Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sing, Fred!!

Although our first attempt to see Fred Hammond two weeks ago was foiled by an unannounced cancellation, my co-workers and I persevered. Our efforts were rewarded tonight with great seats at a Fred concert. It was, in a word, incredible. I actually had a hard time getting into it at first, but then he sang (or should I say killed) Give Me A Clean Heart.

I'm not sure if there were instruments involved, but I know he sang it without backup singers. A calypso-speed metal quartet could have joined in, for all I know. All I heard from the fourth or fifth realm of heaven where I was worshipping was his voice. The arrangement made the most of his perfectly pure and controlled voice, and his second alto to first soprano range.

As if I wasn't already in tears, he followed it up with my favorite of all of his songs, Don't Pass Me By. It tells the story of Blind Bartimeus from Mark 10:46-52, then relates it to his own life. It's sobering and humbling and anthemic for me every single time I hear or sing it. Here are the lyrics:

There was a blind man on the road side and he heard a commotion
It was Jesus passing by with a crowd and it stirred his emotion
He'd been displaced his whole life
Should he even try

"Don't bother Jesus," they said,
"You have nothing to offer.
Stay in your place."
Right then he knew he had to choose
He had nothing to lose

So he cried, "Jesus, I need you,
Please don't pass me by."
He cried out, "Jesus, I'm not ashamed
To tell you I need you in my life."

I'm not much different from that man and this is the honest truth
Could this simple one with this messed up life, could I ever serve you
People and things clutter my mind
Should I even try

"Don't bother Jesus,"
That's what they say,
"You have nothing to offer.
Stay in your place."
I must admit I need you in my life

So I cry, "Jesus, I need you,
Please don't pass me by."
I'm crying out, "Jesus, I'm not ashamed
To tell you I need you in my life."

As the deer panteth
Thirsting for the water
My soul desires and longs to be with you

I don't mean to waste your time
But I can't listen to the crowd
Of situations in my life
Telling me to keep it down
'Cause I need you

I know I'm broken but you can heal me
Jesus, Jesus, I'm calling you
Might not be worth much, but I'm still willing
Jesus, Jesus, I'm calling you

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Phoblography: 'Family'

Finally! Back to the Phoblographies. See the first one for an explanation of what the heck the series is all about.

I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but Black people tend to have a lot of "cousins". "Cousins" are people or families that have been around yours so long, sometimes for generations, that everyone swears they must be related somehow and only extensive DNA testing could prove otherwise. Thanks to that phenomenon, I'm "related" to half of Columbus, Ohio.

Anyway, along with a plethora of "cousins", I also have a three extra "siblings". These are my three best friends, who've been in my life so long I can hardly remember life without them and don't particularly care to. I share a bond with each of them that has transcended time, space, and everything else life has thrown at us.

The first of these is my sister, Nic. Nic and I met sophomore year of high school, but didn't really get close until Freshman year of undergrad. We both ended up at the same college, in the same dorm, just one hall apart. The rest is history. But not regular history, a John Waters or Christopher Guest sort of history.

Thinking about it now, it's hard to describe what makes her so special, but she's pretty darn amazing. She, along with my other sister who you'll meet later, is one of the most beautiful women I've ever met. We were basically inseparable for most of college, and were often linked romantically in the Kenyon Rumor Mill. I secretly didn't mind, since the rumors upped my stock in the dating pool. However, I did set the record straight when asked. She is my sister, after all.

Nic is smart and classy and cultured. She's more stylish than Carrie Bradshaw and can cook Rachel Ray under her butcher block island any day of the week. She's oddly dichotomous in that she's admittedly anti-social, but can fit into any social situation and charm the pants off anyone (a superpower that she's been known to use for both good and evil). She's also the consummate pessimist, but never fails to make me insanely happy.

She's got a great sense of humor: sometimes intelligent, sometimes raunchy, always hilarious. She's adventurous in love, travel, and cuisine, but otherwise plays it pretty safe. She was single-handedly responsible for ushering me into my college music phase, by exposing me to both high quality indie and complaint rock, and highly questionable pop and techno.

Nic is one of the few people I can talk to everyday and never run out of things to talk about. I could live entirely vicariously through her and still go to bed every night feeling like I'd accomplished something. She's led several fascinating lives.

These days she's living the domestic dream with her husband - the man I'd always prayed she'd find - and her amazing daughter, Mia. Even though I have a hard time picturing her as anything but my crazy sister, seeing her now, it almost seems she was born to be a wife and mother.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Arrestingly 'Cardiac'

I love words.

You've probably already guessed that from my flagrant overuse of them, but it's true. I'm a word-packrat. I ferret away terms, phrases, quotes, bits of dialogue, poems, stories, essays and diatribes. Basically, any group of words that catches my ear, from outside or inside of my head. I keep them on lists on my computer, in my journals, in notebooks, on my Palm Pilot. I'll even type them up and e-mail them to myself or call myself and leave them on my voicemail. Here's the latest term I've added to my collection:

Pronunciation: 'kär-dE-"ak
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin cardiacus, from Greek kardiakos, from kardia
1 : essential, vital to, or at the heart of a matter.

Clearly, I've heard the word before, but never in that context. That was the way it was used in a sermon I heard yesterday on the importance of the Holy Spirit and forgiveness to missions work. Dick Foth, the preacher of said sermon, is an incredible theological mind, an awesome teacher-preacher (my favorite kind), and a long-standing friend of my church, NCC. He's also one of the few people, alive or dead, that I would consider a role model. He borrowed the usage from a friend of his, whose name I'm forgetting, but I'll credit him since he introduced it to me and I welcome any opportunity to give him a shout out.

Monday, July 17, 2006


The research for my book turned up a book by a man named Tony Milton, who wrote:

Unconditional love has no goal in view. It simply is. It is the love that made us. I believe that this is the root of humankind’s restlessness, that we are looking for unconditional love and do not realize that it is already within us. So we fantasize and when we hear about unconditional love, we think we must emulate God and extend it to everybody immediately.

Then, of course, we flunk and feel a failure. Unconditional love is a universal
principle, but it is also a learning experience. If we take the conscious decision to choose love as our spiritual practice, our personality blooms and flourishes. We grow.

Unconditional love does not say “I love everyone equally,” but rather “I love everyone appropriately and in response to their uniqueness.” And, very importantly, unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance of behaviors.

Both unconditional love and boundaries have been on my mind lately both for the book and for my life, the boundaries between which are being slowly wittled away. Milton's words summed up a lot of what I've been thinking.

I've definitely made the mistake of trying to extend unconditional love to everyone, everywhere, every time. I ended up tired, used and confused. I don't have God's endless capacity for love and unfailing wisdom for how to use it. Like Milton said, unconditional love is a learning experience.

A huge part of my problem was that I didn't understand the boundaries piece of the equation. It took a while to learn that I could love and say "no" at the same time. What a concept!

I learned that I could be all things to all people and still have a clearly defined identity. I didn't have to be like a Ken doll, a different outfit and personality for every person and experience. When God sent me, he sent Me, and he meant Me. I didn't have to become something different to pull off whatever task I was there for. I just had to rely on him and the gifts he put inside of me.

He also showed me that loving my neighbor as myself, meant giving them what they need not what I think they need or what I'd need if I were them. Every person, apparently, is just as complex and layered and unique as I am. So, packaging up a one size fits all relationship and sharing it with everyone is dangerous to me and devaluing to them. I've got to draw up my boundaries for each relationship based on the reality of who I'm in relationship with.

These are all lessons I'm still learning and relearning. Luckily, God does love me unconditionally and is constantly forgiving me and welcoming me back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I spent the past couple of weeks in transit. This is not to be confused with the past few months that I spent in TRANSITION. Very different concepts. Transit, while it can be equally tiring, is shorter lived and a heck of a lot easier to pack for. Anyway, I spent 5 days in Arizona, came home for a day and a half, then jetted off to Ohio for four days.

I went to Arizona to visit my best friend, Nic. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Mia, whose name you may remember from one of the early Prayer Dare posts (Prayer Dare: For Mia). Meeting Mia, I was overjoyed to find that the dare payed off. God answered my prayers for her in spades. She is amazing. I'm not just saying that as a proud uncle. See for yourselves.

After tearing myself away from Mia, I went to Ohio to visit my younger brother and my other best friend from high school, Vince. That was a good time and it was really good to see them, although I was still too tired from Phoenix to really engage.

So now, as I am recovering, I'm looking forward to a busy weekend. No rest for the weary, I suppose. Or is it wicked? No rest for the wicked? I don't remember. All I know is that I'm tired.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


This thought came to me as I was doing my homework. The question asked what fears I have about being open and honest. Technically, it said to discuss them with God, but I figured I'd write them out instead, because it helps me process. Anyway, here goes:

There's still a part of me that wants the appearance of holiness and wholeness, more than actual holiness and wholeness. The real thing takes work and patience. I have a decent work ethic, but me and patience? Not so much. The real thing is messy. It requires a process that walks you through the muck and mire on your way to ultimate glory. The ends justifies the means, by far, but who's excited about muck and mire? No, really? There's still a part of me that's still walking the tightrope between acceptance and rejection. I'd love to just say, "I don't care," but I do. Somehow it's easier to call myself a liar than a sinner. Go figure.

Then, there's need. Admitting I'm broken, is admitting I need to be fixed. Part of the reality of needing to be fixed is needing help to be fixed. Needing help goes against my creed as an all-powerful, self-sufficient hunter, gatherer, warrior. "I'm a loner, Dottie...a rebel."

The truth of the matter is God is working a bravery and risk-takingness in me that I would never have imagined existed. This has allowed me to be pretty darned honest, but there are still moments. There are still some things. There are still some people. There are still some moods. There are still some times when I just want to be weak and copout.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I was hoping for something pithy to say vis-a-vis Independence Day. Independence and the celebration thereof is a topic ripe for the diatribal picking. However nothing is coming to mind, so I'll just say Happy Fourth of July! Happy Independence Day! Thank you, God, for letting me be born in a good nation in process toward becoming something greater, just like me. And, thank you to all of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives and their peace to protect mine.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sympathy for the Devil

So, I'm in Arizona for the holiday. As I went into the bathroom, I noticed what looked like a centipede crawling in the tub. The lack of traction yielded by the porcelain prevented it from climbing up the sides and escaping. So, it remained trapped, fruitlessly but diligently struggling.

My treaty with the insect kingdom reads thusly, "If I see you indoors, I will use every means within my disposal to kill you." There is an exception for spiders, who may serve as one of the "means within my disposal," as long as they are not web-slinging around my bed or my food.

Given the terms of our agreement, the bug should have been killed immediately, but I felt bad for him. To be honest, what I felt was more akin to empathy than sympathy. I know the feeling of having all the legs in the world and not being able to climb, no matter how hard you try.

Been there. Suffered that. I've been grounded on both sides of the faith-works seesaw. I've had more faith than I knew what to do with, but had visions never come to reality because I just couldn't seem to move into action. I've worked myself sick, but seen ministries die before my eyes because I refused to trust God to handle his end of the bargain. I've had all of the ability and knowledge that a job too, but still not been able to pull it off. I've spoken in angels' tongues, had gifts of prophecy, knowledge and faith, but still been useless because I didn't have love.

As I looked on, I was tempted to put the little guy out of his misery, especially after he succombed to learned-helplessness and went fetal in a corner near the drain. I thought better of it, thanking God that he never squashed and flushed me when all those times I finally gave up the struggle. That was usually about the time I finally turned to him.

In the end, the friend I am staying with noticed, killed and toileted the centipede, who actually turned out to be an earwig. I winced and hummed a bar or two of Taps as the swirling water whisked my fallen comrade off to the hell where all insects will spend eternity being pestered by annoying creatures even smaller than they.

I'll miss him... Okay, so I'm glad he's dead. But I am grateful for the lesson.

Along with my own issues, the little guy's predicament reminded me of the intro to 1 Corinthians 13 - the love chapter. In a nutshell, it says that even if I have every spiritual gift on record, if I don't have love I'm useless.