26 January 2011

Arrested Development and the State of the Union

One the heels of President Obama's State of the Union address filled with promises and challenges to better educate our children.... we have this story in Akron Ohio where a mother is sentenced to 10 days in jail and given a felony record for using her father's address to get her kids into a better, safer school. Mr President, do you watch Good Morning America? Do one of your aides or interns? Is there someone on your staff that has told you about this story and what life is really like for people trying to get a decent education for their kids?

This story tugs at multiple areas of my heart. My law enforcement background, my student development background and my experiences as a single parent. I understand that this woman broke a law and I do not take that lightly. However, what in the world is this school district trying to accomplish by giving a woman who works as a teacher's assistant and is 12 credit hours away from a degree she will use to become a teacher a felony record? Talk about straining gnats and swallowing camels.

There are many things I do not know regarding this story but with what has been presented it seems to be the absolute height of stupidity for a school district to hire a private investigator to determine whether or not this woman and her children lived in their district and for the state of Ohio to pay for her 10 days of incarceration in order to make a point. Are you being obtuse or are you just stupid? Perhaps you are going to add to her $30,000.00 bill (for sending her children to a school where they had the chance of a better education) and make her pay for your investigators and her own jail time? Heck, she probably makes a ton of money raising two kids on a teacher's assistant salary while being a college student. A job she will likely lose because of your actions and a judge with a bad case of rectal cranial inversion. What? We have a mom who is reticent to send her kids to a school where there is a high drop-out and crime rate? I know.... let's throw her butt in prison on felony charges and completely ruin her chances to get her children out of that area! What moron decided to make an example of her case? Were her kids a problem? Did they disrupt your school? Is there something so egregious they have done and this was your only solution? I know media is biased and so please tell me, what would warrant this as your only solution?

How about this for a radical idea. If a neighboring school is failing to educate or keep children safe while they are attending, the solution to the problem of people trying to cross into your district lies not arresting and jailing the parents, but in fixing the problem school! Wouldn't that be a novel idea. I bet if the woman could afford to live your school district, she would move there. A better job might accomplish that for her and if you had not given her a felony record she may have done just that! I bet if the other school's faculty didn't have to deal with the very criminal element this mom was trying to avoid they could actually teach the kids who want an education! I don't know if Akron considers inter or intra district transfers, but certainly that would be a better remedy than arresting parents.

I would hate to think that this was at all racially motivated. I haven't done any investigation on this story. Frankly, I am afraid of what I might find out. I was infuriated by the statement the school district made:

"While her children are no longer attending schools in the Copley-Fairlawn District, school officials said she was cheating because her daughters received a quality education without paying taxes to fund it.

"Those dollars need to stay home with our students," school district officials said."

Well, I think sending their mom to jail for 10 days and perhaps ruining her chances to become a teacher, one who might have made a difference, is making them pay way to much for your education. As to the quality.... I can't say. I will not snipe at the teachers because the administrators are jerks.

President Obama you may have gotten Democrats and Republicans to mingle and play nicely during your speech, but you have little chance of making me believe that your words will make a tinker's damn bit of difference when it comes to education.

OK. My rant is almost finished. I am admittedly writing from a place of emotion but I dare say the district's solution was and is not logical. The consequences for being a convicted felon are grave. Somebody please come to this woman's aid. Ms. Williams-Bolar, I wish I were closer to you. I would offer my career counseling and student development experience to help you and your children.

15 January 2011

Monsters in the Lint Trap

Yesterday was my mother's birthday. She's been gone for over 25 years and I still have difficulty with her birthdays. Normally I try to do something nice for myself on her birthday. I bought my first new car on birthday. I have purchased myself some spectacular jewelry and even bought my first home on her birthday. In keeping with tradition I tried to think of something nice to do for myself yesterday. I don't have the money I used to have so buying myself something extravagant wasn't really a possibility. Even if I'd had some money that wasn't working, I would have had difficulty purchasing something that would have helped me feel better about missing her. I don't need anything, that's for certain. Even more than that, I have come to see that I can't fill the hole that not having a mom has left in my soul. I will never have anyone who loved me like my mom loved me and in my 50s I am wrestling with the pain that truth has brought me. I am conflicted.

The difficulty I am having is knowing that while no human being will ever love me the way she did , she didn't do so great a job. She did the best she could with what she had to work with. She was not an abusive parent in any sense of the law. She never said anything unkind to me. I don't remember ever being spanked by her. However, I can no longer ignore the truth of her abandoning me as a child. Whatever her thought process was- however laudable it may have seemed to her- the bare bones truth of the matter is that she left me. She took my other siblings and left me behind. I was 3 then and I am 53 now. That's half a century of trying to fill a vacuum all while carrying the useless feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Fifty years of trying to do things for myself because I was certain no one else would. Fifty years of making certain no one would be able to abandon me again and if they did, it wouldn't matter because I was going to survive in spite of any harm they had to offer me. Fifty years of building walls and fortresses to protect me from an enemy ... a boogie man... something a 3 year old child imagined and a 53 year old woman believed. I have monsters in the recessed closet of my psyche and I am claiming not to be afraid of the dark. Ha!

So yesterday I was at a loss for what to do. I did not want to spend more time or money trying to fill a void I have already given too much import. I am not saying that the traumas of childhood aren't real. I am not saying they aren't important. I am saying I made the traumas larger and more consuming than they ever were on their own. I made them bigger than they needed to be. You here so often now "it is what it is." Life is what it is except in anxiety and fear we live like it is what it may become. I didn't want to buy myself anything else just in case no one else would but I wanted to do something. Spontaneity collided with catharsis. I marched into my bedroom and went through my closet, filling 3 garbage bags full of clothes. There were clothes I liked a lot but had not worn in over a year. There were clothes that were too big and some that were too small. They were perfectly lovely and in good shape, they just weren't of benefit to me. Someone else can and will use them. I loaded them into the car and drove them to Good Will. That's what I did to be kind to myself on my mother's birthday. I am purging myself of stuff. Unnecessary stuff. Real and imagined.... bit by bit... it's going. I am moving the line between what I need and what I think I need to survive.

During the surgery we Christians call sanctification you sometimes have to look at yourself for who and what you really are- without benefit of numbing anesthesia. God holds up a mirror and instead of seeing what you think you are.... you get a glimpse of reality. He shines a light in the closet and exposes the monsters you've been content to hide or have been too afraid to stare down. You see yourself with truth-discerning eyes. It's ugly business. Facts often make fiction of our perceptions. The Holy Spirit exposes our sinful self-possession. We see in a mirror dimly, our minds are like lint traps full of fuzz we have agitated from the fabric of our experiences. We percolate, ingeminate, perseverate on tiny little pieces of inaccurate perception mixed with a dash of truth to make it all seem believable to us. Out of context and torn from the whole it is hazardous to our well being but we ignore that... until we cannot. Monsters in the lint trap are slain by the light of truth.... but that doesn't mean they die quietly or quickly or all at once. Sanctification is a process...painful but worth it.

2 Corinthians 3:18
18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

07 January 2011

Everything is Hokey Poky

One foot in front of the other.... one foot.... in front.... of .... the .... other. Ever wish there was someone directing you in the the day to day aspects of life? Ever said "just tell me what you want me to do!" and thought you meant it? I am absolutely miserable right now. I am angry, I am resentful, I am annoyed and I am fooling myself by thinking if God would just tell me what to do to get out of this funk, I would do it. How do I know I am delusional? Because He has and I haven't.

I have a niece who has the wonderful ability to accidentally use the wrong word in precisely the right way. Two of my favorites have been "obstacle illusion" (optical illusion) and "everything is Hokey Poky" (hunky dory). You'll have to trust me that the situations in which she almost used the well known idioms were enriched exponentially by her using the slightly altered version. We all knew what she meant when she said what she did and we all had a good laugh at the way she (almost) said it. Today I woke up asking God to Hokey Poky me. I really thought I was asking Him to give me step by step instructions out of the hell hole I am in. What I was really asking Him for was a good dose of Hunky Dory.

I don't think it's necessarily wrong of us to want some hunky dory in our lives. In fact, I think it's completely normal to desire it. The problem comes when we are willing to sin to get it or if we sin when we don't. Am I the only one who is willing to cop to having a bad (read sinful) attitude when I don't get the hunky dory I think I need and deserve? Nah. But I am self-focused and prideful enough to think that I am more honest about my shortcomings than most.

This morning I thought I would be a good little Christian and read something from one of my Biblical Counseling journals. The one I picked up had an article on hope. Since I have given seminars on the topic I thought there would be little to challenge me and I could skate by with just receiving my gold star for having read and not have to suffer any conviction. Lord knows when I am ticked at Him I don't really want Him to convict me. That might make have to admit that I am very often the author of my own misery. God- being vastly more clever than I- had other plans. I picked up the article thinking I was going to criticize the writer and wham! I was laid bare with all that ugly in my heart exposed for what it is. Yeeouch! If you've ever had some medical tape and bandage covering a wound for a few days, short enough for the tape to still have its tackiness but long enough to have the glue surround your growing hair follicles and your healing skin try to heal into the bandage, you'll know what sort of feeling I had about having my sin exposed. I know it's good for me and must be done, but dang!

The God of all comfort, temporal and eternal, did a little a little surgery on me this morning. I wouldn't say that I am healed. I would say I have a gaping hole and I am in still in recovery. Did you know we get the word 'comfort' from the Latin term 'con fortis' which means 'with strength?'
God's strength and mercying grace have imposed a little hope and healing. I am fragile, grumpy and sore but I am in our Father's ICU and everything here is hokey poky! Well it will be if I can get over my obstacle illusions.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
3 Blessed {be} the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort;
4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;
7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are {sharers} of our comfort.

Romans 15:5-6
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;
6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 86:5-8
5 For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; and give heed to the voice of my supplications!
7 In the day of my trouble I shall call upon Thee, for Thou wilt answer me.
8 There is no one like Thee among the gods, O Lord; nor are there any works like Thine.

05 January 2011


I have decided that blogging is a combination of letter writing, journaling and home movies - only without the movie part. That's better than what I used to think about it. I used to think that it was like open mic night on the net and everyone thought they were funny or had a message of national import.... but most of are wrong. That's why I have always felt a little sheepish about blogging. Do I think I am funny or that I have a public service announcement to make? Neither really. Sometimes both. Mostly I think I am looking for that elusive Vulcan mind-meld with one other person. The object of a writer's desire is the chance to touch with words; the right combination of syllables and symbols to lock into someone's psyche like one Lego fits onto another. I blog because I need to write. Writing is like hair conditioner for my soul. It helps me work my tangles.

Sometimes when I am pensive I fancy myself an old gold miner optimistically sifting through mud and silt looking for shiny objects, hoping that I can amass the tiny glimmers into a solid thought. One with some heft and value. It works upon a rare occasion. Mostly what I get is cold, wet and frustrated. All that glitters is not gold. That's something my father said a lot while I was growing up. J.R.R. Tolkien said:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
I like Tolkien's prose better, but both have their merit.

For tonight my thoughts remain knotted. I am in that spectacular place where you find yourself believing strongly both ways. Pulled. Stretched. Tested. Broken. Pulled, stretched, tested, broken. Pulledstretchedtestedbroken. I have always believed that God doesn't give you more than you can handle....because that's what He says. Sure feels differently when it's you being pulled and stretched. Makes me wonder how many times I have seemed callous and without empathy for those I have counseled. Being a counselor I know the scary part is still coming. Sometimes you have to be broken so you're small enough to fit through the escape chute. Tiny itty bitty pieces.... yup. It is indeed a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

Jeremiah 12:5 "If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?

1 Peter 5:8-9
8 Be of sober {spirit,} be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
9 But resist him, firm in {your} faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

Psalm 125:1-5
1 Those who trust in the LORD are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous; that the righteous may not put forth their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.
5 But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways, the LORD will lead them away with the doers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel.

Hebrews 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Psalm 76:7 Thou, even Thou, art to be feared; and who may stand in Thy presence when once Thou art angry?

Psalm 90:11-13
11 Who understands the power of Thine anger, and Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee?
12 So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.
13 Do return, O LORD; how long {will it be} And be sorry for Thy servants.

02 January 2011

Garbage, Resolutions and Amateur Theologians

I perform a ritual each Sunday I secretly call "playing Marty." Monday is garbage day so each Sunday after church I gather up the garbage, clean the science experiments out of the fridge and roll the garbage can to the end of the driveway in anticipation of an early Monday pickup. Why do I call it playing Marty? Because I lived in a small town where I knew the garbage man by name. His name was Marty. When you live in a small town you develop your own vocabulary. Families have their own languages too. Combine the two and in my family if you had garbage detail it was your turn to play Marty.

At my house New Year's Eve was called "Amateur Night" because that's the one night people who normally do not drink think they have built up their sobriety levels to such a point that they are immune to alcohol. Perfectly lovely people think a couple glasses of champagne or a cocktail or two cannot crumble their 364 day run of sobriety. They lose their minds. They get into vehicles and they drive. They go into bars where the professional drinkers have been honing their testiness and over developed bad attitudes. The amateurs are looking for fun, the professionals are aching for a fight. Inevitably someone goes to jail. The amateurs also use their drunkenness as a plausible excuse for letting their mouth say whatever their hearts have been thinking. Throwing caution to the wind they say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong moment with alarming precision. Oh, and what is it about New Year's Eve that makes an amateur drunk think that he or she is Wild Bill Hickok or Annie Oakley? While at the sheriff's office and the fire department I came to hate New Year's Eve. Wise deputies parked under freeway overpasses to avoid the bullets shot into the air by fun loving folks who forget whatever goes up.... must come down. Between drunken amateurs with cars, guns and mouths there are just too many tragedies waiting to happen. God spare me from amateurs.

Speaking of God and amateurs, today my pastor talked about resolutions and how they aren't necessarily a bad thing to make unless we make them without thought. Our goals are often too lofty or completely selfishly motivated. I myself have never met a New Year's resolution I haven't broken. I would call my clandestine attempts to align my life in accordance with God's word self-focused and.... (gulp).... amateurish. Why? Because only someone with a cursory or introductory concept of the gospel would feel they had it in their power to affect the necessary changes in their character to live a godly life. That's an amateurish mistake. Sadly our pews and podiums are full of amateurs. Amateur theologians abound.

Here's a thought. If I could 'play Marty' and take the garbage out of my soul, what need would I have of the Word or the Holy Spirit or the fellowship of like-minded believers? How would I look different than anyone else who claims to control their destiny? I wouldn't. I think that's why most people in the United States who profess to be Christians look not unlike those who make no such profession. It's not in my power to sanctify myself yet I have a responsibility to present myself to the One who can. So, how's this for a resolution. I resolve to press on.

Philippians 3:8-14
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from {the} Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which {comes} from God on the basis of faith,
10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained {it} or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of {it} yet; but one thing {I do} forgetting what {lies} behind and reaching forward to what {lies} ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

01 January 2011

Who put the "Old" in Auld Lang Syne?

I didn't see the New Year ushered in as I was overcome by sleep. Sleep, when you've been deprived of it, is a commodity worth way more than watching the crystal ball full of lights drop. I happily went to bed before fireworks or gunfire. Don't get me wrong- I am absolutely thrilled to be in a new year and a new decade. I am just old enough to know it will still be new in the morning and unlike the days of my youth, I can wait. Facing a new year hangover free is one of the many things I like about being older and wiser. One of the things that I like best about being a new creation in Christ is not having to wear the shame of all those New Year's Eve parties I went to when I was young a stupid, whether I can remember the details or not.

So, who can answer this for me? Why is it on a perfectly good holiday, one which conveniently falls on a rainy day, the television programming devoid of anything worth watching? I guess it hasn't been a total loss, I got to see the Eloi learn to fight back against the Morlocks for the twenty hundredth time in my life. Who isn't in for watching old movies with bad special effects? The 60s were chockablock full of 'em. If you haven't a clue what I am talking about....don't hate me because I was born at the right time- you know you're envious. If you know exactly what I am talking about here's the real question; if you were George, which three books would you have taken?

It may shock some of my friends to know it but one of the books I would take is a short read by Ray Bradbury entitled "Dandelion Wine." That book more than any other taught me to connect with an author because of connecting with one of the author's characters. In retrospect that's probably because the book is semi-autobiographical. I was too young to know or care about that then. Dandelion Wine forever changed how I read books. I was still in elementary school and that summer I read Catcher in the Rye; To Kill a Mockingbird; Lord of the Flies; Animal Farm; Call of the Wild; White Fang; Of Mice and Men; The Red Pony; The Good Earth; and The Yearling. I learned that summer that not all books should be made into movies and that no movie is as good as the book if the book was good to begin with.... some story lines are best left to a 2 hour movie- one with lots of special effects to divert your attention.

Speaking of attention, I plan to read more this year. I want to revisit some classics and find some recent material worth reading. I also want to spend more time reading my bible instead of reading about the bible. I have a really bad habit of reading what an author thinks about a particular area of Scripture rather than trying to slog through and see what I think about it. Commentaries and extra-biblical resources are no replacement for actually reading the Word.

I am trying to think of a bad habit to replace. It's not that I am having a shortage of them it's that I don't know which of the many i have would be of the best benefit for me to replace. I know myself far to well than to think I will suddenly change and morph into "Susie Spiritual!" I would like to become more keenly focused on the things that matter. I guess that's a good start.

Right now I need a nap. Who did put the "Old" in "Auld Lang Syne?