Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of Passage? His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own. The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man! Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm. We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Let's be more aware of all the choices, situations, twists and turns that brought us to this place right here and now. They May Be Miracles.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just A Happy Thought

As a youth minister there are many moments when your heart just wants to overflow with joy - sometimes just being part of the youth ministry community, sometimes a great spiritual moment, sometimes when you witness the students receiving some spiritual realization, sometimes when you witness students and adults giving time and talents unselfishly...just so many good things come from being a part of ministering to youth. I miss the ministry and the people every day. However, I have so so so many happy memories where my heart felt like it was overflowing with joy. There is one time I was thinking about today that I want to share.

Every year deaneries for which my parishes were a part of would put together pretty much a program every month for our students to attend and get to know other kids from the other churches around our area. In fact, they still do, but I'm speaking as in the past because it is the area I used to live in. We called our area the Back To Heartland area and there is a history behind that name which you can ask me about another time.

The Back To Heartland area would put together a program for high school students always on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend called the Back To Heartland High School Gathering. The last year I helped to plan this event, 2008, I wanted to add a little "theatrics" to the ceremony parts of the weekend...anyone who knows me knows that I'm sort of into the "theatrics". So I put together a group of high school students who met with me for a couple of months prior to the gathering, picked a few songs that I wanted them to act out skits to, and had them help me choreograph skits to those songs. They would perform those "song skits" during different ceremonies over the weekend.

One of the songs they performed a skit to was called "Here I Am" by John Angotti (if I knew how to attach the song to this blog I would do that for you, but alas I can not figure out how to do some things on here yet). The song, in short, is a prayer to God telling Him, as the chorus goes, "Here I am, Here I am, Here I am on my own free will. Send me, Lord, to do your will." The verses speak a little about our fears and confusions and how we need to turn to God and focus on what He sent us here to do. So in the skit the students and I decided that we would have one of them wear a robe and portray Jesus. There would be a student at the beginning who is sort of distracted and a little weary, she would open up her bible when the lyrics cued her to do so, then when the chorus broke out into, "Here I am..." she would raise her hands and look to heaven and the Jesus character would come over and take her hand and lead her to the side to wait for his directions. Another student in the second verse does a similar scenario.

At the end of the song, we used the live version, a choir breaks out into an amazing chorus of, "Here I am, Here I am, Here I am, Here I am to do your will...Here I am, Here I am, Here I am, Here I am to do your" and we had the Jesus figure go in front of the crowd of students where we planted the rest of our skit students in the front and they were to raise a hand (as if to say, "pick me") and Jesus would pick them to come do his will too. Before they did the skit I told "Jesus" that there could be a couple of others from the audience who would raise their hands too and to go ahead and pick them to come up too.

"Jesus" went to the crowd when the choir broke out in the chorus and began choosing our planted students. Unexpectedly, student after student after student after student kept raising their hands as the choir sang, "Here I am, Here I am, Here I am, Here I am to do your will..." and "Jesus" kept pointing and waving them up. Tears just streamed from my eyes. My heart was overflowing with joy. They were hearing the song and wanting to stand up and show that they were here and ready to do God's will. Out of 150 or so people in the audience I would say about half ended up at the front. I wish now that we had planned some amazing climactic ending...but it was simply a girl sitting alone at a table with a cafeteria tray that they were to go sit and be with. God's will is that simple sometimes, though.

What do we know about God's will? Mostly what the world would call the "Golden Rule" - "Do unto others as you would have done to do." Sometimes it takes a lot, we have to step out of our comfort zone, to accomplish this. Sometimes it's pretty easy.

As for the ones who did not raise their hands or stand and go to the front, I am sure in their hearts they were there. How many times are we somewhere in our hearts before we are there physically? There are many reasons a person may not have wanted to stand and go to the front...they were afraid of looking weird, they were enjoying the show, their friend wouldn't go with them, they were comfortable and didn't want to move, they were praying the song in their mind and did not think they needed to physically go to the front...lots of things. Just so, there are lots of things that keep us from standing up in real life and doing God's will - whatever that is for you or for me. Sometimes something pulls at us so strongly that we just know we are suppose to do it, but we are afraid of looking weird, or it is not convenient for us, or we said a prayer for the situation that someone else would take care of it...

Let's create more moments in our lives that make our hearts want to overflow with joy. To do that we have to stand up and go do God's will. Whatever that is for you or for me. Certainly if we do more and resist less then we will find ourselves in many moments of joy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Strange Occurrences

Have you ever...(love that game by the way) -

Have you ever had something strange or inexplicable happen to you in your life? If so, I'd love to hear about it...I love TRUE stories about strange occurrences. Why? Because it's so hard for people to deny that there is a higher power at work behind the scenes...when things are inexplicable we are forced to consider FAITH. For some of us faith comes easy - it has just been ingrained in us and we have practiced it our whole lives. For others, to just simply CONSIDER faith in God is an awkward step out of a box or brick wall that has been built up around them, and to see and hear about otherwise strange occurrences are a wonderful means for them to ponder the "what if".

My sisters and I have a great relationship today - in my opinion. Sometimes we had a good relationship while we were growing up too. Sometimes we wished we had a better relationship with each other - but none of us can deny that we cared about each other no matter how much we fought or ignored each other. Sometimes we were just awful to each other, though. Sometimes we said mean things, many times we screamed things at each other that probably didn't even make any sense but we just wanted to be louder than the other. Sometimes things got physical and we'd wrestle or hit or push. This strange occurrence happens to be one of those physical times.

When we were old enough there were times when my parents would leave for a couple or few hours for a meeting at church or other commitments and they would put my older sister in charge. My older sister is 11 months older than I am and sometimes I really resented that she was "in charge" especially since she seemed to milk it for all it was worth. Really she only needed to be sitting for our younger sister, but she was told that she was in charge and that's just the way it was. You know, I'm talking like Danelle, my older sister, and I were probably in high school by this time and Dea, my younger sister, would have been 4 or so years younger than us.

On this occasion my parents walked out the door and they didn't even make it out of the driveway when Danelle looked at me and said, "I have a really bad headache tonight and I don't want to hear a sound out of you. I have a lot of homework and I can't have any distractions. Not a sound out of you." I mean, come on, tell me not to make a sound and what do you think I'm going to do? Really? Really? What would you do? Who out there would not make a sound when someone, your sister, challenged you not to make a sound? What do you think I did? "Peep." "Tweet." "Psssst." "*cough*." "*sneeze*." "*tap,tap,tap*." "Peep." "do,do,do,do,do,la,la,la,la,la...."

She says, "Ok that's it..." and she races toward me and tries to - I think she may have been trying to choke me, but I threw my legs up to defend myself and so it was like she was trying to get to me, kind of pulling my hair and such, and I'm kicking her back with my legs and feet...ya, we're in a full-fledged fight. Dea was in her room and hears us screaming and fighting each other downstairs and comes to the stairs and is shouting at us to stop - we were scaring her. It didn't take long and suddenly...

"Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring." The phone began ringing. Not the normal ring when someone was calling, but a pattern of like 4 rings at a time. We stopped fighting and I answered the phone. "Hello?" "Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring." The phone continued to ring even though I picked the receiver up and answered it. Danelle answered the kitchen phone. "Hello," she said. "Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring...," the phone continued to ring even though we had two phones off the hook. Danelle told Dea to go answer the phone upstairs. Dea answered the phone upstairs. "Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring...," the phones all continued to ring for another minute while we all stood holding the phones off the hook.

The ringing finally stopped. "Wow," I said, "that was really weird." Danelle looked at me and said, "I'm not through with you," and she charged at me. Again, she was trying to pull my hair and whatever else and all I can remember is defending myself by pushing her away with my legs and feet. Dea was screaming at the stairs for us to stop. She was crying.

"Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring." I answered the phone again. "Hello?" I said. "Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring...," the phone continued. "Hello," Danelle answered the kitchen phone. "Ring, ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring, ring...," the phone continued. "Dea, go upstairs and answer the other phone," we said. Dea answered and the ringing continued another minute, all the phones off the hook once again. Danelle looked at me and said, "I think we better stop." "Yeah," I said. "Are you ok?" she asked me. "Yeah," I said, "are you ok?" "Well, you were really hurting my stomach while you were kicking me back," she said. I apologized, I didn't know I was hurting her. I didn't antagonize her the rest of the evening and probably rarely after that. She might disagree, but I don't recall many, if any, incidents after that one.

Why was this particular fight stopped? We'll never know. We're pretty sure our angels were frustrated with us that day. I hope and pray that God and the angels intervene in your lives when you need them and save you from any harm.