That is what each one of those men and the whole system needs. The grace of Jesus. I have been given a gift that every person on earth needs.
My purpose in life is about sharing that gift and serving the One who gave it to me.