Archive for the ‘Story’ Category

Them’s Fightin’ Words   Leave a comment

For those of you who find encouragement from challenges to fight on, here’s a great video:

mandisa-overcomer.png

Posted July 7, 2016 by janathangrace in Story

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The Best of All Things   3 comments

Today is our anniversary.  Since I come home from work after Berly is in bed, I was able to do some shenanigans to surprise her in the morning.  She woke up Wednesday to banners draped from the rafters reading “BERLY IS THE BEST”.  On Thursday she found a 3 foot paper flower I had made and a love poem.  This morning she came downstairs to see an 8 foot tall card I made her covered with a list of her attributes.  Here’s a snap of the card and the ten page list of attributes follows (I could have written hundreds more)–hey she deserves a lot more than a giant card!  I spent some time this morning selecting a few of her good points and expounding on them to her.  I was thinking to myself, “Hey, she’s married to me, so that wealth of goodness is all mine too!

Me and Berly

“A few of the hundreds of reasons I am glad you are my wife”

CAPABLE, ENDURING, FORBEARING, FORGIVING, GENTLE, LONG-SUFFERING, MEEK,

MILD, PERSEVERING, PERSISTENT, SELF-POSSESSED, SERENE, TOLERANT, TRANQUIL,

UNDERSTANDING, CONSIDERATE, CALM, COMPOSED, EQUABLE,

KIND, TEMPERATE, CONSIDERATE, RESPECTFUL,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

MILD-TEMPERED, ACCOMMODATING, VALOROUS, ATTENTIVE, BENEVOLENT,

GLADDENING, COMPASSIONATE, KINDLY, MINDFUL, OBLIGING, SOLICITOUS,

SYMPATHETIC, TACTFUL, TENDER, LEVELHEADED, TENACIOUS, THOUGHTFUL,

UNSELFISH, WARMHEARTED, UNCRITICAL, UNDEMANDING, UNHURRIED,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

DISCERNING, STABLE, STEADY, TOLERANT, FORGIVING, UNDAUNTED,

MERCIFUL, MILD, DILIGENT, STEADFAST, AFFECTIONATE, VALIANT,

APPRECIATIVE, BENEVOLENT, CARING, CONCERNED, EARNEST, EXPRESSIVE,

COMPETENT, FAITHFUL, LOYAL, SWEET, THOUGHTFUL, GOOD,

COURTEOUS, FRIENDLY, PERCEPTIVE,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

GOOD-HEARTED, GRACIOUS, KINDHEARTED, LOVING, STRAIGHTFORWARD,

TENDERHEARTED, CONSIDERATE, RESPONSIVE, CONSCIOUS,

PEACEABLE, ENCOURAGING, HEARTENING, COURAGEOUS, INSPIRING,

ADMIRABLE, DELIGHTFUL, ENGAGING, ENJOYABLE, GRACEFUL,

DAUNTLESS, REFLECTIVE,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

LIONHEARTED, STRONG, BRAVE, PEACEFUL, TRUE,

VALOROUS, HOPEFUL, SELF-RELIANT, SELF-SUFFICIENT, TRUSTING, WISE,

INTELLIGENT, TOUGH, REASONABLE, ASTUTE, AWARE, CAREFUL,

FRANK, CONTEMPLATIVE, INSIGHTFUL, PRUDENT, SENSIBLE,

TACTFUL, SOFTHEARTED, ATTENTIVE,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

SUPPORTING, AWAKE, GROUNDED, RECEPTIVE, SENSIBLE, CLEVER,

ABLE, BRIGHT, DEEP, GIFTED, TALENTED, COOPERATIVE,

TRUTHFUL, CANDID, ABOVE-BOARD, AUTHENTIC, CONSCIENTIOUS,

DECENT, DIRECT, EQUITABLE, GENUINE, INTUITIVE, HONORABLE,

INGENUOUS, OBLIGING, OPEN, PLAIN, REAL, RELIABLE,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

SINCERE, STRAIGHT, STOUTHEARTED, TRUSTWORTHY, TRUSTY,

UNFEIGNED, DIRECT, GENUINE, GUILELESS, UNCONTRIVED, UNPRETENTIOUS,

DEPENDABLE, COGNIZANT, RELIABLE, SOLID, SIMPLE, MINDFUL, THOROUGHGOING,

LOYAL, RELIABLE, CONFIDING, CONSTANT, ENDURING, HONORABLE, STEADY,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

ACCOMMODATING, SOUND, AUTHENTIC, REAL, SOUND, STERLING, UNADULTERATED,

UNALLOYED, UNVARNISHED, PRAISEWORTHY, GENUINE, PROFOUND,

CONSCIENTIOUS, FORTHRIGHT, GUILELESS, COMMISERATING,

RESPONSIVE, SENSITIVE, SOFT, SUPPORTIVE, SYMPATHIZING,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

EMPATHIC, RESOLUTE, HARMONIOUS, LISTENING, ACCEPTING,

ATTENTIVE, INTERESTED, OBSERVANT, ACCEPTING, DEPENDABLE,

AFFIRMING, TRUSTING, RESPECTING, AGREEABLE, EMBRACING,

COMPANIONABLE, SUPPORTIVE, ENCOURAGING, REASSURING, COMFORTING, GROWING,

DEDICATED, HARD-WORKING, FAITHFUL,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

PURPOSEFUL, DETERMINED, ENGAGED, INDUSTRIOUS, UNFEIGNED,

SOFTHEARTED, SHARING, INTIMATE, PRINCIPLED, CONSISTENT,

UNBREAKABLE, BROKEN-HEARTED, EMPATHETIC, UNDEMANDING, WELCOMING,

WOUNDED HEALER, OPEN-HEARTED, WILLING, COMFORTER

AWESOME

Posted May 10, 2013 by janathangrace in Story

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Embracing the Cactus   Leave a comment

Today I ran across this video from 2011.  It is a vignette of two famous actors who have been in the gutter more than once, but prop each other up with forgiveness and acceptance as they stumble along.  Hollywood films portray beautiful truths, but Hollywood lives rarely do.  Here is a two minute “acceptance speech” by Walter Downey Jr. that is a message of hope for those of us who are recovering sinners

EMBRACING THE FALLEN

EMBRACING THE FALLEN

Posted January 15, 2013 by janathangrace in Story

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The Gift of Life   6 comments

Kimberly woke me at 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.  She felt uneasy, restless, and her heart was racing.  I couldn’t find the pulse at her wrist, so I tried her neck–boomboomboomboom–the staccato thumping of a quarter-mile sprinter, probably 200 beats a minute.  That scared me.  We were at her aunt’s home and I had no idea where the hospital was… I didn’t even know our address.  “Should we go to the ER?” I asked.  She said, “We can’t afford it, we don’t have insurance.”  I quickly answered, “That doesn’t matter.”  She responded, “I don’t want to sit there for hours in the waiting room.  By the time we see a doctor, I will have no symptoms to check.  Let’s look it up on the internet.”

WebMD called it “Supraventricular Tachycardia”– her heart’s electrical system was misfiring–and we should go to the emergency room if it “persisted”–how long is that?!  Her veins had been drumming for 10 minutes, but she had none of the listed signs of heart failure, so we kept reading.  It offered some home fixes–cough, gag, or shove her face in ice water to shock her pump steady.  She tried some dainty coughs, afraid of waking up others.  I told her to cough hard as I kept my finger on her jugular.  Within minutes the beating slowed.

So, tell me… what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Posted November 27, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal, Story

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Leftover People   1 comment

Mike Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality:

It was time for the Scripture reading and a girl shuffled toward the front of the church. What a moment for Connie. She had finally mustered enough courage to ask the pastor if she could read the Scripture. Without hesitation, he said yes. For years Connie had stifled her desire to serve in the church because of her “incompetencies.” Reading was extremely dif­ficult for her, and Connie had a terrible time enunciating clearly. But she had been in this church many years, and she was beginning to understand the grace of God. Jesus didn’t die just for our sins; he died so people who couldn’t read or speak could read and speak. Now she could serve the Jesus she loved so much. Now she could express her desire for God in a tangible way.

Connie’s steps were labored as she made her way to the front; one leg was shorter than the other, causing her body to teeter from side to side. Finally, she was standing up front, looking at the congregation with pride and joy.  The congregation was silent. Too silent.

The screaming silence was covering up the congregation’s discomfort. Clearly, most of them were trying to understand what Connie was doing, and they were trying not to notice her many incompetencies. Her eyes were too close together, and her head twisted back and forth at odd angles while her face wrenched from one grimace to another.  Connie began to read, and stammering, stuttering, she stumbled proudly through the passage in a long sequence of untranslatable sounds, garbled sentences, long tortuous pauses, and jumbled phrases. Finally, the reading was over, and the congregation was exhausted.

Connie didn’t notice the exhaustion. She was ecstatic. Her face seemed no longer distorted, only full of joy. Her cheeks were flush with pride; her eyes were sparkling with the joy of accomplishment; her heart was warm with knowing she had served the congregation, participated in her faith. Yes, she would remember this day for a long time. How wonderful it was, she thought, to no longer be a spectator in church; she was the church this morning!

Thank God her mental capacities were limited. Thank God she was not able to discern the faces of the congregation or she would have crumbled in despair. Thank God she wasn’t able to sense what people were really thinking.  Almost everyone in the congregation was thinking, This is an outrage! I know this is what they were thinking, because the senior pastor, my father, was ordered to attend an emer­gency board meeting after the service.

Stain Glass Masquerade
by Casting Crowns
(click image to hear)

 “How did this happen?” they demanded to know. “What were you thinking?”

“Connie wanted to read the Scripture,” he replied softly.

“Well, let her stand at the door and pass out bulletins, or help in the mailroom, but don’t have her read! The girl can’t read or speak. Her reading took ten minutes! The church,” they said, “is not a place for incompetence.”

My father believes, as I do, that the church is the place where the incompetent, the unfinished, and even the un­healthy are welcome. I believe Jesus agrees.

Posted April 15, 2012 by janathangrace in Story

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When Joy Is Out of Reach   Leave a comment

This morning NPR interviewed  a man with catalepsy, a cousin of narcolepsy.  During REM sleep, our bodies release a certain chemical which tells all our muscles to relax (so we don’t literally act out our dreams).  Unfortunately for a few folks, this chemical is released while they are awake, causing all their muscles to let go and thus paralyzing them.  The release mechanism for this chemical is the person’s emotional response, and for the man on NPR (Walter?), it was especially triggered by his pleasurable emotions: excitement, happiness, love.  

You can imagine the impact this would make on relationships, especially family relationships.  With his wife, think of not only sex, but kissing, holding hands, talking about the children… engaging in any emotional connection.  Walter described collapsing at a grandchild’s birthday party and on phonecalls with his children.  He spent the whole time at his daughter’s wedding propped up like a bag of potatoes against the wall.  Not just happy events themselves, but simply looking at photos of happy events can paralyze him.  There is no cure, but he takes a medication which slows the attacks, so it now comes on at a pace which he can recognize and respond to.

On the radio he spoke slowly and with no inflection in his voice, trying to speak of emotional things while blocking out the natural emotions.  His speech became slower, with more pauses, he remarked that his eyelids were feeling heavy, and then the NPR interviewer told the audience that Walter had to go lie down because he was slipping into paralysis.  The show host went on to describe how Walter could only function in life by avoiding happy occasions, turning himself more and more into an unemotional machine.  For Walter, happiness is not a good thing nor is connecting with others emotionally.  Such a heavy burden to bear through life.

My struggles in life are much smaller than his, but his experiences had an echo in my own.  Those things that once gave me pleasure in the first half of my life–whether great or moderate, exciting or fulfilling–are beyond my reach now.  I am always tired, so tired that doing something enjoyable feels like a burden rather than blessing.  When I have emotional energy I get great pleasure in so many things–reading, writing, conversing, celebrating, creating.  Those are mostly a dim memory now, and I only eke out small, brief pleasures.  The more taxed I am, the less ability I have to experience the good.

For the last few weeks, my heart is starting to recover from its latest downspike.  The telltale sign of my recovery is that imagining the joys of life feels good rather than painful.   Merely the thought of blogging, for instance, has  been lead to my heart, but imagining it these days feels more like a little red balloon… even if I still have little energy for actually doing it.

Posted February 25, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal, Story

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What Matters to Us Matters to God   Leave a comment

My sister Mardi emailed me this a few years ago:

On NPR I heard a really sweet story of a Dad and his little boy. The little boy had had a serious illness, had nearly died and had a long hospitalization and lots of surgery and treatments. Through it all he had clung to his Teddy Bear, Toby. Even after he had gotten better, he carried Toby with him everywhere. Then when he was 7 the family was on vacation and when they got home, Toby was missing. They told him and he said “I don’t know how I can go on without Toby” and then he said “I feel like I’ve lost my soul”!

Well, his Dad promptly got on the next plane back to Anaheim and went straight to the hotel.  The hotel people looked and looked and asked the staff and found that the bear had been found by a cleaning person, but it was in a trashcan and so they had thrown it out. Undeterred, the father asked where the trash was put. They showed him the large (size of a semi truck) dumpster in the back. Good news, the truck had not yet come to pick it up, it was scheduled to pick it up the next day….bad news, it was completely sealed with no way of getting into it. But, as they were talking about it, the truck drove up! The father convinced half a dozen of the hotel employees to go with him and help him look for Toby. He said that they were all parents and understood why he needed their help. He also offered $100 to the person who found the bear. So they all get in a van and follow the garbage truck to the recycling facility. (at this point I am crying in the car as I am listening to the story unfold) Now, this facility is not just a city dump; it is a huge building with many bays where the trucks pull up and cranes lift off the dumpsters. Inside is an area the size of an airplane hanger with all sorts of equipment and vehicles and people working. The people at the facility are not going to let them go in there. But after a lot of talking they agree to shut down the equipment and let them look for Toby….but only for 15 minutes.

Well, when they empty out the dumpster on the floor, he said it was a huge mountain of garbage, bigger than he could have imagined. It was all runny with a lake of brown garbage liquid with all these plastic bags sitting and floating in the brown goo. The hotel people jump in and start tearing open bags looking for the bear. The father is overwhelmed by the enormity of the task but begins tearing open bags too. Then a number of the employees of the facility put on their gloves and begin wading through the muck tearing open bags too! (I’m bawling in the car). There are now about 18 people looking through the mountain. But as the father looks at the size of the pile and the number of bags, he realizes in despair that it will be really impossible to look through it all. And in his heart he just says “Toby, we’re not going to be able to find you unless you somehow show yourself”. He said that he is not a particularly spiritual guy, he’s an accountant and auditor…. a “just the facts, ma’am” kind of a guy. But as that thought went through his mind, he tore open a bag, and there was Toby, dry and clean. Everyone, of course was jubilant. The father immediately calls home to tell his little boy that he had found Toby. He said his little boy was happy, but seemed kind of matter-of-fact and the father realized that for the little boy it seemed that his father had just gone and gotten his bear back. The child had no idea of the super-human effort that had been accomplished for him.

Posted November 1, 2011 by janathangrace in Story

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Kids’ Priorities   Leave a comment

A story from NPR:

Last year, my young son played T-ball….  Needless to say, I was delighted when Dylan wanted to play…. Now on the other team there was a girl I will call Tracy.  Tracy came each week, I know, since my son’s team always played her team.  She was not very good.  She had coke-bottle glasses and hearing aids on each ear.  She ran in a loping, carefree way, with one leg pulling after the other, one arm windmilling wildly in the air.

Everyone in the beachers cheered for her, regardless of what team their progeny played for.  In all the games I saw, she never hit the ball, not even close.  It sat there on the tee waiting to be hit and it never was.

STRIKE... 13?

Sometimes, after ten or eleven swings, Tracy hit the tee (in T-ball, the ball sits on a plastic tee, waiting for the batter to hit the ball, which happens once every three batters).  The ball would fall off the tee and sit on the ground six inches in front of home plate.  “Run! Run!” yelled Tracy’s coach, and Tracy would lope off to first, clutching the bat in both arms, smiling.  Someone usually woke up and ran her down with the ball before she reached first.

Everyone applauded.

WOW! Look at This BUG!

The last game of the season, Tracy came up, and through some fluke, or simply in a nod toward the law of averages, she creamed the ball.  She smoked it right up the middle, through the legs of 17 players.  Kids dodged as it went by or looked absentmindedly at it as it rolled unstopped, seemingly gaining in speed, hopping over second base, heading into center field.  And once it reached there, there was no one to stop it.  Have I told you that there are no outfielders in T-ball?  There are for three minutes in the beginning of every inning, but then they move into the infield to be closer to the action, or, at least, to their friends.

Tracy hit the ball and stood at home, delighted.  “Run!” yelled her coach.  “Run!”  All the parents, all of us, we stood and screamed, “Run, Tracy, run, run!”  Tracy turned and smiled at us, and then, happy to please, galumphed off to first.  The first base coach waved his arms ’round and ’round when Tracy stopped at first.  “Keep going, Tracy, keep going!  Go!”  Happy to please, she headed to second.  By the time she was halfway to second, seven members of the opposition had reached the ball and were passing it among themselves.  It’s a rule in T-ball–everyone on the defending team has to touch every ball.

The ball began to make its long and circuitous route toward home plate, passing from one side of the field to the other.  Tracy headed to third.  Adults fell out of the bleachers.  “Go, Tracy, Go!”  Tracy reached third and stopped, but the parents were very close to her now and she got the message.  Her coach stood at home plate calling her as the ball passed over the first basemen’s head and landed in the fileding team’s empty dugout.  “Come on, Tracy!  Come on, baby!  Get a home run!”

Tracy started for home, and then it happened.  During the pandemonium, no one had noticed the twelve-year-old geriatric mutt that had lazily stettled itself down in front of the bleachers five feet from the third-base line.  As Tracy rounded third, the dog, awakened by the screaming, sat up and wagged its tail at Tracy as she headed down the line.  The tongue hung out, mouth pulled back in an unmistakable canine smile, and Tracy stopped, tight there.  Halfway home, thirty feet from a legitimate home run.

She looked at the dog.  Her coach called, “Come on, Tracy!  Come on home!”  He went to his knees behind the plate, pleading.  The crowd cheered, “Go, Tracy, go!  Go, Tracy, go!”  She looked at all the adults, at her own parents shrieking and catching it all on video.  She looked at the dog.  The dog wagged its tail.  She looked at her coach.  She looked at home.  She looked at the dog.  Everything went to slow motion.  She went for the dog!  It was a moment of complete, stunned silence.  And then, perhaps, not as loud, but deeper, longer, more hearfelt, we all applauded as Tracy fell to her knees to hug the dog.  Two roads diverged on the third-base line.  Tracy went for the dog.

Two roads diverged in this little girl’s life.  One is the road of rules and expectations, the other is the road of love.  The roads of our lives are much the same.  Will we go for the safe, predictable road of rules and expectations?  Or will we go for the One we love…?

Yaconelli:  Wild Abandon  (quoting a story by Bill Harley on NPRs “All Things Considered”)

Posted October 7, 2011 by janathangrace in Story

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A Burden Too Great   2 comments

Gregory Boyle, a priest who works in gang territories of L.A., tells this poignant story:

I knew an inmate, Lefty, at Folsom State Prison, whose father would, when Lefty was a child, get drunk and beat his mom.  One Saturday night Lefty’s father beat his mother so badly that the next day she had to be led around by his sisters, as if she were blind.  Both eyes were swollen shut.

On Sunday, Lefty’s father and brothers are sitting on the couch, watching a football game.  Lefty calmly goes into his parents’ bedroom, retrieves a gun from his father’s bedstand, and walks out to the living room.  Lefty places himself in front of the television.  His father and brothers push themselves as far back into the couch as possible, horrified.  Lefty points the gun at his father and says, “You are my father, and I love you.  If you ever hit my mother again… I… will… kill you.”

Lefty was nine years old.  He didn’t kill his father, then (or ever).  And yet, part of the spirit dies a little each time it’s asked to carry more than its weight in terror, violence, and betrayal.  (From “Tattoos on the Heart”)

That last sentence is so achingly true.  Every child is forced to handle situations that exceed his or her capabilities, and each such experience incites fear or shame or distress.  I have discovered in my own life that my greatest emotional reactions to situations as an adult invariably spring from the wounds of my boyhood.  Have others found this to be true?

Posted July 26, 2011 by janathangrace in Story

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The Scars of Love   3 comments

I do not know the source, but here is a story of diehard love:

Some years ago on a hot summer day in south Florida a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went.  He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore.

His mother in the house was looking out the window and saw the two as they got closer and closer together.  In utter fear she ran toward the water, yelling to her son as loudly as she could.  Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his mother. It was too late.  Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him.  From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs.  That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two.  The alligator was much stronger than the mother, but the mother was much too passionate to let go.  A farmer happened to drive by, heard her screams, raced from his truck, took aim, and shot the alligator.

Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal, and on his arms were deep scratches where his mother’s fingernails dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.  The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars.  The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But look at my arms.  I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Mom wouldn’t let go.”

You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. No, not from an alligator, or anything quite so dramatic. But the scars of a painful past.  Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret, but some wounds, my friend, are because God has refused to let go.  In the midst of your struggle, He’s been there holding on to you. The Scripture teaches that God loves you. You are a child of God.  He wants to protect you and provide for you in every way. But sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril – and we forget that the enemy is waiting to attack. That’s when the tug-of-war begins – and if you have the scars of His love on your arms be very,very grateful. He did not and will not let you go.

Posted June 28, 2011 by janathangrace in Story

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