Hesitant to Admit

Each time I start a book I take a picture of it and post it to Facebook and Instagram. I was hesitant to post this one. Why? Because so many of us are taught by our church leaders not to question the bible. That the scriptures are the infallible Word of God and therefore cannot be questioned. I’m sorry to say that many of my traditional Christian friends are very close-minded and judgmental of other points of view. I’m not saying they are cruel, mean, and wrong, I’m saying they aren’t willing to consider possibilities. And that’s not a Christian trait, it’s a human one.

My question has always been, if God created man in His image, gave him a soul and discerning mind, why would He not want us to question the world around us? If the bible is so crystal clear, why are there so many vague and seemingly contradicting statements? And if Jesus wanted us to take Him at his literal word, why did he speak in parables and why didn’t he write out the words He wanted us to keep sacred? The answer I’ve come to so far is that He doesn’t, that he wants us to discover Him on our own, one on one, on our own terms. He wants us to come to Him. And He’s been trying to reach us since creation.

So I read, and I read a lot. I read about different religions, other points of view, old writings and new. And I pray. I spend some time each day in meditation and prayer, allowing myself quiet space to hear and experience that still small voice inside me, the one our creator put there. And I come to my own conclusions. And I hold those conclusions lightly. I know many people have a problem with this, but I cannot for the life of me see why. I have decided not to spend my energy trying anymore. There are some things I just cannot understand and I’m ok with that.

Once again, I cannot remember how “The Pagan Christ: Is blind faith killing Christianity?” by Tom Harpur came to my attention or why I added it to my reading list. It was likely an article I read, another book, or a podcast that I heard, but somewhere in my studies this book was dropped into my lap. The title, of course, is intriguing, and the subtitle is something I’ve considered as well. I wanted to know more.

On first glance, if someone were to insist that the stories and themes from the Old and New Testaments were not original, you’d assume that the person was trying to show you why they believe they are fakes, stolen from other more ancient works, not created by the true Son of God. But that isn’t what he’s trying to say at all.

I’ve heard from Christian teachers throughout my life that the similarities between older scriptures and unrelated teachings from other religions were put there by Satan to confuse and distract us from the truth. But that doesn’t resonate with me at all, it never has. When I come across these similarities, it doesn’t discount my faith in one creator god at all. It encourages me to dive deeper into the past, to read more, to pray more. I want to be closer God, to know who or what He really is. The similarities connect me with the past, with other cultures, and with God. They are the common denominator in the equation of life.

When I read about ancient Egyptian myths and their similarities to Christ stories, I think, “God was here too. Of course He was!” When I read about Buddhist teaching stemming from the same timeframe as Jesus, I think, “He was here too!” If God is the creator, that piece that connects every living thing that I believe He is, why would he not be? The common denominator in all scriptures across time and physical space, is the Truth.

I feel that we put a limit on God when insist that one group of people, one time, one person, one group of writings are the only time that God attempted to communicate with His creation. If I am to consider the bible as a completely historical document, it feels ridiculous. There are books that are clearly not historical and we accept that. There are also parts of books that are clearly not historical, and there are parts that we used to consider historically accurate that we clearly do not now. And then there are the parts that are clearly cultural and limited in scope. How can we assume that now, all these thousands of years later, we have distilled the bible and Christianity to what it was always meant to be?

Seeing the bible as a “Truth” document, one that can help me get a part of the picture of what God really is but never the complete picture, resonates in my heart and inspires me. God gave me a mind and a heart, one unlike any other creature He created, one like Him. I intend to use that gift.

This book added to the picture in some big ways. I’ve sifted through it a couple times after reading it, looking for quotes to jump off from and write about, but most of the pieces I highlighted or noted were personally enlightening or so complex that once I pulled them out of context, they didn’t have the same impact. But I will leave you with this one,

“Things are not simply true because someone somewhere first said them, or because they are collected in books such as the Bible. They are true because they ring with full authenticity on the anvil of our souls.”

When I read this and then sat reflecting on it for a bit, my question was, “What if it rings true to my soul alone? Or what if it rings true to a small collection of people but no one else?” My opinion is, then it isn’t Truth. Truth is the same for all people, in all times, in all cultures. The common denominator. What meets that qualification is broad and vague. To me it boils down to, love the creator and treat others as you wish to be treated. Apparently, that is more complicated than it sounds.

It’s Friday, My Friends!

It’s a special Friday today!

My husband is on vacation starting today and therefore, so am I!

For the next couple of weeks, I won’t be posting anything, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. I’ll be spending our on the road vacation as a kind of writing retreat. I have a short list of “to-do’s” and a couple of great books to read!

This is my husband and I’s first vacation without kids in twenty years, so we have some adjusting to do. Where do you go when you aren’t trying to show the world to your kids? What places do you visit when you only have the two of you chiming in with preferences? It’s going to be different for sure and I’m really looking forward to it.

On to the Friday list!

Thing I learned: Writer’s keep journals for different reasons and they’re NOT all very interesting. I just finished “Breathe in. Breathe Out.” By Ralph Fletcher. I’ve kept a journal/notebook for years, ever since I was a teenager. Lately, my notebook has begun to look more like a personal journal. I don’t like it. The past couple of weeks I started keeping it with me wherever I go and writing down things I see, memories, ideas, quotes, song lyrics, anything I think is interesting. When I go out to lunch with a friend, I sit in my car afterwards and write down a few lines about it, impressions I had or feelings that came up. I promised myself I’d be looking back on that more often than I used to, but I’ve let is slide again. June has been busy.

Thing I’m reading: “The Pagan Christ” by Tom Harpur. Part of me is a bit afraid to post the cover of this on my Facebook page and that makes me angry. I’m of the mind that the real God is so great that it cannot be proven false. I have no fear of reading something that might challenge my beliefs. I want those challenges. I don’t want to believe anything blindly!

Right off the bat, I know this book will be fascinating! Here’s a quote to show you exactly what I mean. “A too often forgotten truth is that you can live through actual events of history and completely miss the underlying reality of what’s going on.” There is more to the world around you than the details only you experience. We have to remove ourselves a bit to see the bigger picture, and sometimes the picture is just far too big for us every to be THAT removed.

Thing I heard: “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede! Every single time I hear that song, I see my Dad’s livingroom and his juke box. I also see him singing it at the top of his voice next to me in the cab of his Datsun pickup truck, banging on the steering wheel. It brings to mind images of Thrify’s ice cream, Saturday matinees, and 7/11 Slurpees. I’m only slightly perturbed that everyone else only knows it because of “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Thing I want to do: Take a nap for several days. I have not gotten enough sleep lately and I have no idea why. Could it be the weather change? The sun going down so late in the day? My son’s cooking? The cat and its need for me to on the couch at 4am so he can sleep next to me there? No idea. Maybe I can get some more sleep while we are on our trip!

Picture of the week:

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The Says Phoebe’s have left the nest on our front porch! Two new birds have been raised to adulthood once again. I love them. A new couple is on our porch every spring and I look forward to hearing their twittering. I’ve learned what each different call means. One call I know is the one for, “That cat is stalking us again!” And I’m out there at least once a day to shoo him into the house and apologize for his behavior.

Interesting thing my son said…he was washing a dish at the sink and watching the mother bird fly up to the nest with a bug and then fly off a bit and start calling. He wondered what she was doing and it dawned on him. “She’s luring him out of the nest! She doesn’t kick them out, she offers him food and waits to see if they’ll join her…just like YOU!”

My sons are old enough to be on their own and they fly in and out of our nest all the time. I know when they are ready to be on their own without their mother hovering over them and asking stupid questions, they will go. I’m in no hurry, but I know the day will come soon. There is already talk about apartments and moving to the city. I won’t kick them out and see if they fly. I’ve put way too much work into this for that! When they are ready, their instincts to fend for themselves will pull them.

See you in a few weeks!

Religious Literacy?

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You know, I really should write down where I found the recommendation for a book that I put on my Amazon wish list the moment I add it. I could easily put it in the comments and translate that to the book itself when I get it, but I have forgetten every single time. I’m not sure where I got the idea to read this one. I thought it was from a recent article that I read on a blog, but when I found that article it wasn’t in there. Oh well. Live and learn. I’ve left a post-it note for myself. Maybe now I’ll start!

“Religious Literacy” by Stephen Prothero

Many times, books that describe different religions can feel condescending to your own. I remember reading about different religions in high school and college textbooks and they always treat it like ancient mythology or fiction. There’s little respect for tradition. This book did not feel that way, at least from my Christian perspective.

It’s also not difficult to read and doesn’t get into deep details. It skims over the surface of history and points you in the direction where you can find more information throughout the book and in a “Further Reading” section at the back of the book.

Basically, it goes through a general history of religion in the United States, where we started and why, how it evolved over the years, and where we are now. It also gives great reasons why we should be generally familiar with all major religions whether we are religious ourselves or not. His thinking is that you can’t separate religion from history, philosophy, or science because it’s usually an integral part of why things have happened in the past. It’s a part of the story and if you throw it out, some things just don’t make sense anymore, or they look flat and uninteresting.

I agree. We can’t understand why the Pilgrims came across the ocean if we don’t know religious history. We can’t understand the slavery issue in the US, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful protests, or most of the issues in the Middle East, if we rule out any religious history study. As a Christian reading this, I felt a tad convicted about my lack of knowledge about my own religious history. You’d think we’d all at least know the differences between our own denominations, but most of us don’t.

I look at having a basic understanding of major religions the same way I look at any argument. We should define the terms before we start any discussion. If I don’t know that “Jesus” is not defined in the same way in all religions that know of him, then how can I even begin to discuss how we should be following him?

So now I’ve come to the end of another wonderful book with six more books and several Wikipedia pages added to my reading list. That means I got my money’s worth from this one!

Connected by Souls

We’ve all heard it before.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne

Earlier this week I listened to Aubrey Marcus’ interview with Humble as I drove to meet a friend for hiking.

The part I’m talking about starts at 8:40 but at 10:00 he says it most clearly. I’ll paraphrase. “We’re a drop in the ocean. If we separate ourselves completely, we’ll dry up.”

We all feel the longing to connect with other human beings at some level.

Christians say that God is in us, that we are created in His image, that we have a soul. What if that soul is actually a part of God and therefore, we are all connected in that way?

Remember the Borg from Star Trek Next Generation? All of the Borg are connected by a hive mind. When one is separated, it continues to communicate with the hive and becomes anxious, longing to return to the hive. If there is a small group of them, they operate as a smaller hive and aren’t as lost, but they still work toward reuniting with their source. What if we are like that with God?

What if that feeling of being disconnected and lost is because we have been separated from the source and now it’s getting worse because we’ve become separate from each other? On this physical plane, we can’t completely return to God, but we connect in small groups to ease our separation anxiety until we can. Or at least we used to.

When asked which was the most important commandment, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

To love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, and mind, is to honor the creator. To love my neighbor as I would myself, is to honor the creator in them. We love them on earth until we can all return as one to God.

The Brothers!

I’m finally getting to The Brothers Karamazov this week. It’s been on my shelf since January and I kept putting it off because there were easier books to read. I love Pevear and Volokhonsky’s translations of Dostoevsky and I’ve actually been looking forward to reading this. I’m already enchanted, although it is complicated and I can only stick with reading it for about an hour at a time. I’ve ordered a couple easier books to fill in my daily three hours I hope to achieve this year!

I thought I’d write about some of lines I highlighted as I go instead of waiting until the end. I know this is a LONG and pretty dry book for most, but it does have some interesting thoughts in it!

Here’s what I have today!

Page 52 “If you are repentant, it means that you love. And if you love, you already belong to God…with love everything is bought, everything is saved.”

LOVE that! What does repentant mean? “Feeling sincere remorse or regret.” What other reason would you feel that way about something you’ve done hurting someone if you didn’t love that person? I regret cutting off the person behind me on the freeway because I recognize their humanity and I love them. I didn’t mean to, or I did mean to but didn’t realize it would make them so angry. As a Christian, we believe God is love. To love is be part of God. To love is to recognize the image of God in all of us.

Page 57 “’I love mankind’, he said, ‘but I am amazed at myself: the more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually, as separate persons.’”

And then this one, “and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone even for two days, this I know from experience. As soon as someone is there, close to me, his personality oppresses my self-esteem and restricts my freedom.”

Don’t I know it! Actually, I underlined the first line but the next one is funnier to me and I can really relate to it. The first line confuses me. Why would that be? I can understand thinking that when you really get to know individual people and try to love them, the more you don’t love mankind as a whole. But this is the opposite? Not sure what he means here.

Page 64 “What would become of him if the Church, too, punished him with excommunication each time immediately after the law of the state has punished him? Surely there could be no greater despair, at least for a Russian criminal, for Russian criminals still have faith. Through who knows: perhaps a terrible thing would happen then – the loss of faith, perhaps, would occur in the desperate heart of the criminal, and what then? But the Church, like a mother, tender and loving, withholds from active punishment, for even without her punishment, the wrongdoer is already too painfully punished by the state court, and at least someone should pity him.”

Such a pretty picture. If you punish a person so much that they are completely outside of society and cannot return, you may as well kill them because they will become more dangerous to society. It gives a human no reason whatsoever to become a better person. The State may punish you for breaking its rules, but the Church should still honor your soul and treat you as a brother.

Page 67 “A socialist Christian is more dangerous than a socialist atheist.”

Thinking about that one. Maybe because you can damage or destroy a person’s soul by it, not just their life on this earth? Socialism requires force and if a Christian Church were to force you to participate in socialism and punish you by ostracism if you did not comply, it may turn you against Jesus and forever separate you from God.

Page 69 “…European liberalism in general, and even our Russian liberal dilettantism, has long and frequently confused the final results of socialism with those of Christianity.”

140 years ago! I hear or at least see memes about Jesus being a socialist so often and it seems like such a shallow understanding of what Jesus preached. Again, socialism requires force to accomplish its goals. If people could leave, take their money and labor elsewhere, it wouldn’t work. Jesus preaches free will and a voluntary acceptance of His gifts. You could say that it is forced because to accept it means you “go to hell” but that can be debated as well. I personally don’t believe in a literal hell but a figurative one. Jesus’ gift is a reunion with God after death. Without him, our body dies and we are forever separated from Him. You cannot have what you do not accept freely. I realize that can be debated and I respect that, but these are my views.

Page 77 “Let worldly men follow their dead with tears; here we rejoice over a departing father.”

Isn’t that what Jesus said to do? Let the dead bury their own dead. We, who have accepted the gift of Jesus of everlasting life with Him, should be rejoicing to know that those who leave this world with that gift go to be forever with the Lord in joy and we will see them again soon. I didn’t grieve that much over the “loss” of my Grandmother. I miss her sometimes. I wonder what she would do or say about things that are happening now. I feel like she’s on a long trip without me and we will be reunited someday. She isn’t gone. She’s having the time of her life with God. How can I be sad? It’s the same when my kids are off somewhere doings something awesome or my Mom is living up in Fernley. They are happy. Why would I not want my loved ones to be happy, even if it is without me? How could anyone be so selfish.

“Out of the Blue” Chapter 1

Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism. 

I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it. Each Friday story post will have a link back to this one for those who want to start at the beginning.

Subscribe with your email if you’d like to be notified when the next part is posted!

To start reading this story from the beginning, click HERE.


Mother’s Day Dedication

I’d been attending church for about nine months. Today my children would be dedicated to God on Mother’s Day, with my Husband, Mother-in-Law, and Grandparents in attendance.

I started going to this church at the invitation of a friend. She had been going there for years and they were trying something new. The church was a bit of a drive for me, but it was only once a week and, being a stay at home mom with young children, I enjoyed the time alone in the car. I hadn’t grown up going to church. I considered myself a Christian. I believed in God and I had an idea about who Jesus was. I had a bible and had read some of it from time to time over my life.

I have two memories of church when I was a child. The first was a Lutheran school I went to for the 1st grade. I don’t remember why I went there instead of a public school like the rest of my life but I remember being dropped off in front of the chapel on Wednesday’s before school started and needing to be quiet as I came in. The second was “Released Time Education” in the 4th grade. I signed up to go because it was once a week during math class. I hated math, so being sent to a small trailer off school property (separation of church and state, you know) with a group of kids from other classrooms was a treat. There was a Catholic and a Protestant one. I went to the Protestant one. I learned the Lord’s prayer and got a tiny bible to keep. That was the extent of my Christian education.

So here I was meeting a good friend at a Baptist church to find out what this new thing they were going to try was. It turned out to be life changing. Services were to be held in the gym instead of the sanctuary. There was a band, a coffee shop in the back, and bean bags in the back rows. The pastor rode in on his Harley. His wife sang with the band. He was passionate and loud. I heard “Can I get an amen from ya!” several times. The people were happy, excited, and outwardly worshiping, hands out-stretched with tears in their eyes. I was intrigued and looked forward to coming back the following week.

As the weeks went on I became more and more comfortable there. Other friends of ours came to Sunday services a few times when they could. I helped in the nursery once a month. I joined a small group bible study on Wednesday nights and joined the ladies for coffee and desserts afterward every week. I felt a part of the family. I began to really fall in love with Jesus and read my bible more and more. I craved to know more about the Lord. The depression I struggled with throughout my adult life, and really fallen into since my children were born, began to abate. I felt like this was what I had been missing, this was the help my heart was searching for. When the pastor announced there would be a group baptism at the church the next month, I felt led to do it which terrified me. I’m not an outgoing person and it was very difficult for me to stand up there in front of the whole congregation and be so publicly baptized, but I felt it was something I had to do, something the Lord wanted me to do, a public announcement of my faith, of my being adopted into the Christian family. I had never felt so happy and proud to be a part of something. Looking back, I wish I had made a bigger deal about it. I wish I had a picture!

I typically attended Sunday services alone. My husband usually picked up his daughter from her Mother’s house on Sunday morning, so coming with me was not an option. My sons were very young and couldn’t sit through the service just yet. The church did have a childcare option, but I was not comfortable leaving them there. They weren’t happy to leave my side and stay with strangers and our parenting philosophy was not one to force them to get used to it. We were still fully in the bonding stages of early parenting and it felt wrong not to honor their desire to stay with a parent. Since my husband was already occupied with picking up his daughter, the boys were happy to go with him. It became a Sunday tradition. I would leave for church and they would get ready to go with Dad. On the way home, they would usually pick up donuts and I would be home just after they were. But it wasn’t always the happiest day of the week for us. There was quite a bit of stress.

My step-daughter spent the rest of her Sunday decompressing. Our home and her Mother’s were very different. Parenting styles, atmosphere, expectations were all different. At her Mother’s she only had to contend with one other person. At our house, there were five of us. She was always excited to see us, but I’m sure it was a rough transition. She was nine years old and was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic when she was two. The personality doesn’t do well with radical change and she had quite a bit of change to deal with every week. We tried to make the transition as easy as possible, giving her space to relax and unwind, but with two little brothers that were excited to see her and school looming the next day, there were things we had to push and it didn’t always go as smoothly as we planned.

It’s one of the things that still weighs heavily on my heart. I hope she knows we always tried to do the best we could. Parenting is not easy. There are no directions, handbooks, or quick fixes. There are just too many variables. And we’re all growing up at the same time but in different stages. Life is messy.

We had joined households with my Mother-In-Law just before my youngest child was born. I can’t say we moved in with her or that she moved in with us. We found a big house that all of us could fit in and we shared expenses and duties. It was a good move for all of us. She was no longer alone and could live more comfortably. And we were happy to have a third adult in the house, always willing to lend a hand watching the babies or driving someone somewhere. It was a win-win situation for everyone. She attended another church in our neighborhood that she had always gone to, so she was in on the usual Sunday Morning Excitement.

This Sunday would be different. It was Mother’s Day and my church was honoring the newest mothers in the group by having a Dedication Ceremony. Everyone was asked to be there and to invite extended family and friends to witness. My Mother-In-Law was happy to skip her church service to be there. And my Grandparents drove an hour and half to be there that Sunday morning. They weren’t church going people, but they were Christians. My Grandmother had been raised Catholic (something I didn’t know at the time), so she was excited to see some kind of Christian Ceremony in the family again. It still makes me smile to think of her proud face that day.

My husband had arranged to pick up his daughter on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning, so she could attend. I had to get our sons up, dressed, and out the door by 8am, which was a feat in itself. They were three and two years old and definitely had their own way and pace of doing things. The big change for them was that I wanted them to wear something other than a camouflage shirt and black rubber boots. The very idea was insulting to them. I was just a young mom trying to show those church people I had it all together and had clean and tidy children. Couldn’t they cooperate, just this once?
The ride to the church was about thirty-five minutes long, so my young sons had already been confined for that long, an eternity for little boys. When we arrived, they sprang from the car and ran toward the grass in front of the church. Dad watched over them as they made circles around a fountain and ran up and down the grass chasing their older sister who always seemed happy to have the attention. We were attempting to wear out the wiggles a bit before we went inside. I met my Grandparents in the parking lot and told them how happy I was to have them there. I’d always been close to my Grandparents.

Five minutes before the service was to begin, we rounded up the children and walked into the auditorium. We found the place transformed into a perfectly beautiful, feminine paradise. Instead of rows of chairs there were tables draped in soft cloth of different pastels. Each table was clearly decorated for the ladies; flowers, confetti, a small gift for each mother at the table. We came in and sat down, taking up a whole table with our family and friends. As we settled in the music began.

The band was wonderful. All the kids loved the live music. Especially my oldest son. He’s always been drawn to music and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to see each of the band members play up close, with his ears covered by his hands, of course, “just in case it got too loud,” he said. The music lasted about fifteen minutes before it quieted down and the service began. As the pastor began to speak, I noticed all the other mothers in the auditorium sitting in chairs holding toddlers on their knees or standing quietly in the back rocking their babies while they listened. I know I wasn’t the only Mom praying that the children would remain calm during the ceremony or that the pastor would understand a mother’s plight and make it short, but I felt like I was waiting for a miracle. I knew my step-daughter would sit and listen for as long as the pastor talked. She was older, in school, and already a good listener and one to wait patiently. My younger son promptly fell asleep on Dad’s shoulder. Being two must be nice. Tired? Just crawl into someone’s lap and snooze! My older son was not one to sit still or be quiet when he was not interested in the subject at hand. At first, he fidgeted with the things on the table. He carefully opened a box of candy, separated each of the colors, and ate them all one by one, telling me all about it in his tiny little voice. He asked several times what the pastor was saying and when the music would start again.

The pastor talked for about twenty minutes. Not long for a church service but for a little boy and his mother, forever! My son began to fidget. Grandma tried to entertain him a bit with some crayons she had in her purse. Grandmas! God bless them! My son really wanted to hear more music and I told him they would play soon but if he couldn’t be quiet we’d have to go outside. His little face brightened, “Ok!” That wasn’t the reaction I was looking for but just as he said it, the pastor asked all the families to come to the front for the Dedication Ceremony. My son hadn’t heard that part. When we got up he assumed we were going outside, exactly what he wanted to do. He was so confused when we walked to the front of the assembly and began to cry as the pastor began talking about each family. I knelt next to him and held him close, whispering that this is the part I was waiting for, right afterward the music would start. He just stood there looking irritated. My younger son, held by his Dad, rubbed his eyes in sleepy confusion.
The pastor spoke of each family. His kind and encouraging words for each of us and the loving prayers of the whole church lifted my spirits. I felt connected. I could feel the Holy Spirit in this room full of His children. I felt invincible. Each of the boys received a small New Testament with the date and the name of the church written inside. They loved them. Small books with so many pages they could hold in their little hands. I still have them tucked away in their baby things.

We left the church and headed straight home. There was no going out for lunch for this family. That would be a recipe for disaster. The boys had sat still long enough. But Dad stopped at the donut store on the way back and we all met at the house for donuts and coffee to celebrate. Sitting around the dining room table with my family happily munching away on donuts, my sons and their “coffee” (otherwise known as sippy cups of chocolate milk). I couldn’t be happier. Everything was as it should be.

Looking back now, years later, I realize something about where I was spiritually. I believe I was in love with the church, the experience, the show, not the Lord. I was trying to fit in with a group of people I believed were “doing it right,” not being the person God made me. My focus was not on the Lord or leaning on Him for support. A lot has changed over the years. There have been many trials and some not insignificant pain. This same month would begin nine months of intense stress I never saw coming, but I know the Lord did. I know now that He was building up my defenses for something that would change my whole worldview. Like giving birth once you’re pregnant, this trial had to happen. There was no way to stop it. I was about to learn some very serious life lessons and I know He was right there, holding my hand as it happened and we worked through it together.

Read the next chapter HERE.

“Out of the Blue” Prologue Part 1

Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism. 

I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it. Each Friday story post will have a link back to this one for those who want to start at the beginning.

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And, without further ado…

A jury duty summons came in the mail. It was just your average, everyday jury duty summons, nothing to get worked up over. I’ve gotten them every year since we moved out to the desert years ago. Every year I open the envelope, write down what day I’m supposed to call and find out if I will be going to the courthouse the next day. Every year the recording says I’m not needed.

For me, a jury duty summons is irritating. I get aggravated and vocal about how inconvenient it is. Why do they tell me a month in advance that I MIGHT need to come to the courthouse and then make me call the night before just to find out if I won the lottery of a day sitting in a crowded room with some of my weird neighbors? Why not just tell me I will be going for sure right then? I can plan on it. What if I had a job and needed to get the day off? It’s not any trouble for me to go in, I’m a stay-at-home mom. I am bothered that other people might be put out by it. But that’s not what is making me irritable. It’s fear and old memories being dredged up.

The last time I got called into court for jury duty was when we lived in the city. That courthouse was huge and there are so many people. It feels anonymous going in there. I sat in the big comfortable jury waiting room with free water, wi-fi, TV, and vending machines, and read my book. It was kind of nice really. I had three children at home at the time. My step-daughter was starting Junior High School and my two boys were six and five years old. We were homeschooling the boys, so they were home with me and my Mother-In-Law all day. Going to jury duty at that time was kind of like a vacation from regular life. I didn’t mind going in. There was something else bothering me.

Two years earlier I had been falsely accused by the District Attorney and had to defend myself. The charges were dropped after a year and nearly $30,000 in fees, but the time was traumatic for me and I still held some bitterness toward the system for bringing the case against me and for pursuing it so ferociously. The look on the D.A.’s face as he walked out of the courtroom after dropping the case for lack of evidence still stuck with me. Laughing a bit, he looked at me and told me maybe they’d get me next time. I was terrified. They’d watched my house before they arrested me for weeks. I had no idea they were there. Would they be watching me now? How could I know? I hadn’t done anything wrong, but everything they presented was true and led them to believe I was the one that robbed a woman at gunpoint and tried to steal her car. How could I know they wouldn’t pick up more pieces of my life and arrange them in a picture that looked different than the one they took them from?

Two years had gone by and I was still upset by the whole situation. We were still in debt thanks to the police departments job. They had taken a gun handed down from my husband’s father as evidence. We never got it back, not that we ever used it. It had sentimental value.

And now here I was sitting in a courthouse, waiting for them to call my name. I’d been there about an hour when my group was called to a courtroom. We sat listening to the case overview and they passed out a thick questionnaire for us to fill out. We were told to answer all the questions honestly and completely and then return them. We could leave after we were done and were to return in the morning to the same courtroom. I’d have to get my Mother-In-Law to watch the boys again and take my step-daughter to school as well.

I started reading the questions. Most of them were easy and straight forward questions like what’s your background, work, family relationships, etc. Then came ones I never considered. How do you feel about the justice system? Do you think it’s fair? Would you convict someone on what the law is and not how you feel about the law? How could I answer these questions truthfully? I knew the minute I gave my honest answer I’d be asked to leave. If I always answered that way, I’d never be on a jury. And what about that defendant? Shouldn’t he have someone like me on the jury, that might look at the case more fairly? Should I lie and then hold up the deliberation if I got that far?

I couldn’t lie. I knew that. I answered the questions honestly. I don’t believe the system is just. I think most people believe that if you were truly innocent, you wouldn’t be able to incriminate yourself and I learned firsthand that that’s not true at all. I think the general population thinks as I used to; that the Miranda Rights are to help the criminals, not protect the innocent. They get in the way of cops getting the bad guys. After my experience, I think the police arrest anyone they can get their hands on for a crime just so that it looks good on paper. If you arrest people and have a high conviction rate in court, you’re keeping the people safe. Right? It looks good in the annual report. It justifies the money they spend. But crime isn’t being deterred. It’s only being punished, and it doesn’t matter who is punished. Don’t get me started on how I used to feel about Defense Attorneys. We all knew they were the scum that help criminals get out of trouble. I also know from my experience that those that have enough money and a connection to someone that can help are more likely to get out of the trouble, innocent or guilty. All of this, in my opinion, made me a better juror than I was before the incident. I used to think like most everyone else. It is how the system conditions us. If you’ve been accused, you probably did something, and you’ll have to prove to me that you didn’t. The law doesn’t really work that way and now I know why. I wrote all of this down, handed it to the bailiff, and walked out to my car.

When I returned to court the next day, all the potential jurors were standing out in the hall. Before they opened the door and let us in to sit down, they read a list of all the jurors that could go home right now. I was on that list. My heart sunk. They’d never let me on a jury. I was too honest and principled, I thought. And then I was angry. They knew last night when they were reading those papers who they were going to send home. Why didn’t they call us? It would have saved us all a lot of time. I went home and I wasn’t sent a summons until a few years later when we had moved out to the desert.

Since then, I think I’ve been called about six times. I get the paper, I call the number, I’m excused. I feel like I’m forced to participate in some ugly lottery. I haven’t been to the courthouse out here until now. When I got the summons this time, I wrote the date on my calendar. As always happens when I get that summons, I started thinking about my case.

One of my sons asked me recently why I write so much down. I keep a journal and a calendar and write details I want to remember about each day. Plans we’ve made, dinners, where we’re going are all on the calendar. And I tend to go back and write what happened if we do something unexpected. I keep track of the weather, what birds I see, what got cleaned, or what I planted in the yard. It’s a little obsessive and I’ve gotten more detailed over the years. I jokingly tell the boys that someday, all the electronic records will be lost and they will only have my journals and calendars to recreate what it was like to live in the early 2000’s! I also keep receipts filed and easy to recall. Sometimes I start to think it’s a little unhealthy and stop writing. A few days at most can get by before I run back and fill in what has happened on my calendar.

Thinking back, I realize what I’m doing. When the detective was at my home on the day I was arrested, he asked me what I was doing “on the day in question.” I swear! It was just like a “Columbo” re-run or “Law & Order” episode! I showed him my calendar. I usually write down everywhere we go, I told him. I have girl scouts on Fridays and Bible Study on Wednesdays, etc. There was nothing on those days. Nothing at all. Later, my lawyer asked me about that calendar. The DA was using it for evidence. He asked if I had anything else that might point to where I was on that day. I searched my journals. Those days were also empty. They only thing I had was an instant message conversation on the computer between a friend and me. I printed the record of it. It haunted me that I had no alibi for that day. But why would I? I’m a stay-at-home Mom! I was at home making dinner, doing laundry, and chasing kids! How could this be happening?! Writing things down is a symptom of my recurring thoughts, a kind of PTSD thing. It helps me feel safe.

Out of the Blue – Prologue Part 2

News Reports

If Jesus was the Son of God and people believed it, why didn’t they write any of these activities and words down while it happened? Why did no one report on it until at least 60 years after His death and resurrection?

That’s the question around this house lately. And here’s what I have come up with…

Maybe…just maybe…Jesus and His followers didn’t leave any books, writings, letters, etc., for us to follow because He knew we would worship the books as idols; sacred texts instead of the sacred being.

Maybe He knew His instructions were so clear and simple that they didn’t need to be written down.

“Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:37-39