Thursday, October 27, 2011

Next to Dogliness by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David’s Harp and Pen

Mood: Scratchy

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from overprotective pet owners who think I am in any way mistreating my dog. As long and hard as I’ve tried to understand Bruno’s complex relationship with shrubbery, I have always been at a loss. Besides, if running through the bushes keeps him out of the bars at night, then I won’t complain.

I have a large, hyperactive, over-bearing, extremely extroverted dog named Bruno. He is full of energy and does a good job of keeping me, his introverted, overly analytical momma, from getting too serious. Bruno loves his big backyard, which is overflowing with foliage. I like it that he enjoys running and frolicking outside, as it keeps him slim, trim, and svelte. However, some times his love of nature presents complications.

Last week, Bruno came in from the yard with an entirely new ecosystem growing behind his left ear. I got as best a look at it as I could, and it resembled a nest of pine needles. In fact, in the days that followed, I found the same kind of needle in various spots in his fur. Everywhere else he let me pluck them out, but not behind his ear. I was concerned, because it was obviously making him uncomfortable, and I was worried if I didn’t get it out that the area could become infected, not to mention that, coupled with all the other pine needles he walked in with on a daily basis, he was turning into Chia Dog. Every time I went near him with scissors, clippers, or the Furminator®, he got nervous and bucked his head.

I asked around for advice on what to do to extricate the ear sagebrush. Some said take him to the vet or the groomer. That was out, as it was too expensive at the time. Others said to give him doggy happy pills or Benadryl. That was out as well, as I didn’t want to administer drugs to him without knowing how he would react. Still others said that I should simply make him sit still and demand he obey me. I ask you, my dear blogees, how do I make dogs, or people for that matter, do things they don’t want to do? Apparently I am the only one on the planet without the ability to Jedi mind control the sentient beings around me, so instruction as to how to wield my Jedi powers in such a manner would be most helpful.

After a week of failed attempt after failed attempt to amputate the doggedly unyielding pine needle collection that had now taken up permanent residence on my dog, I had about given up on my mission. Then Saturday night, I crawled into bed to go to sleep, and Bruno hopped into bed with me. He was in the mood to spoon, and spoon we did. He snuggled his head into my side and went to town licking my hand. In a moment of divine inspiration, I went for the bird’s nest with my dry hand and gingerly plucked out a single pine needle. Bruno didn’t even flinch. I went for another single pine needle. Lightning struck twice. As long as Bruno was snuggling and licking my hand, I was able to remove the pine needles one by one, until they were all gone. As far as I could tell, Bruno never knew what hit him.

I learned a lot from that experience about my own pursuit of godliness. There is a lot of emphasis placed in the Church, most unintentional I think, on the big, one-time transformational experience. We talk about getting serious about God, dedicating our lives to Him, and being filled with the Holy Spirit as if they are one-shot events. Yes, some changes do happen overnight, and some miracles occur instantly, but I have found that the experience of becoming holy, maturing, and giving one’s life to God are more often gradual events that happen over the course of time. I honestly don’t think we could even physically stand it if God removed all our character flaws and grew us up all at once. The temptation would be too great on our part to take credit for it, and, just like the nine lepers did with Jesus, take off once the work was done, mistakenly thinking we don’t need God for anything else.

I recently re-read Galatians 5 and pondered the fact that those Christian virtues are referred to as fruit. Perhaps it is because they are things that develop gradually and are cultivated only over time and under close supervision of the Vine Dresser. As I’ve thought about Bruno’s de-Chia-petting and my own growth process in God, I am grateful that God is more concerned with lasting fruit than instantaneous fixes, and that as I draw near to Him in the safety of worship, He changes me to be a little bit more like Him, gradually, one pine needle at a time.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Alter Ego by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Transparent

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from any Quentin Tarantino fans, comic book enthusiasts, or anyone born during the 1930s. If you are really upset with me, then I suppose I must take the high road and do the noble thing by blaming my faults on my ancestors.

My parents had me late in life. While most of my friends’ parents were hippies who downed the establishment and blasted Credence Clearwater Revival from their souped-up VW vans, my parents reminisced about the good old days when the evil Axis powers threatened the world with extinction and how they had only cockroaches to eat every night but were happy to have them and didn’t complain. I heard unending tales of woe, tales of the Great Depression, World War II, and spirit-crushing poverty. My parents’ descriptions of growing up in that era were so vivid, and the sense of urgency with which they talked about those times were such that, until I left home at the age of 18, I thought the Depression and World War II were still going on and Franklin Roosevelt was still president. Mom and Dad were part of what is commonly referred to as the Silent Generation, and they had a moral code that differs slightly from that of my generation. They believed we were entitled to nothing except the responsibility to work hard, that a person only slept with one other person, namely their spouse, and that was a lifelong gig, and finally, that a person should never, EVER talk about his or her private life.

A common saying of those born around my parents’ time was, “We don’t talk about what happens behind closed doors.” Growing up, I heard it so much, both from my parents and from others of that generation, that I early on adapted the idea that all of us are two people: the person we show to the public, and the one we are in private, and that these two people are always in opposition.

I didn’t realize until recently how much that duplicity had permeated my thinking and my view of myself, and in the last decade or so, this phenomenon became even more troublesome, and here’s why. We have witnessed a lot of scandals involving celebrities, ministers, and politicians in recent days. When someone is caught doing something they’re not supposed to, particularly if it’s a high profile Christian, people will often say, “That’s the real so-and-so.” For example, let’s say there’s a televangelist who preaches fiery sermons and gives a lot of money to the poor, and then he’s caught with a prostitute. People will point fingers at him and say that the part of him that pays women to sleep with him is the “real” him. Not the part of him that is bold in proclaiming the Gospel or is generous to those in need. The good things are always referred to as the act or show, and the “true” person is always the one that screws up. So, subconsciously, as I witnessed this happen both in people’s observations of others and of me when I made mistakes, I adopted the idea that the good things in me were an illusion and the real me consisted solely of my faults and shortcomings.

In the last year, for various reasons, I have found myself saying quite a bit, to myself and to close friends, “No one would love me if they knew the real me.” Judging from the feedback I have gotten from those to whom I have made this confession, this seems to be a fear everyone experiences. Throughout my life, I had been able to keep that underlying insecurity pretty much at bay, but I learned, much to my dismay, that nothing feeds that fear quite like being in love. Except for a minor crush around 2004, I hadn’t had romantic feelings for anyone since the year 2000. Then to meet someone and experience all those unsettling emotions again, especially given the fact that the man, in my eyes, was completely out of my league, was a recipe for full-blown distress. Every time I saw or talked to him, I could hear the “he’ll never love you once he sees the real you” resounding in my head over my internal loud speaker. My insecurity about the matter reached a fever pitch on Good Friday of this year, so much so that I found myself crying my eyes out to a girl friend at P.F. Chang’s in front of a packed out crowd and one very concerned server. (Alright, the boy thing wasn’t the only reason I was crying, but it was high on the list.) Now, things didn’t work out with the guy, and he would say that it had nothing to do with me, either, but the whole situation of being in love after not having experienced it for so long made me see how deep seeded my fear of vulnerability and “the real me” really was.

The last two months have been fraught with all sorts of challenges, and as I’ve faced uncharted waters, I have become more fearful of the real me, as I had always viewed that woman, and how adversity tends to expose who I am in my heart of hearts. Sometimes, when that thought about the real me being completely repulsive crept in, I would start to ask myself, “Well, what is it that I think is so terrible about me that if exposed, people in general (and potential Boazes in particular) would run away screaming?” I worry too much? Sometimes, when I’m too tired to do the dishes, I let Bruno do them instead? That I’ve been known on occasion to pee while in the shower? That I often incite homicidal tendencies in my men friends because I am relentlessly curious and ask too many questions? Or maybe that, since I live alone, I will drink Diet Dr. Pepper straight out of the two-liter bottle? I have secrets much darker than the ones I just mentioned, and I’m happy to say that everyone to whom I have confessed those secrets, at least in my adult life, are still my friends. I even shared them with the aforementioned love interest, and it didn’t faze him. However, I knew this fear of letting people see the big, bad, real me, was quickly becoming crippling to me, and when I talked about it with God last week, I got an answer I wasn’t expecting.

“Sharon,” God said, “Christ in you is the ‘real’ you.” And that changed everything.

The Old Testament is full of references about the wickedness of man and the deceitfulness of the human heart. All of that is outside of a relationship with Christ, though. When I was reborn into the family of God, I was given a new heart and a new spirit, one that desires to please God and love those around me sincerely. Those besetting sins that hampered me as an unbeliever and tripped me up as a new child of God are no longer an inherent part of me. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross, and the metamorphosis He orchestrated in me, that about me, which reflects God and is in communion with Him is not only the part of me that is real, but also the part of me that is permanent. Perhaps I can illustrate it better this way: before I was a Christian, my sin and all the negative things about me were like birth defects or congenital abnormalities. I was stuck with them. When I got saved, my sin and shortcomings were like the flu: yes, a pain, and sometimes lingering, but just a disease, a curable one, and in no way a reflection of my genetic makeup. Getting a grip on what is truly me and what is the lie makes dealing with sin and negative habits so much easier.

A few years ago, I watched “Kill Bill” (both volumes). I looked past the fact that it was gratuitous violence and the improbability of one really skinny blonde woman single-handedly killing 88 martial arts masters. In one scene, David Carradine’s character is discussing Superman to Uma Thurman’s character. He explains that Superman is different from the majority of other super heroes because he was born with his super powers, whereas most other super heroes got their powers later in life. Therefore, the real Superman isn’t Clark Kent. Rather, it’s the other way around. The real man isn’t the bumbling, clumsy reporter who can’t string a coherent sentence together in front of an attractive woman. The real man is the one who travels faster than a speeding bullet, is more powerful than a locomotive, and leaps tall buildings in a single bound. The real me is the Super Sharon, the recreated, reborn more than a conqueror through Christ who loves me, and I can say, at long last, that the real me looks pretty good.



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back-roading It by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Slow

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from Garmin or any other GPS manufacturer accusing me of advocating the abandonment of the technology. Being regularly directed to drive into ditches and large bodies of water is quite a thrill and much cheaper than going to the amusement park.

I have a great sense of direction and enjoy navigation quite a bit. In fact, many of my female friends have complained on occasion that I give directions like a man. For me, learning to both find my way and give clear and concise directions to others has always been a top priority.

As a child, I had a healthy fear of getting lost, and anyone who knows my family knows exactly why. I have chilling memories of waking up in the car at 2 AM in the bowels of Bayonne, New Jersey because Mom had gotten horribly lost getting from North Arlington, New Jersey to Clifton. For those unfamiliar with New Jersey geography, it is simply a matter of pointing the car northwest and driving eight miles. Instead, Mom pointed the car southeast and drove 12. Dad and my brother were no better, and so I taught myself at a very early age to read maps (and always remember where the car was parked).

I am 50% Jewish, 25% Norwegian, and 25% Syrian. My mom and brother would always brag about what exemplary navigational skills the Vikings had, even though that trait never seemed to manifest itself in my mom or my brother’s ability to get from point A to point B. I found out just recently that the Vikings actually had atrocious senses of direction, and the only reason they made all those great discoveries like Greenland and Minnesota was because they got horribly lost trying to get to some place else. (In their defense, however, they are the best pillagers, pirates, and mass murderers, hands down.) I am also sure my crack seafaring dexterity couldn’t possibly come from the Jewish genes, seeing as it took my forebears over 40 years to get the 200 some odd miles from Egypt to Canaan, a plotting faux pas not even my immediate family or Mr. MaGoo can top. Therefore, given the Biblical accounts of swift invasions and constant back and forths between Israel and their neighboring nations, I must conclude my penchant for helmsmanship must come from the Syrians.

Back in 2007, a friend introduced me to the world of GPS. He said the days of maps and Trip-tiks were over, that I could save myself time, hassle, and trunk space in my car by ditching my map collection and going digital, and so I did. I traded my map box for a smart phone with Google maps. Yes, it was easy, and fun, and for the most part, a time-saver. However, the time it saved me cost me something else in the process.

Last week, a friend invited me over for breakfast in Mount Juliet, a little bedroom community about 15 miles northeast of my home in Nashville, Tennessee. I had just come back from New Jersey after the quick and unexpected death of my mother, so I was feeling a little nostalgic. I broke out a paper map I had of Davidson County and some of the bordering cities. Going against the GPS instructions for the fastest, most efficient route, I took a slightly longer, more circuitous way with my old friend propped up on my steering wheel. Tennessee State Road 171 goes right over Percy Priest Lake, and I’m sorry to say in the almost 11 years I have lived in Nashville, and especially in the 2.5 years I have lived so close to this gorgeous marvel, this was the first time I had taken the time to drive past it and really look at what it was. I had been so busy with life, and then with Mom’s death, that I really needed to take time out for beauty, and that beauty, gave me the strength I needed to persevere.

Technology, for me, has always been a double-edged sword. My GPS lets me travel faster, but as a result, I often miss the important lessons and flashes of inspiration that only come from the road less travelled. My cell phone provides me with the convenience of staying in constant connection with the world, but it also serves as a constant distraction, especially during the times when what I need the most is distance from the world. My electronic address book gives me the option of sending calls from certain numbers directly to voicemail, so I have the choice to deal with certain people on my time table. However, it causes me to miss a lot of opportunities to love sometimes difficult but hurting people, resulting in me missing the lessons of making my life about others and not myself.

I am glad I broke out my maps again. I am glad I am now taking the extra time to plan out where I go and how I get there, instead of letting a piece of mechanics and microchips decide for me. There is a time and place for efficiency and getting places fast, but there is also a time and place for back-roading it, and letting the roads less travelled show me beauty seldom seen and wisdom often overlooked.



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Toiled and Spun by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Restful.

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear any complaints or griping from Greenpeace or environmental groups. I can assure you that no national parks or wilderness areas were harmed in the blogging of this blog.

Recently, a business associate recommended I watch “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” a documentary by Ken Burns of “Unforgivable Blackness” fame. Nature and I have enjoyed a tenuous relationship at best, but I decided to give it a go. I expected to learn about the history of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the rest of what are America’s most popular vacation destinations. What I didn’t expect was to learn the landscape of my own soul.

The documentary, six DVDs total, tells the long, intricate story of all that went into the creation and maintenance of America’s national parks. There were so many beautiful tales interwoven of the people who sacrificed so much to make sure these scenic wonderlands could be preserved for successive generations. I don’t expect to shed tears when watching nature documentaries, but there were sections of the series, especially the story of John Muir and his relationship with his wife, that moved me so much I went through a whole sequoia’s worth of Kleenex.

I have been hiking a sum total of three times, and all three times, I felt terribly on edge. There has always been something about being out in nature that has made me feel ill at ease. I had chalked that feeling I experienced on the hikes up to different things, but after watching the National Parks documentary, I decided to explore the uneasiness a little closer.

It’s not that I didn’t like the outdoors. I have fond memories of camping and fishing as a kid. However, there has always been something about the outdoors that has both delighted and terrified me. As I prayed about it one night, I was reminded of Matthew 6:25-32 (The Amplified Bible) “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life? And why should you be anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field and learn thoroughly how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his magnificence (excellence, dignity, and grace) was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all.”

And therein laid my problem: I had trouble with nature because it convicted me of my fear of rest and inability to trust God. The birds and the lilies do not strive to muster God’s attention or merit His favor, and yet He takes care of their every need. How often I work myself up into a frenzy of emotions, good works, what have you, so I can feel that I’ve earned the right to God’s love and God’s provision, forgetting too often that God loves me for who I am as his child and not what I do. Nature has no anxiety nor exhibits no care. Nature rests in the fact that the Father of Creation will tend to its every need. That rest not only scares me, but it shames me.

It shames me because, according to Psalm 8, with as glorious as Creation is, God has made man—which includes me—ruler over the works of his hands, and has put everything under our feet. The sun and the moon rise and set at their appointed times with startling faithfulness, yet I, the one God has chosen for his bride, am defined by my unfaithfulness. The canyons and river valleys readily and fully submit to the carving and the purification of the rushing waters, but I, who God refers to as clay in the potter’s hands, fight him every step of the way. Nature keenly observes the times and seasons allotted to it, and moves, adapts, and morphs as God instructs, but I, who is called by God to be his servant and mouthpiece, vacillate and waver, always asking and second-guessing him as to his timing and his ability to sustain me in different circumstances.

I don’t see nature the same now. What was once a source of tension has now become that trusted friend who, though wounding me at first, has proven himself a trusted ally. When I look at the mountains from my window, and see the deer darting across a busy thoroughfare, I am freshly reminded to rest in God’s love, promises, and purposes for me. Once my knees get better, I plan to go for a hike, a solo one, so that maybe I can learn a little more the art of rest that the rest of God’s Creation seems to have down pat.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lentils and the Valley Girl by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Hungry

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from the State of Indiana or any irate Hoosiers who think I’m making fun of the state. The fact that Indiana has a 3 to 1 pig-to-person ratio, in the pigs’ favor, was one of the very things that drew me to move there in the first place.

In August of 1992, I moved from New Jersey to Indiana to go to college. In 2000, I moved from Indiana to my present location in Tennessee. In April, I had flown to Indiana to see an old friend graduate from college. The time on the plane gave me a lot of time for reflection. I remember looking out the window of the plane as we approached Indianapolis. The time was well after 11 p.m. and the intrusion of the city lights into the night sky had me mesmerized. I would liken it to a giant spider web up against slate, with each strand of the web set ablaze to emanate the loveliest amber glow. I did not find my first impression of the Hoosier State almost twenty years ago nearly as enchanting, but then again, I am thankfully not the same person. I came to Indiana fresh out of high school, an arrogant, know-it-all, snot-nosed, bratty girl. After eight years of letting God work out many of the kinks in my character, I am happy to say I am now the arrogant, know-it-all, snot-nosed, bratty woman my readers see today. *grin* In all seriousness, though, on this recent visit, I was reminded of two very important lessons God taught me during the eight years I had lived there, lessons I work to keep at the forefront of my mind.

The Lesson of the Lentils (Sacrificing Future Blessing for Immediate Gratification)

The Bible is full of stories about those who gave up on God’s Plan for their lives because they didn’t want to wait. Genesis 25 tells the story of how Esau sold his birthright as firstborn son to his younger brother Jacob in exchange a bowl of lentil soup. Several generations later, the Israelites, after they had left slavery and bondage in Egypt, grew restless in the desert and despised the journey which God had planned for them. They forgot that they were God’s chosen people. They forgot all the wonderful miracles God had done in their midst. They despised the Promised Land—their birthright, if you will—because the journey to get there was harder than they initially thought. So they murmured to God and dared voice the idea that they were better off in Egypt.

The problem with impatience and unwillingness to wait on God’s promises is it condemns us to a life of the commonplace and tortuous and to mind-numbing drudgery. Esau’s desire for a regular meal made him forfeit the opportunity to be father of God’s peculiar people. The Israelites’ desire to have what they wanted to eat when they wanted to eat it cost them their legacy, their land, and their lives. They longed for the every day food they had grown accustomed to in Egypt instead of the supernatural sustenance God provided for them in the desert. Elisabeth Elliot said in her book Passion and Purity, “Through affairs of the heart, God uncovers our true intentions: '...whether or not it was in your heart to keep his commandments. He humbled you and made you hungry; then he fed you on manna...' But it was not manna the people wanted. It was leeks and onions and garlic. It was meat and bread, wine and oil--ordinary food.” Leeks. Onions. Garlic. Meat. Bread. Wine. Oil. Lentils.

Why did Esau and the Israelites forsake so much in exchange for so little? They all claimed they did so because they were starving. How many times do we say “I’m starving” when we’re really not? How many times do we make a matter of instant gratification the end of the world when it’s not? Would Esau really have died if he hadn’t eaten that bowl of soup? Will we really die if we don’t have sex right now, instead of waiting for the time and context in which God says sex is the most satisfying? Will our whole world really come crashing down on us if we don’t “make something happen” when God has told us to wait concerning the matter?

New Jersey was my lentil stew; New Jersey was also my Egypt, the place I would’ve gladly stayed because to live in slavery seemed easier than waiting and walking all the time it would’ve taken to get to the Promised Land. I could’ve let immediate gratification prevent me from obtaining long-term holiness and maturity; the pleasure of the latter two would sustain me long after the savorings of a quick meal, which would’ve fed my body but killed my spirit.

Valley Girl (Sacrificing God’s Calling for Fear of Suffering)

I hated Indiana. My first three months there were quite miserable. I could only find fault with my surroundings. One of the things I hated most about it was how flat it was. I was situated in the river valleys of Allen County, Indiana, and I longed for the mountains in New Jersey, which I loved to drive up every chance I got. My bad attitude about where God had placed me continued until I went back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving. I can’t say that New Jersey was a different place, but I had become a different person. During that week, I remembered very clearly all the reasons I had left New Jersey in the first place. Being back in Egypt, in the presence of Pharaoh and his slave drivers, reminded me that even the most foreign and strange of territories, like the corn fields of Indiana, was better than being demoted again to a slave.

When God told me that I would be in Indiana long term, I asked him why. He said I needed to be broken. He said I had many wounds in me, wounds that were like infected splinters all over my body. He said He was going to remove all those splinters in me one by one, and Indiana was the place to do it.

That was hard. The bareness of the landscape did not help. Then one day, I read a story in the Bible I had never seen before. In 1 Kings 20, the Israelites are attacked by the Syrians, but quickly defeat them. The Syrians tell their king, “Israel’s God is a god of the hills. That is why, since we fought them in the hills, they defeated us. However, if we fight them in the plains, surely we will defeat them.” Then God sent a messenger to the Israelites and told them, “Because the Syrians say I am a God of the hills but not a God of the valleys, when they attack you again, I will surely defeat them.”

I had learned to trust God in the hills of New Jersey, where all was familiar and simple to me. I had not learned to trust God in the plains of Indiana, where I did not have a grip on anything. God had to prove to me that He was God in my life everywhere, in the easy places and the difficult.

One day after a period of particularly rough testing, I was driving through the plains and along the edge of one of the many Indiana river valleys. I commented to myself how flat it was in the valley. God said to me, “Yes. You are here in the valley because this is where the really fertile soil is.”

The view is pretty and comforting from the mountaintops. However, the air is also thinner, and it is harder for life to grow. The valley, the flat places, is where the earth is richest, and can foster growth the easiest. At the time, I didn’t need a picture-postcard view of the world. I needed to fall into the ground like a grain of wheat and die so that I could be brought to eternal, abundant life.

So, these were the lessons of the lentils and the valley girl. When I went to visit Indiana a few weeks ago, I was coming from a different kind of Egypt, another bowl of lentil soup, something God had been telling me to give up for a long time. I had exaggerated my hunger. The temptation to stay in Egypt was overwhelming. Leaving that Egypt felt like death. I remembered, though, that I am called to pick up my Cross and die to myself every day. I remembered, too, that the death in the fertile soil of the valley beyond the Red Sea is always in exchange for a deeper, abiding, greater life in Him.

In the other Egypt, too, I felt it. I felt the cracks of the whips of Pharaoh’s taskmasters on my back, making their insatiable demands and offering me nothing in return except a life of slavery. I felt torn between the familiarity, but drudgery, of Egypt, and the valley, which God once again was asking me to cross. I come from a long line of compromisers, ones who fear the valley and the pruning it demands of its residents. Jesus reminded me, though, that I have been redeemed from the fruitless way of living passed down to me by my forefathers, not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, and if I chose to stay in Egypt, to live only once, but die twice, then I was essentially acting as if Christ died for nothing.

I did not start my initial exodus from Egypt alone. The number of pilgrims gets smaller and smaller all the time, though. Some never crossed the Red Sea. Some have crossed many times, but always run back due to fear. Some are still wandering the desert, because they’re so hung up on the lack of lentils they are missing the glory and wonder of the manna, as well as the privilege of being hand-fed by God. Still others have reached the Promised Land, but in their minds and hearts have never left Egypt.

Two things I have learned in Indiana were to not only go for the Promised Land, but to embrace the purification process in the time I spend journeying to the Promised Land. The Israelites despised God’s promises out of fear and a desire to be like the heathen nations around them. Esau forsook his birthright for a bowl of soup. However, I am not a daughter of Esau. I am a daughter of Jacob. He wasn’t afraid to embrace God’s promises. He wasn’t afraid to wrestle with God in order to gain a new name and a new heart. As for me? Well, I want to be just like my dad.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Bloodhound by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Humbled

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from Old Testament scholars accusing me of dissing Leviticus. On the contrary, my hope is to increase its reader traffic and finally give the book the street cred it deserves.

Most Christians and Jews I know read through the Bible/Tanakh each year. My close cronies and I usually dread when we happen up on the Book of Leviticus. The book is a bit of a cross between an annotated legal code and a horror novel. There are nonstop rules, codes, and statutes, along with exceptions to the aforementioned. For those who have never read it, nor have plans to, let me try to replicate some of the themes in a modern fashion to give you an idea of the overall theme of Leviticus’s contents:

“If man steals his neighbor’s Sony PSP, the man shall be required to compensate his neighbor sevenfold. If he stole the PSP on the Sabbath, he shall repay his neighbor fourteen fold. If he stole the PSP on a holy or feast day, he shall repay his neighbor a hundredfold. If it was a holy or feast day AND the Sabbath, the man shall have his right hand cut off, but he can keep all his money. However, if the man stole his neighbor’s PSP by accident (it fell into his grain sack while he visited his neighbor, and no one saw it), he shall run to the nearest city of refuge, where he will be safe until he can stand before the High Gaming Priest. Then, whether he stole the PSP by accident or on purpose, he shall sacrifice a Tickle Me Elmo doll and a flock of Chia Pets. If he cannot afford a Tickle Me Elmo doll and a flock of Chia Pets, he may instead offer a Beanie Baby. If he cannot afford a Beanie Baby, he may offer an apple pie, topped with Cool Whip. Also, if a man steals his neighbor’s Nintendo DS, no punishment will befall him, as he has saved his neighbor from an inferior handheld gaming experience.”

And that’s the gist of it. Some peruse the third installment of the works of Moses and see nothing more than an antiquated rulebook of a theocratic society with no relevance to today’s world. When I got around to Leviticus in my yearly Bible reading this year, I expected I would feel the same way about Leviticus as I always had: I would be overwhelmed by the ancient legal mumbo-jumbo and freaked out by the stories in which God rolled out the death penalty for just about everything, and in grand fashion (not unlike the State of Texas today). This go around was different, however. Very different.

As I read each scheduled section for each day, I was reminded, as always, of the extremely tedious nature of the book. For the first time, however, I finally made its connection with the tedious nature of sin. Our rebellion against God and our transgressions from His Law always have consequences much more involved and far-reaching than we realize when we choose to sin. Although God fully and freely grants us forgiveness the moment we offer to Him total and sincere repentance, the repercussions of our actions more often than not have consequences that we must still contend with long after the fact. The procedures for righting wrongs in Leviticus are long, involved, and cumbersome. Maybe one of the whole points of having the whole thing written down for us to read even today is so we would see, in light of the procedure to set things right when we sin, that it is just better not to sin in the first place.

One day I was reading a certain passage in Leviticus that talked about various animal sacrifices. My dog Bruno was sitting at my feet. I love Bruno very much. He is not just a pet, he is a companion. I thought for a moment what it would’ve been like if I lived in the times of Leviticus. What if I had sinned and had to sacrifice Bruno in order to be forgiven by God? I pictured myself having to go to the tabernacle. I imagined having to turn Bruno over to the priest. I envisioned the look of terror on my poor pooch’s face as he was led to the altar against his will, looking back at me as if to ask why I had betrayed him in such a fashion. A flood of anguish came over me as I hugged my dog as tightly as I could, realizing maybe for the first time the cost of sin is never paid only by the person who commits it. (Now, let’s be realistic here, before anyone reports me to PETA, I would never sacrifice my poor, unsuspecting canine. He’s not kosher, for starters. Second, in light of Bruno’s own sins, God would require me to be sacrificed for Bruno’s sins before he would ever be accepted as a sacrifice for mine. I mean, Bruno’s crimes against the neighbors’ shrubs and the Nashville critter population ALONE—but I digress.)

In all seriousness, though, it is startling to think about the amount of blood required to atone for sins in Leviticus when it was all woefully insufficient to take away or forgive sins in the first place. Not only was the blood of animals powerless to forgive sin, it offered no assistance to prevent those who made the offerings from sinning in the future. Hebrews 10 says it all: “But [as it is] these sacrifices annually bring a fresh remembrance of sins [to be atoned for], because the blood of bulls and goats is powerless to take sins away[. . .] [in accordance with this will [of God], we have been made holy (consecrated and sanctified) through the offering made once for all of the body of Jesus Christ (the Anointed One).”

When I read Leviticus now, it makes me very happy. As I read within its pages the vast scope of the consequences of sin, I am reminded of the even greater significance and thoroughness of Jesus’s blood, a better (and final) sacrifice in that it not only atones for all sin for all time, it gives me the power to walk in mercy and obedience, which God said is more desirous to Him than the blood and fat of animals anyway. I am grateful for that perfect, complete offering of the Lamb of God. And, although he couldn’t tell you in so many words, so is Bruno.



Monday, June 27, 2011

The Year of You and Me, Part 4 by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Fearless. Refreshingly So.

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional. Yes, I have an active imagination. Is that so bad? It makes for good reading, and it keeps me out of the bars at night.

Dear Sharon,

It is a good thing I didn’t get your letter until after you were already gone, because I am sorry to say I might have tried to talk you out of it. That would have been very wrong, letting my desire to see you override your need to be obedient with the utmost haste. So, I am waiting for you with all the patience I can muster, and God is making up the rest, which is a lot, because I have very little when it comes to waiting to see you.

When I got your letter, my mind began to race. “What is it that she needs to do? Why does she need to go away? Why can’t she include me in it? When I find out the particulars, will I like what I find?” I took it all to prayer, however, and God assured me that all was well, this was indeed something He asked you to do alone, and that it was my responsibility to pray for you and stand in the gap for you.

I know you will be free. I know God will meet you with His strength as you meet Him with your obedience. I know all that, but that does not stop me from worrying. I worry because I want to protect you. I worry because I am not there to be strong for you. I’m not worried about you because I think you will fail the task; as I’ve told you before, you are much stronger than you think you are, mostly because you are so honest with your weaknesses before God, which always allows Him to make His strength perfect in them. Mostly, I am worried simply because I blew it so badly being there for you in the past. God dealt with me very strongly about how hard I was on you, and now that I am ready to make good on that, I can’t even physically be there for you for something for which I know you need a lot of strength. I am still learning to trust that God will protect all who concern me.

I have been re-reading the works of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. Their relationship reminds me so much of ours. They were so different and seemed like such an unlikely couple. However, they had a much rougher go of than we have had in many ways. The not knowing if they were to marry at all, let alone marry each other. Then having to wait five years to be together, and having so many obstacles come in the way during the wait. I came across a letter he wrote to her. She had written to him about a creepy man who hit on her on a public bus while they were separated and how much it scared her. Jim’s letter encapsulates what I feel right now better than I could:

“September 27, 1952—I found myself tearing into small stumps and cutting [the trees and brush] out with one hack, thinking about it on the airstrip a few days ago. And reading it again today, I found the little ball muscles at the jaw bulge and my teeth clench hard as I pictured it. I am afraid there would have been a scene for sure if I had been on hand, Bett—so it is probably better that I wasn’t along, although it probably wouldn’t have happened had I been. But what devils me is that he evidently rides the bus line frequently, and it may happen any old day again. It would be maddening but for the trust that I have in God for you. Time and again I have committed the very matter to Him, knowing better and fearing more male passions than yourself. And I am thankful that you are all that you are for such cases, that I can trust you, even if the man isn’t ugly next time, and that such things find you, though disgusted and a little afraid, firm and resolutely resistant. And I know that He who has so far preserved us for each other will yet do so, Bett, and for the endurance, make the realization so much the sweeter.”

I trust you, Sharon. I trust you because you trust in God for everything. I trust you because of your honesty. I trust you because you trust me the way you do. That is why I can be at peace while I wait a little longer for you than I had hoped, because neither God nor you have given me cause to think otherwise.

There are just a few things I want to say. First of all, I don’t want you to feel ashamed because of how hard you had to struggle to overcome the fears in your life. Do not confuse feeling afraid with being fearful. Satan will stir up our emotions and make us think because we feel afraid, we have already failed the task and disappointed God. Being fearful is letting those feelings keep us from being obedient. Courage is not the absence of fear but perseverance in spite of it. Be mindful, too, that not all fear is ever abolished all at once, at least not for most people. When God told the Israelites to posses the Promised Land, they couldn’t do it all at once. They did it one portion at a time, growing in strength and determination with each successive conquest.

Next, I want you to know that I see the beauty and glory of God in you. From what you’ve told me, and also from what you haven’t, I know it is a struggle for you to see those things in yourself. I can’t say it to you often enough, though. You are lovely. I love the way your face lights up when God has revealed something special to you, particularly if His revelation caught you off guard. The way your eyelids get heavy because you’ve poured yourself out serving someone in need. How you’re not afraid to correct me when I need it, and how you’ve humbly born correction from me in return. The way your love for me, trust in me, submission to me, and forgiveness of my failings have been a constant reminder that the whole of God’s work in and calling on my life are greater than the sum of my shortcomings.

I will be waiting anxiously and prayerfully for your return. When the time comes, and it can’t arrive too soon, I will take you in my arms, bury my face in your neck, and breathe you in until my lungs explode. Do not be afraid as you obey what God has commanded. While apart a little longer, I will be praying on my end, staying on my face before the throne, because you are mine, and you are a joy and a thrill to cover with prayer, and, as you told me, you are so worth it.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Year of You and Me, Part 3 by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Hopefully Romantic

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional. Just please don’t tell my landlord this may be a work of fiction. He told me the Landlady and he want to turn my apartment into a rec room for Landbaby when he turns 16 in 13 years, so I must get married by then, or my landlord will shoot me. Tennesseans subscribe to a very distinct brand of tough love.

Dear BKR,

I read your letter. Then read it again. Then a third time. Then I put it under my pillow so I could absorb it by osmosis while I slept. (Just kidding. You and I both know I don’t sleep…much).

In all seriousness, there is something I have to tell you. I know we’ve gone a year apart, and we’ve been obedient to what God told us, but I must do something before I can see you again. I will be gone for a few weeks, and then, I promise, I will come back to you.

There is something in my life I have not surrendered to God. I have made excuses, tried to rationalize it, but I have learned the hard way that when it comes to following God, He does not allow for backup plans or escape routes. As you have said to me so many times before, obedience must be full and immediate to even deserve the word.

I have not been obedient in this regard. I have wanted to go to the Promised Land while still keeping a foot in Egypt, just in case. At its core, it is a fundamental fear and distrust in His goodness, in His heart towards me, that I must have contingencies in place should His love for me waiver, His will for my life be thwarted, or His arm somehow get shortened.

Fear is an effective, yet death-dealing long-term motivator. I am sorry to report that I have let fear, in its various modes and manifestations, be more of a guiding force in my life than God Who, by His Perfect Love, one of the ways in which He defines Himself, has promised to cast out all fear.

Over the summer, as I tried very hard to process all that had passed between us, I began to see a new counselor. I shared with her many of my insecurities about being a godly woman. She asked me a very pointed question: what did I think the Bible said being a godly woman looked like? What popped into my head was not what I had expected. I told her, “Being at rest.” I recalled much of what the writer of Proverbs 31 and the Apostle Peter said about godly wives. She smiles at the future. Her heart rests in her husband. She is a true daughter of Sarah if she does what is right and doesn’t give way to fear.

I have not known how to rest. I have not been able to quiet my mind. The Word says I am to take my thoughts captive, but instead, I have let my thoughts take me captive. I have suffered the “paralysis of analysis,” which stems directly from fear.

Several weeks ago, I went through one of the worst bouts of insomnia I can remember. I went 72 hours without being able to sleep. As I asked God what was happening, and why none of the things I was doing to be able to sleep worked, it dawned on me that the sleeplessness in my body was a reflection of the restlessness in my spirit.

I have to make the steps necessary to see these fears broken. If my heart cannot rest in God, it cannot rest in you, either. My ancestors were never able to enter the rest of the Promised Land because, in their hearts and minds, their fears had them still bound in Egypt. The agony and exhaustion of staying enslaved has finally overcome the fear of the unknown. What I know now, though, is that it only unknown to me, not to God. And I know that God’s plans for me, whatever they may be, are always for my good and for His glory, so I needn’t worry about the particulars of how it’ll come to pass. I want to love and serve you from a heart full of faith and trust in the Husband of Whom you are a reflection.

Pray for me, as I get myself ready. God has promised me rest. God has proclaimed that Canaan is mine. However, I must still cross the Jordan. I must still make the effort to posses the land. His calling is so worth the obstacles I must overcome. You are so worth it.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Mystic Rythms by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Rush(ed)

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from any irate Rush fans. If Neil Peart, the band’s lyricist, is kind enough to leave his songs open to the listener’s interpretation, then so should all of you.

I began 2011 in a most joyful and unexpected manner: a kiss shared with a handsome gentleman (and I don’t mean my dog, Bruno, either). The last time I had a New Year’s kiss was New Year’s of 2000, and I think that was only because we were all so grateful the over-hyped Y2K apocalypse had failed to materialize. Needless to say, I had envisioned this year going much differently than it has, not just in the aforementioned kissing department, but also with a number of other things. Allow me to explain.

In December, as I prayed about what God wanted me to do in the coming year, I felt that getting in shape was to be a top priority. I enlisted some help from a trainer, who advised me, among other things, to use an elliptical machine. Since part of God’s provision was a free health club membership, I knew this was something I must do. However, I had not done well with going to the gym in the past, mostly because my health had not been up to it, nor did I like the repetition of the routines, which bored me to tears. I felt very strongly, though, as the New Year approached, that God really wanted me to press through with the new fitness regimen, and I thought this time around, it would be different, which it was. However, it wasn’t in the way I expected.

The New Year, along with the new exercise routine, brought some unexpected opportunities and challenges. I had a relapse with an ongoing health problem. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had stopped responding to the medication I had been taking for the last 18 months, and tests from my doctor would later prove to be inaccurate. I felt horribly weak and “foggy” in my thinking all the time. Several dear friends began to experience life-altering circumstances, which God asked me to help them walk through. A new business venture I felt called to embark on got off to a very rocky start. God brought some seekers into my life into whom I have poured a lot of myself. And in keeping with tradition, I lost an aunt I loved greatly and a dear friend within two weeks of one another. Life was once again full of triumphs and tragedies, with the tragedies, as usual, hitting all at once. As happy as I was to serve my friends and be Jesus to those who do not know Him, in many ways, I felt as if I was ministering from an empty vessel. Feeling emotionally and physically drained, the last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym and get on the elliptical machine every day. But because I felt so strongly that I needed to follow through with what I felt was God’s leading me to do, I went anyway. Turns out I got more than I bargained for on that one.

My first time on the elliptical machine, I spent 30 minutes, and when I got off, I collapsed. My legs became the consistency of whipped cream, except not as firm. I resolved, however, I would remain undaunted, and even if I didn’t accomplish anything else in the day, I would get on the elliptical.

About two weeks into it, my workouts took on a different tone, mostly because I got a new cell phone that had an mp3 player built in, allowing me to listen to music and sermons as I exercised. As I would crank the praise tunes, the workout room turned into the Throne Room, and as I pushed myself more and more physically to the tune of the goodness of God, the term “sacrifice of praise” took on new meaning. What I noticed most, though, was how I was paying more attention to the beats and cadences of everything around me. It began with the “whoosh, whoosh” of the elliptical pedals as they rise and fall on the wheel. What had begun as annoying pulse turned into an enchanting lilt.

Pressing into the New Year, and putting my hands to so many different ploughs, my time on the elliptical proved to be a prayerful, praise-ful refuge, and the meter of the machine’s movements continued to provide me with an unusual and mysterious reminder of God’s presence.

The year after I graduated high school, a friend of mine introduced me to the band Rush. As a band, Rush is loved and respected the world over for its lyrics and musicianship. Their drummer, Neil Peart, is certainly no exception. Many of their songs will go through multiple complex time signature changes, which, in the hands of lesser musicians, would sound like a desperate cacophony. However, they have pulled off these intricate rhythmic arrangements time and again in the duration of their almost four decades together as a band, and the beauty of the cohesiveness of such mind-blowingly diverse rhythms presented in the course of a single song never ceases to amaze me.

One night in recent days, I broke out a Rush CD. It had been a whirlwind of a day: the completion of my fireplace project, a minor car accident, news of my friend’s death, and an intense evening of ministry with a dear friend who needed to be talked down from the proverbial ledge. I listened to one of my favorite Rush songs, entitled “Mystic Rhythms.” When I heard the song, I felt that pull and that presence that, over the last few months, had become so familiar and soothing to me. Some of the percussion in the song reminded me of the rhythms of the elliptical machine. I thought back to the advent of 2011, and the sweet kiss that had filled me with hope. Then my mind regressed even further to my last boyfriend. One of my favorite memories of him was when we would stay up late to talk, and in those late night hours, when at times I felt frustrated, sad, or simply restless, he would pull me close to him, put my head to his chest, and I would listen to the smooth, steady beat of his heart. The sweet memory of a heart that at one time beat for me. The haunting, intrusive-yet-inviting syncopations of Neil Peart’s words and percussion. The almost tangible sensation and sounds of the elliptical circling under my feet. I was overwhelmed.

At that moment, I realized why something like the sound of an exercise machine, a noise which, a year ago, would’ve driven me crazy, had become for me a life line: the steady up and down pulse was an echo of the heartbeat of God. That heart which beats surely and steadily. That heart which beats in every season of my life, and no matter how complex, erratic, and out of control the rhythms of my life seem, that heart is ever vigilant to drive those syncopations into harmony with His, making my life a sweet, joyful song that shows the beautiful music is His doing and not mine.

Change is on the horizon for me. New ministry opportunities, both informal and organized, are opening. God is asking me to do something without telling me the purpose or the outcome. As I stand at the precipice, make preparations, and set my face to the wind, I hear that lovely rhythm in my spirit, reminding me that in the symphony of my life, the Lover of my soul is the Conductor, keeping perfect time, and resolving every downbeat.



Thursday, May 12, 2011

Getting in the Way by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Sober

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from the Department of Transportation or any kind of Motorist Safety Groups. Just to be on the safe side, however, I will state now: please do not attempt any vehicle stunts such as described in this blog unless you are a professional (or from New Jersey).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 9:25 PM. I was sitting at a red light at the end of an exit ramp off the interstate waiting to turn on to the road on which my job was located. As was my ritual when heading to work, I stared at the clock on my radio, hoping that if I focused all my mental energy on the clock, I could turn back time. As I once again engaged in this always-fruitless endeavor, I heard a crash. I looked up and saw a black pickup truck flying to the right of me, a large wheel coming straight towards me, and a Jeep Wrangler, spinning and flying, heading for the front driver’s side of my car. Even though the collision did not cause my air bag to deploy, I was convinced my car would not be drivable. A three-ring circus of law enforcement, emergency medical crews, wreckers, frantic phone calls, and emotional statements ensued. After about 30 minutes, my neck and back began to stiffen up, and I knew a trip to the emergency room was inevitable.

I waited patiently as the police and EMTs attended to one of the passengers in the Jeep who was very seriously injured. My eyes kept getting drawn to the small ditch on the right of the exit ramp, where the force of the Jeep hitting me could’ve easily sent me. The wrecker crew had to detach the Jeep from my car before they could assess the damage to mine; they were finding it difficult. One of the wrecker drivers asked me to try to start my car and see if I could back up. To my surprise, I could do both, and doing so allowed them to extricate the Jeep and get it hooked up to the wrecker. I then pulled my car to the side, got out, and walked to the front to examine what I was sure was going to be a giant eyesore. Instead, all I found was a cracked headlight and a dent in the front driver’s side quarter panel.

“I don’t understand,” I said to the wrecker driver and police officer who had walked up next to me. “Shouldn’t there be more damage?”

“A lot more,” the wrecker driver replied.

“You’re blessed, ma’am,” the cop chimed into the discussion.

“I guess I am,” I responded.

I drove myself to the hospital. The diagnosis was nothing serious: some whiplash. I missed a week of work and had to go to physical therapy for five weeks.

It’s been two years since the accident, and nothing has been settled. Although the police and all insurance companies involved agree that the accident was not my fault, they are bickering over who was at fault. Both the Jeep driver and the pickup truck driver claim they had the right of way at the intersection. In the meantime, I have still not seen anything for my lost wages, damage to my car, or medical expenses I paid out of my pocket. I was summoned to be deposed last week in order to go on record with my version of what happened. I set out that morning with a chip on my shoulder and a bad attitude, hoping the day would end with resolution and possible compensation. What I got instead was badly needed perspective.

First of all, my GPS went fakakta, so I had trouble finding my way downtown to the attorney’s office where the deposition was being held. Upon arriving, I made my way into the building’s adjoining parking garage. I won’t elaborate too much on why it took me almost 30 minutes to park my car and make it out of the garage, except to say I hope the crack smoked by the engineers who designed the parking garage was worth it. When I got to the attorney’s office, I found out that not only was I scheduled to be deposed, but the driver of the pickup truck, the driver of the Jeep, and one of her passengers were also supposed to be in attendance. The pickup truck driver never showed, which was bad, because everyone more or less believes he is the one at fault. This, of course, means that if his insurance company can’t get him to cooperate, I might have to wait to get compensation until Jesus comes back…or longer. Another problem is the driver of the Jeep and her passenger couldn’t even agree on whether they were trying to enter the interstate or if they had just exited the interstate when the collision occurred. As I sat and listened to the Jeep people give their statements and the three attorneys do their attorneying, I felt my blood pressure begin to spike, until one of the lawyers said, “The force of the pickup truck hitting the Jeep took off its wheel and sent it into Miss Lurie’s car. In fact, if her car had not been there to stop the Jeep, it would’ve rolled, and everyone in the Jeep could’ve been killed.”

The revelation gnawed at me for the next few days, sending me into loud, obnoxious crying fits. I pray all the time for God to use me, to make a difference in people’s lives, and to do things that will matter for eternity. I see now that my vision of being God’s instrument was very narrow. I was the only thing between that Jeep and a roll down into a ditch, which might’ve meant death. The driver of the Jeep was only 17 at the time, and her passenger is a wife and mother of four. I suffered a little pain and a little inconvenience. In return, a girl gets to become a woman and a young family is spared the pain of having its heart ripped out.

With the season of Passover and Easter upon us, I thought of how I was the flying, spinning, rolling out of control Jeep, and the Cross was the barricade between me and the pit of Hell that enabled me to pass over from death to eternal life. On that March evening two years ago, I got in the way, so total strangers could have another two years. On an August evening 24 years ago, Jesus got in my way so I could have life without end. I pray I will keep His Example before me daily, and get in the way of those who don’t know Him more often.



The Quake by Sharon Lurie

© 2010 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Historic

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I better not hear any complaints from any country musicians. I’m not making fun of you. I’m just trying to help my readers have good taste in music.

I despise country music. It’s not so much a style thing as it is a matter of principle. The way I see it, country music encourages inbreeding and illiteracy, and when I hear it, I can’t help but envision people marrying their siblings and drinking whiskey with cupped hands out of big wooden barrels. Just kidding, of course. Well, maybe not totally kidding.

My first encounter with country music was at the age of 18. I had moved from New Jersey to Indiana to go to college. A co-worker at my part-time job, a very sullen and melancholy girl, invited me to her house after work. I had wondered why she was depressed all the time, and after 20 minutes in her living room, I knew why. The music she played on her stereo the twangiest, most joy-zapping music I had ever had the displeasure of hearing. I finally looked at her and said, “This is why you’re bummed out all the time! Stop listening to this stuff! I’ve only been here 20 minutes and I want to jump in front of a semi! Put on some pop or Gospel! Heck, I’d even be happy if you turned on some gangster rap so you could get a little fight in you!”

My experiences with country music have only gotten worse since then. I might even go so far as to say that it is not God’s will for me to like country. I have many friends who tell me I just heard some bad stuff, that most of it is quite moral and upbeat, etc., but every time I say I will give it a chance and then turn on the radio, the country song I hear is either woefully depressing and downbeat or it’s describing some sort of activity punishable by stoning under ancient Jewish law. For example, after a recent lecture from a close friend about the virtues of country music, I decided once again to give it a chance. So, while at the gym, I turned on the country music video channel, and the name of the first song I saw was “White Trash with Money.” Like I said, I don’t think it’s God’s will for me to like country. So, when my friend Charlotte came to visit and asked if we could check out The Ryman Auditorium, nicknamed “The Mother Church of Country Music,” being the good hostess I am, I obliged and braced myself to have my ears assailed. I was cut to the heart instead.

Charlotte wanted pictures inside and outside the building. As I took a few pictures of the side facing Fifth Avenue North, I noticed a white inscription towards the top: Union Gospel Tabernacle 1892. I was intrigued, because I’d not before heard the building referred to as such. I was anxious to get inside and investigate the matter further.

After we paid our admission for the tour, we sat down to a short informational video about the history of the Ryman. Sure enough, the building had started out with the name “Union Gospel Tabernacle.” Thomas Ryman, a riverboat captain and saloon owner in Nashville, was upset because evangelist Samuel Porter Jones was in town, preaching repentance and the evils of strong drink. On May 10, 1885, Ryman went to one of Jones’s revival meetings in order to heckle the preacher. Instead, he came to faith in Jesus Christ and decided to build a revival hall for Jones, which would, according to the video, “make the sinners quake.” Indeed, the architectural design of the tabernacle is just as impressive as its spiritual and musical history. Ryman wanted the tabernacle to have the best acoustics possible so that Jones could preach to the greatest number of people without worrying about not being heard. The acoustics at the tabernacle are better than those of Carnegie Hall and are second only to those in the Mormon Tabernacle.

The tabernacle opened its doors officially in 1892, hosting some of the greatest evangelists of the day and seeing multitudes get saved. Following Ryman’s death in 1904, the building was renamed the Ryman Auditorium, and soon became the showcase of bluegrass, the forerunner to modern country music. Over the years, the building has hosted all sorts of musical talent and programs, including the famous Grand Ole Opry. The Ryman still serves as a musical and performance venue, but during the day, it serves as a museum that chronicles the history of country, bluegrass, and musical comedy. Even though I’m not a fan of country, I found all the history fascinating.

One little display on the bottom floor in the back of the pews caught my eye. In it were souvenirs and tokens from the various evangelists who had preached at the Ryman, as well as a chronology of the spiritual beginnings of the building. My mind began to race, and I wondered how the building went from being an evangelistic hall to a musical venue. I wondered if this was what Thomas Ryman and Samuel Porter Jones envisioned when the doors first opened. Captain Ryman wanted a place for people to come to feel the overwhelming presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the quake, if you will. What started as a vision for a gateway to Heaven is now just a museum that tells the story of great things that used to happen in the past but are now since forgotten.

My thoughts drifted to my arrival in Nashville ten years earlier. God had told me to move, that He wanted to use me to reach the lost through music, writing, film, etc., and I was all gung-ho. I was ripe for the challenge, empowered for the journey, and anxious to be an instrument through which He would work. Fast forward a decade, and in my place I saw a woman who was cynical, critical, bereft of all imagination about how God works, and too tired to try any more.

So many people come to Nashville with aspirations of becoming the next big thing in Christian (or country) music. We get all pumped up, excited to do music ministry and ready to endure persecution for the sake of the Gospel. In my tenure here, however, I have met too many who have abandoned all music ministry aspirations, and even more who have abandoned their relationship with God altogether. The circumstances that cause us to veer off course vary, but the heart issues are usually the same: disappointment with God and/or disappointment with people.

Over the years, I’ve swapped stories with others who find themselves not doing what they originally thought they were supposed to in Music City, and discussed the reasons why we gave up on our dreams, callings, or whatever name we assign them. For some, it was simply impatience with waiting for doors to open up. For others, it was the inability to support themselves on musical ventures. One co-worker told me the story of a song she wrote, and of the musical collaborator who took that song, sold it, and didn’t give her any credit for it, and my co-worker hasn’t done anything of a musical nature since. Another friend spoke of the hurt she felt while doing background vocals for a Christian artist, only to have the checks for her work bounce, and the artist never made good on them. Still, for others, it was the criticism received not from unbelievers, but fellow Christians who tell them their music or writing lacks any redemptive quality, or that they need to just “get a real job.” For me, it was seeing those who were talented but completely lacking in spiritual maturity placed in the spotlight, even though the way they lived their lives was a stumbling block to those they were meant to reach. It was the discouragement that I wanted to play anywhere, including jails and homeless shelters, but often couldn’t get any of my fellow Christian musicians to go to those places with me because they too often seemed only concerned to play somewhere they would be “noticed.”

Most people, myself included, had no idea the Ryman had any kind of spiritual beginnings or was anything other than a music hall. I’ve been here ten years now, and most everyone I know has no idea that I sing or write songs. How do we get so off course, not just from our musical dreams, but from what we once believed so strongly was our calling from God? My visit to the Ryman brought up an even more important question, however. For some people, it’s not just that they have abandoned what they once thought their ministry calling was, but they have abandoned their relationship with God altogether and now live a life devoid of joy and meaning. It is bad enough to forsake one’s vision, but even worse to forsake the One who gave us that vision, and called us first and foremost not to be His minister, but to be His Bride and His worshipper. For too many people, we have not only left our first calling, we have, as the Church at Ephesus, left our first love. It is a scary thing to find myself years down the road telling myself, “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.” It is far scarier when I hear myself say “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

I thought about my own journey, what I believed God said to me when I first moved here, and what He was saying to me now. How I was willing to endure persecution for the sake of the Gospel, but got blindsided because I didn’t expect the persecution to come in such clandestine fashion, from places I did not expect, people and places that should have been friendly to the Gospel. How I confused fickle, unstable man for changeless, immutable God. How Jesus said that no servant is greater than his master, and if I was to follow Him, I would at some point encounter the same trials and hardships He did. How God never called me to make a name for myself in Christian music, but called me to endeavor to make His Name a praise on Earth. These visions and ministries may start with what God places inside of us, but they’re never supposed to end there. Oh, how far had I strayed. Oh, how unrecognizable as a truly devoted disciple I had become.

Everyone who buys a tour of the Ryman is allowed to sing on the stage. Of course, Charlotte wanted to do it and make a recording to show her family. I thought, “Well, I may not get this opportunity again either, so I’ll make a recording of my own.”

With my phone’s video camera running, I took the stage and, because it seemed appropriate, sang “Revive Us, Again.” As I sang the song, all of a sudden, there it was. The quake. There were lots of sinners at the Ryman that day, and I couldn’t say with any certainty whether they felt it, but I certainly did. It wasn’t because I was impressed with delusions of my musical and vocal prowess. It was because of the Audience of One to Whom I sang, and the enormity and solemnity of the request I made to Him. “God, please revive me again! Bring me back to the purpose for which You brought me to Nashville, and which You saved me from my sin. It’s not about me. It’s about You. I have to decrease and You must be the One to increase. You are most glorified when my will and my flesh are crucified. I have lost my joy, my passion to serve, and my burning to see souls saved. Please revive me. Remind who I am and from whence I came.”

God gives us visions and calls us to different things, but it’s up to Him how and when those visions and callings are fulfilled. Just because He gives us a vision, doesn’t mean we can hold on to it and manipulate it to make it work out the way we want. Taking the reigns in such fashion is where we begin to lose the vision, our fellowship with God, and certainty of whom we really are. Most people in the Bible didn’t see the results of their labor in the LORD in their lifetime, but their legacies of devotion and faithfulness still inspire and transform people today. We often even pray, “God, such and such will be worth it if only one person gets saved.” However, not even that should be our motivation. Obedience and devotion to God are worth it simply because the One Who asks the obedience and devotion from us is worthy to receive them, and our willingness to give those things immediately and fully bring Him joy. In the end, it is God doing most of the work, doing the writing of the story of our lives, and speaking through us. At the most, we can say we let ourselves be His mouthpiece, and that is the way it should be.



Friday, February 18, 2011

The Year of You and Me, Part 2 by Sharon Lurie

© 2010 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Hopelessly Romantic

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and uninten…oh, what’s my problem? I should spend less time trying to protect others from embarrassment and more time protecting myself!

Dear Sharon,

You have no idea how excited I was to get your letter, as excited as an uptight, anal-retentive, overly-analytical, emotionally unavailable man can get. (That was me trying to be funny, as well as come to terms with certain character flaws I didn’t want to admit I had. Did it work? I really am trying. Attempting humor other than sarcasm is still foreign to me, so I ask once more for you to please be patient.)

You have been on my mind, too, so much so that I’ve found it hard to concentrate on little else. I know all the women at work are tired of me mistakenly calling them by your name. I miss you so much, in fact, that a few weeks ago, I made a journey to Cold Mountain, and I forced myself to look past the fact that it was mostly Englishmen and Australians playing American characters, that most of their American Southern accents were horrible, that it was an Englishman directing a film about the American Civil War, that is was filmed in Romania and not North Carolina, and that I probably couldn’t have watched the graphic love scenes if I knew that Jesus was physically sitting next to me (that was also a run at humor, mind you. How am I doing?)

Anyway, I wanted to tell you, I get it. I finally get it. Everything you said about being broken, when the reasons for and the end result of the brokenness aren’t apparent. What you said about things that look like detours sometimes being the most important part of the journey. What you said about the necessity of life and that relationships do sometimes get messy so that the beauty and order of Christ could really shine through. I understand, at long last. Inman was a much better man than I gave him credit for, and that you would refer to me as your Inman thrills me to no end.

Thank you for being so honest with me. Thank you for the honest and heartfelt apologies. Just from the tone of your letter, I know that God has done some big things in your life since we spoke a year ago. It’s time for me, though, to make some apologies and explanations of my own.

I cannot forget that huge argument we had and all those things I said to you. Honestly, when I think about it, it almost seems like it was someone else saying all those things instead of me, but it was me, and I must own that. I was so angry and so frustrated, but instead of being honest about it, I stuffed it until it consumed me and allowed myself to be cowardly and selfish, someone I hate. The look on your face when it was all over…it has haunted me over the last year. Even though we talked about it afterwards and I felt, at the time, I had made sufficient amends, I see now that there’s still a world of explaining to do. Since I last saw you, I have come to see how much anger I have pent up, that I don’t exercise nearly the self-control I like to think I do, and that for all intents and purposes, I became a fire-breathing dragon. I am sorry. There is no excuse, and I am working on doing much better in the future.

When I told you that you weren’t my first choice…I know how much that hurt you, and I’m sorry to say at the time, that was my intention. I know how many times people have told you they didn’t like you when they had met you, or they were surprised when you did something well, because their first impression of you didn’t give them much reason to hope. In this last year apart, however, I have learned something about my own judgement. Let me explain:

When I met you, you were working in the church bookstore. I came in and asked you about a book. I was taken aback by what a high-pitched, squeaky speaking voice you had, like that woman on that TV show that I refuse to watch. As you answered me, you put your hand on the counter, which caused the caster on the bottom to come loose. The counter slanted, and the cash register went flying into my shin, making a dent still visible today. At that moment, I would’ve been happy if I’d never seen you again.

Yet as I got to know you better, I realized that you were not the person I thought you were. You told me that I surprised you. I think of the two of us, though, I was more surprised. You say some of the goofiest, silliest things I’ve ever heard, and yet you can sit down and talk and write about theology, science, politics, practically anything with the best of them. You are silly, yet so wise. You are so funny, yet when the occasion warrants, deadly serious. You are a series of glaring, yet wholly cohesive contradictions. The truth is, you are constantly surprising me.

I always had a vision of what the woman I would marry was going to be like. She was going to grow up in a Christian home, have been home-schooled and graduated from a Christian college, be a virgin, quiet, sweet, supportive, never talk back to me, and think I was the most brilliant, strongest, handsomest, and Godliest man on the face of the earth. You fit some of that description, but not the majority. You grew up the hard way. You had to fend for yourself. You have the innocence and the purity of someone who was sheltered without having the privilege of actually being sheltered. In fact, if you hadn’t told me about your childhood, I wouldn’t have known, because you’ve always got so much joy, even when you’re depressed. Even though it’s been challenging to walk with you through some of the emotional stuff you’ve had to go through, I wouldn’t trade you for anyone. I’d do it again if I had to. And I’ll keep walking through that with you, because what I’ve learned in life is that we never fully overcome our hurts and fears, we just learn how to lean on grace when we need it the most. You have a purity that only comes from being tried in the fire. You have a beauty that only comes from being refined repeatedly by the Master. You have a wisdom and a strength to offer that only comes from letting God take you through the desert and back. So, all this is to say that what I wanted wasn’t what was truly best for me, and now that I know what is best for me, I see what I really want is you. What I mean to say is (you’re so much better at giving compliments than I am), even though you were not my first choice, I see now that you are my best and only choice. I would never have thought that the goofiest, silliest, funniest woman on earth would be my only hope for sanity and stability and focus to stay the course and fight the good fight, but I guess God knows better than I do.

I must apologize/explain something else, mainly when I told you to “get a grip.” I do not have the background you do. Yes, my family had its issues, as do all families, but I was pretty fortunate to grow up in a Christian home and have parents who provided for me as well as mine did. I didn’t experience a lot in the way of challenges. I’ve never had anyone close to me die. I’ve never struggled with my health. I’d also like to think that, even though you’re the one with the Jewish blood, I’m the one that was just destined to make money (heh!). Until about 15 months ago, I certainly had never experienced—how do you put it?—the collective @#$! hitting the proverbial fan. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to make everything all better for you, and be strong for you, and I didn’t know how. So, I got frustrated with you, and told you to snap out of it, and get a grip, etc., etc. I did a lot of thinking and praying about what I said to you, that I handled my own little “dark night of the soul” better than I thought you were handling yours. And then it dawned on me: the reason I got through my crisis as well as I did was only because of you. You never told me to “get a grip.” You always made me laugh, always helped me to see the big picture, always interceded for me. The truth is, you made me forget how miserable I really should have been in that situation, how miserable so many of my buddies had been in the same situation. You were a constant bright spot and always there for me. You didn’t let me feel sorry for myself, by any means, but you didn’t trivialize what I was going through. Then, when it was your time of difficulty, did I repay the love and kindness you showed me? No. I really thought all my advice and “putting you in your place” was my way of being helpful. I see now all it did was make your healing process that much longer. I was wrong, and I am so sorry.

I was humbled by that list you made of all the things you appreciated about me. It’s nice to know that, at least in your eyes, I got so many things right. The truth is, though, that I didn’t fight for you in one very important aspect, and that was I didn’t let myself feel your pain. I didn’t put myself in your shoes, nor did I try to bear your burden as I should have. When I saw you in pain, and crying all the time, I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted it all to end for you; not recognizing that this was something God was bringing you through for a very specific purpose. Men like to be strong. We like to be heroic and daring for the women we love. I would’ve preferred rescuing you from a burning building, or pulling you from railroad tracks as a speeding locomotive rushed towards you. That would’ve been very simple and straightforward. Since I didn’t see the way out for you and I couldn’t understand why all the textbook, spiritual-sounding things weren’t doing you any good, I felt helpless. When I think of being strong for you, I think in terms of fighting hard and standing tall. What you needed in this case was for me to lay my life down and get on my knees. I didn’t see that. So, instead of taking my fear and inability to help you to God, and doing the work of sitting at His feet and listening to what He had to say, I let it turn to frustration and anger and blame and I directed it all on you. In this last year, I have learned what it’s meant to walk in your shoes, and I’ll tell you more about it when I see you in person. For the time being, let me say I am so sorry, even though words will always fail to convey how badly I feel about how I judged you, or how I have been humbled in your absence.

I see so much of what you said when we were together was true. Underneath this bravado and sarcasm is an extremely shy and trepidatious man. When you pointed it out to me, I blew you off, but you were right. When you get past all my Bible knowledge and statistics quoting, at the heart is someone who really has no idea how to connect with people at the soul level or be transparent. I thought I did, but I don’t. You said to me, a little over a year ago, “You have no problem saying, ‘I used to struggle with such-and-such,’ but you have a big problem saying, ‘I am really struggling with such-and-such at the present moment.’” Now that I’ve acknowledged it, though, I can work on it and get past it. I wondered, at first, how you could’ve recognized that in me when you’d known me for such a short period of time. Then I discovered how shy you really are. How much of an introvert you are. Yet you apply yourself so diligently to talk to people, to empathize with others, and carry others’ burdens. And if you can do it, then I can, too.

You said that I was a picture to you of the unchanging nature of God’s character. I could write a whole book about how you’ve reflected God to me. The way you bear other’s burdens. The way you, like the Holy Spirit, speak such conviction to me at the moments when I least expect it. The way you seem to see right through people and can perceive what’s going on in their hearts, just like Jesus did. The way, even in the most exasperating situations, you can see how God is moving and working behind the scenes. How, even when I’ve seen you at your lowest, you will reach out to those around you who are hurting and speak to them of the goodness of God. How, with all you endured throughout your life, I’ve never heard you talk about being angry with God, even though I know so many people who have walked away from Him after enduring much less than you. How you are much quicker to talk about your struggles and the grace God has shown you than you are to talk about your talents and your successes. All the times I have been like Elisha’s servant, overwhelmed by the circumstances I saw mounted against me, and you have been Elisha, and you prayed that God would open my eyes to see all of God’s armies rushing in to my defense. You have been to me my ezer kenegdo, my desperately-needed life-saver.

I could write here all the things I’ve learned about God from you, all the ways you have blessed me and changed me, but I will save that for another letter. Let me say now, that I love you. I love you most ferociously. You make me want to be a better man, and you have already made me a better man. (And, at the risk of sounding selfish, I’m glad I’m the only man on earth who realizes how wonderful you are, because if all the other men ever caught on, I’d spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder and fighting them off!)

I am telling you now, you will not out-love me. You will not out-give me. You will not out-serve me. I don’t say that to sound egotistical, either, like I have to be number one. However, I am your covering. God has given you to me to lead and to love. And just as Jesus said that any one who wants to be first must be servant of all, if I’m to be the head of and high priest of my home, I know I must first set the example of being a servant, and a giver, and a lover.

You are lovely. You have such amazing, big mood-ring eyes that change color and are so full of wonder and amazement yet can burn a hole right through me when I get out of line. You are my Godly, virtuous, beautiful, wise, funny, selfless super hero! (I hope that came out right. It seems like whenever I try to compliment someone, it always comes out sounding like an insult. I’m still working on it.)

I’ll be your Inman if you’ll be my Ada. I’ll be your Johnny if you’ll be my June. I’ll be your George if you’ll be my Gracie. I’ll be your 86 if you’ll be my 99. Most importantly, I’ll be your Boaz if you’ll be my Ruth.

Inman risked imprisonment and death to walk 250 miles to get back to Ada. He didn’t know if she was still alive, or if she’d found someone else, or if she even loved him. God has given me a crash course in that kind of love and that kind of vision, and I want you to know you are worth every step.

I’m not the poet. You are, but I hope you at least appreciate the attempt. Mr. Inman and I have become good friends in recent days, and I’d like to think if he read this, he’d approve:


If it were enough
To stand here without the words
To stand and still be heard
And be heard rightly
And because it’s enough for you
I’ll let my heart speak loudly

That you bring out the poetry in me
You inspire a soulful symphony
That stirs my senses
Moves me past awkward silences
You make me see
Just how free I’m meant to be

If it were enough
To stand here without the words
Let you simply see you’ve stirred
This hope within me
And because it’s enough for you
I’ve found means to say it clearly

And you love me enough to take me as I am
But you love me enough not to let me stay as I am

That you bring out the best of what I am
You make me aspire to something grand
Break through my shyness
You’re the calm when I am restless
And of this I am sure
You’re the words I have been searching for


The End

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rumble Fish by Sharon Lurie

© 2010 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Cinephilic

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional. Well, maybe not any similarity, and perhaps not totally unintentional. It’s 3:35 in the morning and I’ve not slept in ages, so no one can say for certain just yet.

Who I thought was the hero
Was just a misguided idol
As I’m forged in the fire
I pray to be pliable

It’s fallen to me
To become that hero
But I can’t lead anyone
If I’ve nowhere to go

Maybe I’m wiser
Than led to believe
Maybe my troubles
I too acutely perceive

I could be free
If I only knew how
And be great if
I could shake what I am now

Happy only tomorrow
And chained to what’s been
I wear this terror
Just like a second skin

I can do anything
I put my hands to
But nothing my heart
Wants to attach itself to

Maybe I’m wiser
Than led to believe
Maybe my troubles
I too acutely perceive

I could be free
If I only knew how
And be great if
I could shake what I am now

My blind terror too often
Passes for courage
In victory so empty
It’s my own heart that’s ravaged

So this is my fate
To war with my reflection
For I’m blind to my color
Defined by my contradiction

Maybe I’m wiser
Than led to believe
Maybe my troubles
I too acutely perceive

I could be free
If I only knew how
And be great if
I could shake what I am now

Perhaps in what I do
And not what’s beheld in my eyes
Is where the source
Of my insanity lies

My idols have fallen
But hope, there remains a sliver
I can at last touch the ocean
If I can get to the river

Maybe You’re wiser
Than I was led to believe
Maybe my troubles
You acutely perceive

I could be free
If I only knew how
And be great if
I could shake what I am now

Would You open my eyes
To behold every hue
That I might shed the grayness
I’ve been beholden to

To know what I’m fighting for
And know where I’m going
To drown in hope’s current
With no danger of slowing

Indeed You’re wiser
Than led to believe
My heart’s burning troubles
You’ve thoroughly relieved

And so I am free
For You’ve shown me how
And made who I want to be
Who I am now

The End