Knock It Off!

If only those door-to-door religion peddlers knew what goes on in my head….

no-soliciting

Have you ever been tempted to do something seriously shocking to scare these folks away from your door? Out here, about once or twice a month, there will be a knock on my door. Some bright, shiny face will look at me as I place myself in the crack of my door to prevent my dogs from rushing out and offer to share their “good news” or whatever buzz word they’re working with this time. (Once the guy tried to tell me about a “prize” I won… I looked around, there were no cameras, no balloons, no big check and no Ed McMahon….pretty sure I hadn’t won Publishers Clearing House.)

prizepatrol

And hey, I’m not exactly the fashion police, but this is Florida. Is it really comfortable to be in panty hose, skirts down to mid calf and blouses buttoned to the top of the neck? The guys aren’t much better. They’re all shirt and tie (of the polyester variety) Never mind that they look like throw backs from the 70’s….they don’t look comfortable…and severely repressed.

Many of you know me. I have absolutely no issue with God, Christianity or faith. None at all. What I do have is a brain and a wild child streak (never mind my inner exhibitionist who keeps wanting to answer the door nekkid). See, I know this gimmick. First, they make the assumption that no one…except them, of course…has a belief of any “true” value. Second, if you say “not interested” and slam the door in their face (which I’ve been known to do), they feel validated for having faced “persecution” and look down their noses at the “poor souls” who “turned their back” or “closed the door” on their chance for salvation. It’s irritating and condescending.

Tell us how you really feel, Kitt…LOL!

Okay, so I’m outspoken. The truth is, if they tried to hand me one of their pamphlets at a park or someplace public, I probably wouldn’t care…but when they come knocking on my door uninvited, it bothers me. I find it intrusive…not to mention I really don’t appreciate the assumptions they make about my personal relationship with God. That’s between me and the big guy. Plus, how do they know what I may or may not have been doing on the other side of that door?

My neighbors knock on my door all the time! In fact, a few weeks ago, my neighbor down the block had her oldest daughter knock on my door to ask me if I could take them to pick up her youngest daughter. Apparently the bus had come early and because they weren’t at the stop, the bus took the little kindergartener back to school. I had no problem with that. Was perfectly willing to help. My other neighbor kid who used to constantly oversleep and miss the bus? Yeah, I took him to school, too…and threatened to buy him an alarm clock for Christmas. The neighbor next door asks to borrow a cup of sugar or for me to pick up the mail…no problem! But random strangers who aren’t even from my neighborhood who disturb my peace and make assumptions about my salvation? Yeah…kind of over it.

Soooo…. You guys are a fun, creative bunch… How have you gotten rid of unwanted salvation peddlers? What wild and wacky suggestions might you have for me? Am I overreacting? I’d love to hear your feelings on door to door faith salesfolk.

What Does Good Friday Mean To You?

I’m going to warn you in advance. This is not my usual post. This is more reflective of the holiday we are entering into, so I’m well aware that it won’t be for everyone.

I suspect, even if you aren’t a very “religious” person, that if you ever did the “going to church” thing in your life this particular season brings out the reflectiveness in you. Yes, there’s the secular world of Easter bunnies and Easter egg hunts and more candy than any dentist is comfortable seeing, but for those of us who’ve either been raised in the church or spent some time going, we know the deeper meanings in this holiday.

Last night I performed for the first time in a Maundy Thursday service. Some know this service better by Holy Thursday or Covenant Thursday. Basically, it’s the day of The Last Supper of Christ, spent with his disciples. Although we did a few songs, it was the Negro Spiritual “Were You There” performed with a friend, Acapella in the dark that was the most personally moving. The darkness was symbolic of His death and burial. For those of you who haven’t heard the song before, here’s a lovely version. In fact, if you close your eyes and just listen, it will touch you.

Anyway, as I listened to the scripture readings last night, I found myself reflecting on the disciples, Peter in particular. I found it ironic that Peter was the one who came to Jesus asking about how often he should have to forgive. Peter thought forgiving someone 7 times was a lot back then, and Hebrew law would’ve agreed with him. That was generous! Jesus, however, told him 70 x 7…which back then translated to infinite.

As I thought about his conversation with Jesus that Thursday night when he said (and I believe he meant it) that he would never deny Him, I imagined how devastated he was on that Friday when the rooster crowed. There was no question Peter loved Jesus, but in that moment his fear overwhelmed him. On that day, when his faith was put to the test, he denied Jesus and their relationship.

I wonder if he had nightmares after that, of having denied Jesus for the third time only to hear the rooster crow, remember Jesus’ words and meeting Jesus’ eyes. I imagine the look in Jesus’ eyes was a blend of compassion, forgiveness and hurt. Then I started thinking about my own life.

There was a young girl who I considered to be one of my closest friends back in 5th grade. One day in Science class, while sitting at my lab table with my 3 other partners, she walked by my table. Just as she was passing, her arm shot out and punched me hard in the stomach. My three lab partners were outraged. They wanted to report her to the teacher. I stopped them.

“Why?” one of the boys asked. “She hit you. That’s not right.”

I shrugged. “Don’t. She’s hurting. She just found out her parents are getting divorced.”

“So that makes it okay to hurt you?” the other one asked.

“No,” I answered. “It’s not. But it was easier for her to hurt me than to hurt her parents the way that she feels they’re hurting her.”

Before you think I’m telling you this story to make myself out to be some sort of saint, don’t worry. I’m not egomaniacal. The truth is she hurt my feelings. She betrayed my trust and we were never friends again. I was also fairly young and innocent back then.

As I got older I learned to be less forgiving. More quick to react in kind. More likely to live out the “eye for an eye” concepts. In fact, my inability to forgive nearly cost me a valued friendship just recently. Sadly, the only crime my friend committed was being related to someone who’d hurt me. I should have been able to let it go, but I didn’t. And I talked about it. And talked about it. And talked about it. To her!

She was beyond patient with me, but the time came where she had finally had it. She snapped and said something. Someone innocent paying for the actions of another. Not at all cool. It stopped me in my tracks and made me think. It took months before she was finally ready to talk to me again. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she never did. I was insensitive, thoughtless and hurtful.

Two very different stories, aren’t they? It’s no wonder Jesus said we need to have hearts like children. Time and experience have a way of coloring our perspectives. So I think back to Peter with a better understanding of how humbling it must have been to realize just how much he now needed the forgiveness from his Master. Forgiving the unforgiveable. I bet he thought back to that day when he asked Jesus about it, grateful now, about his answer, realizing just how undeserving he was of that gift in that moment.

More importantly, it made me realize just how hurt Jesus probably was in the moment that Peter denied him, though he knew it was coming. His best friend, denying he even knew him at the biggest trial of his life. Personally, I’m grateful for his forgiving heart and for his sacrifice. Without it, this world would be a hopeless place.

So my question to you guys… What does this holiday mean to you? Do you celebrate Good Friday? There is no judging here. Please don’t misunderstand. These are simply my personal beliefs and not meant to reflect anyone else’s.

Here’s a song that I feel reflects exactly why God is so good.

A Foundation Of Tears And Trust

Patrick Thomas from the first episode of The Voice does an amazing cover of Rodney Atkins’ song, “Invisibly Shaken”. The song resonates with me, and I really love Patrick’s pared down version.

What do you do when the your foundation gets shaken? Sometimes it may be a relationship, like in the song. Sometimes it can be a crisis of faith. Maybe it’s not your faith being tested, but your sense of belonging. Maybe it’s a loss or upheaval in your family. Regardless of the circumstances, we all have those times where our internal strength gets tested.

“God will not test you beyond what you can bear.” That’s the promise God gives us on 1 Corinthians 10:13. But there are moments, aren’t there? Moments when you wonder if that’s really true? For some people it can be an untimely or unexplainable loss that brings on the crisis. Cancer, accidents, violence…things that happen way too often. Or maybe it’s just an incongruity.

Have you ever walked into a church, heard a message…maybe through the preacher or through the songs and hymns being sung…but the message sent by the behavior of the members, or even the minister didn’t match? Were you that person who felt unwelcome? Unaccepted? Unloved? Unimportant…even in God’s house?

It’s a challenge, isn’t it? To hold on to what you know is right and good and faithful when everything around you is shaking and crumbling? I often wonder if this is how my sister-in-law felt when she was told that her only son, my nephew, had committed suicide. I knew it destroyed my husband, though he wasn’t my husband yet. It was also his first close, personal experience with loss. I know so many of us asked the questions that Blaine Larsen asks in this next song.

Sadly, often when we ask those questions, all we come up with are more questions. Many either question God as to “why?” or even “where were you?” or “How could you let this happen?” Everyone’s ability to cope is different. The pressure point can vary from person to person. No matter how strong a person is, there IS a breaking point. What I’ve learned through life is that we were NOT meant to live it alone. God sent us each other to push through till times get better. Things that may not seem like much to you can be the thing someone uses to hold on and pull through. Oddly enough, it was my experiences with my brother that prepared me to help him and his family during their time of grief.

I was 15 when my brother died. I’ve talked about him before, so some of you even know the circumstances surrounding his death. I was a freshman in high school. Moved to a private church school, I didn’t feel very welcome. Most of these kids had been together since kindergarten, and I was the new girl in.

No one made it easy for me. In fact, girls being what they are at that age, all but two of them had decided they hated me on site. The one had grown up with me, and had been one of my closest church friends in our younger years. The other found out I grew up like a sister to the boy she had a crush on and hoped that being nice to me might get her a date with him. The guys? At first they were very welcoming, excited to have “fresh meat” in the classroom. It all changed when they realized I wasn’t really interested in dating. My brother had just died, we’d moved neighborhoods, moved schools….been taken away from everything that was familiar to us. Dating was the last thing on my mind! Coping was the best I could hope for.

Something happened about a month into my stay at this school that changed everything. School had just gotten out and an impromptu softball game had broken out at the baseball field across from the school. Fingers wrapped in the fencing, head tipped up to enjoy the sunshine, I stood, enjoying the last of our Indian summer day when I heard footsteps approach.

Turning, I saw an underclassman friend from church. I smiled, “Hey! How are you?”

Hoisting his foot up to rest it in a fence rung, he nodded. “Doing ok. I hear you’re really popular, though.”

Confused, I turned to face him completely. “Popular? Me? I hardly do anything.”

“That’s not what I’ve heard,” he said, tone sympathetic. “I’ve heard you’ve had a new boyfriend practically every week. I just thought you should know.”

Suddenly, I wanted to throw up. “It’s not true.”

“I know that.” He shuffled his feet. “The damage has been done though.”

Nodding, I headed for the bleachers and grabbed my books. “Thanks for the heads up.”

Without any effort on my part, I’d become the school slut. While I’m grateful to my friend for warning me, any sense of welcome I might have felt from the few people who faked their friendship to me was gone. Dried up with a few pointed words.

I didn’t want to go back. Part of me wanted to lash out. It was all so unfair, but what could I really do? I couldn’t tell my mom. She was going through enough! This was her second son she’d lost. No parent should have to go through that. I didn’t want to burden my little sister, though I was pretty sure she had been hearing the rumors about me too, by then.

If there’s one thing I have in spades, it’s pride. I would not ever give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry. So the next day I walked in to school, determined not to show any sign of weakness.

God has funny ways of giving us gifts in the midst of these painful times, though…if we just look for them. Mine came in the form of a boy, two years younger than me. I’d met him on registration day, but he was shy, so I spent more time talking to his older brother. This day was different. He walked right up to me.

With a bashful dip of his head, hazel eyes looked up at me through a fringe of thick, dark lashes, “Hey.”

Surprised, I smiled. “Hey, you!”

He reached out for my hand, sliding something small in it. “I just wanted you to have this. It’s nothing much.”

Looking down, I realized he’d given me a class picture of himself. By the time I brought my eyes up to say something, he was gone. I lifted the picture to look more closely. Flipping it over I found this message: “If you’re missing your little brother, and you need one, I’m here.”

Even at that age I was floored. What a kind and generous offer to make someone you barely knew. Still determined not to let anyone see my tears for fear it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, I calmly walked into the girls washroom, entered a stall, locked the door and sat on the toilet. In that safe place I let tears of gratitude flow at his compassion.

In two days I felt like I cried a million tears…some filled with pain and anguish, while others were of gratitude, healing and catharsis. Looking back, I think it was these days that cemented the importance of tears for me. It’s always found a way into my poetry. For me, I realized that without the bitter tears, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the sweet ones.

Since those days I’ve realized something about God’s promise and me. When those hit come and drop me to my knees, there’s a reason. First, he wants to remind me to call on him, to lean on him. Second, he rarely answers with the loud roar we seem to expect. Instead, he answers with a soft whisper, sometimes carried on a gentle breeze, other times through a simple gesture from a friend.

Our problem is that we’re so busy looking for the roar, we completely miss the whisper. Then we turn to him and blame. How much easier would it be if we just asked for his help instead of demanding it? More than that, how often have we been the mean, catty person? How often do our words have barbs, designed to cut and hurt someone while we excuse our own behavior because of some slight (real or imagined) that they’ve committed against you? How do we know that these people haven’t been sent there to teach us lessons in kindness or patience or tolerance? Those kinds of responses are easy. Taking the high road when you have no reason to? That’s hard, but you never know when your simple kindness may change someone’s life.

Tears For Angels

A little girl cried out
First for friendship, attention
Then in shame, begging for help
Understanding, forgiveness.
She was greeted
With derision and scorn,
Humiliation and laughter.
Did you see it?
I did.
Too late.

Another brave child,
Across the world
Dares to look for a better life.
Asks for peace and love
And learning.
Speaking out against violent oppressors.
So much stronger than her years.
Lies in a hospital bed
Shot.
For opening her mouth.
Did you hear?
I did.
I pray for her survival
And safety.

A baby,
Not even three
Beaten,
Then glued to a wall
For failing to understand
And follow rules.
She was
Too young to comprehend.
Maimed, disfigured
By the person sworn
To love and protect her.
Did you feel it?
I did.
Anguish.

My heart bleeds
For these precious gifts,
These angels,
Tossed away
Like rubbish.
It’s so tempting to wonder
Where is God?
Then I know…
He’s in the hearts
Of you and me
When we feel
And cry
And grieve…
Wishing we could do more.
It’s time to break silence
To heal hearts.
To love.
Boldly.
Regardless of consequences.
Our words and actions
The gifts he gives
To honor
Damaged hearts and souls.
Speak out!

These last couple of weeks have just been heart rending. On the news, on the internet…stories of yet one more innocent child lost or damaged Like I read on Nick’s Blog and Patricia Sands’ Blog along with so many others. Then I discovered Justine Musk and her blog touting the importance of following our dreams. Overall I felt pretty good, because that’s what I’ve been doing the last few months. I’ve been following my dreams. Writing. I haven’t shared my project with you guys yet because it’s not done yet. In the meantime, I share my writing with you guys through my poetry and work on sharpening my tools and my mind through my blog.

It was actually through the discovery of Justine’s blog that drew me to this time, this blog. I’d recently started following Marcia Richards’ blog after I’d discovered her through our Letter game blogs. In her blog she asked about what we were like at 14. Looking back I remembered I dreamed of being a neurosurgeon (this dream died a rapid death when I got to biology class and became bored 20 minutes into our frog dissection…don’t think that would translate well in brain surgery). I was a tomboy who still played tackle football with the boys in the neighborhood…and a die hard flirt. In fact, I’d been voted class flirt 3 years straight and was also voted most likely to be president. Back then I was madly in love with poetry….and a different guy every other week, LOL! But the thing was, all someone had to do was give me a subject or tell me how they were feeling and I was able to convert it into poetry. Like I said, boys came and went, but not my love for writing and poetry. That’s been an abiding love.

So when Marcia challenged me that with the right words, in the right venue, I could make a difference I thought about those words. I slept on them…and woke up in tears because I knew what I had to say, but didn’t know if I’d have words strong enough to take on this task. All I could do was try. I already had a song that filled my head last night. I knew what I needed to write about. It was practically slapping me in the face!

There is so much hurt in the world right now. So many people mistreated. Not accepted. Maybe it’s for the color of their skin. Their beliefs. Their sexual orientation. Past mistakes. Or maybe they’ve done nothing at all. I’m not a preachy person. But how could I not talk about love and not bring up God. Seriously. As I thought about this, I just pictured him looking down on this once perfect world he created and crying. I pictured those poor girls and prayed that he had angels standing on both sides of them, with their wings stretched out…shielding them, protecting them from any more pain or hurt or anguish. I felt like the message he was sending to me was a plea for love and forgiveness and acceptance…and for these poor children to know that they are not alone. We hurt for them. We accept them. We feel their pain and grief and despair. For the one little girl who is gone (along with many more who have not gotten the media coverage that she has)…they are not forgotten.

What about you? What do you believe? What’s been pressing on your heart? As one of my favorite romance authors, Julie Garwood, wrote in her book The Secret “One whisper, added to a thousand others, becomes a roar of discontent”. You can be the difference you want to see in this world. Are you up to the challenge? Tell me what you think!

I’ll leave you with that thought and this song: