Monday, October 31, 2011

Christian Zombie Killers Handbook

What I love about Christian Zombie Killers Handbook is that its author’s voice is clear, direct, and passionate.  In the introduction, his words paint a graphic depiction of what the dark side of human nature truly looks like and how it functions in our lives.
Organized into 12 episodes—laying out the leading theories for explaining for zombieism (sin).

I was initially concerned about the wisdom of building an entire zombie mythology as a metaphor for sin; however, the author nicely balances each episode, first with a story based on the zombie metaphor immediately followed by relevant, Biblically/scripturally-based discussion questions.
What makes the discussion questions so good is that the author doesn’t pull any punches.  He uses extreme phrases and word pictures like “moral insanity, ” “soul-crimes,”  It’s this use of visceral language that will make it appealing to teenagers and young adults.  The questions are really appropriate for teenagers who are sifting through everything they’ve heard and read, beginning to firmly establish the beliefs and opinions they’ll carry into adulthood. 

Christian Zombie Killers Handbook was provided to me as an advanced reading copy by BookSneeze.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My salvation Psalm

Even though I was raised in a church-going home, it wasn't a Christian home as the church we went to didn't teach about salvation through Jesus.

When I was a teenager, my Mom was born again. I wasn't. I got really angry at God and left the church. I was mad because we switched churches and all of the kids at the new church acted all holy on Sunday but were crappy to me at high school during the week.  I had many friends who were Jewish and, if God didn't want them in Heaven, I didn't want anything to do with God.

Also, Mom was super zealous.  She came at me really hard with the Bible stuff.  Instead of building a bridge, it built a wall between us.

My 20's were moderately wild and I made most of the poor choices that a person can make. In my 30's, I tried Buddhism for a few years but found it to be empty--but, whenever I drove to the Buddhist temple, I passed a Calvary Church.  There were all these smiling people having coffee.  I was still mad at God so I felt like giving them the finger as I passed by.

When my Mom sensed any softening towards God in me, she'd push me towards Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.  But I didn't want to accept God because she'd come at me hard and smother me like she did when I was a teenager.

Still, I couldn't get that church out of my mind.  And, when I went to Barnes & Noble, I started picking up books by offbeat Christians (Anne Lamott and Kathleen Norris) and was intrigued by this Jesus. But, it wasn't me wanting the books. It's like I was drawn to these books in spite of myself. Now, I know it was the Holy Spirit.

Shortly after that, I moved to Aliso Viejo and decided I should get involved in a church. I let my fingers to the walking through the yellow pages and found Pacific Hills Church. Pastor Danny taught on Psalm 19 and it answered all of my teenage rebelliousness. Sitting in the back row of the church I prayed, "God I can't go another day without you." 

So I always think of Psalm 19 as my saving Psalm.  One other tiny thing that links me to this Psalm is my love for reggae.  "Rivers of Babylon" by Jimmy Cliff blends Psalm 137 and Psalm 19:14.  Even before Ibecame a Christian, I loved these BiblicIal references that pervades reggae.  No matter where it shows up, the word of God is sweet.

Dear Dad

I miss you today.  Your face smiles at me from a photo on my kitchen wall.  It's 15 years ago and you're in your late 60's.  It's some random family holiday and you're wearing one of my handmade basket on your head. 

You've got a fabulous smile that reaches all the way to your hazel eyes.  You're not just smiling for the camera--you're twinkling at the person behind the camera, probably Mom.  I compare it to a more recent photo and I see how much Parkinson's Disease robbed you over the years.  It stole your ability to laugh and smile and twinkle.

When I think, "I miss my Dad," I think I miss two things:  the man in the photo with the dynamite smile and the opportunity of sharing the little achievements of my life with you.  It's hard to know that I'll never make you proud ever again.

I would never wish you back.  You're in heaven now, the man God originally made you to be.  But I miss your face, Dad.

111 days

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Best Leadership Experience

In one of the courses for my project management certification, we're learning about leadership.  The teacher asked us to consider our best or worst leadership experiences.

I have a couple areas in my life where I’m a leader.  I lead a team of writers.  I lead a scrum team.  I’m a leader of the Junior High School kids at church.  I’m part of a panel of speakers who teach Orange County law enforcement officers about mental illness.

Short-term leadership experiences are much better than long term.  I’m not cut out to be a long haul leader.  I lose inspiration unless I’m doing something that really inspires me.
One of the best short-term leadership experiences is when I volunteered to help teach 1st and 2nd graders at my church’s family camp.  We had to come up with curriculum and crafts.  I chose the 23rd Psalm because it’s familiar and because it lends itself to easily dividable lessons.

As I researched the Psalm and broke it into lessons, I actually learned new things about it and God that I never knew.  I learned that, in nomadic culture, that if you were dining with someone and they were attacked by enemies, you'd defend your guest as if they were your own family.  God defends me against my enemies like I'm his own kid.  Very inspiring. 
I worked to create activities that would provide a sensory experience to really instill the lessons into the kids.  We planned a night hike with glow sticks when we studied “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I’ll fear no evil.”

But for the actual camp, I’d only signed up to help—not to actually teach.  And yet, when it came to the actual event, the lead teacher bailed and I was left to lead 20 young kids.  I had no experience.  I was terrified but I did it anyway.
The very first day, I was exhausted by lunch time.  All I wanted to do was to clean up the craft supplies and have lunch.  But, just as I finished picking up the supplies, two little girls came wandering back into the room, sat down and began to color.

I was irritated but I just kept cleaning another area of the room. I listened to the little girls talking.  One asked, “Do you live with your Mommy or Daddy?”  The other answered, “I live with them both.”  The first girl replied, “You’re lucky.  You don’t have to choose who you love better.”
Those last words just slayed me and my irritation evaporated.  This little 7-year-old had to face a world where she had to make an impossible choice.  It let me empty myself and enjoy serving the kids for the rest of the week.  And it gave me a love for Briana and Susana that endures to this day.

Why am I learning the harmonica?

Well...about a decade ago, my boyfriend learned to play the harmonica. We even went to jazz harmonica concerts (Toots Thielemans). It gave me a passing interest in learning to play but I held off because I only had a casual interest and didn’t want to push up on my boyfriend’s new hobby.

A few years later, my boyfriend and I parted ways. I took a one-evening class on learning to play the blues but I didn't learn enough for it to be useful so I gave up.

Last week, when I was doing some serious cleaning, I found my harmonica. I decided I needed to either learn to play or throw it out.

I searched YouTube for lessons. They helped me get started, but it was difficult to figure out a systematic way of learning.   As I ranged around the Internet, I found the Harmonica Academy. I liked it because it's structured.

The downside is that I want to skip all the beginning lessons, hurry ahead and play songs. I don’t want to take the time to learn technique. BUT, so far, I’m restraining myself and dutifully learning single notes and scales.  (Okay, I admit that I downloaded the tabs for "How Great is Our God" and practice it daily...and that I researched how to turn sheet music into harmonica tabs...but that's it.  I promise.)

I'm giving myself 30 minutes a day (or as many minutes as my lips will tolerate) for the next 30 days to see if I love it. So far, it's awesome! My hope is to be good enough that by next year I can play with the worship team at church.

I firmly believe that you've gotta try the things that pique your interest (within the bounds of legality/morality) because it opens a brave new world.  Makes life interesting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


My friend, Randi, teaches fiber arts at Creer.  It's been a cool program where she has taught knitting, crochet, weaving, and dyeing to men and women in San Juan Capistrano.  Her desire has been to empower people and help them gain confidence through learning new skills and creative expression.

I am so proud to have had just a tiny part in this endeavor by contributing yarn to the students.  It's amazing and delightful at how the students "catch the fiber bug" in the same way it's caught me and Randi and all of the other knitters and weavers we know.

I look at the happy faces in these photos and it's a reflection of how I felt when I made my very first garter scarf.  I must have knitted and ripped and knitted and ripped the first 10 rows over a dozen times.  But when I was done, all of my frustration was forgotten because I had made something beautiful with just two sticks and a piece of string.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dirk Hamilton

In college, my friend, Martha, turned me onto Public Radio and awesome music. We'd go to At My Place or the Sweetwater to catch rising stars. One of my enduring favorites is Dirk Hamilton.

He's got amazing charisma and raw sex appeal but what remains with me decades later is his ability to turn a phrase. To call him a musician barely does him justice. He sees into daily life as a poet does. He bends words until they paint the picture he wants you to see. He's been compared to Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, which is fitting because they're of the same age. This reviewer gives a great history of Dirk's career.

Dirk first captured me with "Meet me at the Crux." Somehow the suggestion to "explain to me in detail how your urine hits the sink" has remained in my brain for decades.

Dirk's raspy voice and acoustic guitar are the perfect vehicles for describing the angst of modern loneliness in "Billboard on the Moon."

I'm also intrigued because his lyrics contain many passing references to people or events of the Bible. In "How Do You Fight Fire?" he talks about how "one righteous man could save a city" and it brings to mind when Abraham bargained with God for the sake of Sodom and Gomorrah. I really hope Dirk has a saving knowledge of the Bible. I surely would love to hear him for 10,000 years in heaven.

If you ever get a chance, Dirk is worth a listen.

I'd planned to see him this Thursday at the Lounge in Hermosa Beach, but the venue has been cancelled.  It kinda solves my Stress Groove, but I'm kind of bummed.  I'll hafta make do with digital so I ordered a fresh copy of "Meet Me at the Crux."

Always every age I've ever been

Today when I was chatting with Melinda, I mentioned that it’s weird to be closer to retirement than I am to my graduation from college. It almost came as a shock at how close I am to being done with my career.

I think the shock comes from the fact that there’s a part of me that never ages. Sure, my face has wrinkles and my sable-colored hair is getting shot through with gray, but I’m always every age I’ve ever been.

In my mind, I can transport myself back to my high school graduation when I stood in the middle of campus and thought, “For 18 years, people have told me what to do, where to be, and how to act. Now what do I do?” I felt scared and excited all mixed together.

Thirty years later, as I walk towards the end of my career, I have that same sense of fear and wonder at what the future holds. For 25 years, I’ve had the structure of working in an office, having a boss and co-workers, and achieving steady professional goals. What will I do when I retire?

My soul still feels as wide-eyed, eager, and adventurous as I did when I was a kid. There’s so much more to learn and do. And I love this timeless part of my heart because it tells me that God is really there because he put this sense of eternity in my mind.

God had a plan for the 18-year-old girl I was. It’s faith that tells me he has good plans for the career woman I am now and the 65-year-old woman I will be.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


Over the past month, I've become intrigued with rowing. After church today I went wild and had my first lesson. It was amazing. As I sat out there in the little boat on the big Newport Back Bay, I realized why the disciples woke Jesus up when they were out on the ocean and a storm came up. (If I was them, I would have screamed and shaken Jesus awake.)
Also, the most amazing thing happened. There was a flock of hundreds of tiny sandpipers skimming over the water. They broke formation and streamed around us. The sound of all of those wings beating in harmony was magical. It's the kind of awesome beauty that makes you hold your breath and feel everlastingly grateful to God just to be able to experience that moment.