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Monday, October 31, 2011

A Present-Day Remembrance

On this day twenty-six years ago one of Sacramento's rising young stars in the world of commerce was shot out of the sky by a boyhood friend. I don't mean that his friend bested him in a business deal; I mean he, quite literally, murdered him. The two little boys had sat in the same Sunday school class many Sundays and had shared bits and pieces of their lives as they grew into men. One boy knew just what he wanted and he was on target to make his goal as a successful businessman. Kent worked hard in his father's business, where he and his sister had spent a lot of their childhood/adolescent years. Now that he was a man, one of the hats he wore was "Assistant Manager". There was no doubt who would be sitting in father's chair when he decided to retire. But, that was not enough for the young entrepreneur. Kent had also begun his own business! With all the office buildings in the State's capital city, there were never too many businesses cleaning them. The family business occupied his daylight hours and his office cleaning business exercised his management skills in the later hours. Even with his labor-intensive days and weeknights, at twenty-two, he still had energy for a dating relationship and was seriously involved in developing one that would last for a lifetime.

While Daniel shared some of Kent's charm and personality traits, his goals fell far short of a match with his friend. Daniel had chosen to start his working years with the military and had returned shortly before this event that would set the course for the rest of his life. While the taste of success had triggered young Kent to reach for the stars, drugs had claimed the troubled thoughts of his friend. Daniel just knew that he could get some money from his pal so he and his druggie friend headed for the family business where Kent was closing the doors for the evening. However, when Kent refused to give them money, a gun was pulled and Kent was shot multiple times.

When his sister phoned me at work with the news of this tragedy, I thought my heart would explode in my chest as it broke. I was so distraught and moved from grief to anger and back again as I busied myself moving boxes from one place to another until one storage room was completely empty and other rooms filled with the contents just shifted. I could not talk with anyone about what had happened; I couldn't think of anything else and could not verbalize the grief/anger. I just wanted God to "get them!" Yes, I was keenly aware that revenge belonged with the Lord's hand but I did not want one more minute to pass before His hand moved.

It would be five weeks before I was able to leave my mission station aboard a ship docked in Canada and share the grief with this family I loved so much. Kent was a brother to me, too! As I watched the video that had been taken at the funeral service, which included the viewing of Kent's body in the casket, I was reminded yet again of the blessing I had prayed over him on the occasion of his twenty-second birthday. It was such a joyful party with family and friends. Had that only been last July?! After thanking the Lord for the absolutely scrumptious spread of food laid before us, I asked the Lord to bless Kent with a new year that would bring Kent closer to the Lord than ever before. Well, one cannot get any closer than to stand in His Presence in Heaven, Amen. But, I certainly, did not have that in mind when I had prayed! We just never know when the number of days that the Lord has appointed for us to sojourn on this earth has been completed, as recorded in Psalm 139:16.

During this time with the family in Sacramento I had the experience of witnessing one of the pre-trial hearings for Daniel. One could not help noticing the development of his neck, arms, and upper body muscles as he entered the courtroom. Next to me Kent's sister whispered, "It is so weird. I see Daniel and my first impression is to say to him he looks really good and ask him if he has been working out." And that is just what it felt like, surreal to be there and know that this is one of the young men who murdered Kent. Such a thing was simply unimaginable. In the course of time, Daniel was convicted and given a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Each and every year, as this day rolls around, I cannot help but recall how I longed for the Lord to exact His revenge on the murderers. But my thoughts never linger there. Instead, they linger on the words of Kent's father when we spoke of this most inexpressible sadness, "When I saw Kent lying there on the ground, I wondered why he was sleeping there. His face had such a peace to it that I just could not imagine what I was seeing was real. I could not take it in." Kent had been shot several times so one would have expected his face to have some expression other than peaceful sleep; that's for sure! This reminder always brings me back to the promise of God's Presence with his children… every moment of every day of every event in their lives. Until we are re-united with Kent on the other side of this life, we will never know what he had been thinking as his life drained from him or what he might have been seeing. Whatever it was, we can be sure he was not asking the Lord to "get them!" Revenge would not have brought that peaceful countenance to his last moment of life and I will not let it interfere with one moment of mine!

(Note: The issue of forgiving the murderers is not addressed here as the topic of this series was "revenge." It is equally clear in the bible that only when we forgive those who hurt us can we find peace ourselves.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Speaking of Revenge

If we look at the word "revenge" we will see that in both Greek and Hebrew verses, the word implies some form of punishment will be meted out once the avenger has captured the perpetrator of the transgression. In young Sojourner's words "revenge" simply means "Paying him back" for what he did to her. It was clear that she was not about to tell anyone the details of the offense, just in case she would also be implicated in the wrong-doing, but she was not going to take a chance that God might let the boy off the hook either! She would just take matters into her own hands, no matter what the price may be for her. Six-year-old Sojourner was very happy to receive the Lord's help in getting her out of the garage before anything worse happened to her but, then, it was rather "Thanks and I'll take it from here, God." This was, definitely, not God's plan and was, in fact, in opposition to his Word. Little Sojourner did not know the word "revenge" but she surely did know what she wanted… she wanted him to pay for what he did! God used this occasion to teach her the results of displeasing God by lying about the rope incident and it was a lesson she would never forget!

We have heard it said, "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord, I will repay," but is that really in the Bible? I mean there are a lot of sayings passed down through the generations that are not in the Bible but only in the aural tradition… things such as "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." Well, let's check. In fact, it is recorded in the Bible and not just a saying. Throughout the Bible we are told that God is the One who will do the punishing (revenging) and it is for us to let Him do things His way. Probably the most familiar verse is found in the Old Testament side of the Bible…Deut. 32:35, which says:


"It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." Or in the more poetic King James Version: "To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste."

Well, that is what we want, isn't it… their foot to slip, their downfall? The only issue is that we don't usually see it making haste as fast as our own plan would have it!

God as the one meeting out the vengeance is not only an "Old Testament" idea as this same verse is quoted twice in the New Testament:

Romans 12:19 says, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"

And, again, the writer of Hebrews, Chapter 10 verse 30: "For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"

We know that the New Testament also records Jesus telling us that there are two great commandments that sum up the ten given to Moses by God on the mountain so long ago: The first is that we love the Lord, our God, with our whole heart and have no other gods before him and secondly, that we love our neighbor as ourselves. To which young Sojourner might reply, "But, God, have you met the boy on the other corner? He's my neighbor, but…!" Looking back in the Old Testament book where God's laws are being recorded Sojourner might think that the law was written just for her.

One of the later versions of Leviticus 19:18 says, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." Ouch! The son of the nice people at the corner is, you guessed it, the offending bully! The NIV version says "Do not seek revenge…", so we should not even think about how we might pay the bully back.

Is there never a time when people can take revenge on someone else? Must we always let God do it? Well, yes, for the most part this is true. There are, however, two occasions in the Bible where the Lord has given a person authority to exact revenge on the evil-doer. Moses had seen many things that the Lord had done and had done many things as the Lord instructed him. This would be the last thing Moses would ever do on this earth and, as all things, it was under the direction of the Lord, Numbers 31:1-2: "The LORD said to Moses, "Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people." You can check the earlier passages about the Israelites journey through the wilderness to find out why the Lord was so upset with the Midianites. There are certainly enough other occasions where the Lord, Himself, takes revenge for those who do evil to His Chosen people but this time, he is asking Moses to lead the people in victory over the Midianites as revenge for their evil actions.

Secondly, God has given authority for those in leadership in judicial matters to punish those who break the law, as recorded in I. Peter 2:13-14: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right."

God has designed things so that it is God, Himself, Who will punish the evil-doers, those who break His commandments; it is not for us to "take the law into our own hands" (as the western marshals used to say in those old black and white television shows in the fifties and sixties). There are those times when such restraint is so very hard. There are a lot of reasons for us wanting to exact revenge against those who have hurt us. Little Sojourner saw it as the only way the boy would be punished because he was never punished for harassing the children. It was just what the big boys did, right? Now, he had about scared her to death and she was just not going to let him get away with this; but, neither did she want to get in trouble so she just waited for her opportunity. How many times do we think that the person "deserves" to be punished for what they did and it doesn't look like they are going to be punished because the lawyer is going to get him off with his fancy talking and loopholes? Let me assure you, no one ever gets off! He may not pay for his evil in the court system at the time you think he should but God is totally just and He has said that the evil will be punished so it will! By God if the legal system fails… count on it!

As I read the stories of King David's life in the Scriptures, I was glad to see that the kingdom was being passed into David's hand when God had finally had enough of King Saul. (I. Samuel 13:14) Well, King Saul was not going to just say, "Thank you, Lord, it has been a real hassle. Here's the crown and where is my retirement package?" Oh my, not that easy! King Saul was going after David! He would kill David and keep the crown! Over and over Saul tried to kill David and over and over the Lord delivered David from Saul's hand. A couple of times, Saul was right there where David could just whack him and get it over with! I just never understood why he didn't! I mean, David, Saul will kill you if you don't kill him! Once Saul was just inches from David in a cave that Saul was using for an outhouse on one more of his journeys to kill David. David even cut off the hem of Saul's garment to show him later that he had a chance to kill him but didn't! Why, or why not, I asked David many times as I read!

David gives us the answer to "why not off the guy, David?" in I. Samuel 24:12, as he speaks to King Saul, "May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you."

Okay, that is why David was said to be a man after God's own heart! He would obey the Lord no matter what or how he felt, personally. How unlike David I am when reading of Saul's evil ways. God has set Himself up as the only One to exact revenge on the evil-doer because God is very aware of how we fail ourselves. We are not perfect and need forgiveness, too. Our own carnal nature just may not meet out the punishment fairly or according to the Lord's ways since our thoughts and our ways are not the same as God's. In His wisdom he knows that and says it is not for us to take revenge or even to seek revenge! Leave it to God; He is just and He is fair. God is perfect and He will never let evil triumph, no matter what it may look like to us!

****A Present-Day Remembrance…Coming Monday

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Price of Revenge… Closing Scene: The Price

     It was not long before the skin over my rope burn began itching so I knew it would be normal again soon. I figured that the boy would be gunning for me and just could not imagine what he would do to “pay me back” for what had happened to him because of my lie. I had hoped that he might think about it the way I saw it and realize that he deserved the spanking for the lie about the puppies and the time in the garage but, would he? What I had not counted on was the anguish I was suffering inside that wounded chest. I had been just so centered on paying him back for what he had done to me that it was all I could think about from the time I ran out of the garage until I stood in front of his parents, listening to the anger of his father. I had not expected that guilt I felt as my mother took my hand that day and we walked home from our meeting with the boy’s parents.
     The elation I felt at the thought of him getting the spanking I had wanted him to have days ago was so short-lived that it shocked me. Equally surprising was the way that sickening feeling deep inside me kept growing. It was like a huge black ball that had begun as a small pebble and was now filling me up. What was this and would it kill me? It felt so bad. It did not give me a fever like when my older sister had the measles and I could see nothing on my skin that looked like a rash; I only saw the scabs from the healing rope burn. Still, it felt like pain, kind of. I reckoned that it was related to the lie I had told about the teenager because that is when I began to feel the little pebble of unrest. But, what to do about it? Boy, would I get in trouble if I told what I had done! I couldn’t tell anyone why I had done it because the boy had said I would be the one to get in trouble for being in the garage; oh, what could I do to get rid of the growing blackness inside me?
     Then, it happened. I heard my mother with a friend. She was about to tell her the saga of the rope burn and her poor innocent little daughter (who was healing well now, thank you very much, while the real “innocent” party in this matter was probably still standing to eat his dinner, if they even gave him any!)
     “Oh, no!” my conscience screamed at me. The gigantic mass of blackness stretched inside of me and I was certain it would burst if I did not do something fast! I pulled at my mother’s apron and said I needed to talk to her right now. Of course, she had to stop speaking to her friend to turn her head and tell me, “Later”, but I would not be dissuaded; I had to stop her from telling this story. I needed to talk to her now, right now. Admittedly, this was not a rare occurrence whenever my mother was talking with someone… whatever I needed, it was all-too-often when she was otherwise occupied and it was always urgent, of course. Mother tried to get back to her story but I just would not let her. Finally, she offered her apologies and said she would get back to the friend as soon as she dealt with whatever emergency I perceived just could not wait ten minutes. Needless to say, Mom was not a cheerful camper when she walked away from her friend.
     “Now, what is it that just could not wait?” I began backing up until the dining table and chairs stopped me. I rummaged through my brain trying to find a way to tell her, as she faced me walking the short distance from the front door to the table.
     “Uh, well, it is about the rope,” I began ever-so slowly as I pulled out a chair to sit down.
     “What about the rope?” my mother asked with a little anxiety in her voice. What more was there to know?
     “Uh, well, it is not exactly how I told you.” I was looking down as I twisted my intertwined fingers in my lap. Mentally I was trying to find the words to tell the story in alight that just did not make me look so bad but there just wasn’t any!
     “That boy is always so mean to us kids. He hits me and says stuff to me and chases me and, well, I just don’t like him.” I offered as an introduction to my side of the real story.
     “Yes, I know that. He is not a nice boy but what does that have to do with the rope? Did he make you swing on the rope?”
     “No, he didn’t. I asked him to swing me.”
     “Well, then, what is the matter with you? He hurt you and he got a spanking for it. That’s all there is to the story. Just stay away from him.”
     “I will, Mom, but there is something I need to tell you,” I squeaked out with a shaky voice, knowing that I was about to dump the blackness on her. At least, it would be out of me!
     “Whatever could be making you feel so sad?” she asked as her mother’s heart of compassion kicked in and she reached out for me.
     “Oh, Mom, I just wanted to hurt him. He is so mean and I just wanted to hurt him. I am just a little kid and I could never hurt him and he hurts us and I just wanted him to get hurt, too,” I rushed out with a rather confused young mother looking on.
     “Well, he did get a spanking…” but,” I interrupted her before she could finish her thought.
     “But, Mom, it was my fault. It was all my fault and not his. I wouldn’t let him put the rope over my shirt. I made him let me put it under my shirt so I would get an owie to show you and he would get a spanking for it,” I poured out my transgression against the adolescent. The hand that had been gently caressing my shoulder stopped and went immediately to my mother’s mouth, joining the hand moving from her lap!
     “What? You did what? No, you didn’t do that, did you?” Mom took a breath and continued, “And I went to Mr. and Mrs. Jones* to show them what their son had done! But he had done nothing to hurt you? You had made him do it and not the other way around? How could you do that? Why would you do that?” I could see my mother’s hurt and it did not take long to escalate into anger. I had really messed up. I just couldn’t tell her the real reason; I was in enough trouble already.
     “Well, we are going over there right now and you are going to tell them the truth. Then you are going to tell them you are sorry for telling them this story and you are going to tell the boy you are sorry that you said those things and that he got a spanking because of you and you just wait until your father gets home. You are going to get a spanking now!” She was changing my shirt and shorts as she spoke. Each angry phrase was punctuated by a rough pull on the sleeve or leg of the shorts.  (Wouldn’t do to go confess and apologize in dirty clothes, would it? I need to look my best when I admit my wrongdoing, like they would even notice.) Next came the wash cloth and the scrub that left my face red before she started in on my hands. With my mind reeling to keep up with her words and her actions, I felt myself being propelled through the living room and out the front door.
     Mom did not speak all the way down the block, clutching my clean hand even after we had reached the Jones’ front door. “Knock, knock, knock,” even sounded angry to me. Sadly, they were home and a smiling lady greeted us, with surprise. In response to her gesture and moving away from the doorway, we entered their home.
     “Is your husband at home? And your son? Is he at home?” my mother asked very nervously, I thought. The perplexed lady said that they were and she would fetch them for us. No doubt the poor dear was wondering what their boy had done now.
     “My daughter has something to say to you all,” began my mother as she saw the men join the lady in front of us. My mother, then, pushed me out away from her and told me, with her nod, to ‘fess up.
     I began with my eyes inspecting the wood floor of their entryway but soon found my mother tipping my head to make me look at the adults. I did not look at the teenage boy but only at the shocked parents. They listened to my side of the story, the truth this time and asked me why I did that. I wasn’t sure if they meant why I made him hurt me or why I told them he did.
     “Because he is mean to us and we are so little that we can never hurt him no matter what he does to us.” I glanced over to the tall boy for just a second and his eyes locked with mine. He did not smile or sneer or anything that I could notice but I wondered if he knew what I meant when I said that. My mother prodded me again, and I responded.
     “Anyway, I am sorry that I lied to you Mr. and Mrs. Jones. I am sorry that what I said made you spank your son, Mr. Jones. I am sorry that you got a spanking because of what I said you did,” I said with not even a glance at the boy who knew very well I had just told a half-truth. I was not one bit sorry that he had been spanked; only that it was for what I said he did with the rope and not for what he did in the garage!
     Walking back from this home this time was a very mixed blessing, indeed. I was free of that awful blackness that just would not stop growing inside of me and that felt so good that I wanted to skip all the way home. My dear mother, however, was smarting at the embarrassment I had caused her and my confession did not liberate her the way it had me. I was sad about that, really. I had hurt her and that did make me sad. Then there was that ever-familiar phrase looming, “just you wait until your father gets home.”
     I had to tell my father what I had done and, as I had expected, he reached for the old razor strap from under the sink. My father spent a lot of years as a company commander in the military, both in regular army and in the National Guards /Army Reserves, but, in reality, Daddy was a pacifist. It was a lot harder on him than on us when it came to times like these. Oh, the strap did hurt, but the stripes were few and did not hurt for long. Both the rope burn and the spanking with the strap were far less painful than the growing blackness, which I later learned was called “guilt”.
     This episode would find a place, permanently, amongst the memories of my childhood, though all wounds healed just fine, for both the teenage bully and his six-year-old nemesis, who proved to be a worthy opponent. This incident was never mentioned between us and he never did try to “pay me back”. I do not know if he stopped harassing us little kids or not. I only know that this is the last incident I recall so if he did, it was “no big deal” to me!
     In fact, I did not tell anyone about the incident in the garage that began with the promise of puppies, for a couple of decades. My own mother would be in her late fifties before she ever learned what had been the cause of my most premeditated transgression against “the boy at the other corner.” If you know my mother, you will know that she was ready to go after him as though it had just happened! Well, for her, I guess it had since she had no knowledge of it decades earlier!
                                                                                    *Family Name changed.

****Speaking of Revenge… Coming Tomorrow




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Price of Revenge… Scene 3: The Opportunity

The next few days passed, uneventfully. I did not ride my tricycle around the block and I did not walk in the alley; I stayed close to home when I played. I played and I waited. I knew a time would come when I would "pay him back" for what he did. I could wait. He did not know I was waiting. When I had my chance he would not see it coming.

Opening the front door of our house on Elm Avenue I heard the noise of children playing in the empty lot next to the old lady who was our friend. I made my way passed her home and saw the lot with a lot of little kids in it. My teenage nemesis was there, too, swinging one of the children on the end of a rope. The children lined up to let him put a thick, rough twine-like rope around them. Then he pulled the rope tight and swung the child around in the air. The feet did not touch the ground as he twirled around with the child on the end of the tether. It was a lot like the "airplane rides" our daddy gave us except that we were on the ends of his arms, holding tightly to his hands. We were a lot higher in the air than the kid at the end of the rope. One-by-one the children had a turn, squealing and laughing as they watched the twirling little friend go 'round and 'round. When the big boy took a rest, the small crowd of children began to disperse. My younger sister was with me and this is why I think I might have been six when this event happened. She would have only been three and the boy would not spin her on the rope because she was too young. She was a thin three so he probably thought she was much younger than she was. Okay, so if she did not get a turn, she would just go home to play with the other kids making their way in that direction. But, not me; I saw the opportunity I had been waiting for present itself right then! I sat down on the ground near the strong adolescent boy.

"Can I have a turn?" I asked.

"You want me to swing you on the rope?" He seemed surprised at my request.

"Yes, please, I want to try it, too." Some of the children heard the conversation between us and turned around to rejoin the action they assumed would begin again. My sister did not come, though, because she already knew he would not swing her.

As he stood and reached for his rough-hewn rope, I came near and lifted my tee shirt.

"What are you doing? The rope goes outside, on top of the shirt." he said, questioning but also instructing me. I had hold of the rope and was putting it around my chest, just under my armpits.

"No, I want it here. It will make my shirt dirty and my mother would not like that. It will be okay," I protested as I waited for him to tie the knot.

"But, it will rub your skin if you put it there. Put it on top of your shirt." He insisted. I shook my head and the few children observing our interaction told him to just do what I wanted so that they could have another turn before their mothers called them home.

The teenager shrugged his shoulders and tied the knot securely around me. He tightened the rope and away I went, flying in the air. Around and around I went, gritting my teeth while still trying to smile. When I thought the rope had rubbed my skin enough to make a mark of some kind, I signaled that I was finished with my "ride". I sat on the ground with the other kids for a little while to catch my breath. I was staggering just a little after the ride at the end of the rope and I didn't want my mother to see me before I was ready. Mothers just seem to know things so I needed to be careful.

When a couple of the kids got up to head home, I joined them. When we reached the corner where our house was, I turned to head up the front steps to go inside. I needed to wait a bit longer because I could not see a mark on my skin yet. I do not remember what I did in the interim but, at last, my skin began to burn. I went into the bedroom where we had a mirror on the low dresser and checked on my chest. Sure enough, there it was! An angry red line the width of that rope ran all the way around my chest, under my armpits and across my back. Yikes, did it look sore… and it was, too! I pulled my shirt down and ran to show my mother. Lifting my shirt I called to get her attention away from her task.

"Mom, it hurts here," I wined, moving my shirt up as high as I could. Of course, it was a genuine cringe when I pulled back from her touch.

"What? How did this happen?" She was dumbfounded to see the beet red line all around my little body.

"It was the boy at the other corner," I told her. "He was swinging the kids on a rope."

"But, why didn't he put the rope on top of the shirt, then. Didn't he see it would hurt you if he put it there?" She questioned me, though not really suspecting that it was her own "little darling" who had insisted on the rope's placement.

"It hurts," I said again, not wanting to tell her it was his fault but wanting her to assume that it was. It did hurt, too, like having a hot branding iron wrap itself around me! She would do the first aid soon but first she was going to do what mothers everywhere would have done… she was going to march me right over to that boy's house and show his parents what he had done to her innocent little daughter.

The boy was not home but his parents were. Shyly I stood before them as my mother lifted my shirt. His mother gasped and his father groaned with his scowl. It was hard to stay neutral here and not just jump up with my fist punching the air saying, "Yes!" but I managed to keep quiet and just looked down at the floor.

"Did Bill*do that to you?" his father shouted out. But his father was so mad at his son, I did not even have to answer the question, for which I was thankful.

"Where is he?" he bellowed and left the room. The boy's mother shook her head and offered her apology to me and to my mother. She said that the boy's father would take care of it and thanked us for coming to show them.

I must admit, while I was glad that the boy would get a spanking from his father for this, walking away with my mother that day, I did feel more than a little guilty that I had let everyone believe that the wound I now displayed was his fault. He was totally innocent, though I guess he could have just refused to swing me if I would not have the rope on the top of my shirt instead of under it. In any case, I also had the satisfaction of knowing I had "paid him back" for what he had done to me that I could not tell anyone.

Later that afternoon I learned the results of my actions against the teenage boy. His father had taken a shovel to beat him. My own wound had been dressed by my mother and I knew it would be fine in a couple of days. I wondered if the boy would be fine in a couple of days, too. I also, wondered what he might do to me now that he had been beaten because of my deception. What would his revenge bring to me?

*Name changed, of course!

**** Closing Scene: The Price…. Coming tomorrow

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Price of Revenge… Scene 2: The Garage

The family's garage smelled like all garages at this time of the year, musty and dirty. I listened but could not hear the puppies.

"Over here," the teen said. "Right over in the corner next to the car." I moved slowly in the direction indicated, struggling to get my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I still did not hear any whining I thought the puppies would be making. I wondered if he would let me hold one even if they were all asleep. Nearing the corner I began to see the surroundings without difficulty. I saw an empty corner. No box with newborn puppies and I quickly backed away.

"What's the matter, little girl?" said the big boy with that sneer I knew only too well. "Don't you see the puppies?" I shook my head and tried to move away from the car.

"Now, don't get all scared on me; I am not going to hurt you." He said that but, still, he moved in front of me and began to press me in the direction of the side of the car.

"I need to go home now," I said with as much courage as I could muster. "I know that my mother would not want me to be in here with you and there are no puppies anyway."

My back was against the metal door of the vehicle now and the boy reached out to pull up my shirt. I grabbed at the shirt and pulled it down. He laughed at me and said I was a coward and a scaredy- cat. Even so, he grabbed at the zipper of my jeans and pulled it down.

"What are you doing? That is not a good thing to do. My mother will be really mad if you do that. I am going home right now!" I blurted out in staccato spurts of fear and defiance, nearly spitting in the adolescent's face as I spoke.

He told me that he was going to take my clothes off and I should not tell anyone or I would really get into trouble. I told him I would scream but his protests that it was me who would get in trouble as it was me who didn't have any clothing on made me rethink this plan. He continued to unbutton my shirt, slowly and deliberately.

As he moved his fingers over the buttons, I was thinking that God could keep me from getting in trouble for being in here. God could rescue me from having this boy take all of my clothes off, too. Suddenly the boy froze in place and tilted his head to one side. Though I had not heard a sound, he heard some kind of noise and pretty much freaked. Was someone coming? The next thing I knew, I was standing alone by the car and the boy was nowhere in sight. Quickly I pulled at my clothing and got things back the way they needed to be as fast as my shaking little fingers could move.

Once through that garage door and back in the alley, I ran all the way home. Did I tell my mother? Did I, at least, tell my big sister? No, on both counts. I just did not know if what he had told me about getting in trouble for being in the garage in the first place was true. I knew what he was doing was wrong but would I get in trouble for letting him do that to me? I just did not know but, one thing I did know: He was not going to get away with it! I would just wait for a chance to have my revenge for his lying to me about the puppies and for the naughty thing he did to me. (I had no idea what worse thing could have happened if he had not been frightened off by the noise! I was only six and did not know that awful things can happen to little girls in their own neighborhood.) This boy would pay for what he did; I would see to that no matter what!

****Scene 3: The Opportunity Coming Tomorrow

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Price of Revenge

Looking up I saw him. The big boy was standing right there in the middle of the alley, coming towards me. Oh, I knew this boy all right. He had a twin brother, too. They lived on the corner of our block. Our own house was on the opposite corner so if I was going to ride my tricycle around the block. I would have to pass his house as I rounded the corner on my way down that fourth sidewalk, heading for home. I tried not to ride on the sidewalk if I knew that the high school kids were already home. If not, though, I enjoyed riding my trike around the block as many times as I could before Mom called us to come inside for lunch or supper. Sometimes I forgot the time, though, and had to try to get away from this teenage bully. He would chase me and, usually, he caught me. He growled and sometimes he hit me but, mostly, he was just enjoying his power over me. I hated him because he frightened me so often and so completely. Yes, I had told my parents and they had spoken to his parents but, after all, isn't that just what big boys did to little kids? Harmless, isn't it? Okay, so I just needed to toughen up or stay away until I did.

Thus, I had taken to walking down the alley behind the houses instead of along the sidewalk in front of them. It was too rough to try to ride my trike on that ground but, sometimes, I could find a cool rock as I jumped, skipped, hopped on one foot, or just plain walked so it wasn't all bad, really. I had never seen the boys in the alley before this encounter. Somehow he looked a lot bigger standing there, grinning at me, as I looked up at him. Maybe he looked twice as big today because we were in the alley, behind the houses and not right out in front where anyone could see what he did. Maybe it was because it was darker in the alley than on the sidewalks in front of the houses. Whatever the reason, he looked like a menacing giant to me! I think I must have been about six years old because I was wearing blue jeans. I was six when I got my first ever pair of blue jeans, real blue jeans with a front zipper and front plus back pockets.

"Hey, don't look so scared. I'm not going to hurt you." To which I said absolutely nothing. "In fact, I just wanted to show you something. I thought you might like to see, too," he said with his grin broadening to a huge smile. He held his arms out, palms toward me, in a gesture of surrender. "Really, I don't want to hurt you."

Still, I said nothing but I did begin to relax as he didn't growl or run towards me or anything as he had in the past. Maybe he did have something he wanted to show me and that was all.

The tall boy was right in front of me now and I began to slowly move forward to see if he would move out of my way or grab me. I knew I could not outrun him so no point in trying to turn tail and run. He did not hinder my forward movement but turned around to walk alongside me, matching my slow, short strides. He walked next to me but did not touch me. He continued speaking to me in a soothing, friendly tone.

"Guess what we have in our garage? You will never guess."

"A new car?" I asked, tentatively, but kept inching my way forward.

"Nope, that isn't it. Guess again." was his cheerful reply.

"A new truck or, maybe, a new lawnmower?" I had stopped walking to think of some other possibility.

"Nope but that is a good guess," he encouraged me. What was up with that, I wondered. This boy had never said anything nice to me or tried to make me feel good about anything I said to him before this. He always made fun of us and told us how dumb we were. Maybe he was changing and did like little kids after all? Maybe his dad said he had to be nice to us or he would get a spanking? Whatever it was, I liked it a lot better than his angry scowl and mean slaps on our legs or backs.

"Do you give up? You will really like it and I don't think you would ever think of it," he said with a happy face and arm gestures that were friendly and not threatening at all.

"Okay," I said. "What is it? I give up." We had stopped moving right in front of the back door to the family's large double car garage.

"It's right in here," he said, pointing to the garage. "Want to come in and see?"

"What is it? I don't think I should be going in your garage," I answered with genuine curiosity, laced with more than a bit of fear.

"Puppies. We have new puppies," he pronounced gleefully. My eyes sprang wide open with this joyful news.

"Puppies! You have puppies in there!" I exclaimed more than questioned.

"Yup, three tiny little puppies. They were not born very long ago. Want to see?" I did, of course, want to see but still felt a bit anxious about going inside the garage with the big boy who had harassed us for so long.

"Well, why don't you bring them out here? They are probably in a box with a blanket to keep them warm. You could just bring them out here and I could see them."

"No, I am not supposed to do that because the light will hurt their eyes. They were just born and their eyes are not yet open. I would get in trouble if I brought them out in the light," was his logical response to the little girl who was so obviously getting more eager to see the puppies with each passing minute we spent by the closed garage door.

"Well, maybe I could just take a peek," I suggested, moving right up to the door and letting him turn the handle.

"Yes, that's great. You will see them even in the darkness of the garage. I will even let you hold one of them if you promise not to tell anyone." I promised. The door squeaked just a tiny bit when it opened and I crossed the threshold into the dark garage.

**** Scene 2: The Garage Coming Tomorrow


 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

When God Just Doesn’t Seem to Be Enough… Answers to Questions

Question 1: So, Sojourner, you left us hanging here! How much of your hearing did you lose or was the surgery able to restore your hearing completely?

Answer: The surgery was successful and my hearing was restored. Sadly, however, my hearing suffered some loss during my nine years working in the jungle village clinic due to some pretty serious infections. But, during my childhood, after this surgery, I had no excuse for "not hearing" my mother!

Question 2: Did you choose Pediatrics because of this experience?

Answer: That's a good question. Hmmm, perhaps. I cannot say for sure, though, it most certainly did have an effect on how I cared for my young patients while working on the Pediatrics Ward and with the pediatric population having surgery. I never forgot how it felt to be a young child in the hospital so I do think that this was a good thing for my little patients.

For example, everyone always thinks that it is a good thing to turn the child's head away from anything of a stick with a needle… be it a shot or starting an intravenous line. For many children this is true; however, it is not true for all of us! Because of my experience in the hospital, I made it my crusade to work with those children who had "trouble" when getting shots. One day I walked on to the Pediatrics Ward, clad in my white lab coat full of cartoon appliqu├ęs just for kids, and was asked to join the small army of nurses walking down the hall to the room of a six-year-old patient who needed an injection. We were all to be the "thugs" who would hold her down while the nurse with the free arms actually injected this little leg! There were six of us! No, I am not kidding. I asked if I could just take a few minutes with the child first so that the army would not be needed and was told that I did not know this child. They all knew her and to give her an injection was just plain impossible if she were not completely restrained. I agreed with the Head Nurse that I had never met the child but, please, could I just have ten minutes to talk with her. Since I was working with the surgeons who would be doing the operation the next day, they allowed me the time.

I quickly retreated to my office and grabbed my special box. Back in the room I explained to the child that I wanted to teach her to give an injection to the doll. I explained that Betsy had to have an operation and the doctor had asked the nurse to give her the shot in preparation for the operation. Would she like to learn how so that she could give Betsy her shot? Well, of course, she did!

I carefully taught the little girl the proper technique for giving an injection, as well as the "why's" of each step. She listened with rapt attention and then took the equipment in her own little hands to do the deed. Carefully she drew up the sterile water into the syringe, selected the site on the thigh, gave a swipe with the alcohol square, checked her angle to be sure it was 90degrees, aimed for a "target" passed the skin and into the muscle, withdrew the plunger, slightly, to be sure that there was no blood return, injected the liquid, withdrew the needle exactly in the same way she had gone in, wiped the injection site and placed the Band-Aid. Done! A huge smile lit up her young face as she looked to me for her evaluation of technique… perfect!

I, then, told her that her own doctor had also instructed her nurse to give her an injection as preparation for her own surgery and could I bring the nurse in to give her the injection now? She said it was fine, "as long as she did it right!" I urged the "army" that had re-assembled to help with the shot to remain in the doorway until needed. I pleaded with the skeptical nurse to try without the restraints first. She was tired and not very "in the mood" for my theatrics but she agreed, at last.

My new little "trainee" carefully observed each and every step of the procedure and one could almost see the gears turning in her mind as she watched! After each step, the little girl encouraged the nurse that she had done it right! Then, at the very end of the injection—Band-Aid placed—the little patient smiled up at the nurse and said, "You did a really good job." They never had another bit of trouble with this six-year-old patient. I returned later with my intravenous equipment so she could learn about starting an IV, too, since she would be getting one the next morning before being taken to surgery! The little wannabe nurse did very well with the rest of her hospitalization and never needed restraining again.

So, my own experience may not have had a part in selecting my specialty but it did, indeed, play a part in how I went about my job!

Question 3: Hey, Sojourner, what's up with that link in last week's Q and A? I could not get the link to work and think you left something off.

Answer: Oh, how right you are! So sorry about that… I am pretty low tech and my colleague who is helping me did not notice either. Here is the correct link to take you to the book I mentioned, Dealing with Our Fears when Letting Go Seems Impossible. By the way, the price is down to $8.29 for the paperback now, so you might want to think about it for Christmas presents, wink! Just 64 shopping days left until Christmas and IF you buy a total of $25 from Amazon, you can have free shipping, too! Okay, okay, here is the link:

Link for paperback: $8.29 October 21

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?field-keywords=Dealing+with+our+fears+when+letting+go+seems+impossible&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&x=17&y=25

Link for ebook, which varies daily in price from $11-something down to $7.88:

http://www.amazon.com/Dealing-Fears-Letting-Impossible-ebook/dp/B0056HQGIM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1309004548&sr=1-1

****"The Price of Revenge" coming Monday


 


 

Friday, October 21, 2011

When God Just Doesn’t Seem To Be Enough… A Few More Thoughts

Yesterday we considered the situation at the beginning of the world… God was not alone but all three Persons of the Trinity were there creating the earth. Next They wanted to create someone like them to actually administrate Their creation… to live there and enjoy it, as well as to take care of it for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The next chapter in Genesis gives the account of one of the couples God had created… beginning with Adam, the first man. I love that God wanted to put someone on the earth to enjoy what They had made and to watch over things but, even more, I love that God saw that the man needed more than just the beautiful place and a walk in the Garden with the Father! God made Adam to need more.

God in Three Persons knew already that it would be lonely for only one human being to be on Planet Earth with all of the other species of His creation and God set about improving Adam's lot in the Garden! Adam inspected the whole lot of created life but there was none that he found could be his partner in the work or in his life. They were individual and interesting but, well, none of the other creations seemed to really be able to share their thoughts with him or understand the thoughts that he had wanted to share. None of them could help Adam; he needed someone like himself.

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18, NIV)

Skipping the inspection and naming of the creatures verses here, drop down to verse 21:

So, the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman', for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24, NIV)

I sometimes wonder if this last verse about the man and woman committed to one another in marriage being one flesh might not, also, be a likeness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? They have three different personalities, three different jobs to do but all three are of one mind and have the very same purpose to their labors. Seems like if God is going to make the two one, perhaps, They might have thought it should work the same with couples? Just a thought, I have not published any articles or books to prove this!

A tangential note here: Don't go looking for men to have one less rib than women do because of this passage in the Bible. Counting the ribs to find only that they have the same number, will not disprove the truth of this passage of Scripture, though some have tried to use this approach! When I worked with reconstructive surgeons during my time in Virginia I learned that they often take a rib out to make a forehead or repair another area that needs that flat kind of a bone. The reason is that the rib will grow back within a year so it will not make any difference to the patient who is either letting the surgeons "move" his rib from his chest to his forehead or, if his child needs it, "donating "his rib. He will never know the difference after it has grown back!

Alas, Singles, you have not been forgotten! God knows that a single person also needs relationships on this Earth besides the most important one, your relationship with God! King Solomon took note of this in Ecclesiastes Chapter 4.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. (Eccl. 4:9, NIV)

We do much better and are more productive if we have like-minded and motivated co-laborers with whom to work

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Eccl. 4:10, NIV)

This is true anytime, not just when we are working! It is true in private life, as well as our working life: If we are tempted to do something not quite according to what we know the Lord would approve, having a co-worker watching may just make the difference. If we are working and are distracted or, for any reason at all, find ourselves hurt on the job, it is really comforting to have someone right there to go for help, right? For me, just walking along a road with a colleague proves comforting as I can be distracted from the condition of the road and stumble because of it. When my colleague who is walking with me, stretches out a hand and steadies me, it is a great comfort and I can draw my attention back to listening and feeling the road!

Of course, under all circumstances be it of a sinful temptation situation or an actual physical danger, God is watching, too as he had promised to never leave us but to keep His eyes upon us. Of course, God could stretch out His hand to steady my stumbling gait but he has given me friends to do that for Him and I so appreciate the relationship with them! For those living in places where the sidewalks and street crossings can get icy… we all appreciate that helping hand on a winter's day!


Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? (Eccl. 4:11, NIV)

I had not really known the truth of this verse more than one very cold Ohio night! My colleague and I had been riding a Greyhound bus and had been more than a little warm on that conveyance as we traveled from South Dakota through to Ohio. However, the folks in whose home we would be sleeping had not yet turned the furnace on for the winter. We spoke to them late into the evening hours and they seemed plenty comfortable in short sleeves, while our knees knocked together and our teeth chattered when we tried to speak. At last, it was Midnight and time for bed. This was really the first time we were so incredibly grateful to have but one bed for both of us. This is often the case during our itineration times in the States when staying in the homes of family and friends. It is not a problem, most of the time and, as one friend put it when waking us up the following morning, "You two are hugging the edges of the bed so much that we could put another person between you!" Not this night! We might have been able to put two more people on the edges of the bed because we were so tightly pressing our backs together in the very middle of the bed! It did not take long to begin to warm up, which gave us the heat we needed to begin to move away for the more natural, restful sleeping position. Neither of us can read this passage without thinking of Ohio!

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. (Eccl. 4:12a, NIV)

That goes without saying, right? Who doesn't want someone with him when being threatened!

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Eccl. 4:12b, NIV)

If two is a good thing, think how good it would be to have three friends to join together with us! That would make it possible for one to call in sick sometimes!

So, dear Reader, the bottom line is this: God understands our need for relationships with people, both those who are very close to us and others who join us in projects such as working relationships. God does not need to be your only Friend. He is secure in Who He is so no need to have exclusive rights to our attention. He is, however, a jealous God according to the Bible, so He does mind a lot if we make someone or something other than Him stand in that "only one God" spot! There, truly, is no one else but the Almighty God who can stand in the place of our God. However, the One Who made us knows us best and He has made us to need people, His other children, too! No guilt needed if you are sometimes feeling like God just doesn't seem to be enough! God understands and He is okay with that!

****Answers to Questions Tomorrow


 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When God Just Doesn’t Seem To Be Enough… A Few Thoughts for Today

As "grown-ups", it is so easy to see how young Sojourner would want to have a familiar hand to stroke her hair out of her eyes or sing softly to her as she tries to go to sleep in a strange place. To have a familiar voice comfort us can be just what we need under stressful circumstances. But, what about us as adults? I love the Lord with my whole heart and have given my life to obey Him wherever in the planet God chose to send me but, well, there are times when I just need to feel that human contact. This is especially true since blindness covered my colorful African world with total darkness 24-7 a long 17 years ago. Doubtless I could never have remained in this rugged environment as a blind person without an incredible amount of the Loving God's grace to "light" my days!

Still, there were those times when I just didn't feel like God was enough. Can I admit to you that I felt so guilty when I felt like that? Will you think less of me because, of course, the God Who made the universe should be enough for anyone and to think otherwise must be sin or something akin to making God scowl, at the very least! How arrogant of me to think that I needed more than the One Who is all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-Present! Well, dear Reader, if you have found yourself in this same situation at times and, like me, also found yourself adding "guilt" to the heart-breaking grief, read on! God understands!

In fact, it is God's omniscient nature that assures us that He does. God is all-knowing! But, that's not all… God is, also, all-powerful which means that there is nothing that can keep God from getting to you just what it is that you need at any given moment. Take care here, though, to remember that God's ways are not our ways so His timetable to actually bring what you need may not fit into the microwave generation of thought. God makes sure that you are looking to Him for counsel and direction so that you can trust Him to send the provision to follow His guidance. That, normally, will come first. However, your need for human or like-minded companionship or conversation is one thing we can see in the Bible God lives as well as understands!

God was not alone, Himself, and did not intend for us to be either! God wanted us, people made in His own image, to find fulfillment in relationships with others. From the very beginning this is shown in the Bible… in Genesis Chapter 1, everything was dark and empty. God sends the Holy Spirit to check it out and then They begin to create life on and for our planet Earth.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light…" (Genesis 1:1-3a, NIV)

"Wait a minute," you say, "There is God, the Father, and this verse will tell us that God the Holy Spirit was there when it all began, but where is it written that the Son was there? I don't see it in Genesis Chapter 1." Okay, let's check it out. You will need to flip over to the New Testament, the Gospel according to John, Chapter 1, where we will read a familiar three-word beginning:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4, NIV)

If we read just a bit further we will see who the Bible says is the "Word" Who we just read was there in the beginning, creating the world with the Holy Spirit and the Father:

Verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Throughout all four gospel chapters, we learn that the one who dwelt among us was Jesus, the Son of God. So, putting these two passages together, we can see how the Three Persons of God were together from the very beginning… Father, Son and Holy Spirit! God was not alone so He does understand when we need someone to share whatever it is we are going through just now!

But, that is not enough… a beautiful planet for the three of them to enjoy! They want to fill it with us

Later in Genesis Chapter 1, the Three Persons of God just mentioned, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, decide to put their creative minds together again and create us… in their own image! To me that is simply amazing!

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground. (Genesis 1:26, NIV)

Sounds pretty encompassing of all they have made so far, doesn't it? God intended that mankind would rule over all that They had made on the planet, expecting that we would take good care of it, of course! Mankind was not to be just another flower or pretty butterfly, fitting into the landscape just created! God expected that mankind would be in charge of it all. Can't see that? Keep reading then:


So, God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27, NIV)

If you keep reading in the Bible you will see that God encouraged them to multiply and fill the earth, as well as giving them the charge to rule over the things They had made on the earth already. God would be the Founder of the Creation but mankind was to be the CEO, kind of thing. They would be working together, in a perfect world. Again, God never planned to be alone; He wanted a team to work with on the new planet They had just created.

The account in Genesis Chapter 2 of God making Eve to be Adam's partner in the new business of life in the Garden is fairly well known. The point is that, God had a good plan here so that Adam would not have to be alone in the Garden. Of course, God would have been enough to help Adam get the job done of ruling the planet, but God had created Adam with the need for companionship and someone to talk things over with when ruling the earth. Someone to help him make the decisions, etc. God made Adam with that already built in because God did not want Adam to be without someone who was going through the same things he was. God, Himself, sensed that there would be times, for Adam, "when God just didn't seem to be enough," and made provisions for him!

**** A Few More Thoughts Tomorrow, Genesis 2 plus King Solomon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

When God Just Doesn’t Seem to Be Enough (scene 3)

I remember my mother coming to see me just before they took me to the Operating Room. I was surprised that she did not bring me any food and would not let me drink any water either. She did promise that I would get Ginger Ale and Popsicles when I got back from having my operation, though, so I relaxed about the "no food" thing. My mother would see that I had the same two elements of our diet when we were sick at home. Mom was there when I got out of surgery, I am sure. Well, I don't know for absolutely sure as I do not remember it but my mother was rather a lioness where her children were concerned so I would imagine that she would have waited to see that I was okay after surgery before heading home!

I do not know how many days I was in the hospital but it was not the "in and out" thing it is for children today. What I remember was that I could make the most of each day, exploring, playing with other kids who could not get out of their beds but did not have restrictions, books to "read" and all kinds of things to do in the playroom. The days were not the problem. It was the nights.

Each and every night, from the first to the last, was the same. I sat in that large pediatric crib made for pre-schoolers and young children, all alone in the dark room. There were muffled noises outside the room but it was so black inside the room. There were other such cribs in the room but no other children. The crib was right across from a nearby window which allowed me to see the bright lights of the city against the night sky. The pediatrics floor was on one of the upper levels so it was as though I was sitting atop all the houses, looking down. It felt good in the daylight but it was the single loneliest experience I can remember from my childhood. It is the only truly negative part I recall of hospitalization as a child. Every single night I was there, looking at the lights against the dark sky from my oh-so dark room and tears just streamed down my five-year-old cheeks. I wanted my parents, my sisters who also slept in the same room as I did at home and I just did not understand why I had to be in this lonely place. Why didn't they come to take me home? I talked to God over and over to tell Him every detail of my day as I always did but it just wasn't enough; I needed my family, my home, my own clothing and familiar place next to my sister in the big bed. Each dark and lonely night I asked God that it be my last one there as I cried and cried. I begged Him to tell my parents to come and get me.

People will tell you that children are resilient and they will forget all about these things. Ha, not ALL children will "forget all about these things"! While studying for my Masters at the University of Virginia, one of the professors asked us to recall any memories we had of being patients in a hospital as children. One by one the other pediatric nursing graduate students gave whatever they could recall of their experiences so many years ago. When it was my turn, I was dumbfounded to find myself crying like that five-year-old once again as I recounted to my colleagues the nights in that crib, looking at those city lights!

A wonderful memory of that hospitalization was the day my father and mother came to take me home! I do not recall the ride in the wheelchair from my room to the Emergency Room ramp, though it is likely that there was one; but, I recall as though it happened yesterday being taken up in the strong arms of my father. There is just no list of joyful synonyms that could come close to describing how good it felt to be carried down that ambulance ramp to the waiting car that would take me home!

****A few thoughts for today. Coming tomorrow.


   

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When God Just Doesn’t Seem to Be Enough (scene 2)

At last, all the busyness of others in and out of my room was finished and a tray of food was brought for me to eat. In bed! What's up with that anyway? The bed looked like a cage and now was beginning to feel like one, too! This place needed my mother's touch … peeing in a pot ON the bed, now eating supper sitting on the side of the bed, what next?! I picked at the food and could not be convinced that there would be no food for me in the morning. My mother would come and she would bring me some food; it's just what mothers do.

The activity of the day and evening did make me plenty tired but "Sleepy" was quite another matter. In those days they did not really sedate children the night before surgery so I was more than wide awake for the remaining hours of the evening shift that first night in the hospital.

The daytimes were not so terribly bad, as long as one didn't mind all kinds of strangers doing all kinds of things to them and for them. Even after surgery when I had pain, they gave me shots and I didn't cry that much because I wanted the promised Popsicle. It was worth it to me if they had cherry or grape. My parents lived too far away to come each afternoon for that narrow window called "visiting hours". My father needed our one car to go to work while I was in the hospital so my parents were just not able to come. However, I had an aunt we all loved for all the reasons a young kid loves a single aunt… she takes you places and plays with you, etc. because she doesn't have kids of her own and you are it! She also worked during the nighttime hours at a hotel reception desk so had the hours that hospital let people visit children free from her job. She came every day to read stories and play games with me. It was wonderful and I looked forward to her visits an hour each afternoon.

When I had recovered enough to not have to stay in the bed all day, I found a trike in the playroom. Now, there was something I would really enjoy… freedom to explore and wheels for a fast get-away if necessary! When I had been walking those halls, I had noticed the big door that was always closed at the end of the main hallway. I stood there quietly one day until some adult opened it to let herself out. I could hear babies crying and people saying things about the new baby. YES, that's just what would interest me! But, the door was there for a reason, right? Later, still on the trike, I slowly made my way up and down that hallway adjacent to the door. At last, it came… my chance to escape and check out those babies! The people were talking to one another as they passed through the door that had been flung open wide and not paying any attention to the little girl on the trike. Before the door closed completely, I zoomed my trike through and on to the Maternity floor! Yes!

It was not easy to look at the room full of babies in plastic beds that didn't even have any bars because I was too short. Well, okay, there must be other things to see on this side of the door. Off I went to explore! I saw someone dressed in all white coming down the hall. She was looking down at her hand where she held a bag with a tube coming out of it. Yikes! I pumped those pedals as fast as I could, turning right at the first intersection that presented itself. I found myself in a short hallway. I really enjoyed cheerfully greeting the ladies in the patient rooms I passed. They seemed happy to see me, too, as they waved albeit with a somewhat surprised expression on their faces. I thought I might catch a peek at a baby in the room but only a couple of ladies in each room. No babies. Continuing my search, I quickly passed my trike through the doorway into the next room. "Crunch!"… right into a cleaning lady. Boy, was SHE surprised! "Well, little girl, you are really too old to be on this side of the door." That was the first time anyone had told me I was too old! I whipped that little piece of metal on three wheels around so fast I thought I could get away for sure. Alas, it was not to be. The lady dropped her wet mop, ran just a few long strides, grabbed onto the collar of my bathrobe, and that was that… adventure over.

The funny thing is that I don't recall being reprimanded by anyone for making my escape from the Pediatrics Ward, though I might have been. What I do know is that many years later, when I did my rotation as a student nurse on that very same Pediatrics Ward, there was not a single trike to be found! Hope that wasn't my fault and I ruined it for all the other kids.

****Scene 3 coming tomorrow, if it doesn't rain too much and mess up our connection


  

Monday, October 17, 2011

When God Just Doesn’t Seem to Be Enough…

I was sitting in the over-sized crib, all four walls of metal bars surrounding me with but one thought, "How did I get here? The clothing I had been wearing had been taken off me by a stranger. Even my best underwear (worn just for the occasion) was traded for some seriously faded, slightly too small cotton number that looked like it was as old as I was! Who was wearing MY clothes and where had my mother gone? Why did she let them do this to me? At five years old, most of the unexplained things that happened to me were said to be "for your own good" but this was really too humiliating to be counted as "good". "How did I get here?"

For some time my mother had been asking her friends who were also raising small children if their kids ever seemed to have trouble hearing. She had become concerned because I was not responding to her when my back was turned or when I was not in sight of her. "You've got to be kidding," was something of the nature of what their replies had been. "She doesn't WANT to hear you! If your daughter is playing or doing just about anything, she is not likely to want to be interrupted so she just 'doesn't hear
you'. That way she doesn't HAVE to do what you want her to do but won't get in trouble for not coming. Don't you get it? Relax; she's fine." My dear mother TRIED to relax but, fortunately for me, she did not relax too much!

"Crash!" sounded the lid of Mom's Dutch oven as she stood just behind me and dropped the heavy metal cover. When my reaction was zip, Mom gathered me up in her arms and headed for the doctor's. My second grade sister was likely at school but I am not sure what she did with the two-year-old. Took her to stay at the home of one of her not-so-worried friends while she took me to the doctor? Probably.

The doctor let my mother know that I was very close to deaf and had she not brought me to him when she did, it would have been too late to recover any of my hearing. As it was, he could not guarantee how much would return. I needed surgery and would be admitted ASAP to the pediatrics ward of the hospital in the big city fifteen miles away. I do realize that in this present climate of fast cars and multi-lane interstate highways, fifteen miles is not a long journey. However, in 1954, the speed limit on that two-lane highway was 45 mph and, at my young age, it was a world away from my family.

Now, here I was…. all alone, in someone else's clothes and locked into the biggest baby bed I had ever seen in my life! Why did they think I needed to be in a baby bed, anyhow? Didn't they have any real beds for kids in this hospital? Then came the uniformed parade of people wanting something from this confused little sojourner! They stuck me with a needle and collected my blood in a few tubes for all the usual pre-op lab test. I was fine with needle-sticks as long as I could watch so the biggest conflict here came when they repeatedly insisted I turn my head so I couldn't see the needle go in! Peeing on demand had never been my strong point…. just ask my parents who waited so many times beside the road for me to relieve myself since it was many miles to the next gas station, having refused to try to go only three minutes ago when we were at a gas station! Now the lady wanted urine in a plastic bowl that she set on the bed and wanted it "right now." She would put it in a little plastic cup with a lid that had my name on it for the lab man who was waiting for it at the nurse's desk…talk about pressure to perform! The last person just wanted to count the beats of my heart and take my blood pressure, okay, that was no big deal. However, in those days children had to have their temperatures taken rectally because some dumb kid tried to break the thermometer one day years ago. No amount of pleading that I knew how to keep the thermometer in my mouth because my mother did it that way and I knew not to bite down on it made a bit of difference. Rules were rules, you know! And, I thought that wearing someone else's underwear was the worst thing in the world; nope, this place had other things even worse than that!

****Scene 2 coming tomorrow


  

Friday, October 14, 2011

Psalm 13… Reflections

A couple of days ago I was reading my Bible in the early morning hours and I just had to laugh right outloud when I began Psalm 13. Oh, there isn't anything particularly funny about David's song of pleading to the Lord but it brought me back to a time in my young adult years when the opening line was on the lips of my university friends pretty much daily. "How long, O Lord?" would be uttered with head tilted, eyes looking up to the Heavens, both arms outstretched , palms up and bouncing in time to the cadence of the words as they were spoken. Truthfully, it was not so much of a prayer as it was a statement of something not-so-pleasant in our lives that day.

For example, when the chemistry professor who told us to bring a hand full of sharpened pencils in to the Chem. classroom each day because we would not have time to worry about a broken point, proved to be a challenge of the extreme order for his Chemistry students. He held chalk in the right hand and the eraser in the left. He wrote one line and erased the previous line at the same time, no kidding!

We began each lecture with one hand tightly clutching a dozen sharpened pencils (points up)and the other hand poised to write on a blank, not lined, sheet of paper in a three-ring binder. Our eyes did not leave the professor writing at the board until he stopped erasing the previous line as he wrote the next. The dropping of the left hand signified that he was soon finished. We looked down only when all three of the boards were full. When the pencil tip broke we just dropped the pencil on the floor and grabbed one out of the other hand. When it felt like it was not writing smoothly, we just let go of the pencil and took another one, eyes never leaving the board. It was amazing just how one could learn to write chemical formulas in a straight line while never looking down! As you might imagine, we left that room, lifted eyes and arms to the sky and said, "How long, O Lord" but it was not really a prayer. It was more a question of how long we could actually survive this course!

If we science-types were studying and a rather talkative drama student came to practice expressions on us as he or she dramatized the various points of the day in great detail ad infinitum, the hands and face would go up while the student, who was now looking at the actor's back mouthed the words, "How long, O Lord?" What we really meant was how long is this discourse going to go on today. Until now, I just never thought that we were "praying" when we said it! We, definitely, were not in an attitude of prayer at the time.

Then there was that mystery meat on the Food Service menu. It seemed to be time for mystery meat a whole lot more often than we, students needing to eat on campus, were hungry for it! "How long, O Lord… until someone realizes that this meat is not returned to the kitchen because we were just too full of those veggies to eat any meat?"

The laughter came when I recalled so many of these occasions we had used this phrase in this manner. Not very spiritual, eh? That was my conclusion, too, so I decided to actually meditate on this very psalm that morning and I want to share a few thoughts with you… more along the lines of what David, the author, may have had in mind.

Verse 1. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me?

Certainly, these moments do come along in our lives when we think that God has taken a vacation and we are so tired of waiting for Him to return. There are also moments when we feel like God is just not answering when we ring His doorbell or send him a text message… like He is wanting us to think that He is "not at home" and go away or, maybe, his battery is too low to get our message. Now, those are some low moments. If GOD doesn't want to see you, who will, right? David had some pretty serious circumstances in his life when he felt like God was not hearing his call of distress. We think that this should not have happened because God said that David was a "man after God's own heart" which is a flowery way to say that God loved him a whole lot because David wanted to obey God with his whole heart. I rather like that God lets this part of David's feelings about his trials be included in the Bible. It helps me to not feel so badly when I think God just MAY not be answering His cell phone because His caller ID tells him it is me.

Verse 2. How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (New International Version of the Bible)

Sometimes I like to go back to the King James Version of the Bible because I like how it is written. This is one verse I thought cool. So, here it is in the KJV:

Verse 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

Okay, so what's the point? Well, what David is saying is this: God, I have thought about this situation from every conceivable angle; I have tossed around all possibilities for resolution until I am exhausted and just plain sick. I have just not come up with a plan. As I see it, my enemies are always going to win. How long are you going to let me try to figure out what the best thing to do is? When are you going to just tell me?

Verse 3. Look on me and answer, O Lord, my God. Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death.

Also said, "Pleeease, God, just look at me. Give me a break here. Just tell me before the worry of it all kills me!

Verse 4. My enemy will say, 'I have overcome him.' My foes will rejoice when I fall.

It is not hard to imagine what it would be like to have people just waiting for me to stumble and fall. It is a pretty common thing to have enemies gloat over any victories they have over us. Equally, other folks are quick to align themselves with the victor and rejoice with the triumph. David is telling God that he not only has not a clue what he should do but, when his enemies win, he will not only lose to them but he will suffer their taunts when they defeat him and, basically, everyone will laugh at him and be glad that he lost.

THEN, David remembers what is the MOST important thing in his life:

Verse 5. But I trust in Your unfailing love. My heart rejoices in Your salvation.

The KJV says: "But I have trusted in thy mercy" and isn't that what unfailing love is?

God's mercy.
David may not know what his enemies are going to say or do; neither does David know what to do about it BUT David does know that he can trust God's unfailing love/mercy. David has seen God's faithful salvation in the past and knows that whatever things may look like just now, GOD can be trusted. It is a good idea to remember this when I am feeling like the cell phone is turned off in Heaven!

So, David does what he does best under troubled circumstances… and what I also find very helpful… David remembers the faithfulness of God in the past and sings praises to the Lord:

Verse 6. I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me.


Here is a good example of how the NIV version may be thought to have "understated" what David is saying. I get a much larger picture of God's provision from reading the KJV: because he hath dealt bountifully with me

Yup, I can agree with that! God hath, most definitely, dealt bountifully with me! Truly, I can trust Him to come through under His terms and in HIS time. He is NOT switching off HIS cell phone, nor hiding under the kitchen table when His doorbell rings! God IS hearing and God DOES understand. Sometimes God needs to work on us a bit before He gives us His answer and, at other times, God needs to work on the circumstances a bit before we SEE his answer was there all the time!

This is really a special psalm! I think I will, still, be saying "How long, O Lord?" as it has, rather, become a habit after all of these years, but NOW I really will see it as a prayer to the ONE who can change either me or the circumstances that I find troubling… whichever He thinks is best!

……Monday, back to my single-digit years, and "When God Just Doesn't Seem To Be Enough"


 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Old Is Old Enough? Answers to Questions

 
 

Question 1: Did you tell your parents about this challenge you put to God?

Answer: Not that I recall. My family is learning of this episode at the same time you are! It is likely that I did not tell my parents because of how that might affect my getting the blue bike on my next birthday, but I cannot remember. Later on, while I did recall the event, it did not seem to be something that anyone else could understand so I just never told anyone about it until some time in my college years. Students were asked about experiences with God in childhood that had an impact on how they saw God now and this was clearly the one for me!

Question 2: Do you really think that children can pray and see answers to their prayers or hear something that God is saying?

Answer 2: Absolutely! In fact, it is much easier for children. They haven't had a lot of years to have society form them into thinking that God is only for Sunday. When a parent or someone at church tells a child that he can talk to God anytime, anywhere, the child just believes what the teacher said. It becomes a part of their life until someone lets them know it isn't "that simple."

Question 3: How old IS old enough?

Answer 3: I am not a Bible scholar, though I have studied Hebrew and Greek in the hopes of learning more about what the Bible is saying so I cannot really speak to this issue from the intellectual standpoint. I do believe that there is an "age of innocence" as many have taught for long centuries… not so much because I can make a case for it with long lists of Scriptural references; but, rather, because I have seen it in children. This example is one that I lived and I know it was truly an experience with the Living God. I have had other missionaries tell me that their children at the same age were found alone in their rooms, crying because of the sin in their life. They had never done this before so the parents were dumbfounded as to what might have brought on this remorse. The children had not "done" anything wrong about which the parents were aware and their behavior had not changed from the norm for them over the past year or so but, suddenly, they were found to be pouring tears by the bucketload over the sin in their lives! Each time they told another Christian parent about the event, they learned that a similar thing had happened to their own child at that age. How wonderful an opportunity to let the child know of the marvelous and complete forgiveness of the Lord Jesus!

Additionally, I have seen for myself that things happen when children pray! One toddler, around 17 months old, who knew few words saw his mother sitting on the sofa, folding his diapers and went over to her. The mother said, "Oh, Mommy, has such a headache today," to the little boy. Her son scrambled onto the sofa and stood next to her. Stretching out his arms, he laid his tiny hands on top of her head and softly, but earnestly said, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." Then he climbed down with a smile and, sure enough, Mommy's headache was gone! "Mommy" called me on the phone immediately after the incident happened and we rejoiced together.

I was foster mother to three small children, ages six months, two years and four years back in the mid-seventies. To help with the bills, I also had babysitting in my home for other children not old enough to be in school. We did not really have "Day Care" places in our small town so if a mother was able to work a temporary job or just needed to take a trip to the city an hour and a half drive away, the children were brought over to my house.

During this period of time I saw many evidences that the children and God were talking to one another! Whenever a child was "hurt" when the whole gang was playing a bit too zealously for the space and number of children, a high youth chair was put in the middle of the living room where the injured child sat and all of the little hands went out to touch the child. The little "under five's" were praying their hearts out for a minute or two and then they all went back out to play, including the little one with the ouwie. "Well, "you may say, "the children were just playing and no one was actually hurt." Maybe that was the case, sometimes, it is hard to say as I was not always presented with the injured limb or bumped head before the children gathered, prayed, and went out to play again. However, one time a three-year-old girl was screaming and the gang brought her to me. She held up her little hand and all of her fingers had a line across them near the palm. All of the fingers were bright red. The nailbeds were starting to blacken so it was not hard to believe that someone had shut the backdoor on her hand! The dozen little children prayed for her and it was impossible to see which hand had been hurt, even hours later… no blackened nailbeds or bruising at all! I will not give the details here so as not to make this blog post too long but, for those who are interested, you will find the details in the book we just published through WestBow Press and available on Amazon and a lot of other sites/places: Dealing With Our Fears When Letting Go Seems Impossible.( http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?field-keywords=Dealing+with+our+fears+when+letting+go+seems+impossible&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&x=17&y=25)

Though most of the stories in this volume are related to a time served in a jungle village, there are also stories recounting the real salvation experience of the two-year-old and four-year-old who lived in my house, as well as the story of how the four-year-old led a three-year-old to give her life to Christ without any coaching from me… I was just the surprised adult onlooker!

When I worked in a unit for sick newborn babies I could quickly quiet a fussy newborn that was so small he fit in the palm of my hand by just telling him Bible stories. If I recited nursery rhymes, he began to fuss again so I returned to reciting the words of Psalm 23 or telling him of one of the miracles of Jesus. It was simply amazing to witness!

So, how old is old enough? As with many things of a spiritual nature, only God can know for sure but it seems to me that the children are telling us that they should not be excluded from what WE cannot really explain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How Old is Old Enough (closing scene and comments)

There was only one thing left to do. I rushed into our bedroom hoping that it was not too late. Throwing myself across the bed, tears flowing over my forearm onto the bedspread, I pleaded with my Heavenly Father, "I am so, so sorry. I just cannot spend another minute without speaking to You. I don't need that bike today and I will wait for my birthday to get one. Please, let me speak to You like I have my whole life. I am just so sorry and I will never do this again." The Lord must have heard my repentant urgings as I, suddenly, felt a light and wonderful release of the painful burden that had grown all day long. It was over and I could speak to God again, whenever I wanted to! Then, in the innocence of a child, I went on as though this event had never happened. I got up from the bed and began telling God all about every event of the day that "He had missed"! Oh, how wonderful it was to have my Friend back!

Comments:

I have been a fulltime missionary since 1984 and continue to be amazed when my colleagues with children this same age are shocked into disbelief at the sight of their seven-year-old weeping over his sins! How can that be, they ask How bad can the sins of a seven-year-old be that it should cause him to cry like that? He is just not old enough to have done anything so bad! Well, dear Reader, I have no idea what has caused the recognition in the life of any other seven-year-old but I KNOW that it was real to me and that God so tenderly taught me that HE understood me. I can point to this event in my life and know that I, too, began to learn about understanding God through this experience.

I have named my blog "Understanding God" because that is the journey of my lifetime. The word "understanding" has more than one meaning. It can be used as an adjective and we can see that there is an "understanding God" who cares so much about us, even if we are just children and working out what is really important in our young lives. We can make a point of setting our own goals in deciding what is the single most important thing for our sojourn on this planet… "Understanding God!"

What did I, at the age of seven, learn here? First, that I needed God in my daily life every bit as much as I thought He must, surely, need me! I learned that, while God did understand my request, in His great understanding he knew that I needed to learn Who He was… the Almighty God Who loved me but Who was not going to be manipulated by me, at any age. I never tried such a tactic ever again. I, quite clearly, now knew of my own need and that the Creator of the Universe was Sovereign. I also learned that He was a kind and tender God. He did not punish me any more than just being without Him for the day had punished me! He never held it against me and reminded me that "Last time you…" so I knew it had all been forgiven and we were okay again. I learned that the wonderful feeling of joy and peace followed my asking Him to forgive me and that the forgiveness was immediate and not contingent on any penance I might need to perform first. And, most of all, I learned the sweet joy of just having God in my life, each and every day and under each and every circumstance! I set my sights on understanding God to the best of my ability, though at age seven, I could not have expressed it in those words. I just never wanted to "lose" Him again!

Do you have any childhood "God memories" you would like to share? I would love to read them! My blog is understandinggod.info because, well, the others were taken unless I wanted to pay twenty-five times what this one cost to register (!) but in the end I thought it was the best one. It is my sincere desire that we share whatever information we have about our separate journeys in understanding so a ".info" seemed appropriate!

…answers to questions coming tomorrow