Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I do it. Always have. Always will. I have friends who claim to never do it. How can that be true? In a world with tests, trauma, violence, loss... everyone prays sometime. I'm convinced.

I was fascinated to read in a May 2008 National Day of Prayer message to Congress, Ravi Zacharias quoted a 5th century writer on prayer. I love words and was thunderstruck to realize the sophistication of the words and thoughts of John Chrysostom as he wrote of prayer in the 400s A.D.

The potency of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire; it hath bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, subdued evil instincts, assuaged diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. Prayer is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine which is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by the clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, and the mother of a thousand blessings.

I had a mother who prayed. And, a grandmother and grandfather, and I have living aunts who pray for me each day. I can attest to the potency of prayer; the sufficiency; the blessings. I am convinced that my life would be much less without the prayers of those who love me--however imperfectly.

Why not pray? Is it the fear or the conviction that no one is listening? Zacharias also quotes from C.S. Lewis's Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer and a poem from an unknown author.

They tell me, Lord, that when I pray,
Only one voice is heard;
That I’m dreaming,
You’re not there,
This whole thing is absurd.
Maybe they’re right, Lord,
Maybe there’s only one voice that’s heard.
But if there’s only one voice that’s heard,
Lord, it’s not mine, it’s your voice.
I’m not dreaming; you are the dreamer.
And I am your dream.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Mine are helps, hospitality, and administration. Leadership is way down the ladder, but I can do it if no one else steps up. Bruce Bugbee's Network curriculum is life-changing and was the basis for many years of the mega-church's conviction that our time and energies were best spent in the areas of our spiritual giftedness. Completing the curriculum was required before your volunteer efforts were accepted.

Then, the church expanded and the volunteers were stretched thinly, so the new thought was "Just Jump In!" God will bless your efforts. No time to explore your giftedness. We'll do it later, or not at all. God can use you anywhere.

Such a fresh wind and a deja'vu reading John Ortberg's recent message at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. John is a truth teller; a psychologist and Bible scholar never timid in teaching the truth.

Paul says it like this to each person, “Everybody has been given the manifestation…the gifts, the gifting…of the Holy Spirit for the common good,” for the benefit of the body and, beyond that, the world, and here’s the plan:

  • The church should be led by people who have been given the spiritual gift of leadership.
  • The church ought to be shepherded by people who have been given the spiritual gift of shepherding.
  • The church is to be taught by people who have been given the spiritual gift of teaching.
  • The church is to be administrated by people who have been given the spiritual gift of administration.
Starting to catch on to how this deal works? There’s never been anything like this before.

By the way, this is not optional for the church. There is no plan B for churches based on credentials or religious bureaucracies or denominational structures or human-made traditions. God’s only plan for His church was that it should be organized according to spiritual gifts. Led by leaders, shepherded by shepherds, and so on. For any church to fail to do this is to defy the Holy Spirit and to deny the authority of Scripture. And, plus, by the way, it won't work so good.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Today in the news... a helicopter has crashed. A medi-vac helicopter carrying a one-year old little girl and three crew members.

How do you survive the loss of a child? Just barely, and not very well must be the answer.

When my husband's grandmother died 15 years ago, her life-long best friend Pearl came through the receiving line at the wake. As I was introduced to Pearl, her daughter Doris said that Pearl wanted her to tell me about her daughter Joan. Joan was hit by a car in 1943 and died--she couldn't have been much beyond 20 years old. As Doris told the story, I saw one single tear drop rolling down Pearl's cheek.

50 years after the loss and Pearl was still a grieving mother.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I know my words tumble out sometimes like ill-behaved children rolling down a hill after church while wearing their Sunday finery. Messy, messy words.
Pg. 94
Instant Love
By Jami Attenberg

For years I committed foul acts of messy, messy words. I spewed them freely, telling stories and details to countless friends and acquaintances. I considered myself interesting and outgoing. People would admire and hang on my words and exploits. My opinions were golden. My advice unfailing.

I am a verbal processor, but one still needs to use discretion with who's the processee. Share-check-share.

I think I had stuffed so much inside that I spewed all the current experiences and details because there was no room. The data cells had run out of memory--nowhere to put any more.

I would hate myself after a spew. I would walk away and think, "Why did I give that person such a huge piece of myself?" I imagined carelessly breaking off and handing off huge pieces of me, indiscriminately.

We never addressed this directly in therapy. It just stopped. With an appropriate listener, I no longer had need for inappropriate processees. I feel more whole, more relaxed, less regret, less fragmented.

There are no extra pieces of me available; no fire sales or giveaways. I save me for myself and those I hold dear.

Monday, October 13, 2008


You write your own story.

This has been the first year that my husband and I have been retired together, or semi-retired as we both do contract work. You know the stereotype--husband gets in wife's hair, husband portrayed as bumbling buffoon, husband hangs around the house too much...

I almost played into that stereotype. We were together too much in late winter, early spring. We always do very well together--really enjoy the life we have made. But, I was getting impatient and a bit nasty about too much time together. I do like my empty house and time alone.

One day I remembered... I write my own story. I want to have a beautiful, functional and fun marriage. I want to have the marriage other people dream about. We have gone 39 years into this one and it has been good. I want to value, honor, respect, and delight in my husband.

A quick prayer of forgiveness and plea for patience, asking God to let me see through his eyes. Problem solved. Not a perfect marriage, but a great one!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Whew! Just read Paula McLain's memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses. This should redefine my version of family dysfunction. I still have stories I don't and stories I can't remember, but McLain's story is a tribute to tenacity and determination and overcoming. As Sue Miller said in For Love, "Everyone has a story. It's what you do after that counts."

I will still tell my stories because telling them helps put things in perspective and lightens my baggage. I have just added a new filter.

We are all survivors. Life is hard. Whining is sometimes helpful. Thriving and celebrating life is the true measure of survival.

Friday, October 3, 2008

23rd PSALM

You know this one... I first learned it in the King James and that is the version that sticks.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He restoreth my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil.
For thou art with me.
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
Thou annointest my head with oil.
My cup runneth over.
Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen

The summer I was ten and lived in Virginia with Aunt MK and MD for the summer, they made us learn tons of Bible verses. Both to get a discount on camp fees and for Vacation Bible School and Sunday School at their little Hope Bible Church. I remember both ladies getting impatient with the little boy who would always end his recitation with, "... shirley goodness to mercy..."

This chapter of Psalms came alive to me when John Ortberg first taught it at the mega church. He based much of his exegesis on Phillip Keller's book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, a phenomenal small life changing. Keller takes it thought by thought and illustrates with stories from his life as a shepherd.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


The most outstanding outcome from my counseling sessions was the determination that I would finish a bachelor's degree at North Central College. It slipped out one day... "I can write. I'm a good writer." I re-enrolled. This time in the Organizational Communication program--something my company would pay for that gave me opportunity to improve my writing skills.

I was cautious at first. Took Introduction to Anthropology without telling anyone but my immediate family that I had returned to college. I loved it! Wrote my final ethnography on the culture of line dancing which was the rage at the time. I got an "A." In 3-1/2 years I completed two-thirds of the requirement for the degree and graduated in June of 1998 cum laude!

I loved college. I had life experience that was applicable to our readings and discussions. The required papers stimulated and polished my writing skills. And, I got positive reinforcement. I determined from the first that if I was going to devote time and energy to this endeavor, I was going to do my very best. I did.

I can't say enough about a liberal arts education. You are exposed to so many facets of art, life, and experience. Talk about paradigm shifting! [That was a big catch-phrase during those days.]

Throughout these days, randomly, I remember that I completed my degree. And, I smile.

I planned a graduation party at a tapas restaurant for just those friends and family who encouraged and supported me during my college days. Then, my brother-in-law and mother died just weeks prior to graduation and I wasn't in the mood for a big party.

On graduation day just my husband, in-laws, and daughter accompanied me to Emilio's--my son was in Europe or he would have been there, too. I drank too much sangria! Or, almost enough if I think about it a moment!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


There's a joke about Christians--not really funny and all too true. Christianity is the only culture that slays their wounded.

I am still amazed that hurts from childhood still hurt and even though you forgive, you just have to keep forgiving.

I am not a joiner. Never had a great experience in organizations and as it turns out I am really an introvert at heart, so there you go... Why join?

In elementary school we were sent to Pioneer Girls. Like Girl Scouts, but church-based. Of course you needed a ride and mom didn't drive or have a car, so again we were forced to beg a ride. I despised begging rides.

There were badges you should earn and crafts that were undertaken every so often. The best part of going to Pioneer Girls was that the friends I held dearest were my church friends. HS, PF, and MLF. Especially MLF. She was a wild child--red-haired and simply exuberant.

One week we cast plaster of Paris molds and painted them in preparation to assemble them into bracelets. For whatever reason--too much time and too many thoughts--I decided that week to work on badges. I really worked on badges. I did crafts non-stop and took them along the next week for pre-badge approval. Again, for whatever reason the leader rejected one of my offerings. Then suggested maybe I had started a bracelet the week before. I had!

She called me a liar. Goofing around during the casting process, my friends and I were putting boyfriends' initials in the wet cement instead of our own. When I pointed out my bracelet it had a "ST" on it. She said it wasn't mine and why did I try to claim ST's bracelet. Lying is a sin. I was too embarrassed to say why the ST, so I got no badge. Shortly thereafter I quit Pioneer Girls. Like so many things, mom just didn't have the energy to insist.

Then, in high school we had a vibrant, social-climbing YFC leader. He was visionary. He had energy and ideas. I babysat his kids; I rallied friends; I organized events; I showed up for everything. But, he was more interested in the connected kids. The student leaders. The rich kids who held sway with other rich and popular kids. Learning the hard way about worker bees and belonging and being good enough. I didn't quit going, and he was soon gone. Replaced by one who led-by-example and appreciated all comers.

I grew to distrust religious organizations while at the same time supporting some. I just didn't join. Then I worked for a Christian not-for-profit and suffered some of the worst hurts of my life. I was not alone. The bodies were everywhere and stacked deeply. It was all for a good cause--collateral damage.

You stuff the pain; you deny or dull the realities. But they bubble up from others and from you. You leak sewage. You get leaked on. I tried to be self-aware and to be ironic but never bitter. You had to keep a clear perspective. It was sometimes shocking how hateful and evil we humans could be and still be doing "God's work."

I used to say, "You can't stuff that much pain and anger without leaking toxic waste." There were many leakers. I should have worn a bio-hazard suit.

Still, I learned how to put the pain in perspective: expectations - reality = the size of your pain. And, that anger is usually the manifestation of disappointment. I learned about the tunnel of chaos and I learned about polarity.

I don't regret the 7 years of not-for-profit experience. I consider it my advanced degree. And, I survived. I thrive. I celebrate! It's just as Kenny Rogers said, "You have to know when to hold and you have to know when to fold..."