Summer for me is sticky, mosquito-bitten, sleepless nights; days of sun-dodging and fan adjusting.  Sirens and building alarms punctuate the days and nights, reminding me that I’m in a big city.  The herbs I re-potted and set out on the balcony in May have overgrown and wilted from heat and neglect.  Summer is not my favorite season.

Friends greet me with, “Sono sudata,” (I’m all sweaty) and do an air kiss version of the kiss on both cheeks.  Many friends have simply fled the city for their preferred beach location.

I probably should, too, though not to the beach.  In addition to the physical suffering of summer, Italy’s beaches are now crowded and have other sufferings to add: sunburn, sand that gets into everything, and that itch of salt dried onto the skin after a swim, which requires another shower.

I remember being a little girl, no more than five years old, looking out on the Texas prairie.  The sight inspired one thought in me: “I’ve gotta get outta here!”  The first time I saw a mountain, I was in love.  I could imagine myself singing and spinning on the mountain like Julie Andrews.

These days I dream of a cool mountain getaway with Switzerland just a tantalizing hour away.  At the same time, the combination of heat and lack of sleep have drained all the energy to look for a place.  So I sit listlessly scrolling Facebook, asserting my right to complain about the heat since, unlike most of my fellow Americans, I don’t have air conditioning.

Two things have arisen to save summer for me: the visit of my son, Tim, and spending my time editing my new book.  In my last post I wrote about the pleasure of having Tim here (see Talk Italy!).  So today I want to focus on the pleasure of editing.  It is a process that I really enjoy.  The editing process appeals to the logical, orderly right side of my brain, and I don’t mind editing for others, either.  Honestly, there is an element of OCD[1] there for me.

Editing also requires me to re-visit things I wrote about months ago.  I love re-living those moments with all the humor and fun of the original.  It’s like looking through a photo album, only better because each memory is lovingly re-touched.  There’s nobody to point out the photoshopping because it more or less matches how others remember the event.  Each time the memory is re-told, new embellishments add shine to the event.  Old embellishments are tweaked and the event becomes more beautiful in memory than it probably was in the first place.  Truth remains true, and God’s presence is the central truth of all the beautiful, fun, amazing, and wonderful things that happen in my life.  My sunny point of view holds all the rest of the details in the best light possible.  That is the art of writing autobiographical non-fiction, or as I prefer to think of it: my life after God’s total life makeover.  God is good!


[1] OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, defined by Psychology Today as: “. . . an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. A person’s level of OCD can be anywhere from mild to severe, but if severe and left untreated, it can destroy a person’s capacity to function at work, at school or even to lead a comfortable existence in the home.”

Clearly, I don’t have full-blown OCD, but to one extent or another, many of us do feel a need to put things into some kind of logical order. For me, that need most often arises with writing.

Talk Italy!


I paid the translator of my books, Footprints of the Holy Spirit and Fingerprints of the Holy Spirit with an airline ticket to Milan.  The translator is my son, Timothy Brown.  Even if he wasn’t my son, I would want Tim translating my books.  He’s that good.  Tim graduated with honors from UNC Chapel Hill in Italian studies.  He has been spending his time here looking for work.  Summer is not the best time of year to find work in Italy, but he has had some success.

Tim has been translating articles for an Italian newspaper: Il Sole di 24 Ore (that link will take you to the first article he translated for them).  In addition to translation, Tim can teach either Italian or English.  He put in an application with a local coffee bar to work as a barista and part of his stated duties would be to teach English to the owner.  His application, though invited has never been responded to.  This is something I’ve noticed about Italy.  Often people have a desire to know English, but are not willing to actually learn it.  I suspect that the actual prospect of having to learn English has prevented the owner from hiring Tim even as an experienced barista.

In any case, I have been enjoying Tim’s company immensely.  We go on daily walks in the morning before it gets hot.  Usually there are a few errands to do, which dictate the direction of our morning adventure.  And along the way, we talk about everything and nothing and important stuff and nonsense.  Sometimes we fall into a comfortable silence, just enjoying the day in each other’s company.

Today’s outing was typical in many ways.  We made our first stop at the tailor’s, and then on to the print shop, talking and laughing the whole way.  At one point a man on a bicycle passed us on the sidewalk, turned and said over his shoulder: “Talk Italy!”  I have no idea how to respond, so I didn’t[1].  Again, it’s the Italian love-hate relationship with English.

Tim and I were on our way to Willy’s for an American-style hamburger.  It was indeed the most authentic (and therefore the best) hamburger I’ve had in Milan[2].  I love the whole “Italian as an American” experience.  I’ve always said that the places that most fascinate me are those little corners where languages and cultures overlap.  My favorites are Bolzano, Trieste, and Aosta in Italy and Bellinzona, Lugano, Basel, and Geneva in Switzerland.  Europe is full of these places, but of course, I am most familiar with Italy and especially these places that are no more than a few hours from home.

The day ended on a high note when Tim got a job tutoring English.  This is with my friend, Clarissa, who had contacted me for English lessons.  The three of us talked about how to proceed, and I suggested that Clarissa could take lessons from Tim.  She agreed, and they set an appointment to start tomorrow.  God is good!

[1] In truth, I had misheard and thought he said “Cock Italy,” which makes even less sense.

[2] Of course I’m excluding McDonald’s and Burger King, since they are American fast food chains.

The Social Responsibility of Social Media

DramaMINE - YouTube - Google Chrome 19-Jul-16 184550

Anti-Drama Pill

Last year I wrote a post called Social Evils Celebrated in Social Media.  In the year since then things have only worsened.  Perhaps this is in part because of it being a presidential election year in the US.  Or maybe it’s an acceleration of the decay of society.  I suspect that it’s a little of both.  It seems that narcissism has increased to the point where people will do almost anything for a little time on the virtual world stage.

But what’s the use of howling against practically all of society?  What really concerns me is the irresponsible way that some Christians have been posting these days.  I’m not just talking about those annoying political posts, full of outrage and their own gullibility—as if their candidate is God’s man of the hour, no matter how hedonistic his personal life is.  In fact, he may be God’s man of the hour.  But in any case, Jesus wasn’t political because you can’t solve spiritual problems through political means.  Let’s face it, America’s problems, the world’s problems are spiritual, and things are not going to get better until the day that Jesus comes back to reign over the earth as the King of Kings.

The posts that have me concerned are videos and news stories that fan the flames of racial or religious hatred, fear, and intolerance.  I found that I could no longer stay silent when I kept seeing a Christian posting these kinds of posts, finally posting a video of a black man cursing at police[1].  I contacted the poster by private message.  Here is our exchange:

Me:  Why did you post this?  Surely you don’t think this helps race relations.  Surely you don’t like the language or sentiment.  I’m not saying that I’m against the police.  Not at all.  But we need to stir each other to love and good works.  I don’t think this does that.  Do you?

Can you think of a more positive approach to supporting law enforcement?

Poster:  Showing both sides.  Truth.

Me:  Is this encouraging?

Is this edifying (does it build people up)?

Is this inspired? / Is it inspiring?

Does this stir up good feelings?

“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24).

Poster:  People need to be informed.  Not to stir up.  Not to pick out one thing, like some would pick out of the Bible to suit their purposes, and leave out others.  Several verses have been taken out of the Bible, such a shame.

Me:  [Was this last bit a slam at me?  I chose to overlook it.]  Look at some of the angry responses you’ve gotten on your posts lately.  [I gave a specific example of another inflammatory post.]  Is this bringing people closer to Jesus?

Poster:  Apparently you are living in a dream world.  Being tolerant and conditioned over several hundred years has gotten us this far.  [The poster then launched into a personal attack, which I will spare you.]

Me:  You’ve made a whole lot of assumptions about me just because I have pointed out a problem with your recent posts.  And you still haven’t answered my question: is this bringing people closer to Jesus?

Poster:  [Launched into a whole new attack on me, personally, which I will spare you.]

Me:  OK, you want to inform, I can respect that.  But is this information helping people find their way to Jesus?  I went back and looked at all the comments on both those posts, and I don’t see anything besides anger.

I will leave you alone if you want, but I just think we really need to be focused now that the end is so near.

Poster:  [More personal attacks.]  Don’t go by a few articles.  Don’t be fooled by being naïve. . . .

I suggest you pray for peace and pray for people to be able to discern the truth.  [A final personal attack.]  You’re not going to change my mind, because I’ve been there, where you are.  Going back and forth with me is not helping yourself or others.

Me:  I agree, going back and forth is not helping.  Thank you for being open to a dialogue with me on the subject.  [At least the poster hadn’t unfriended me from the start, as some have.]  God bless you!

Poster:  Thanks.

And since this is my blog, I get the last word on the subject.  So here goes:

Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” (Matthew 5:9, NIV).  Do peacemakers sometimes lose their life for the cause of peace?  Yes.  Just ask Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Would the world be a better place without peacemakers?  Absolutely not.

Contrast knowledge (your desire to inform others) with wisdom: “Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom,” (James 3:13, NIV).  I don’t see humility or wisdom in posting these things.  Instead, what I see is a desire to get a lot of comments, maybe to go viral.  “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up,” (1 Corinthians 8:1).

These kinds of posts are the Facebook equivalent to an appearance on Jerry Springer.  Some people thrive on creating drama all around them (perhaps, Poster, you are one of them).  We can’t afford to create or incite drama.  Drama turns deadly so quickly these days.

Finally, you claim to have a desire to inform people.  I don’t know who needs to watch a video of the police being cursed at.  Was I surprised that people curse at the police?  Not at all!  In fact, I can even tell you why he filmed himself doing it: he was hoping to evoke a violent or deadly response from the police officers, and get it all on film.  Bravo to them for not rising to the bait.  More than ever before, it takes courage to put that uniform on and go out into an ever-more hostile world.  They do it each day, knowing that this could be their last.  That is courage and heroism at its finest.

But let’s investigate this desire of yours to inform.  Who else sought to inform?  The defeated enemy, that’s who.  When he tempted Eve in the Garden, he could have rightly claimed: “I just wanted them to know that they’re naked.”

And when was the last time you informed someone that Jesus had paid the price for their sins?  If you really want to inform people about something important, there’s nothing more important than that.

The majority of my friends on Facebook are people that I actually know.  Sometimes I accept a friendship request from the friend of a friend.  Poster is a friend of a friend who I might have met at one point.  I honestly don’t remember.  The majority of my friends post things like prayer requests, media stories that we should all know about and be praying about, or thoughts and quotes that encourage others.  We also post silly stuff that’s all in fun.  But mostly we post the other things that encourage each other.  If Jesus had said it today, He might have put it this way: “out of the abundance of the heart the person posts to their page,” (Matthew 12:34, NKJV, paraphrasing and emphasis mine).

Let’s use social media to encourage each other and to pray for each other.  And let’s stay focused on the really important things: sharing Jesus with a lost and dying world.  God is good!

[1] I am not going to post a link to the video because I found absolutely nothing in it that was worth wasting half a minute of your precious life on.  It’s just a man hollering f-you over and over again at a group of police officers that are just standing around, talking.  He takes particular unction at the black officer and at the female officer.  It is revolting, in my personal opinion.

Day of Rage, Part Three – Stir up Love


Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works, (Hebrews 10:24).

It is with a grateful heart that I woke this morning to the news that the Day of Rage protests passed largely without incident.  This is because of our prayers.  I want to thank every one of you that prayed with me, changing the Day of Rage into a Day of Prayer.

Make no mistake about it, those (motivated by the defeated enemy) who wish to stir up trouble and violence will not quit.  Someday they will have their day of anarchy and violence.  But not today.  Thank God, not today.

Now I want to address those Christians who take their anger and outrage to social media:

What are you doing?  I understand that there are things in the news that make you angry.  But take those feelings to the Lord.  Let Him help you work through them.  When you post things to social media that make you angry, you stir up anger in others.  You’re allowing yourself to be used by the defeated enemy.  Don’t you know that?

Think before you post:

  • Is this encouraging?
  • Is this edifying (does it build people up)?
  • Is this inspired? / Is it inspiring?
  • Does this stir up good feelings in me?

If you answered no to any of those questions, then please pray before posting it.

And if you see posts by other Christians that stir up anger (the comments will show if it stirs anger), then for the love of God and others, please message them privately about it.  Feel free to use this post to point out the importance of not stirring up anger.

I’m going to repeat that verse above in the New King James Version:

Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, (Hebrews 10:24, NKJV, emphasis mine).

I believe that God used me yesterday to stir up love and good works.  And it felt good.  It still feels good.  Let’s really be salt and light in this world and get stirring.  God is good!

Augmented Reality?

I just read the craziest story about a young man who was stabbed while playing Pokémon Go.  I had heard of the game and seen pictures posted on social media, but really didn’t think much about it until I read that he continued playing, despite the stab wound to his shoulder, which required eight stitches.

Interesting number: eight—the number of new beginnings.  But I don’t think this is a good beginning at all.  This game represents a new trend in apps called augmented reality, in which your phone or tablet superimposes a computer-generated image on your view of the real world, resulting in a composite view: imaginary people or objects in your real world view.  I think this may become the thing that saves Google Glass, which hasn’t caught on at all so far.  Probably people just found it too creepy, the idea that they could be recorded by someone wearing Google Glass just because they were having a conversation while the other person wore it.

Google Glass at least gives the illusion that you’re talking face-to-face with a human being instead of both parties, heads down, gazing into their phones, as seen daily in almost every public setting where free Wi-Fi is available.  Thinking about Google Glass reminds me of the first time I was talking with someone wearing a Bluetooth earpiece.  In the middle of a sentence his eyes glazed over as he began talking about something way off topic.  It had taken me a moment to realize that he had just answered the phone that had vibrated in his pocket.  Me?  I’m old school.  I refused to get the call waiting feature until it ceased to be optional.  I still refuse to interrupt one call for the sake of another.  Perhaps I would if I were waiting for an important call, but so far I’ve never had that happen.  But I digress . . .

There was another young man in the news who was playing Pokémon Go while driving and plowed into a tree.  He was badly hurt, but lucky to be alive.  There was also a fifteen-year-old girl that walked into traffic and got hit by a car while playing (she and her mother blame the game, not her inattention).  Another fifteen-year-old was killed trespassing on private property while playing.  And two men climbed over a fence and fell off a cliff while playing.  The problem is that the game is highly addictive—but you had guessed that when you read that the young man had continued playing instead of going to the hospital, right?

Personally, I have no interest in Pokémon.  My younger son used to be into the Pokémon cartoons and collected the cards, but it was an interest that thankfully passed.  However, I do understand game addiction.  I was highly addicted to Solitaire, then Mahjong, Tetris, and Bomberman when they came out, and more recently, Candy Crush.  In fact, I had to take Candy Crush off my phone because I had stopped participating in my half of conversations with live people in the same room (thank God I had to come up for air and recharge the phone a couple of times a day).  So don’t think that I don’t understand game addiction.  It’s something I still wrestle with.  It’s funny, I smoked off and on through high school and college, and never got hooked on cigarettes, but these maze and matching games—yikes!  But I digress . . .

So there’s the addiction aspect that’s very troubling about Pokémon Go.  In fact, here’s an indicator for how addictive Pokémon Go is: it has surpassed pornography as the thing most searched on Google.  And I can personally attest to that.  Today I searched Pokémon Go something like half a dozen times on Google, and pornography zero times.  Of course, yesterday and all the days of my life up to the present, both were zero.  I can imagine that in the future, I might search Pokémon Go again for a future post, and pornography will remain at zero—I don’t need those images in my mind.

But that brings to mind another story I read, about a pedophile that used Pokemon Go to lure teenage victims.  There was also a gang that used the game to lure victims and rob them.  Although the game’s loading screen warns the player to stay alert about their surroundings, it’s obviously not safe to go walking around hunting for imaginary creatures by looking for them with your phone.

The mingling of the virtual world in our real world setting is also troubling.  People are hunting and catching monsters—how long before demons begin manifesting as Pokémon characters (if they haven’t already)?  There are demonic aspects to these cartoon monsters, after all.  Pikachu, for example, is mostly shown as a sort of cute little yellow bunny or mouse.  But you’ve got to be careful around Pikachu.  He’s got a nasty temper and the ability to throw lightning bolts.  Plus, the creator of Pokémon, Satoshi Tajiri, said that he came up with Pokémon as a way to rebel against his parents’ Christianity[1].  Tajiri admits that Pokemon is a satanic creation, so demonic manifestations are sure to happen in conjunction with this game.

Christians, it would be foolish to play or to allow your children to play this game.  This game has only been out for nine days as of this writing.  How many more people will be stabbed, robbed, lured by pedophiles, hit by cars, etc.?  God is good, and He gave you a brain.  Please use it.

[1] You can read the full article here: Pokémon Creator Admits Games are Anti-Christian, Aimed Towards Satanists.

Day of Rage – Part Two


Using and fueling the anger (some of it righteous and justified) of the American black community, social hacktivists have organized Black Lives Matter rallies all across America today.  Although if you follow that link to their events page, you’ll see that they have nothing on the calendar at all.  That leads me to conclude that there is probably someone behind the scenes, using BLM as a front for their own agenda.  And what would their agenda be?

  • Anarchy – If they can get full-blown anarchy going, people will welcome the next few points in their agenda:
  • Gun Control – These shadow powers want to disarm law-abiding citizens, making it much easier to control the American people[1].
  • Terror – Not terrorism, nor a war on terrorism (what is that, anyway?), but terror, as in fear. It works this way: get the people sufficiently fearful, and they will do anything to make it stop.  Look how well it has worked so far.  We have passively surrendered our constitutional rights to the terror-mongers in our government who can now spy on us through our phones, our GPS devices, our computers, our televisions, and from practically every street corner across the country and internationally.  In fact, if they deem you as a threat to national security, they can confiscate your property (house, car, bank account) and put you in prison in an unknown location—and all without having to produce any evidence.  Did you know that the government now has total control over the food supply?
  • Martial Law – With military control, they can go ahead and strip the American people of all their remaining constitutional rights. I believe that this is what was behind all the Jade Helm exercises last year[2].
  • Population Reduction – This is not a stated goal of this administration, but the 33,000 plastic coffins that FEMA has stashed away in Georgia (and how many in other locations around the country?) does not speak of our government looking out for our survival, but rather our disposal.
  • Secret Bunkers – There is a whole system of secret underground bunkers across the United States. Obviously, the reason they’re there and the reason they’re secret is because the elite want to survive the event that will fill up those FEMA coffins.
  • Global Currency and Global Government – The ultimate goal is global government of the elite over a slave class (that’s you, if you survive). This has been a goal of the Illuminati[3] for hundreds of years.  This is what they mean by a New World Order.

So what to do?  I’m so glad you asked!  I have an action plan:

  1. Pray – Nothing else you or I can say or do will be as effective as prayer. Bring God into the situation.  Pray as the Holy Spirit leads you.  If you don’t know what to pray, pray in the Spirit (tongues).  Or ask God how you should pray for this situation.  He led me to pray in some pretty interesting ways about this event.
  2. Mobilize Others to Pray – Multiply your prayers either by praying together with others or by encouraging others to pray (like I’m doing).
  3. Stay Home – If at all possible, stay away from the rallying places where protests have been planned (See Day of Rage for a list of places, but be aware that more may have been added since it was posted).
  4. Stay Calm – If you cannot avoid being in one of the rallying places, maintain your calm no matter what you hear or see. Remember that you have the power to choose your responses in all situations.  If you decide ahead of time to stay calm and have a loving attitude, even in the face of hatred, it will be much easier to do exactly that.
  5. Stay Alert – Unpleasant as all this stuff is, retreating into your own personal cloister seems very appealing. But don’t do it.  Especially when you’re out in public, don’t hide out in your phone and don’t zone out with music in your ears.  Stay present, stay in the moment, and stay alert.  Most of all, stay present with God.
  6. Watch your Words – Your words can be like water to put out the fire of anger (or fear), or they can be like gasoline. Choose your words carefully and wisely—both now and in the aftermath.

Be blessed, America!  You’re in my prayers and on my mind today more than ever before.  God is good!

[1] Please understand: I am not a gun nut.  I don’t even own a gun.  But the Second Amendment gave us the right to bear arms specifically for the purpose of allowing us legally to raise a militia against a hostile governing power.  Whether or not you agree that this administration is a hostile governing power, it is certainly doing all it can to disarm us.  Ask yourself why.

[2] Yes, I’m aware that this is among the biggest conspiracy theories out there.  But ask yourself: are you paranoid if people really are following you?

[3] And/or Freemasons, Bilderbergers, Committee of 300, Club of Rome, and possibly others.

Day of Rage – 15 July 2016


Using and fueling the anger (some of it righteous and justified) of the American black community, social hacktivists have organized Black Lives Matter rally all across America today.

Please be aware, stay away, and be praying for each of these cities:

St. Louis: 6:00PM: Gateway Arch, St. Louis

Phoenix: 5:00PM: EASTLAKE PARK, 1549 E Jefferson St , Phoenix, AZ

Tuscon: 5:00PM: CATALINA PARK, 900 N 4th Avenue, Tucson, AZ

Little Rock: 6:00PM OUTSIDE STATE CAPITOL BUILDING, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr., Little Rock, AR

San Francisco: 4:00PM CIVIC CENTER PLAZA, 355 Mcallister St, San Francisco, California

Oakland: 4:00PM FRANK OGAWA PLAZA, 1 Frank H Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA

Los Angeles: 4:00PM LEIMERT PLAZA PARK, 4395 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

Denver: 5:00PM CIVIC CENTER PARK, 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy, Denver, Colorado

Washington DC: 7:00PM OUTSIDE WHITE HOUSE, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC

Atlanta: 7:00PM OLD DECATUR COURTHOUSE, 101 E Court Sq, Decatur, GA


Orlando: 7:00PM LAKE EOLA PARK, 195 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando, Florida

Miami: 7:00PM GWEN CHERRY PARK, NW 71 St., Miami, Florida,

Chicago: 6:00PM RICHARD J DALEY CENTER, 50 W Washington St, Chicago, Illinois

Des Moines: 6:00PM IOWA STATE CAPITOL, 1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA

New Orleans: 6:00PM LAFAYETTE SQUARE, New Orleans, LA 7

Baltimore: 7:00PM 201 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD

Boston: 7:00PM MASSACHUSETTS STATE HOUSE, 24 Beacon St, Boston, MA

Detroit: 7:00PM Campus Martius Park, Detroit, Michigan

Lansing: 7:00PM STATE CAPITOL BUILDING, Capitol Avenue at Michigan Avenue, Lansing, MI

Ann Arbor: 7:00PM THE DIAG, Burns Park, Ann Arbor, MI

Minneapolis: 6:00PM MINNEAPOLIS URBAN LEAGUE, 2100 Plymouth Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

Carson City: 4:00PM NEVADA STATE CAPITOL BUILDING, 101 N Carson St, Carson City, Nevada

Manhattan, NY: 7:00PM TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan, NY,

Newark: 7:00PM NEWARK CITY HALL, 920 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey

Durham: 7:00PM 200 E. Main St. Durham, North Carolina

Columbus: 7:00PM GOODALE PARK, Columbus, Ohio

Cleveland: 7:00PM CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY, 325 Superior Ave E, Cleveland, Ohio

Portland: 4:00PM PIONEER COURTHOUSE SQUARE, 701 SW 6th Ave, Portland, Oregon

Philadelphia: 7:00PM LOVE PARK, 1599 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh: 7:00PM PITTSBURGH CITY-COUNTY BUILDING, 414 Grant St, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Nashville: 6:00PM 801 Broadway Nashville, TN 37203 Estes Kefauver Federal Building

Memphis: 6:00PM Health Sciences Park Memphis, TN

Austin: 6:00PM TEXAS STATE CAPITOL, Outside South Gate-11th and Congress Ave.

Salt Lake City: 5:00PM SALT LAKE CITY COMMUNITY COLLEGE, 4600 S Redwood Rd, Salt Lake City, Utah

Seattle: 4:00PM QUEEN ANNE BAPTIST CHURCH, 2011 1st Ave N, Seattle, Washington

Milwaukee: 5:00PM DINEEN PARK, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

God is in charge and God is good!

Church Wounds

And one shall say unto Him, “What are these wounds in thine hands?” Then He shall answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends,” (Zechariah 13:6, KJV, emphasis mine).

A few years ago I met Sandy and Danny, a Ukrainian couple.  I met Danny while visiting their small town near Milan with my friend, Angela.  Danny is a very important newspaper publisher for his community of Ukrainian ex-pats living in Italy.  His newspaper publishes twice a week, and it is no exaggeration to say that many in the Ukrainian community of Italy plan their week around its publication.  He showed Angela and me around the newspaper office, where we prayed for him, his newspaper, and his readers.  Then he smiled as he practically shouted at us: “You must come home with me and meet my wife.”  Of course we agreed.

When we arrived, we found a small, but beautiful home, tastefully furnished.  Danny’s two sullen pre-teen children barely said hello to us before retreating to their rooms.  Then a prostitute entered the room, smiling and greeting us.  No, wait!  That was Sandy, Danny’s wife, and she looked as much like a prostitute as anyone I have ever seen.  No, that’s not quite accurate.  Sandy looked like a caricature of a prostitute, from her stiletto heels to the exaggerated big hair and everything in between: skin tight dress in hot pink that barely covered her bottom and only half covered her breasts, which were aggressively thrust up and almost out of the top of the dress by a push-up bra.  She wore clownishly long false eyelashes and hot pink lipstick that was painted beyond the natural borders of her lips, dragon lady hot pink fingernails, and lots and lots of blingy jewelry that jangled and dangled and spangled all over her body from every part of her that jewelry could be put: toes, ankles, wrists, upper arms, neck, and ears.  As quickly as I could, I shut my mouth and smiled a greeting as she shook my hand.  Although she hid it well, I could see that Angela was as shocked by Sandy’s appearance as I was.

Sandy ran back to the kitchen and brought out a tray of coffee and cookies.  When she bent to place the tray on the low coffee table, I saw Angela avert her eyes from the ample bosom threatening to break free right under her nose.  Over coffee, Sandy skipped the small talk and went straight to talking about their troubled marriage.

Sandy’s father had been a pastor in Ukraine during the reign of Communism, and so had Danny’s, so they had both been raised in Christian homes.  However, from what Sandy told us, it sounded like both of their fathers were very stern and legalistic.  When Sandy and Danny had married, they were glad to be free from their oppressive home environments, and they looked for a place that was as unlike home as possible: Italy.  Danny had quickly galvanized the Ukrainian ex-pat community by founding his newspaper.  In the process, he had made a very nice living for himself, and Sandy was free to raise the children, keep house, and cook meals.

I am making it sound like Sandy gave us a their story in a logical fashion.  She didn’t.  I have filled you in so that you can make sense of it all because what Sandy actually said as she sipped her coffee was: “Thank God you’re here!  He (pointing at Danny) spends all his time at work or in his office next door.  The kids and I are not allowed to bother him when he’s in there.  Tell him!” she shrieked, “Tell him that’s not right!  Tell him this isn’t a marriage!”

Danny sat motionless and emotionless as a statue through this, and when it was over, he calmly stated: “I make a nice living for you and the kids.  You lack for nothing.”

This set Sandy off into another tirade, screaming pretty much the same thing, only louder.

Angela has had some actual experience in mediating conflicts, so she suggested that we keep a civil tone and each would get a chance to tell their side, “But first,” she said, “I want you to tell us something that you admire about each other.”  They both looked like children that had been scolded.  Finally Danny said: “She’s a really good mother and a great cook.”  Sandy folded her arms and said, “How would you know?  You’re barely even here.”  Angela silenced her, gently saying: “Just accept the compliment and tell us what you admire about Danny.”

Sandy took a long moment to reflect, finally conceding: “Danny is a great dad—when he’s not hiding out from us.”

Angela asked Danny for some background, and that’s when we learned about their strict, religious fathers, and their choice to move to Italy.  Danny admitted that he works long hours, and when he’s in his home office he needs to be left alone to concentrate because he is writing a book.  Of course on this point I perked up, being a writer, too.  I asked: “Tell us about your books.”  He said that he writes books about the clash of cultures and living in Italy and so forth—non-fiction, in other words.  He finished by proudly stating: “I wrote five books this year.”

Suddenly I could see Sandy’s point very clearly.  I write one or two books a year, at most.  But I don’t have a full-time job like Danny does, getting out a newspaper.  Five books in one year (and it was only September) is excessive.  Or obsessive.  No, this is escapism.  Sandy has quite a sharp tongue, and she goes from zero to scream in six seconds.

While I was processing this, Angela did something I’ve never seen anyone else do: she commandeered the rocking chair, which Sandy had been sitting in, and invited Sandy to sit on her lap.  Although Sandy towered over Angela, she kicked off her shoes and curled up in Angela’s lap, laying her head on Angela’s shoulder.  Angela rocked, hugging, stroking, and whispering into Sandy’s ear.

As they rocked, I moved closer to Danny.  I kept my voice deliberately soft and calm—for both their sakes.  I said: “Danny, I’m a writer, too.  I understand the thing that makes you feel like you’ve got to write.  And this is not a bad thing.  But you could afford to spend a little less time writing and a little more time with your family.  Your kids will only be in your house for a few more years, and then they’re gone.  If you don’t build a relationship with them now, it will probably never happen.”  He agreed.  I took a deep breath before continuing, and said softly, so that only Danny could hear me:  “Look at Sandy.  She is starved for your attention.  That dress, that makeup, all of it is begging you to love her.”

Danny very quickly said: “I do love her!”  Loudly enough for Sandy to hear.  When she started to react, Angela tightened her hold until Sandy relaxed again.  All the while she whispered soothingly and reassuringly into Sandy’s ear.

Danny dropped his gaze.  Very softly he said, “I would love to spend more time with them.”  I said, “Good.  Then do it.  It’s going to be hard at first, but stick with it.”

I wish I could say that things got better for Sandy and Danny.  But less than a year after our visit they separated and Sandy filed for divorce.  In truth, I think their old patterns were just too hard for them to shake off: Sandy screaming and Danny hiding out in his books, which set Sandy off screaming again, which sent Danny hiding out, round and round in a toxic cycle that they just couldn’t escape.

I went to visit Sandy again yesterday.  She had invited me over for lunch.  Sandy had no makeup on and was dressed like a normal person.  She’s actually got a lot of natural beauty, and when I told her that, she smiled shyly.  She told me that she has stopped going to church altogether.  The Ukrainian church, in sadly typical legalism, has shunned her for filing for divorce, and she’s not comfortable in Italian or English.  “I don’t have a problem with God,” she assured me, “but some of His people can be pretty mean.”  She told me that Danny actually spends more time with the kids now that he’s out of the house than he ever did when he still lived with them, asserting: “He really is a great dad!  We get along much better now that I no longer expect him to behave like a husband.”  I asked where the kids were, and she said that they were spending the day with their father.  I was pleased to know that Danny was following through on that.  Perhaps he had listened to my words after all.

Sandy had prepared a lovely gazpacho soup with pasta salad and watermelon for dessert.  We got to know each other better over our cool lunch.  With the pain of a failing marriage removed, Sandy is a very sweet and charming person.  I could hardly believe that this was the same painted, screaming woman I had met a few years ago.  She told me that she spends much more time with God now than she did when she was going to church because she walks out her day in the awareness of His presence.  She reads the Bible at least three times a day because she finds pleasure and comfort in it.  It seems that with the legalistic imperative to go to church removed, Sandy has found real moment-to-moment communion with God.

The one sad note is that Sandy is now shunned and avoided by the whole Ukrainian community here in Italy.  Her family at home in Odessa has also abandoned her.  “I would love to find a husband who would love me and care for me and the kids, but I don’t waste my time looking for him.  If God wills it, He will bring him to me.  For now I am perfectly content to pass my days with Jesus.”  And I realized that it’s true that God uses the wilderness experience in each of our lives to bring us closer to Him.  Still, it’s important that we have some kind of fellowship with other believers, so I suggested that we make it a regular thing to meet together.  Sandy’s face brightened, “Oh yes, let’s do that!”

Then we prayed together and I picked up my bag to go.  At the door I turned and asked her: “By the way, what was Angela whispering to you?”  Sandy smiled, sheepishly, “She just rocked me, whispering: ‘My baby girl.  My sweet baby girl.’  When I have trouble sleeping at night, I remember her words and gently rock myself to sleep.”  Angela had whispered God’s words to Sandy—words she had never heard from her parents or Danny.  Love does indeed cover a multitude of sins[1].  God is good!

[1] 1 Peter 4:8.