Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cult Keeper

Have you ever dipped your toes in the inviting waters of the occult?       
I have.  

No, I'm not referring to witchcraft or satanism....far from it.  You see, the occult has transformed into something much more palatable.  It masquerades, in fact, in garb that looks very much like the traditional church, mixing a lot of truth with a few sneaky lies.

It will fool you. 

It fooled me.

Statistics agree, the church is steadily declining.  It has been for a quite some time.  While many reasons are given, one statistic remains constant:  Those who are leaving the church are joining the occult in gangbuster numbers.  The traditional church is weakening while the occult is re-inventing itself and coming on stronger than ever.  You might even be involved in a cult and not know it.   
Scary stuff.

I just finished writing my second book where I delve into this subject.  It is part of a trilogy I have called The Loyalty Lock Series, and in these books, which are set in my hometown of Cleveland, TN, I explore those institutions who call themselves faith-based, but who in all actuality, prey on those who are weak in order to push an agenda.  It is a real issue, because as the church is lulling it's members to sleep with watered down messages and pseudo-rock concerts, these insidious groups are swooping in to steal those souls.  They are, as the Bible says, wolves in sheep's clothing, and they are lying in wait for you...and your children.  

The first book in the series, called Homewrecker, introduces my lovable cast of characters with an engaging, sometimes humorous, theme, intentionally highlighting qualities that make each one unique.  This book is what the remainder of the trilogy is built upon.  

The second book, Cult Keeper, in contrast, takes that foundation and then drags the reader down a very unexpected journey into what makes a person, even one who has always been solid in their beliefs, fall for the lies presented by the occult.  

Both books are available in paperback by clicking here:

Or (for much cheaper) on Kindle by clicking here:

Money generated from these books will go toward my non-profit, Giving when you purchase them, you are giving back!  

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."  
Matthew 7:15


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Reactive Attachment Disorder: The Colors Of Hurt

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”  ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Raising a child who has Reactive Attachment Disorder is an oxymoron.  In reality, she is raising you...forcing you down an unfamiliar path on life's journey.  

It is sort of like walking into a room that has been ransacked and pillaged.  You instinctively know the space was once perfectly splendid, because you can still spot obscure fragments of what the space surely looked like before the destruction took place. What causes you to gasp, is the gaping hole in the heart of the room.  That void is where there was once a brilliant stained glass window, poised to sparkle and shine.  But now there is only brokenness.  In fact, what is left of the shine and sparkle is heaped up on the floor.

You, as the parent, are charged with picking up the broken pieces of glass, one color at a time, using only a pair of cheap tweezers.... while yellow jackets swarm in through the open space.  The space was once protected from outside pests by the grand window, but not anymore.   

The bees buzz all around, threatening to sting you.  Well, actually, they are relentlessly stinging you, set on preventing you from picking up the glass.  The task is immense, fraught with aggravation.

The splendid room represents what was once a whole child.  Erected by the Creator, this one was crafted to stand as a sanctuary, welcoming others to bask in all that makes it unique and special.  Yes, the stained glass window was a one of a kind design.  A rare, priceless treasure.  At one time, light poured through it, allowing the owner's true beauty to be revealed to all who entered.

The broken window, once signifying strength, now personifies the many colors of hurt brought on by neglect, abuse, and abandonment.  Though it's edges are sharp and ugly, you can still see a glint of light on the broken glass if you are willing to look for it.  

The tweezers?  A parent's feeble attempt to protect herself from being wounded by the countless colors of hurt.  

And the bees, of course, are bee-havior.  The ups and downs....highs and lows....the manipulation, the control, and the acting game.  Lies, rage, stealing, sneakiness, hoarding, destruction of property, etc.  Those dreadful, horrible bees!

As a parent, you take your tweezers in hand and prepare to focus.  Even though the job appears to be terribly hopeless, you are determined.  You have met with the Master Builder and have been told He can re-build the window as long as you, first, methodically separate each color for Him.  He instructs you to see and touch each and every broken piece.  

"Can you make the window look exactly as it once did?" you ask The Builder one day when He stops in to check on the progress.

"No," he replies with a sigh, "this will be a brand new design."

You don't like that answer very much.  After all, when this child entered your life, you had plans for her.  Big plans.  Wasn't she going to soar on the wings of eagles and achieve all the dreams you'd dare to dream for her?  No, a new design will not work for you.  Gathering courage, you sheepishly inform the original Builder that while He may have been the right Man for the job the first time around, this time, you think you'll look for someone else.  

Sweeping up the glass and pouring it into a deep bucket, you take it to one who advertises himself to be a window fixer.  This person brags how he has restored even the most difficult of cases.  Degrees line his wall, so you are immediately impressed.  And he tries to put the pieces back together.  But he fails.

So you find another, and another, and another.  All of them tout past successes.  Most guarantee a favorable outcome.  Yet they all fail.

Eventually, you throw the colors of hurt into a garbage can and try to pretend it never existed.  There never was a completely perfect stained glass window in the room in the first place, was there?  And those pesky choose to ignore them.  Every once in a while, you give in and swat at one or two or three or four.  And eventually, that plan fails too.  

As long as the gaping hole is in the room, bees continue to proliferate.  Becoming more and more agitated, they are determined to force you to leave the room once and for all.  At times, seeking relief, you do leave.  But you always return.  Parents never give up. 

Filled with sheer frustration and exhaustion, you stand and look at the expanse of the room.  There has to be a way to tackle the problem while dealing with the ever mounting problem of bees.  At last, you bring the broken pieces back into the room, pour them out onto the open floor, pick up your tweezers, and start examining each piece as you sort the colors into different piles.  You once stood tall, now you spend most days on your knees in the floor.  Where pride once stood, humility bends. 

The bees show no mercy.  Their stings harm and injure.  Sometimes you get mad and scream, other times you cry.  But at all times, you'd rather throw up your hands and give up.

You hate yourself for that.

This job is meant for a warrior, which you are not.  You are just a mom or a dad who had a divine calling to pluck a child from life's rubble to bring a whisper of hope.  Now, you are in the rubble too.

One day, you glance up to see the original Builder standing by.  

"So, I see you've decided to do this My way," He gloats.

Part of you resents Him.  That part of you wants to pick up the shards of glass and throw them at Him.  The other part of you, though, wants to cling tightly to His neck, trusting Him to fix it all. He is fully aware of your inner battle.

"You know," He smiles, "while this new window won't look like the first, it will still be beautiful.  We are working together, you and I.  For this to be successful, it will require both of us."

His Words stab you with fury.  Is it not enough that you are having to settle for a new version of the window?  But now, He is spouting off something about how He is doing this task WITH you?  Is it not YOU who are on the floor cleaning up the mess, day after day, while He is not around?  So you slam the floor with the balls of your fists and shout:  "What do you mean we are doing this together?  I don't see you on the floor picking up the pieces every day!  Where are you when I'm being stung by the bees?  Where are you when I'm so tired I can no longer hold my head up?"

"If you'd put down the tweezers, the task would go much faster," he laughs.  Your outburst hasn't troubled Him at all.  What kind of Builder is this?    

So now you decide to give Him the silent treatment.  Yes, that will make you feel better and will probably get His attention.  Put the tweezers down? Who is He kidding?  You know without the tweezers, you will get cut.  You'll bleed, for crying out loud.  So you hold even tighter to the tweezers, set your jaw, and continue on, pretending The Builder is non-existent.

After a few moments, the Builder commands the bees to leave the room.  His voice booms, filling the room.  At once, the pests fly out of the space where the window used to be.  Poof!  They are gone.  

That gets your attention.  If this Builder can command the bees to leave so easily, can He not also restore this window to it's original beauty?  The dawn of that realization makes your blood boil even more.  

Hearing His feet rustling through the glass, you don't dare look His way, but you know He is moving toward you.  The Builder kneels down in front of you.  His knees are now touching yours. Taking your chin in His hands, He gently pulls your face up to meet His:

"You are so stubborn,"  he chuckles to Himself, shaking His head.  "That is why I chose you for this task."

He chose me?

Looking around the damaged room, a tear escapes from one of His eyes.  He turns back toward you and grins the sort of grin that melts your heart.  Sincerity floods from The Creator's eyes as more tears meander down the lines on His face.  His tone is hushed, and His voice breaks:

"If I can repair the window, I can also repair your wounds.  So put down the tweezers and allow yourself to feel the colors of hurt. In bleeding, you'll find empathy, and from that, compassion will become your constant companion.  You're going to need a lot of that to survive this mess." 

Reaching down to pick up a handful of glass, He allows it to slowly run through His fingers.  You are captivated by His every word and every move.  He really does care, doesn't He?  The bees are gone, the space is quiet, and you no longer feel alone.  He continues:

"Even though it might not look like it on most days, we are in this task together.  Nothing in this world happens without My fingerprint upon it.  There are no mistakes and no accidents.  Every action is joined with intent.  This window was broken so an eternal lesson could be learned.  While your plan was to love the colors of hurt out of this room, restoring it to what it once was..... Mine was that you simply love." 

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Discussion On The Back Porch

Natalie is back home.  Through a series of phone calls over the last couple of weeks, I learned she was not doing well in the therapeutic boarding school where she has been residing for the last six months.  Diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder nearly three years ago, she has fought like a warrior to overcome an affliction brought on by three years of abuse and neglect in a Russian orphanage.  If ever there was a victim, it is Natalie.

You should know, Reactive Attachment Disorder is more than a diagnosis to me.  It has become my nemesis.  Oftentimes, the bane of my existence.  I hate it and wish like heck I could rip off it's head and kick it's ruthless butt.  Because of RAD, I subconsciously represent the mother who abandoned Natalie, the orphanage workers who abused and neglected her, and the birth family who has forsaken her.  By other moms who parent children who have been diagnosed with RAD, I am known as a Trauma Momma.  But by the medical community, I am called Natalie's 'trigger'.  An insipid substitute.  The pain, the fury, the disappointment, the fear, and the despair have to go those emotions, in Natalie's case, are placed upon me.  It is so unfair.

This morning, Natalie and I sat on the back porch and had a long talk.  Since she's just returned home, we are in what is referred to as a "honeymoon period".  And make no mistake about it, I will take full advantage of this time.  Over the last two and a half years, Nat has been in and out of treatment centers, more in than out, so a quiet, uninterrupted moment on the back porch is an inestimable gift to me.  We spent a solid hour discussing the ravages of RAD.  It's ironic how much we understand it, but how horribly it continues to shamelessly outplay us.  

The root of the disorder can be boiled down to one word:  TRUST.  When a baby arrives into the world, it learns to trust immediately.  Completely incapable of survival on it's own, the child learns that she will be comforted when she cries, fed when she's hungry, supported when she's hurt, and held when she's afraid. The baby feels worthy.  A part of something.  Cared for.  And in response, the brain makes necessary connections....connections that will make a person whole.  When that nurturing does not take place, however, those connections are not made.  Are never made.  To overcome, requires a lot of intentional work paired with much trust when trust was never woven into the individual in the first place.  How do you utilize trust, then, when it is non-existent?  And there lies the conundrum.

A person with RAD, as a result, carries the burden of constantly managing and/or manipulating the people in their lives.  Since she lacks the ability to trust, she believes she has to continually be in the proverbial cat bird seat.  In control.  And if she gets the feeling she does not have the upper hand, she will create a situation in order to re-take that very real perception of control.  It's a full time, exhausting job; individuals who have RAD never take a break from it.  To do so, would mean vulnerability.  And vulnerability requires trust.  Which they don't have. 

Here is a peek into our discussion on the back porch:

Me:  "Let's consider a child who is raised by a physically abusive father.  Everything surrounding that father is viewed by the child through an abusive lens, would you agree?"

Nat:  "Yes."

Me:  "Even if the father shows kindness....he is going to be viewed by the child as the abusive father who is showing a moment of kindness.  The label is something he will never fully overcome, even if he makes a change.  Do you think that is accurate?"

Nat:  "Yes," she answered, "because that kid is probably wondering when the abuse is going to happen again." 

Me:  "And I think that's fair, because the child has a clear memory of what happened.  But, can you see that you view me through a lens in much the same way?"

Nat:  "Sort of, I guess."

Me:  "I am viewed by you as the mother who doesn't really love you.  That is the lens you always use with me.  Yet you don't have anything to base that judgment on.  No matter what I do, I'm viewed through that lens your brain has falsely created.  If I'm being extra kind, you respond by thinking I must be up to something...that I am probably trying to gain something from you....or that I may be trying to manipulate what do you do?"

Nat:  "I do something really bad to make you mad," she replied with a sheepish grin, "and if you don't get mad, I do something else and then something else and then something else until I do make you mad."

Me:  "I know why you do that, but do you finally understand why you do that?"

Nat:  "Because when you get mad at me, it proves to me that you don't love me."

Me:  "But the truth is, I do love you."

Nat:  "I know that in my head, but I don't know it in my heart."

Me:  "And when I don't get mad at you, no matter how bad you act and no matter how much you act out and disobey, then what?"

Nat:  "Then I know you don't really think of me as your daughter, because a real mom would get mad at her daughter for disobeying and for doing horrible things."

Me:  "So I can't win?"

Nat:  "I guess not."  She answered me with a dead stare.  No emotion.

Me:  "Do you see how unfair that is to me?"

Nat:  "Yes, but I can't help it.  I try to make myself believe I can trust you and that I can be a part of this family, but I don't feel it.  I don't know if I've ever felt it."

Me:  "Now I know this is coming from the person you trust the least in the world, but can you at least agree to consider that there might be a remote possibility that what I am telling you is true....that the reason you feel the way you do and do the things you do is a result of your mind playing tricks on you?  And that I do love you and actually do want the best for your life?"

Nat:  "I'm trying.  I really am.  I don't want to live at treatment centers, but that is where I don't feel so angry."

Me:  "Because when you're living away from home, you aren't having to face the problem.  I represent your hurt and pain.  I embody your abandonment.  So by running from me, you have this idea that you are better off....because when you leave me, for a while anyway, you don't feel that pain.  In reality, though, you are just avoiding the issue that needs to be resolved the most.  And the pain always returns, doesn't it?  Even at the treatment centers."

Nat:  "I know.  And you've gotta believe me, mom,  I don't want to feel the way I do and I don't want to hurt you or anybody else anymore.  My biggest regret in my life is that I keep hurting you and my family and that I haven't been here for y'all.  I want to stay with you this time; I always want to stay.  But I can only do my best."

Me:  "No, you can do more, but it is going to require you to be alert and on guard every single moment. You have to determine in your heart that you will stick it out and that you will see all this hurt, despair, rage, and anger for what it is.  Name it.  It is Reactive Attachment Disorder and nothing else.  Natalie, if you keep running from me instead of facing this problem, it will never get fixed.  And I'm not sure I'm going to let you run anymore.  You are sixteen now and that means you are more mature.  I think you can lick this thing."

Me:  "I'm trying really hard."  

And she ended the conversation with that.  

No commitment to stick it out....but a continuing commitment to "try".  

Ugh!  I wanted to stand and stomp my feet, really hard, like a big baby.  I wanted to cry, to run away, to scream at anyone.  But I didn't.  Like her, I sat back and became silent.  She had ended the discussion, and so it was over.  You can't push a person who has RAD or they will push you back.  

So here I am.  Again.  Hoping against hope that we will have a different result this time.

The easy fix, you might say, is to force her to stay.  And while that is always my plan, I've learned through experience it is much easier said than done.  When a child with RAD decides she wants to control a situation, she is pretty much willing to go Rambo on you if she has to....running away, defacing property, harming herself, and even harming others.  No limits.  No boundaries.  Suffocating with sorrow, she is willing to go to great lengths to escape.  I've lived with it long enough that I get it:

To close, if you will look back on my last post which was on January 29th, you will see that I am expecting a miracle in Natalie's life this year.   I haven't written a post on this blog since then, I think, because I have been expecting.  Waiting.  Hoping.  Believing.  And now she's back.  

Hey God, in case you are reading this, I AM READY FOR THAT MIRACLE!   

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why I KNOW My Family Will Get A Miracle This Year!

"Miracle Sunday".... how do those two words resonate with you?  Do you immediately transform into an overly-educated skeptic or a full out dreamer filled with hope?  Do the words peek your curiosity?  OR do you pity the fools who would buy into such nonsense?  

Now, to make this more interesting, for a moment, imagine what it would be like to KNOW you can show up at a given place and time to receive a real life miracle.  Anything you ask, let's say, would be given to you as long as you publicly voice your wish and then dare to believe you will receive it.   

North Cleveland Church of God began announcing their Miracle Sunday service several weeks before Christmas; the official date was set for the morning of January 25, 2015.  The first time we heard about the event,  Lydia and I instinctively grasped one another's hands tight.  We'd never heard of Miracle Sunday before, and we were totally IN!  So, in response, we began counting down the days.  And talking about it.  A lot.  Three specific things were on our list:  

1.  Hope and Charlie to begin speaking words
2.  Natalie to be set free from Reactive Attachment Disorder
3.  Hope's heart to continue to function normally

The build up was nothing short of incredible; honestly, our excitement became nearly tangible.  Electrifying.  Nothing would stand in our way of receiving a miracle.  Or so we thought.

Mid-day on Saturday, less than 24 hours before Miracle Sunday, we received a text message from the special needs class leader who teaches Hope and Charlie each week while we are in the worship service.  She was sick.  UGH!  And wasn't going to be at church.  I read the text out loud to Lydia, just before bawling like a big baby.  We tried to find a babysitter, but with such short notice, couldn't make it work.  It seemed like Miracle Sunday was out of reach, but unwilling to give up hope, I came up with an idea.  

The pastor of North Cleveland Church of God lives near us, so I wrote a letter to him, explaining our situation.  I ended the note by stating the three miracles we are believing and faithing for, adding our offering, and then asked him to lay it on the altar for us in our absence.  Caleb and Lydia insisted that they be the ones to deliver my words to the pastor's door.  How awesome is that?  This had officially become a top priority for each one of us.

Now, this came with a bit of risk.  Pastor Maloney could've peered through the peephole in his door, and upon seeing two teens who were total strangers to him....refused to answer.  Or, hiding behind a wall, he could've pretended to not be home.  But that is not what happened.  Far from it.  The pastor swung his door wide open and welcomed my children into his home with open arms.  He read my note, talked with Caleb and Lydia, prayed with them, and then his wife got on the phone and found a qualified person to lead the special needs class so we could place our miracles on the altar.  So we could be there, in person, for Miracle Sunday.  And let me tell you, even an army of one thousand angry baboons armed with baseball bats couldn't have held us back.  They might have broken a few bones, probably ALL of mine since Caleb and Lydia can both outrun me, but nothing could've broken our spirit (hahaha!) You get the picture.

At the beginning of this post, I asked you to imagine a scenario where you could be guaranteed a miracle.  A guarantee is a powerful thing to possess, isn't it?  Well, that is the opportunity I believe my family was given when Pastor Maloney swung that door wide open.  I wonder if he realized how pivotal his role would be?  But isn't life that way?  One person's faith begets another...and another...and another.  It must be amazing from heaven's point of view.  Can you see the angels looking over my shoulder as I wrote the note?  hear them cheering on Lydia and Caleb as they marched up to that door?  and then jumping up and down and shouting 'Hallelujah' as Pastor Maloney went to his door to answer?  I can see it.  But the culmination had to be when the pastor's arms were open to embrace Caleb and Lydia.  In that moment, the Lord Himself opened his arms to my family....and said: "Yes, come on in and let's get started on that miracle business."  It sounds nuts, right?  But as crazy as it may seem, I believe God is ready to do something extravagant in my family this year.  That He is ready to astonish us with how wide and how high and how deep....His love is for us.

This past Sunday morning, we took our requests to church and sealed our faith with God.  It wasn't a bargain...a deal...a gamble...or a trade.  We weren't naming it and claiming it...or blabbing it and grabbing it.  Placing that card on the altar, with our miracles listed, was simply an act illustrating that we were willing to dare to accept the gift offered to us by the Almighty....the Creator....the One who holds my family in His hands and Who cares for us each and every day as we trust Him.  He's gotten us this far, so why not trust Him for more?  For nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible with God!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

Hope and me seated on the floor, just outside the sanctuary at Broadstreet United Methodist Church

It came in the mail, a rather ordinary invitation probably sent to the entire city.  A mass mailer.  Those things we all hate.  The 5 X 7 card said my family was invited to attend the Christmas Eve service at Broadstreet United Methodist Church.  My perfectly imperfect family invited to what would be a perfect Christmas Eve service, one that had probably been planned and rehearsed for weeks.  I read it aloud to Lydia and actually smirked when I said:  "Oh, OUR family is definitely not invited!"  Then I tossed it in the garbage. 

The entire week, I thought about that invitation.  I couldn't get it out of my mind.  'Were we really invited?' I wondered.  Would they accept two non-verbal kiddos who make lots of random (sometimes loud) noises?  Would they show grace and mercy to a couple of little ones who are unable to sit still?  There was only one way to find out.  

We arrived at 10:45pm.  

While unloading Hope and Charlie from the car, a homeless man approached us with his arms raised, "May I approach you, Ma'am?"  I honestly didn't have any cash to give him, but I told him we were going to the church on the corner and asked if he was planning to attend.  He said something I couldn't understand and shook his head.  In response, Hope melted, likely feeling unsure about the stranger, so I ended up hauling all 50+ pounds of her down the sidewalk, up the steps, and into the church.  
'Is our family invited?'

We made our way up into the balcony (uhhhm, yes, I was still carrying Hope) and onto the back row.  Why they began the evening with a trumpet solo, I cannot fathom.  But they did.   Charlie, to everyone's surprise, immediately began to mimic the sound....and was actually louder and more shrill than the trumpeter.  After being seated for all of two or three minutes, we quickly rose to our feet, scooted at maximum speed out of the balcony with horn baby in tow, and made our way back down the steps.  
'Is our family invited?'

We decided to have a seat in the floor, just outside one of the doors leading into the sanctuary.  We literally plopped right onto the floor.  All was going fairly well, too, until the homeless guy waltzed in and made a bee line straight for us.  I still couldn't understand anything he said, only something about "the children", but he seemed nice enough.  And Hopey began making giggling noises at him.  One of the church workers eventually came and offered the man a seat in the church.  And after getting him situated, the worker returned to us, bent down on the floor, and spoke to both Hope and Charlie.  The kindness in his voice caused me to well up and nearly bawl.  
'Our family is invited.'

The message centered around the shepherds who were the first to get news about the newborn King of Kings.  They were considered the lowest of the low in that time, the poorest of the poor.  My mind immediately went to the homeless man.  The shepherds were probably a lot like him.  Sleeping outside must have made them dirty.  I bet their hair was wiry and clothes tattered.  The homeless man was seated in a pew in that church just like everyone else.  He may of been seated next to someone accomplished, well educated, or wealthy.  It didn't matter.  He was listening to the message of Good News.  The BEST news.  The news that was and is for ALL people.  
'The homeless man is invited.'

The evening ended with communion.  An usher, not forgetting us, brought communion to the floor.  He didn't act like it was odd that everyone else in the church was seated in either a pew or a chair.  Honestly, he didn't seem to notice.  Following communion, candles were lit and the moment we'd all come for began.  It was finally midnight; the chimes tolled twelve times.  Christmas had officially arrived.  We gathered our two special ones and took them into the sanctuary to be engulfed by the worship of the One who came to earth so OUR family could be the homeless man could be we ALL could be invited.

Hope couldn't contain her joy.  Her arms flapped wildly as a smile took over her entire face.  "This is for you,"  I whispered in her ear, having a difficult time containing my own delight, "Jesus came and did all of this for you."

Maybe you found an invitation in your mailbox this holiday season just like I did.  Or maybe you didn't.  The true invitation is an open one that doesn't come in the form of a 5 X 7 card, but instead, comes wrapped in swaddling cloths as a baby.  God came to earth to change the world; He came because of His absolute boundless love for you!  
YOU are invited!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Magic That Makes Christmas....Well, Christmas

We were victims of a three car bump up on the way to the Christmas Tree lighting festivities last night.  Lydia, Hope, Charlie, and I were only twelve minutes away from our destination, sitting at a stop light sharing what was left of two large orders of Chic-Fil-A waffle fries, when we felt the impact.  A car hit another car that finally hit us.  The cops came, traffic was backed up, and people were honking horns and waving fingers at us.  It wasn't pretty.  But thirty very long minutes later, we arrived on Broad Street to see the 45 foot live tree, planted back in 1960 in front of what used to be the old post office, already lit.  Standing tall and majestic.  Waiting for us.  We were twenty minutes late for the evening's festivities, but we made it.  

Noticing a very large group of people moving as one down the street, away from St. Luke's Episcopal Church, I darted off to join them, calling for Lydia to follow.  

"Where are they going?"  Lydia screeched, pushing Charlie in his stroller as I forged on ahead with Hopey.

What a crazy question.  Was it not obvious we did not have time to worry about details?  Couldn't the kid see the throng of strangers moving away from us at a fairly fast clip of speed, likely headed toward something joyful?  "I don't know where they're going,"  I pronounced, now pushing Hopey in her handicap stroller like a woman gone mad, my long black sweater flying behind me, "just hurry up and stay with me!" 

She was panting rather loudly, trying to keep up:  "Why are we running after them if we don't know where they're going?"  

"Lord, normal teenagers like to follow the crowd, right?"  For a split second I began to wonder why I was left to raise the one rebel.  "Listen, you should be thanking me for helping you burn those Chic-Fil-A waffle fries." 

"You look like Batman with a long cape,"  she snarked, trying to be funny.  It wasn't funny.  Bat woman might have been funny, but not Batman.        

How appropriate it was that we all stopped in front of what used to be my church, the former First Baptist Church building.  A quartet of men came out on the front porch to lead us in carols, and within seconds, the outdoor scene became a pseudo worship service as a mish-mashed group wondrously became one through familiar song.  "Joy To The World", "Hark The Herald Angels Sing", and "Away In A Manger" rang out through the voices of both the young and old, the rich and poor, the abled and disabled.  Then it happened.  Magic.  The Christmas magic we all anticipate each year.  The magic that makes Christmas....well, Christmas.     

The tempo slowed and voices softened from that of a roaring wind to the gentlest breeze, permeating the night air with the song of all songs.  However, what began as a delicate revering of the One for whom the song was written, crescendoed, without warning, into harmonies, growing louder and more powerful as each phrase of "Silent Night" was articulated....yes, what was initially a simple melody serenaded to the baby in a manger burst forth and erupted into the praise and celebration of Who that baby was.   Husbands, in response, reached for the hand of their wives, parents bent down and squeezed their children, and nearly everyone wiped a tear or two.   

Hope and Charlie are nine and six and still very much non-verbal.  Even though they couldn't physically sing last night, their spirits were rejoicing in song on a level beyond what my mind can imagine.  I felt it when they reached for me, hugging me and kissing me over and over again, smiles covering their faces, uninhibited love spilling out, covering me.  No words needed.  The Love of Christ.

You've experienced it too.  It's what keeps us all pressing forward even when times are so tough, we don't know where our next breath is going to come from.  It's what picks us up and dusts us off when we've been kicked down.  It's the filler for those empty spaces left by loved ones who have gone before us, the glue in families who are living far a part, a certain peace that settles in the midst of chaos, and the flicker of light shining in the face of darkness.  It's the baby in the manger, the cross on the hill, and the empty tomb.  And it sneaks up on us and finds us in the most unexpected places.  Last night, after a three car bump up, it found me in Cleveland, TN.

As you hurry and scurry about during the next days preparing for Christmas morning, my wish for you is that you find the magic that makes Christmas....well, Christmas.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Chubby fingers and teensy toes.
Angelic eyes above a turned up nose.
No words you songs you sing;
Yet perfect joy, to me, you bring.

Oceans of salt and grains of sand.
Become treasure in your little hand.

Your wonder is not lost on me;
Never-ending innocence, like the waves of the sea.
Funny faces and a playful whim;
The world to you is a jungle gym.

A mischievous grin...Seldom shedding a tear;
Each moment a play ground,
You know no fear!

You right my wrongs in so many ways;
Now Thanksgiving is a
gift that comes every day!