VERY, VERY FRIGHTENING

Halloween

“Horror is the removal of masks.” –Robert Bloch

For some it’s heights, for others public speaking, and yet some simply fear the darkness. Arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces) and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) are just a few common fears.

Since it’s Halloween, I decided to share one of my most frightening moments. It occurred just seconds before this photo was taken and is the root of my maskophobia (fear of masks.)

By the hair, shoulder pads and tube socks worn scrunched down with Keds, you can probably tell it was late 80’s/early 90’s (Scared already?!) and the setting is one that still sends ripples of fear tingling up my spine: The Renaissance Festival.

They call it a “festival” but it is really a spread out freak show.–I know because I also worked there one summer as a “bar wench” serving up ales and speaking in “hazzaahs” to all who purchased. I got to know several of the “players.” For those who regularly work these “festivals,” it’s a way of life for them. After the “shows” of the day, they sleep in tents and trailers and move from town to town. They travel like a band of “gypsies” and live along the seams until the next festival where they don their garb and perform for the rest of the world willing to drop their $40 to watch, witness, and chomp down a turkey leg.

This particular festival, my BFF Colleen and I attended. These two masked “things” pursued us the entire day. They watched on as we shared a funnel cake. They stalked us as we checked out the overpriced dragon statues and Renaissance costumes. They followed us right up to the highlight of the day—The Puke and Snot Show—(still one of my favorites—if I could ever bring myself to attend one of these festivals again—they are a “must see!”) Anyhow, I was already not fond of those who wear masks (just ask Greg Chance about that Halloween costume that scared the pee out of me three years ago at Kelly & Sean’s annual Halloween Party!)and this wasn’t helping.

I digress.

We successfully avoided these maniacal pursuers until the P&S show. Yet, there they stood, awaiting our departure, and then resumed hunting us as we made our way out of the show. So, in an attempt to shake these two, we decided to have someone photograph us with them—(Genius, right?) Our thinking was they would be pacified and leave us alone. (And at least there would be witnesses and a photo of our last moment!)

Que up the music from the Halloween movies…dim the lights…

As we approached them for the photo, (no words were spoken between them and us,) they surrounded us with these crazy, big wide arms and wrapped us in them. Just prior to the photo, I decided to look my captor head on and “face this fear.” I figured there had to be a way for the person in there to see out. So, I scanned the costume for the opening. There was a dark metal mesh face plate and, heart beating wildly out of my chest, I looked into the darkness…I swear to you this “thing” behind the costume was scarier than the crazed clown mask it wore!—He/she/it had steely eyes and it opened its mouth just as I peered in, revealing to me a mouth full of fangs!

Yes, the photo looks like I am laughing, but who hasn’t tried masking their fear?!

I was scared out of my KEDS!

To this day, I awake from nightmares of this in a cold sweat, I see those fangs, I relive that fearful moment.

After the photo, I headed straight to the “out house” area (which seemed a lot less scarier now 😉 and didn’t come out until those creepy things weren’t looking. With eyes wide like saucers and trembling hands, I told my “bestie” what I saw. We bee-lined for the exits. (That’s what good friends do—They don’t ask questions and will RUN WITH YOU from whatever freaks you out!)

So, don’t be offended if I won’t accompany you to a Renaissance festival and please understand why I avoid Halloween masks—you never know what’s hidden underneath.

Happy Halloween.

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What’s Your Worth?

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Envision the Capital One commercial with the Vikings stating, “What’s in your wallet?”–
WHAT’s YOUR WORTH?

Niki Lauda, the former Formula One race car driver from the Ron Howard movie RUSH (a great rivalry movie!) = $100 million

John Wayne = $50 million (Even after he’s dead!)

David Baldacci, the author = $45 million

Gisele Bundchen (the Brazilian model) = $250 million (I picked the wrong career!) *tongue in cheek*

J.K. Rowling, another author = $1 Billion (Okay—Maybe there’s hope!) 😉

Angelina Jolie= $27 million (Even without Brad Pitt!)

Howard Stern and Magic Johnson are tied with $500 million each
(Data gathered from http://www.celebritynetworth.com & Forbes)

A few curious findings:
Pam Anderson and Nicholas Cage= $0 (Apparently some tax issues tangled them up.)
Also mind-blowing to me, the following people all filed for bankruptcy (some more than once) and bounced back from it:
Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds and Henry Ford.
(www.moneyreign.com)

So, the question: What are you worth?

I was 17 and grappling with what college to attend and what to study to obtain this so-called “success.”

So I began questioning people.

“What does it mean to be successful?”

Most people answered by citing a famous person they aspired to be like (such as those above) and all answers described the visuals of success: a four car garage with each bay filled with an Italian performance car, the climbing of the corporate ladder, the growing amount of their investments, the lavish amounts of time off and money to travel, etc.

One person answered different. It stuck with me. I will summarize what this very wise individual said, “Success is different for each person. Mostly, I think it is to dream and achieve those dreams, while living a life that honors God with those dreams.”

This didn’t help me in deciding on my college (Go BUFFS!) or what major to declare (not surprisingly I chose sociology!), but it did help me years later, when I was in jeopardy of losing the career and title I’d worked to obtain.

My identity and value was tightly wrapped around my work and how well I did it. “Ten minutes early is ten minutes late” was one of my mottos. I dressed for a position higher than I was in and always took extra training classes and afterwards submitted reports of what I learned to my superiors. Intense study and exams, several interviews, a detailed background investigation, drug testing, and a polygraph took months before I was hired by the police department. Then the full year of “hands-on” training were required (all on night shift) before I was certified by the State of Arizona. I loved the meticulousness of my position. I felt I made a difference in my work when I became the lead trainer a year later and, when asked, I held my head high as I announced I was a fingerprint identification technician at Scottsdale’s crime lab.

And when my situation changed and this was all in jeopardy of evaporating away, the proverbial rug was ripped out from under me. My talents, skills, daily duties, position, pay check and performance all came crashing down around me. Couple this with some health issues and a loved one diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was spiraling out of control. To say I was on my knees was an understatement.

But sometimes, on our knees is just where we are supposed to be.

I didn’t know where to turn, what to do or how to do it, but I knew I still had dreams. I let go of my need to control, released my need to know and, as those wise words about success echoed forward into my consciousness, I laid my life at the feet of the One who planted those dreams in me and the One who is always in control.

With the recession stripping many of their positions, their homes and their identities, this question of WORTH is on a lot of people’s minds.

What is one life worth?

Is it just about the $$$’s above, or about a title attached or possessions obtained? Or what the person can offer? What if that person is sick or very old? Or, very, very young?

Strip people of their millions, their talents, their titles, power, possessions and what’s left?

Is what’s left a life worth dying for?

Take it ALL away and you find out what you are made of–

“…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

–You are dust.

The loss of these “things” is no small matter. They are big, and deep and wounding things to lose. But we have a God who is bigger, deeper, wider and so much more mind-blowing-ly powerful.

“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”
-Lyrics from Gungor’s “Beautiful Things”

He makes good things from dust.

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6)

God breathes in, taking in the common element of oxygen, and exhales, emitting the stars and galaxies into existence!

And the same God breathes into us.

The same God, regardless of our dusty title, dwindling possessions, meager abilities, lack of talent, unrealized dreams, stripped power or embarrassing net worth, believed we were worth dying for; worthy of sending His Son to die on a cross.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

So the next time you compare yourself to “the Jones’s,” stress out about your pay check, feel hopeless toward job prospects and the slippery success you sought after; remember you are valuable.

In spite of your efforts, regardless of your talents or where you find yourself, your life is worth the death of a King.

BUZZ KILLS

by Any Murray andybadger at flickr.com

by Any Murray andybadger at flickr.com


Breaking the Cycle of Violence–October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

BEES
If you didn’t know they stung, you’d think they’re pretty cool. So daring with their wacky coloring, yellow and black—pretty auspicious to wear in the spring! They help keep the flowers beautiful, they create honey and bees’ wax and, in general, will let you go about your business unless you get in their’s. For most species of bee, after they sting you, that is it for them. They leave behind the maximum amount of venom along with their lower abdomen muscles and, as a result, they die.
Their legacy of pain has ended. They sting only in protection of their colony or in defense of their queen. Unless you are allergic (which I won’t go into here), your pain is temporary. Ensure the stinger is out of your skin, put some ice on the area and stomp an extra time on the dead bee carcass for good measure and cathartic release. Done. You’ll feel better shortly.

A parent’s disapproval can inflict so much.–Those crossed arms and that stern face. The down-turning of the mouth, like the weight of whatever you did will eliminate their possibility of them ever smiling again. Even when you are 30 or 40 years old, (and way beyond their grounding you for the weekend or taking away your TV privileges) a parent’s disapproval has power.
It stings.
In hindsight, I see the echoes of that face when I was in my teens and the height of my “wrong doing:” sneaking out, hanging with the wrong crowd, experimenting with alcohol…My parents saw their “colony” threatened and they reacted. The grounding, the lectures, the taking away of my boom box (the 80’s equivalent of an I-POD)—It stung—but it was temporary.
“Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)

But what if what is delivered is more than just a stinging disapproval?

WASPS
Yellow jackets, hornets and wasps are often confused with bees because of their similar daring springtime look, but they differ in vast ways. They aren’t called “angry wasps” for nothing! Wikipedia describes them as “social hunters.” Their primary focus is on protecting the queen, feeding her larvae and increasing their colony.
And, if you’ve been stung, you KNOW the difference. It hurts on a whole different level. It festers like an untreated infectious boil.
Yellow jackets, hornets and wasps have a slimmer, more lance-like stinger with smaller barbs, so that it does not dislodge at a sting, but rather they pursue you more aggressively and will sting you on, and on, and on and on. Even worse, the venom they leave in you marks you to their wasp friends as an enemy and, you know how friends are– they will follow the lead of their buddy. A legacy of recurring pain; and it doesn’t just go away, it lingers and perpetuates.

How do you stop it?

In researching the difference of these two summertime “buzz kills,” I found one answer in how to avoid the anger of the yellow jacket, the hornet and the wasp—
YOU RUN!

CYCLES
My college thesis was on the cycle of domestic violence: the abuse and abandonment– leading to the apologies and promises—rounding the corner on the cycle to the rest phase, which leads back around to escalation and abuse, once again (and on, and on and on.) Hollywood portrayed this cycle in “Sleeping with the Enemy” (Julia Roberts), “The Burning Bed” (Farrah Fawcett) and more recently, “Enough” (Jennifer Lopez.) Remember these?
I sought to gain an understanding of why people stay in this terrible cycle. My studies helped me to gather knowledge, but it left me in no way with a greater understanding.

Actually, it discouraged me to new depths.

Not only do the victims of abuse live in this cycle, finding escaping it too difficult or scary, they usually end up doing one of two things: they become the abuser in a next relationship, or they continue in relationship, after relationship, after relationship (and on, and on and on) with a new abuser at the helm of this ship on its often deadly course.
These wounds aren’t just “stings;” this is a legacy of violence.
What does it take to stop this?
I am not an expert, nor am I qualified to speak to most abuse victims-having not been in a physically abusive relationship-but I know about word-wounds. I studied the effects of abuse: low self-esteem, lack of feelings of worth, depression, substance abuse, cutting, and every other gamut of behavior that manifests when abuse exists and festers on the spirit.

How do you change the course of what must feel like a Titanic?

How do you dig that rudder in and change direction?

Maybe, just maybe, we take some advice from nature and in how to escape the legacy of pain inflicted by the wasps—We RUN!

Run to the arms of the ONE who promises to be “our refuge and strength, our ever present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Run to the One who you can cast your cares on because he cares for you. (1Peter 5:7)

One who promises He will be your rock and your fortress, and under the protection of His wings, you will find shelter (Psalm 18:2 & Psalm 91:4)
He will provide a way-a new way—a new course and new hope for your journey.

With His power, the cycle can stop.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phillippians 4:13)

There is HELP available.

BE SAFE. TELL SOMEONE YOU TRUST. ASK FOR HELP.

In the event of a life threatening incident, immediately contact 9-1-1
For other help, contact the national domestic violence hot line at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Or go to http://www.thehotline.org

LUCKY 13

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October is Breast Cancer/Cancer Awareness month.
Through FaceBook, Carrie Ann Coomes-Kemp shares her story and we’ve seen her “warrior” against breast cancer. Every day.
Saturday, October 5th we lost a friend, Colleen McEahern, to cancer.
Also on Saturday, October 5th, I gulped down tears (and a Coors light in Colleen’s honor,) as the Avett Brothers played Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away” :

“I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain’t got no rain
She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been”

If you have cancer, or if someone you love has it, every second of every day is Cancer Awareness.


She nearly died TWICE “on my watch” on two different trips to Arizona.

Very frightening for a granddaughter to see in her beloved grandmother.

She enjoyed long talks with the Avon lady, days at the hair salon with Desi, gambling at the penny machines “up on the hill” and anything with family.
She loved gifts, butterflies, shoes, the color purple, scary movies, buttered popcorn, chewy brownies, grandpa, angels, Jesus and, did I mention she loved gifts? 8)
Because we loved her so much, we all competed to give her great and creative gifts.

She gave me the very best gift.

Born October 13,1927, she would say, “Thirteen is my lucky number. It’s the day God placed me in this life.”

Before every NFL team wore pink in support of it, before Susan G. Komen made #savetheboobs a communal rally-cry and before every school had a “pink week” to raise money, my grandmother got her first (of several) cancer diagnoses. Aggressive breast cancer at 41 years of age. There was no 5K run in support. Her co-workers didn’t shave their heads to encourage her. This was before people were aware.

She didn’t drive. She carpooled with a “gentleman” to her government job. After she was diagnosed and began her treatments, (that she rode the bus to!), her carpooling partner explained he had to quit taking her to work because he couldn’t risk catching what she had.
This was before reconstructive surgery was “approved.” They took her breast, lymph nodes and so much tissue (including scraping a rib or two) that they developed a bodysuit for her to make her look “normal.” You could say she was the impetus of the original Wonder Bra!–She survived this treatment (from doctors and from co-workers) and persevered through many more cancer diagnoses and treatments. Eleven major surgeries in twenty years.
I never once heard her complain. Not even when she lost every single strand of her hair (which happened with Desi at the hair salon.) My grandmother fixed her jaw and stood strong while she watched as Desi wept.

Lucky 13?

The letter is green and hand addressed to me in Arizona and bears her characteristic, barely decipherable, chicken-scratch lettering. It is written on paper embossed with butterflies:
“…The rooms were great and I won just enough so that I didn’t have to spend a lot. Eleanor took $650.00 and I had $450.00. We didn’t want to carry that much in our billfolds so we devised a scheme. We hid it all in my fake boob behind and under my fake silicone boob. Eleanor called it our boob safe. I had a nice birthday and your mom cooked a great dinner for us as usual…”

She gained strength through every trial. She was an over-comer and had such humor about life.

I am 22 and we are in a red velvet lounger at a buffet in Las Vegas enjoying some special grandma/granddaughter time. I asked her how she could be so strong.
She said, “Your grandpa and I have seen so many of our friends and family die, we know each day here is a gift.”

Just after we nearly lost her in Arizona, they released her into my care so she could gain strength to return to Denver. She slept in my bed while I slept on the air mattress and brought her soups and cheese and crackers. We played cards and talked about life.
I had to know, “Did you see the light?”
She smiled. She said she knew where she was going. She was at peace. She soon would be with the Lord, but she remained because my mom and uncle weren’t ready.
She passed away shortly after her return to Denver.
She shared her attitude with all who would listen for 74 years before she “slip slided away.”
It was my grandmother’s “gift of gab” that endeared her to so many (and it was what drove us a little crazy.) One time I counted; she told me the same story FIVE times!
I would give all I own to have her back now and to hear one of her stories. But I know, deep in my bones, because of her faith, that where she is–sickness, sorrow and pain no longer pursue her. She is in the Lord’s presence.

What a gift.

An article from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association addresses this very thing, “Heaven is the place of perfect happiness — and one of its greatest joys will be our reunion with those who have gone there before us. God loves us, and He won’t withhold that joy from us!” (from BillyGraham.org)

“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away”

The next time someone you love is driving you a “little batty”—remember it’s these little things that make them so endearing; so treasured and so unique when they are gone.

Because of the free gift of grace offered in Jesus Christ, I know that one day I will be able to laugh with my grandma and hear her stories for all eternity.

Pretty darn lucky.

In loving memory of Nancy Sterkel 10/13/27-4/30/01

And in honor of all the Valiant Warriors who have and who are battling cancer.

WRECKING BALL

WRECKING BALL

WRECKING BALL

WRECKING BALL
“What happened to Miley?”

I know this is “old news” but I like to moll things over—

“For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45)

And, I’ve said it before, I just got on Facebook this summer—I’m a little slow to catch on.

Miley Cyrus–Everyone’s seen her visual transformation, the foam finger incident and then there’s the racy video she released as she floats across the screen naked on a wrecking ball for her #1 smash hit. (Pun intended.)
I’m guessing that the people asking the above question must remember her in her youth; her Disney days, her Hannah persona, the images of innocence.

No one asked this question about Madonna when she used sex for her image.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be raised by a famous father, constantly in the spotlight and also to have such talent. Her world is different. All that fame. All that pressure to perform, to be different, to be the next big thing. A totally different world.

“’If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’…those who heard began to go away one at a time”…(John 8:7)

I saw part of an interview with her father Bill Ray Cyrus on Piers Morgan Tonight. -(Also apparently old news!)-He asked him to comment about being her father and the “twerking.”

He didn’t raise his voice, yet he seemed pained and a little sad when he said, “That’s still my Miley.”
She is still his child.

I don’t know her world, but I had the same question asked of me.
My sister’s friend had just read my book, “grace.”

“What happened to your sister?” she asked.

She knew me in my college days. The days when my world was different.

Back then, I didn’t care what people thought of me. I didn’t know Jesus. I was breaking the shackles my “good girl” image and wanted to no longer be bound by shyness, insecurities and the labels put on me by my family, teachers, neighborhood, etc.
Behind the new care-free collegiate image was a girl who was taking control, re-defining her world.

I was going to be the wrecker of hearts.

Deeper down I was wrestling with some demons– My heart turned numb after being broken by the one I thought was true. My innocence slipped away on a dark unsuspecting night after too many beers. The two people I counted on for stability became embattled in a lengthy war of worth.
In those days. I was confused, directionless and envisioned no future for myself, so I was going to party like there wasn’t one.

That’s who my sister’s friend remembered.

I have learned these things: this world can break your heart (over and over again), AND every one of us has our stains.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

God understands the brokenness and wreckage of which we are so capable.

But these things I also know.

I am His child.

The light of Jesus shines even brighter in our dark places.

“Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)

I am worthy of my Savior’s death on a cross.

“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Cor 5:17)

Transformations take time, but I was pulled from my own darkened depths and know that God has good things planned ahead.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

But people like to cling to their images, their thoughts, their judgments. It’s almost comforting to trash-talk people living wild lives—makes your world not seem so crazy.

God loved me too much to leave me where I was.
What happened to me is He plucked me from my “wrecking ball” and healed my heart.

He is the One who sees you for what you truly are no matter where you are.
He sent His Son as ransom for our wreckage.
And He is still “in the business” of reconciling this broken world.

So the next time you are tempted to judge someone where they are at presently, take a moment–

Guard your tongue.
Check your heart.
And remember:

We are all His children.