Archive for July, 2010

Your New BFF!

I am startled by the number of parents I know personally who are raising materialistic, self-centered children.  Children who think nothing is more important than beauty and being ahead of the latest fashion trends.   Oddly enough (at least I find it odd), most of them have Jesus.  They’re as churched as churched can be.  They pray about everything from the plight of poor children who have no undies to where to park at the mall when they’re out shopping.

Churches and youth groups are packed full of these kids.  I remember turning scarlet-red one Sunday when an Elder’s teenage daughter bent over to whisper in his ear and nearly popped out of her itty-bitty bra, which was plainly visible under the sheer, skin-tight shirt she was wearing.

I tried to talk to the Youth Pastor, thinking he would have the authority to address the problem, and I remember him saying that he didn’t want to upset her parents and he definitely didn’t want the girl to feel like church and youth group were uncool.  Basically, If we set standards for how kids act and dress, they won’t come anymore.

Okay, I get that.  I guess.  I mean, it’s confusing.  It’s important that churches accept people for who they are, right where they’re at without condition.  If you know me at all, you know it’s something I feel passionate about.  I’m sick to death of the white-washed church.  But that’s not it.  The problem here is that these kids are already IN the church, they’re professing to be young, zealous Christians, but they’re not being challenged to live the faith they profess.  Instead, they’re patted on the head, affirmed in their beauty and wonderfulness, and they get stuck right there with a faith utterly lacking in substance.

Christianity is nothing more than the club they belong to.  It’s cool to love Jesus in their circles and that’s what they want more than anything, to be cool, the coolest.  They don’t reach out to new kids, or fat kids, or “ugly” kids, or poor kids, or kids with zits.   Instead, they wear their blingy faith like cubic zirconia, masquerading as diamonds.

But maybe I need to back up a bit.  Maybe it goes back to mom and dad.  If mom and dad belong to Club Church and use their faith to make business contacts and as a social club…  Well, I’m thinking it all makes sense.

Maybe my problem is that I want something better of the church.  I want something better from people who call themselves Christians.  I don’t want the shiny bling things.  I want something REAL.

What provoked this blog was seeing a 20-something “Christian” girl post a picture of a hugely fat, unattractive woman on her facebook page, with a caption that said something like, “You’re new BFF!  Ewww!” Scrolling through the other photos in that album, I saw many references to church and Christian concerts and events.  I even saw scripture written below certain pictures.  By the way, what does it mean when a girl makes a “V” out of her fingers then sticks her tongue in the “V” and flicks it?  *tilts head*  I mean…  It didn’t seem to go very well with the Jesus t-shirt she was wearing in that pic.

God.  I’m a hypocrite.  Which one of us ISN’T?  It’s a human condition, hypocrisy.  I get that.  I’m not above it.  I just… I want so much more from myself, from all of us.

If anything, I feel reaffirmed in my choice to leave organized religion behind.  Most of what I find there breaks my heart.  I don’t want to hand my children a plastic Jesus.  I don’t want the church to be just another social networking site or club for them.  I want them to be people of compassion and love.  I want them to be people of depth.

It makes me sad to say that I think the best place to grow compassionate children is outside the church, but I think it’s true.  There are always exceptions.  There was this amazing homeschool family at a church we went to whose children all dressed plainly in homemade clothing and they gardened and did small-machine repair, things like that.  They were AMAZING.  The kids were like… well, they were like KIDS only they were kind, compassionate, productive, and interested in the world around them.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t participate in youth group…

Which reminds me — that OTHER girl, the one who posted the picture of the fat woman with the mean heading?  Well, she had another picture of a rather unattractive girl with buckteeth and pig-tails and that captain said something about homeschooled kids…

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Sin and Rebellion

“This relationship that was born in rebellion and outside of God’s will must end.” That’s what my husband and I were told when we fell in love in bible school a long time ago.  Our Christian leaders were adamantly against our relationship and they threw the weight of God behind their opinion.

I remember sitting in a straight back chair with my head down, hands folded in my lap, listening to their voices drone on and on.  They told me that I had caused my not-yet-husband (R) to “stumble” with my sexuality – I needed to be delivered from a spirit of lust they said – and I needed to do the right thing and end our relationship, which was doomed to fail.   I said nothing as I sat and listened to myself described as a modern day Jezebel.

After I left without having uttered a word in response or defense they called R in.  They didn’t blame him; he was under my spell, they said.  They tried to guide him to make the right choice, which was to marry an older and rather plain Australian girl who loved him.  SHE was potentially God’s will for him, they said.  When he responded that he loved me they grew angry and “disappointed.”  Look at how Kate’s spirit of rebellion has infected you.  Repent!

Neither of us repented.  We returned to America and were married.  That was over half a lifetime ago and we’re still married.  Over the years we’ve done some good.  We adopted four special needs children, for one, and we’ve done a fair bit of humanitarian work.  Not that I need to justify our relationship but for some reason I still feel like I do, like I need to prove that our marriage wasn’t wrong.

Today, the man who wielded the most spiritual authority during those “conversations” back in Australia before R and I were married popped up on my facebook as someone I may know.  I was astonished.  How did fb make THAT connection?

When I saw his name, my heart rate sped up and I felt a mixture of hurt and anger that I thought was long gone.  I clicked on his page, then clicked on “send a message,” and wrote a short note reminding him of who I am and telling him that R and I have been married for over 22 years now.

I wanted to say so much more but I held myself in check.  Kindness matters to me and I wanted to speak kindly to him.  I believe he thought he was doing the right thing back then that he really believed it was his job to interpret God’s will for us and that I really had led “R” astray.  He was acting with the spiritual authority he had been given by those with spiritual authority over him.  He was exercising his responsibilities as a Christian leader.

When people with “spiritual authority” presume to speak for God they cause so much damage and sometimes bad things happen.  People drink Kool-aid that kills them, offer their adolescent daughters up for sex, and fly airplanes into buildings…  They aren’t hearing the internal whispers of madness, or the quiet whisper of God’s voice, what they’re hearing is the voice of man masquerading as the voice of God.   The problem is they believe it’s God speaking to them through another person.

Sometimes the results are catastrophic and other times not.  Sometimes it leaves a person hurt and confused for the longest ever time, doubting God.  Sometimes it undoubtedly works.  So many people WANT someone to tell them what to do, they’re looking for God in the voice of a man.  Churches are full of people like that who are perfectly happy to “know their place.”

As for me, I want to take responsibility for my own life.  I want to listen to the quiet voice inside of me that’s connected to God, not the voice of someone else who’s hearing God for me, telling me what’s right or wrong, judging me.

It felt good to tell my truth today, to let that man know that his dire predictions were wrong.  I told him that my experience with that particular school was one of the worst of my life but I wouldn’t change it because I found my husband there.  I’d do it all again just to find my way to him.  I’d do it in a heartbeat, a breath.  But I’ll never, ever let someone tell me what God’s will is for me.  NEVER.

In confronting my past today, speaking my quiet truth, I became stronger.  I’m not a rebellious sinner.  I never was.  I’m just a person on a journey, trying to learn from my mistakes, to become better, to live and love well.

Handprints of Hope

Handprints of Hope, fundraiser for Faith

“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.”  Socrates said that and my heart resonates with the truth of it.  There’s so much I don’t know about everything.

I’ve mentioned Faith before, she’s the 7-year old daughter of my friend Jo Fulmer, and Faith has bone cancer.  They found out a short while ago, from out of the blue, and beautiful little Faith with her long strawberry hair and love of Barbies and everything pink is now bald with a scar running from her shoulder down ten inches, where doctors removed the bone and replaced it with a rod.  I don’t understand everything I’ve been told about it, but I’ve seen Faith and my heart hurts for the pain she is enduring.

Doctors will operate again; open up that scar, take more bone and the rod out, which will be replaced with a new one, if all goes well.  And if it doesn’t… I can’t even think about it.  Where is the justice in a little girl with an insidious, brutal disease?  I want to know.  But life isn’t fair… do we really even know what fair is?

Every day I witness the courage and faith of Faith’s family, their tremendous strength and dogged determination to see their little girl healed.  Sometimes Jo’s heart is so painfully beautiful I almost can’t bear it.  I wonder how beauty can possibly be present in the middle of so much pain, yet it is.  Is there justice there?  Is it fair?  It doesn’t seem like it.  I am equal parts awed by the beauty of what I see and horrified by the pain.  My heart doesn’t cry, it SCREAMS for God to intervene, for Faith to be healed.  Please.

I remember my mom praying with such faith that she would be healed from MS and she wasn’t.  She, too, was beautiful in her suffering.  I keep coming back to stories of her because she touched the very core of me with her love,  joy, and beauty of spirit.

For a long time I stopped thinking that God intervened in our lives, answered prayers.  If he did, surely he would have healed my mother.

There’s so much I don’t know but the compulsion to pray is as natural to me as breathing.  This faith I don’t understand keeps bubbling up and despite all the pain I see, I believe prayer changes things that even our thoughts have power, and there is power in our agreement, in the number of people sending out love and prayers.  I feel it coursing through my veins, as real as blood.

As I pray and send positive thoughts to Faith, I also find myself wanting to stomp my feet and scream.  GOD, MAKE IT STOP!  HEAL THIS LITTLE ONE.  HEAL HER, HEAL HER, HEAL HER. I think God’s okay with that.  If I pretended I didn’t feel that way, God would still know.  I believe the spirit of God is in all of us, running over and around and through us, connecting us, knowing us, so I know I can be real.  My prayers don’t have to be polite and eloquent, they can be a scream born from deep inside of me, in my humanity.

I went to high school with Faith’s mom, Jo.  Back then, we didn’t know what lay ahead of us, so much joy and pain…  We still don’t know about tomorrow, so we live in the moment, we have faith for tomorrow.

I generally don’t like blogs about illness.  I saw many fakes on myspace, shameless seekers of attention, and grew wary and weary.  Maybe that’s how you feel reading this but I don’t care.  I’m up in the middle of the night, thinking of Faith and I have to write about her, not specifically about her but about the bigger picture: my uncertainty about God and justice, the beauty I see in the midst of suffering; the way I feel made to pray, as if it’s hard-wired into me.

I hate cancer.  I HATE IT.  Is there anyone who hasn’t been touched by it in some way, known someone who has fought and won, or lost, or is still in the midst of the battle?  Please send your prayers out to Faith and everyone who is struggling with this horrendously ugly disease.  There is power in our empathy, loving, and faith.

Faith Fulmer, Warrior Princess

Faith has a facebook page where you can see more pictures, keep up-to-date on her progress, and show your love and support to Faith and her family.  Go to Faith’s Friends and press “like”, then pray for her whenever you see her pop up on your feed, vote for the charity, Handprints of Hope, and help them win $100,000 to help Faith and other children suffering from cancer.  It’s a small, practical way to help, to put our compassion into action, to be, as Gandhi said, the change we want to see.  It starts with small things, gestures of love and kindness, prayers, loving thoughts, and faith.

Joy in the Moment

“I hope your life gets better soon,” someone recently said to me.  I was startled by the statement and had to think about it a moment, because I love my life.  Then, I realized it was simply a comment about the fact that our youngest son is suffering the effects of the traumatic brain injury and we’re getting buried under medical bills, to the point where we could lose our home.  Is that stressful?  Yes!

When our daughter who’s enlisting in the National Guard needed $45 for an ID card and I had nothing, I sat a TV out in front of our house with a for sale sign on it and within an hour or so had it sold for $42.50!  What a blessing and how fortunate we are to have something to sell.  I made up the remainder with change from the ashtray in my car and we were good to go.

I didn’t look at that as a hardship.  It was a blessing!  How fortunate we are to having something to sell.  Last week I sold our last pony and even though I miss her terribly and still go out to the barn several times a day only to realize she’s gone – and, yes, I cry – I am profoundly grateful that we could sell her that we got a good price and she got a wonderful home with a beautiful little girl who loves her, loves her, loves her.  Once again, a blessing.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

Last week, as we sat playing cards together as a family at the lock down facility where our youngest son currently resides, I was struck by a feeling of pure happiness that I can’t even describe.  We were sitting in a spartan room where the walls are covered by thick plastic and the furniture is hard, heavy, and bolted to the floor, and there were kids in the background screaming and moaning, and still I was happy.  Look at our boy,  so handsome, growing, laughing and having fun, despite the fact that he simply did not understand the game.  His dad helped him play each hand and that was good enough.

We laughed so loud that we drowned out the moaning and screaming behind the room we were locked into.  It didn’t matter.  We were a family, all together, and there was love in that room, huge quantities of it.  How very blessed we are.

I’m learning a lot through life’s challenges.  Sometimes I feel exhausted and depressed, it’s true, but more often than not I simply feel grateful.  I have this unconventional family that’s beautiful.  For now, I have a lovely home complete with a swimming pool.  How cool is that?  We splash and have so much fun, the kids and I.  And I have a husband who works hard to make ends meet, never complains, has loved me always with his quiet love, and never ever gave up on us, even when I would have.

those who know me or have been reading me for any length of time know that I grew up with a mom who was sick with Multiple Sclerosis.  It’s an ugly disease but she was beautiful and found joy in the midst of it.  She was my center – the sun, and the moon, and the stars.  She’s gone now but I carry her in my heart, and she’s left me with a legacy, the ability to find joy in the midst of hard things, and gratitude for life.  I remember her waking up and thanking God that she could speak that day, thanking God that she could crawl when she could no longer walk…  I remember her courage and I think I carry a bit of that inside of me.  Always, she will be with me, whispering joy and love.

I have made so many mistakes… sometimes I feel half crushed by the weight of them but then I realize that those mistakes weren’t wasted.  I learned and grew, became a better person.  I suppose that’s the best any of us can hope for because we’re all flawed and sometimes we mess up.

Whatever your challenges are, I pray that you can find joy in the midst of them that you will focus on the blessings and not the hardships.  It’s not possible to do that all the time.  Even Mother Theresa doubted and got discouraged but she kept moving forward, living a life of love, and it was a beautiful life, lived in the slums of India.  And remember Jesus who cried out to God to take the cross from him, who sweated blood, but went on to face the challenge in front of him and did so with great love.

If you’re struggling, I really do hope things get better soon.  I also hope that in the midst of it you will find joy in the moment.

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Do you remember a time when you felt joy in the midst of hard things, despite your circumstances?  If so, I hope you will share it with me here.  Thank you, as always, for reading.  ~Kate

Land that I love

Every year, we had a parade on the 4th of July when I was a little girl living on Canyon Creek Road in Wilsonville, Oregon. Along with our neighbors, we decked out our bicycles, tractors and horses in red, white and blue streamers.  We had the coolest hifi that my dad would hook up outside, blasting music down the street.  Every single neighbor participated.  It was a community tradition.

I loved braiding ribbons through my horses mane and tail or streamers through my bicycle tires, and donning whatever outfit my grandma Grace had made for me.  One year it was shorts and a halter top like Maryann on Gilligan’s Island.  Another year it was a red, white and blue bikini!  And, yes, I wore it, riding my horse right on down the street barefoot with streamers in my pig tails when I was ten-years old.

When we moved away, we missed the community parades but there were new traditions. We’d drift the Rogue River on inner tubes or go to Applegate Lake where there was a big tree with a rope tied high off a thick branch that extended over the water.  We’d grab the rope, swing out with a whoop, and go flying, then SPLASH! right into the water and down, down, down, kicking back up, gasping as we broke the surface back into the sun.

My dad would bring a huge air mattress, pump it up, and set it out in the water where we’d lay on it in the sun with our friends, drinking warm pop, baking brown in the sun.

I’ve always loved the 4th of July.  For me, it brings back memories of the best of my growing up, of joyful celebrations of this nation that I love.

No matter what activities the day brought, we always ended with sparklers and fireworks and we’d sing every song we knew from I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy to God Bless America. My dad could never remember song lyrics, but he would blast away in his big, beautiful baritone, making up words, looking puzzled when they didn’t quite make sense (the memory has me grinning), while I sang in my soprano, every word long memorized, with tears of gratitude in my eyes. My mom didn’t sing but she would clap with hands made spastic by multiple sclerosis, so that she was utterly lacking in rhythm but it was her expression of joy and it was beautiful.

I grew up proud to be an American. When I see an American flag, my hand moves reflexively over my heart.  Last year, we swam, ate BBQ, and sat poolside in our own backyard, listening to the sounds of the community celebration rolling over the flat fields behind our house; it was mostly mariachi music that they played with a little bit of Elvis thrown in the mix.  It made me nostalgic for the days when we could just celebrate America, listen to good old-fashioned rock and roll and sing patriotic songs.

When the fireworks display started, we all stood up and sang, facing over the fields toward the distant park, and we sang God Bless America and The Star Spangled Banner, and I felt so profoundly grateful for the privilege of living in this great, free country.  After we’d sang every patriotic song we knew, I recited the preamble to the constitution, which I learned when I was a little girl, watching Schoolhouse Rock.

Always, the 4th of July has been a meaningful day for me.  I hope that in the midst of your celebrations, whatever they may be, you maintain a sharp awareness of the meaning of the day.  We’re celebrating our freedom, our independence as a nation, and all the liberties that were ensured by our founding fathers and preserved in our constitution.

Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans.  God bless America and God bless you.


“Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.  We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

~Ronald Reagan