Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Learning to Dance

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
--Job 2:7

Could it be that the church fire was a good thing? Perhaps a blessing to me, to my children?

The previous post sparked some interesting debate in the comments section on the sovereignty of God and the free will of men. And in following that rabbit trail of logic this occurs to me...

I have learned a few things. I have learned things about myself, about my children, about my Lord. I have learned who my children really are and what they need from me for them to grow closer to God. I have learned that I am a foolish man who thinks much too highly of himself. And I have found the more I rely on God the stronger I am.

Background: My mentally handicapped child was left alone. He started listening to whispers in the dark. He played with fire. By 2:00 a.m. the police were handcuffing him in my living room.

The sanctuary where my wife and I renewed our wedding vows, the baptistry where my children proclaimed their acceptance of Jesus as messiah and creator, the place where a memorial service was held for my first child, was a charred shell, awaiting clean up, insurance estimators, and demolition.

Could it be a good thing?

Look what it forced me to do. My eyes have been opened to who my children are, truly are. I work diligently with them now, instructing them in my faith, in how to pray and how to draw closer to God. I am a fiercer advocate for them at school because I know precisely where they need help (from counseling and testing). I am helping them to engage with the world in healthy ways.

I have seen more clearly the struggles of my wife and what I need to being doing to help her. She needs to know how much I love her. I’m finding new ways to show her. I rub her feet, I give her times of solitude, I anoint her with oil, I treat her tenderly.
I pray for her each night.

I have become more reliant on God, realizing that there is nothing truly under my control, that obedience is the only commodity I have to offer my Lord.

And there is my prayer life. I pray much more than ever before. Sometimes, while I am walking the track and praying at lunch, I have to contain myself because I feel such joy while praying that I want to throw my hands up, dance about, (That would certainly distract the students in the classrooms that look out onto the athletic field!)

I place myself at His service. I know now that I cannot control my own fate, and I never could.

It sounds like a twelve step program where the addict states that he is not in control of his vice and that only through a higher power can he be saved. I am such an addict. I am addicted to sin. I keep thinking that it is all about me, that I am important, that what I think or say or feel is what matters, is more important than anything else, even His will.

I’ve been trying to control what was uncontrollable, and it is no wonder that I have been frustrated with the results.

Could it be that the church fire has been good for me?

My son says that he kept hearing a voice. It was telling him to play with fire. That it was bright, and pretty, and good to see. He isn’t schizophrenic (according to the in-depth evaluation). But he heard a whisper telling him to do things he knew were wrong.

That fire placed so much of what I held as my area of authority into the hands of others. My home, my children, my parenting, are scrutinized by other authorities. The fire marshall, the district attorney, even psychologists and counselors’ words have great weight in what happens in my home, in my family.

Could it be that the church fire was a good thing?

Some feel that God is in control of all things.

I agree.

Some feel that God causes all things to happen.

I disagree.

1. God is in control.

2. There is an evil force that acts against our Lord.

I’m unsure how to reconcile this antimony, but I know that no matter how bad things get, no matter how screwed up life is, He can make good of it.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." --Romans 8:28

I have been a proud man. My father didn’t graduate high school and I have a master’s degree. I like that. I love to read and have made myself a wealth of useless information. I kind of like that too. But I have been humbled, and to my surprise, I like that as well.

You see, I have found that as I admit how weak I am, how little control over my life I have, the stronger I feel!

There have been times when life has knocked me flat. I mean really knocked me flat. Regular readers are aware of some of those times.

But today I feel something different. I feel that when I was laid low someone came along side me and placed a strong, gentle hand on my arm. I was helped to my knees, to my feet. That hand steadied me, helped me to walk along a stony path, guided me. And oh my, has my gait changed! I went from a shambling walk in the shadows of a deep canyon to dancing along, praising my Lord.

Oh sure, things still... well, suck. But that heavy load that I have been carrying, well my big brother’s got it!

I could provide a litany of things that need my attention, that concern me, that are within my responsibility to guide and repair and supervise. But when I give those burdens to my Lord (not shirking the responsibility, but relinquishing the eventual outcome) I find my feet doing something different.

Instead of shambling, I am dancing. There is a skip in my heart, in my soul, that finds its way into my feet. I suspect that this dance will grow the more I learn that I have nothing truly in my control. I suspect that as I continue, this awkward shuffling dance will grow into a full fledged frenzy of praise. I am currently like some middle school boy, unsure of how to make his suddenly large feet keep time at his first dance. But by the time my Lord invites me home I think I will be dancing the way King David did before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:12-15), with wild abandon.

So, I think the church fire may have become a good thing. I was humbled, and that is a good thing. I learned who my kids truly are, and that is good. I have learned to pray more, and to care more for my wife, and to love others more, and all those are good things. I have discovered that the smaller I am, the stronger I am.

The fire was not good in itself. Satan was at work there, slithering his way into my son, into my family, into my church. But I also know that my Lord God has the final word in all things and that no matter what bad the Deceiver brings about... God works for the good of those who love Him.

So, to the point of this post. I wanted to just say, that though my back is out, and my fingers are bleeding, and though my children demand more of me than ever before, I am filled with a joy that I can hardly contain. I am so eager to sing the praises of my Lord God! I am so happy to be alive. I am so grateful and... maybe if it took an outrageous attack by a force of evil to put me in this place, then there is more going on than meets the eye.

I must be following the right shepherd.

Jesus lead on, I will follow!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Joy in Sorrow

The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so he died, old and full of years.
--Job 42:12-17

What a curious book, the Book of Job. A good man, one who loves God, is tormented by the worse things possible. He loses his possessions, and his business, and his children. He loses his health, his wife turns against him, and his friends sit and accuse him, one after another, of secretly sinning, cursing, God. The Lord never explains why he had to suffer.

Yet in the end, Job seems to have been happy. He took as much joy in the children that came later as those he had before. He still loved the Lord, and he lived many more, “full” years.

Life couldn’t have gotten more screwed up, and yet he found joy.

Life is screwed up today. People suffer so terribly. When I think about the suffering in Uganda my heart aches. A rebel army, calling itself a group of christians, turns children into prostitutes, soldiers, and murderers of their families. Imagine what it does to a child to force him to axe his mother.

When I think of those dying from AIDS and cancer and malnutrition, it is like a blow to my spirit. Earthquakes and tsunamis and wars, the Earth is a very sad little ball of dirt spinning in a corner of the universe.

There is a bruise on my heart from the aches that I have felt, and it throbs when I see suffering. And I am reminded of the mistaken notions people have about the Book of Job.

They cannot understand how God could have permitted such a thing to happen to such a good man. I hear that sentiment echoed by the skeptics of my faith when they turn moist eyes to gaze at the heartache that typifies humanity. I understand that confusion.

I have felt confused many times because I have looked at such things, felt such things, and have trembled at how wrong it all seems. That ache comes from loving people, though I do it so poorly.

I wish I could love the way Jesus did. He loved people. As simple as that. He did not base His love on how much or how well they would love Him back. He did not base His love on how well they obeyed. He did not base His love on how much influence His love would get if He showed that person love. He simply loved.

He knows that we are all screwed up. He knows that we are selfish, and silly, and sometimes simply stupid. And it doesn't matter. He loves us... knowing that we are screw ups. His love is not based on whether or not we will return it or earn it or even yearn for it. He simply loves. He IS love.

We are creatures with stunted hearts. We tend to think of ourselves first. Our bellies, our roof, our children, and so on, in the exact order of how far they are from our center, from our heart.

But if we can make Him the center of our heart, we will find that in that center is a love that encompasses everyone, everything. We will find that the creator of the universe has no problem with removing our worn out shoes to wash our feet carefully. That He will place His hands on the sores and the cuts and the thorns and spread a balm of healing love on our hurts with more tenderness than we could.

Imagine that sore spot in your life as a wound on your foot. The God of all creation sent someone to Earth, to you, to wash that foot, and place it on His lap so that He could bind it up.

He may never tell us why we have gotten our injuries. But He understands them. And He loves us with a passion that sent him stumbling up Golgotha with a splintered piece of wood across His shoulders.

(Lord, help me to love that way! Help me to love without embarassment, without excuses, the lesbian trio down the street, and the strange woman who wanders around the park muttering to herself, and the pompous jerk, because they are Your children as much as I. --Amen)

When I consider the love of my Lord I feel such joy. I feel like dancing! Oh I am such a blessed man. I have a home, and so many do not. I have a family which loves me. Many do not. I have food in the frig and a place to pray and a dog who thinks I am a much greater a guy than I really am. But, oh wonders of all, I have a Lord who loves me and blesses me.

So, for those who don’t understand the Book of Job, I can relate. The world is so dreadful, so sad, so hurtful. But do not lay the sorrows of the world on the clean hands of the only one who loves us despite our self-centered ways. He may not explain all, but draw near to Him and your hurt will ease and your feet will begin to shuffle side to side and you will understand why Job was, in the end, a happy and blessed man.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thank You (A note on Thanksgiving)

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job 1:20-22

I want to take a moment and say thank you. I wish to thank those of you who have encouraged, and prayed, and read, and wept, and shared with me the last few months. I am grateful. Your words, even your visits alone, have been a source of encouragement. Thank you.

I am grateful for my wife, for her sacrifices and effort and love in raising our children and making this house a home. Brenda, I know that sometimes I am cryptic, and hard to understand. I thank you for your patience and for the incredible work you place on your own shoulders, especially when it is to make things easier, or more "homey" for me. I praise Him for you daily. Thank you.

I want to thank T for being my pastor and friend and lending me encouragement and forgiveness and guidance. Your example, your sacrifice of time, and prayers at odd hours, are humbling. I embrace you fellow servant. Thank you.

Jeremiah, Issac, my children, thank you sweet boys. Thank you for who you are. Your lives have not been easy and I am so grateful to have the privilege to guide you these past few years. Boys, I love you more than anything. I would give my life for you two without a moment’s hesitation. When I think about you my heart swells, and my eyes begin to water; you mean so much to me. If at some point, my children, you read these words, I want you to know that though I have struggled with the ramifications of your adoption, it has been a wonderful blessing to me that is worth far more than what it has cost. I adore you boys and I am very pleased with you. Thank you.

I want to thank my friends, my Moon Howlin’ buddies, who have listened to me around many camp fires and laid hands on me numerous times in our prayer room. May God bless you continually for your large hearts. Thank you.

Lastly, I want to thank my Lord God. I praise You Lord for Your unending grace that has sustained me, guided me, blessed me. Thank You for giving me hard lessons that have driven me closer to You. I worship You. This whole gig is less than a hundred years long and I am grateful for anything that makes this mortal life something that brings You honor. Thank you for everything, even for the brief time I had with my first child. Even for the physical discomforts that have made me reliant on others. Thank You for meaningful work. Thank You for giving me Your word to read, and a mind to hold it, and a heart to cherish it. Thank You, thank You, thank You!

All praises to the Lord God Almighty!

That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the LORD :

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.

Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

O descendants of Israel his servant,
O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.

He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever,
the word he commanded, for a thousand generations...

...Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy in his dwelling place.

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,

ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.
Bring an offering and come before him;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his [d] holiness.

Tremble before him, all the earth!
The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns!"

Let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!

Then the trees of the forest will sing,
they will sing for joy before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Cry out, "Save us, O God our Savior;
gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
that we may glory in your praise."

Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Then all the people said "Amen" and "Praise the LORD."

1 Chronicles 16:7-36

Sunday, November 20, 2005


“And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” -- Job 1:5


We had wanted a child for so long. We ached to have a baby, one that would be ours to love, one that we could raise. I wanted to share my love of learning with a child. A child is a legacy. I wanted to leave a bit of me in this world by teaching another human being the things I felt were important.

I kept going to the story of Abraham in the Bible. I saw how desperately he wanted a child. I kept praying that I would have a child to raise.

“Heavenly Father, if You would bless me with a child I will care for him and raise him to bless Your name. If You would give me a child I would teach him about You and he would carry Your love, Your word through his life. If You would do for me what You did for Abraham, I will do the same as he did. I will give that child to You. I will dedicate my son to You and I will follow Your will in all that I do with him. Please give me a child, and I promise I will give him back to You. --Amen.”

And it happened. We got that child. We named him after me: Willy. He was born on my wife’s birthday, August 30th. Oh, it is hard to express the joy of that day. We had yearned for that child throughout the twelve years we had been a couple and he had arrived!

I kept my promise. I remembered how the LORD asked Abraham to give his son to Him and Abraham complied. I thought about this new life in my care and I took such joy in thinking how I would teach Willy about the Word, about Jesus, about eternal life. I thought about Abraham, how he followed the LORD’s will and gave his son to Him. I would be obedient, do the same.

In November, we had a feast in our home. We invited friends, we cooked a huge meal. We set tables end to end in our living room and filled the chairs with friends. I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and dedication.

I shared our journey, our desire, and God’s faithful answering of prayer. I kept my promise. Before those witnesses I told my LORD I was giving this child to Him. I said that no matter what the LORD wanted my child to do, I would uphold His will. I gave my child, I gave my hopes, and dreams, and promises, to my creator.

Four weeks later I was standing at the end of my drive, watching for the ambulance to come, hoping they would be able to make that child breathe again.


I didn’t understand.

As I sit here, tapping at this keyboard, something in my heart twists over slowly, a bruise rolls up into view. I think, “Oh dear LORD. I love You, but couldn’t there have been another way?”


The LORD asked Abraham to give up the thing that most filled his heart. And he did it. But the LORD never actually took Isaac from Abraham. The offering was enough. But the LORD did take Willy. That morning Willy cried himself to sleep; and when his crying stopped, so did he.


But I am not the only one who has given up a child. Even He provided a very difficult offering once.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” -- John 3:16

Though my heart aches when I think about that day, December 15, 1992, I know my Lord understands. That means a lot to me.


So, here I am, thirteen years later, and though there is still a bruise where I was hurt, I am a little better able to understand.

Now I have two other children. Two children who need me and I find myself doing things that I didn’t know were part of the job description. (I should have though, it is clearly in the manual.) I am to pray over my children, just a Job did. And I am to place their needs first, before my own.

It is my job to intercede for my children, especially while they are within my home. I am to pray for them, pray with them, and pray blessings into them.

I felt awkward doing this at first.

My father is a tough guy, a sort of swaggering John Wayne sort of guy who doesn’t read books. He prefers to do tough things such as crush buildings with heavy equipment and cuss a lot.

It wasn’t so bad teaching my kids how to pray to God, but to put anointing oil on a finger and place my hand on their heads, well it seemed foppish, melodramatic. Not the sort of thing real men do.

But the look on their faces when I do it! A smile spreads across their faces and it seems something is flowing through me, they are receiving something through that prayer, that touch. I heard Jeremiah tell his psychologist that when I do that he feels all the bad things being pushed out of him.

And this goes for how I care for my spouse:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” --Ephesians 5:25-28

I am to strengthen my wife's faith through sharing prayers and scripture. I have started anointing my wife each night as well. Each member of my family has a vial of anointing oil on their headboard, the scent chosen to reflect who they are.

Again, it seems strange.

I was required to take courses outside of my major while in college. One such class was “Women in Culture.” A very strange experience. There were only four men in it on the first day, and by the end of that week I was the only one left. But I hung in there; I’m not a quitter. But golly, they hated men! Men were seen as the source of all that was wrong in the world (and they did have some persuasive arguments).

The militant lesbianism was uncomfortable, but I hung in there. I finished that class with an "A" and a deep respect for women and their struggles.

I think that experience made me feel awkward in taking a leadership role in my home, that I was being sexist, misogynistic. It somehow felt that in claiming the position of head of household I was saying that my wife is not as valued as I, not an equal.

But she is. And in praying a blessing for her I am not making her beneath me, or subservient. I am lifting her up to my LORD and asking Him to bless her. I am asking that she be given the resources to do all the difficult tasks that are placed on her.

And it isn’t as if I am elevated in any way. I am not the master of this home. My LORD is. I am a steward. I’m simply a manager of this franchise.

So I offer it all to Him. I know that can be dangerous. I remember offering Him something big once before. I didn’t like what He chose to do with Willy. But I am His servant.

I had an odd task to do this past weekend, and as uncomfortable as that was, it was the right thing to do. I first thought it was something that the elders of my church should do, or people in the congregation who seemed better versed in such things. But I was wrong. It was my job.

There were difficult moments, and I suspect more are coming. But I can tell you that in being obedient I feel lifted up. I feel a sense of joy and relief and... well, gratitude.

In that ultimate sacrifice of God's, in giving up His son, we can see the perspective of the sacrifice itself. A difficult task for God incarnate.

“And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” --Luke 22:40-42

Sometimes we are asked to do things we don’t like. Abraham did not eagerly lead his son up that mountain in Moriah. But he was obedient. And it pleased the LORD.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” --Psalm 19:14

That is what I want. I am the LORD’s (curious) servant.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Girding up

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I send my family off and I pray through my home. Perhaps I am making too much of this, but I am proceeding cautiously.

A couple of nights ago the son I was not so concerned with shared some things with me that showed there are things creeping about the edges of his consciousness as well. My wife is moody. I am irritable.

Little things have been popping up that are keeping me so busy I haven’t gone through my home and gotten rid of the minor things I feel need to be removed. Small things such as videos a friend sent that really aren’t so bad but... Things like the "Alien" trilogy, "The Highlander" series, stuff that really aren’t about blood and gore and evil, but I would not feel comfortable having on the tv if my LORD was sitting on the couch beside me. (Please take no criticism if you enjoy such things. This is just about me and my choices.) But I WILL get them out of the house tonight.

I have started anointing my family members each night and praying over them (including my wife). I have confessed and repented of what He has shown me as unworthy of a follower of Him. I have fasted and prayed and gathered scriptures, and I am almost ready.

In the morning I will rise early, go to the prayer room in our church and place myself in His care. I will see my family off and I will start in the most remote part of the house and work through it, as if I am pushing something out, room by room, closets, hallways and porch. I will pray in the shed and in the tree fort and on the roof. I will anoint windows and doors and eaves and peaks. I will pray over the corners of the property and with His guidance create a spiritual barrier about my home.

I know this is a strange post. And for anyone who has stumbled onto this blog at this point you may think I’m a little looney. But that doesn’t matter to me. I think this is all a little odd also, but I am convinced it is real and I need to do this.

“...Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints...” Ephesians 6:10-18

So, if you are inclined, and the time is before noon on Saturday November 19 Pacific Standard Time, could you say a prayer for me and mine?

I could use the help. I’m busy girding on the full armor of God and I want to be sure all the straps are secure.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Sword

We were in a mountain pass, snowbound. My family was wandering through nearby trees. The dark figure's soft sibilant voice was taunting, assuring me I would fail. I kept checking on each member of my family, he kept whispering.

I was putting off the confrontation.

The black carriage swept into the clearing, spoked wheels throwing snow, the breath of the black horses trailing in the air, floating before a backdrop of frosted evergreens. He stood up, dropped silently to the slush. A slight breeze swirled his cape about black clothing and lacquered breast plate, his face a shadow.

At my feet in the back of the covered wagon, was a golden sword and six large old fashioned Bibles.

My unsure hands picked up the oversized sword. The handle was a foot long with a crown for a pommel. The hand guard jutted out a foot on each side, making the weapon a cross. The gold blade's first foot was a saber, a regular sword. In the next foot the blade widened out to a broad sword, giving it weight. In the last foot, the tip became a thin rapier.

A word came to me:
"Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). I picked it up, and though it was too large for me, it moved easily to wherever I pointed.

I turned to face the dark figure waiting by the dark carriage. And the Bibles at my feet began to float. They moved out of the back of the wagon toward the Enemy.

I jumped onto them and sped across the open snow.

I was going to hack at him when I got close enough, but I felt directed to change tactics. ("Extend your arm. Drive the point into your foe.")

was propelled at him by the Bibles and I aimed the tip at his chest; the blade pierced the breast plate...

And the clothes collapsed. They were empty.


I know what I need to do. The dream is clear to me. This is going to be a week of prayer and reading the scripture. And starting Friday evening I will pray through every room of my home, every corner of the property, every corner of the building, claiming it and all within it for my Lord. I will anoint the doors and windows with oil and
every time I feel a doubt or worry I will quote the word of God. I will defend my home with The Word.

I don’t like this stuff. I have been a long time in getting to this place, but I will not let him have a foot hold in my home. Strike that, His home. For all I have I give to my Lord. I am not going to shirk this because it seems weird or farfetched or... whatever.

The message is clear and I will obey. I am the Lord’s servant and there is no power that can pluck me from His hand. The word of God is my sword and it is time I picked it up and seriously practiced with it.


Heavenly Father, bless my home and bless my children. I confess that I am a little fearful of what may be haunting my children, my home. But I know that if You are with me no one can be against me. I pray that You show me all my sins so that I may confess and repent. I pray that whatever is in my home that does not honor You, You will show me so I may remove it. Strengthen my knowledge of Your Word so that I may have the sword ready when needed. I claim the victory that You won on Calvary. --Amen

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Journeys Mapped in Heaven

She set the steaming bowl of rice before the little boy and went back to the kitchen to retrieve the rest of his dinner. He stared at it with large eyes, his thin arms began to tremble. He looked up at his new daddy.

“Do you want to eat first?” he asked.

“We’ll eat together after we say grace,” I said.

He looked back down at the rice. Hesitantly he put his hands around it.

“Do you want the first bite?”

“No thanks, Mommy will bring me my own.”

He started to shake.

“This is for me? All of it?”

He couldn’t believe that the food was all for him, that no one was going to take it away.


He sat in the tub and I came in to give him his first bath in our home. I wanted to make him feel that everything that had happened to him before was being washed away.

I grabbed the large plastic cup and dipped it into the water. I put my hand on his shoulder and raised the water over his head.

“Close your eyes.”

He looked up at me with a false grin and terror in his eyes. There was something terribly wrong. His arms were rigid. His legs straight and stiff. He looked at me and I could see the strain of trying to please me and fear of what may happen play across his face.

I washed his hair, explaining to him how to get the shampoo through his nappy hair. I washed his arms, showing him how to get the wash cloth saturated with soap and how to keep it away from his eyes.

I washed his feet, and some of his legs, but as the cloth swept up toward his waist he become rigid and the false grin returned.

I wanted to make the bath some sort of ritual of cleansing and new beginnings, but he didn’t trust me enough yet. I had him show me he could rub the wash cloth well enough and explained to him how he had to wash everywhere. I left him to his privacy.


It was just a couple of days after they boys came to live with us. I thought I’d try horsing around with them like my father did with me when I was five. I hugged them, tried to get them to wrestle. They just didn’t get it. I lifted them up in the air and swung them around. Jeremiah started crying and got a nose bleed though he never bumped his nose on anything. I set him down on the couch and rushed to get some toilet paper.

As his new mommy comforted him and I could hear him say: “Daddy hurt me.”


We couldn’t seem to get their hair picked out right. It hurt them despite the conditioners we rubbed into their scalps. So I bought some electric shears and tried to give them haircuts. That first time was a total loss. It takes practice to learn how to do it right. One side would get uneven and I would go over it again to smooth it out. Then they would shift or twitch or flinch, and the shears would dip too low, and I’d start going over it again.

After a frustrating 45 minutes I just put the clippers to the scalp and ran it over the whole head. It was summer anyway.

Once the curls had fallen around the stool I saw the marks. There were scars running across his poor scalp. There were little dents where the bone beneath showed a dip or lump. Terrible things had happened to this boy’s head.


There are more stories. Some hint at or reveal other terrible things that this boy has experienced. But I wish to share just one more story, one with a different ending.


We were sitting at dinner, talking about school pictures and how there are few pictures from before they came to live with us. Brenda ran to her hope chest to get their passports, containing the earliest pictures we have of our boys.

We passed them around. There is a look of terror in the boys’ eyes. We can only guess at the horrors reflected in those eyes. They don’t know why they are posing for those pictures, that this photo is a step toward taking them out of Haiti.

I examined the places they had been, the times and dates and notations. There was the customs stamp showing when they left their birth country. The time and date struck me.

At the exact moment they were boarding a plane from that awful place I know what I was doing.

I was sitting on my couch, the sun was coming up. A new day, a new beginning. I hadn’t slept all night. I wasn’t sure what I should be doing. I had gotten up early the morning before to feed our baby. He died later that morning. As the dark of night turned into the dark of a day of grieving I sat numb. All my dreams of what I would teach my child, all the years I had foreseen, all ashes. I felt like my heart was breaking, like it was some living thing beating loud and strangely in my chest. I felt that it would ache forever. It didn’t seem that I would ever smile again, that I would every be able to love a child again.

3,400 miles away two small, frightened boys were being ushered onto a plane. They were leaving all they had ever known.

I wasn’t ready for new children. They weren’t ready for a new daddy. But He was moving Heaven and Earth. He was preparing me and He was preparing them.

I love those boys fiercely. I kiss their heads each night (even though they are in high school). I lay my hands on them and I pray blessings into them, and I lay them on the altar of my heart before the LORD constantly.

Whatever challenges they bring to my home, it is because He has given me that task to do. Therefore I cannot fail. He works His Will through me. His grace is sufficient.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Taking Out the Trash

The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
--Job 1:7

I’m trying to make sense of something. It’s like reaching into a nasty old koi pond and trying to pull out a fish. It’s all too murky and stirred up to see anything. And when I touch something it’s slippery and slimy, and almost certainly smelly. When I am able to get a grip on something I’m not sure I want to pull it into the light.

Human beings generally believe in God, or at least a god (goddess). Christians believe in a personal God, one who cares and loves and suffers and sacrifices for His creation. We also believe in Satan. Maybe not a comic character who dances about on our shoulders, but perhaps some vague force opposing God. We might see it as some sort of Star Wars thing with two sides of the force battling across time and space. But since we aren’t Jedi knights we don’t worry about it too much.

We don’t want to live in a world where evil is personified. We don’t mind that sometimes things are bad, and sometimes there are bad people. And we don’t mind
sometimes acknowledging that we are naughty. But we don’t want to think that under the veneer of beauty the world is manipulated by some evil force who seeks us harm. Personally seeks us harm. We don’t want to be some pawn on a spiritual chess board.

Reluctantly I can see that there are dark forces in the world, sliding just beneath the reality we know. They move about unseen, like oily things gliding beneath the surface. Occasionally they create ripples in my world.

I written before about those whispers in the dark. Could there be something creeping about the edge of the light of my home? Might there be shadows within my home, places where the light of my LORD does not shine?

My eldest son felt compelled to play with fire. He burned much of our church down. He says he heard voices telling him to do it. For weeks. What does that mean? The psychologist says he isn’t schizophrenic. Could there be something evil lurking about my son, whispering to him, tempting him?

I know that my children have come from a place where darkness rules openly. But in the land of iPods and Big Macs getting a grip on cruelty and voodoo rituals doesn't come easy. What dark things might be lurking near my home because of the evil visited upon my children? Someone took a baseball bat to Jeremiah’s feet, crushing them. There are dents in his head. When he first came to us he didn’t believe we would let him have his own bowl of rice to eat. Isaac has scars all over his face. Someone had ritually burnt him to ward of werewolves.
I've heard worse stories from the woman who rescued my children. I’m not sure what to make of it all, but I want to figure it out.

So I’m “boning up” on the dark side of the force. That sounds a little flippant, but that’s my point. I prefer to think of evil as a dark figure with a cape who is into heavy mechanical breathing and sounds like James Earl Jones. But I think that usually evil does not grab our throats with an invisible grip. Usually it just whispers to us the things we want to hear, the things we desire, the self doubts, and what our rights are. It hints that our conscience doesn't matter. And the biggest lie he whispers is that he doesn't exist. I’ve gotten used to not thinking about the evil side of my theology. Which is just the way he wants it.

Now I’m reading books on spiritual warfare, and generational curses, and demon possession. Not a comfortable topic. I don't like it.

There was something in a book I was reading yesterday. It was a chapter on evil objects. It suggests that there are things in our lives that attract evil, push away what is good. I wondered if there was anything in my home that I needed to remove. There isn’t any pornography, or drugs, or voodoo dolls. Then I remembered. On the top shelf of my bedroom, in the corner, are some books and mementos.

When I was eighteen I wanted to learn about world religions. I took a stack of books and went off where there weren’t any people and read them. I have some of them still. And there are books from when I was a monk in a yogic ashram. But books can’t be bad. They are just information, and I love learning things. And oh, yes, there’s that little wooden box. It has a picture of Sri Ramakrishna, a stone from India, a few Rudraksha beads, and a candle from a hindu temple. So it’s not like I have any porn or any... Wait a minute. Those things? He wants me to get rid of that stuff?

Yeah, that stuff. And not just that stuff. I need to sift through my home and really take a look at what is in it. I am my LORD’s servant and everything I have belongs to Him. And frankly, there’s a lot of stuff He doesn’t want.

My dad has a few bucks. He lives in Southern California and is very successful. (If you can call divorcing his fifth wife, giving away one of his houses, and spending most nights with his former maid successful.)

He takes pride in throwing stuff away. I don’t give him things anymore because when he tires of something he throws it away. He takes pride in paying extra for garbage service. He hauls five or six cans of trash to the curb every week and it is often filled with stuff that people give him. After a birthday it might hit six trash cans and seven large plastic bags. After Christmas... well let’s just say it is astonishing.

But I think Jesus would just as soon haul five or six cans of the stuff I have given Him to the curb.

I thought that those books and mementos are just that, mementos. But why do I have them? I’m not going to read them again. I know all that I want to know about that stuff (actually, more).

So, out with The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Out with The Autobiography of a Yogi. I don’t need to read Patangali or The Baghavad Gita or Surathji. I certainly don’t need the beads or the candles.
There's even a fragment from a Mayan temple my father-in-law gave me. That stuff is dead, and it is nearly forgotten.

Nearly, but not quite.

That is how he works. He whispers in my ear: “That’s not important. That doesn’t mean anything.” And so I let it sit on the shelf.

There are a lot of things I know I need to do with and for my kids. And I am working on it. I'm reading the gospels out loud to them, to be sure they hear the good word about the Living Word. There's the reading I have taken on. I’ll finish up those books. I'll go to that seminar this Friday on spiritual warfare, and I’ll enlist friends in helping me through prayer. But there are a lot of things that I can do to clean up my own act.

I don’t need any Schwarzenegger movies, or horror movies or any of that stuff. I don’t need any books on mysticism or mythology. And I don’t need mementos of a life that is dead to me.

Hang on a second, LORD. Let me help you haul those cans to the curb.

UPDATE (Tuesday 10/8/05):
My first thought was to burn that stuff. Seemed a little dramatic, and I thought, why not just let it rot in the landfill forever? So I wrapped it all in a paper sack to make sure it didn't fall out, and put it in the trash.

Well, the can didn't get picked up today! Strange. First time for everything. So it is still at my house, outside, in the trash can. I'm tempted to dig it out and do something more permanent with it.

I've got to say this whole thing is giving me the creeps. I don't like dealing with this sort of thing. But I can't deny it since scripture is very clear here.

Thank you, all of you, who are saying that you are praying for me and my family.