Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Hate "The Dentist"

I know I'm a wimp. I realize that there are people in the world -- even in my own world, whom I know personally -- who deal with tremendous physical and/or emotional pain on a regular basis, the likes of which I may never experience. But there is something to the truism that one's personal immediate pain always seems to dwarf any competition.

I went to the dentist today. I have an ugly history with The Dentist; however, my visits improved in the last several years when I learned to search specifically for a dentist who believes me when I say, "I FEEL that!!! That HURTS!!!!!"

But when I got my first check-up here in Sioux City, I was informed that I have eleven -- count 'em, ELEVEN!!! -- different spots of decay in my mouth that require repair. I had two fillings a couple weeks ago. Today, I had two more. It was supposed to be a rather routine (albeit expensive) procedure, like the last one. But things didn't go so easily today.

She stuck the bite plate and a variety of fingers and instruments into my mouth and started to work. As time went on, I realized that my cheek kind of hurt when she pulled back on it to get access to the tooth. And it kept hurting more and more. I must've moaned a little bit at one point, because she asked, "Are you OK?" I did my best to indicate that my cheek was hurting and I wanted to shut my mouth a minute. She said no-can-do . . . if I shut your mouth now, it will mess up what we're doing and we'll have to start over, and we don't want that. Good Lord, no.

To her credit, she seemed to be working as quickly as she could, but it didn't help. Every time she pulled my cheek back, it absolutely ached. Not unbearably, really; I kept thinking, I can stand it a little longer. But a little longer stretched into longer. And longer. Tears involuntarily squeezed out of my eyes and down my cheeks. The assistant handed me a Kleenex and frantically swapped out instruments with the dentist. I couldn't believe how much this was hurting . . . surely I just needed to relax the muscles . . . but the more it hurt, the less I could relax, and the more I tensed up, the more it hurt.

Finally, she pulled out the biteplate and I forced my sore mouth closed. She said we'd rest my jaw a few minutes before finishing up. I sat with my eyes closed and suddenly realized I was genuinely going to cry. The assistant massaged my cheek muscles, and the dentist asked me, "Do you clench or grind your teeth?"

Hmph. Not that I know of.

Apparently, that's the only reason she could come up with for why having my mouth open that long should have caused such pain in the cheek muscles. She recommends a customized mouth guard (more money). But she can't give me one until all my dental work on my upper teeth is finished. WHATever.

I REALLY hate The Dentist.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I told someone once that I would much rather deal with a daughter's hormonal storm of emotions that with a son's testosterone-laden physical aggression. Sigh. I wonder just how many of my words I will be eating before my children are fully grown.

Quite a few, I'm sure, but not those particular ones. I actually do prefer being faced with the emotional outbursts -- those are at least storms I'm familiar with. I was an emotional teenage girl, too. However, I did not YELL at my parents. Not that I recall anyway. I didn't yell at my mom because she always seemed a bit fragile to me, and subconsciously, I think I thought my rage would crush her. I didn't yell at my dad, because I knew his rage could crush me.

Don't get the wrong idea about my dad. He most certainly wasn't abusive or anything. But he was very strict. Kind of cold. He'd have made a great military general. I think almost everyone I knew was a little intimidated by him. Or a lot.

So, in a way, I'm kind of glad that my teenager feels like she can yell at me. I wouldn't want her to be afraid of me like I was of my dad. On the other hand, my control-freak instincts kick in when she screams and remind me that it is not acceptable for children to yell at their parents. And those instincts often lead me to react in the wrong way. That is, by yelling back. The irony.

I'm right that it isn't acceptable for her to yell at me. But I also have to face that more often than not (although not always), I have set her up for this.

When my girls fight, it is always the youngest I hear yelling. She is always scolded for losing her temper that way. But the oldest gets a talking-to, also. I tell her, "You need to be careful that you are listening close to what she is trying to say to you so that she doesn't feel like she has to yell in order to be heard."

Good advice. I should pay attention to myself more often.

Of Blindness in High Places

I was reminded this morning of a story I heard a few years ago that strongly convicted me.

It starts in 2 Kings, chapter 12. The kingdom of Judah is undergoing a revival of sorts under its new king, Joash. The scripture says, "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD . . The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there." The "high places" were altars to pagan gods. Now, it doesn't say that they offered sacrifices to those gods there -- we could really be generous to these newly-revived Hebrews and suppose that they were offering sacrifices to Yahweh. But even if they were, they were not being offered in the way God prescribed for them.

Fast forward to the next king of Judah: Amaziah. "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD . . . The high places, however, were not removed."

Next: Azariah. "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD . . . "The high places , however, were not removed." Notice a pattern here?

Jotham, the next king. "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD . . . The high places, however, were not removed."

And finally, Ahaz. "Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire . . . "

Those high places that Joash failed to remove eventually bore the blood of his own descendent.

Now, I'll set aside for the moment the obvious applications here concerning the high places ignored by previous generations at which our children -- born and unborn -- are being sacrificed today. My concern is much more personal: what high places am I failing to remove? In my community? In my church? In my home, God forbid? What tools of the enemy have I allowed to remain, thinking they were now rendered safe and innocuous because my family's on the happy Christian bandwagon? Or, even more frightening, which of those tools have I picked up and attempted to use for God's kingdom, arrogantly believing I could purge it of its ungodly influence?

Not that God can't redeem the works of the enemy. But I find this to be a convicting tale of caution. I need to be always praying for my eyes to be opened to those dangers in the World around me which have become so familiar that they have the appearance of innocence and neutrality.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Week That Was Skill School

I was at this amazing thing called Skill School at our church all week last week, and I haven't written about it yet. Mainly because I can't decide how to go about writing about it. I can't find a central point or theme or something . . . I don't know. I can't make it flow. But I feel like you need to hear this story. So, I'll just plunge in and center my reflections around my main reaction to the whole event: Wow.

There were 716 kids, grades K-5, in attendance -- plus about 350 volunteers. So, well over a thousand people on site every day. Wow.

We started each day with an opening session in the auditorium -- loud music, seven hundred kids singing/screaming and doing hand motions. Parents dropped kids off at the assigned pew for their first clinic . . we (clinic leaders) signed in our kids and gave them their nametags . . volunteers came by and picked up extra tags . . we got slips in our 2nd clinic telling us who should be absent . . all the kids and clinic leaders returned to the auditorium at the end of the morning to the same pews and we collected nametags again . . parents picked up the kids at their pew . . a monumental administrative effort to keep 700+ kids safe and accounted for. Wow.

Many clinics were outside on the church grounds or off-site at nearby schools, pools, bowling alleys and such. A nurse was on duty the whole time. Several volunteers shuttled kids back and forth in vans for these clinics. They also shuttled all the volunteers back and forth from the church to the East High School parking lot where we all parked so that there would be room in the church parking lot for all the parents. Wow.

Over a hundred different clinics were offered during two different sessions -- including various kinds of arts and crafts, cooking, creative writing, commercial making, several types of dancing, and almost every sport you can imagine. I taught two drama clinics -- one for 2nd and 3rd graders and one for 4th and 5th graders. Between clinics was snack time and "small group". Yes, they fed all 700 kids at the same time in fifty-some different locations all across the area. Wow.

The church staff (pastor and 4-5 others) dressed up as several Toy Story-type characters for a drama series in the opening session. The dramas presented the gospel message in a very straight-forward and entertaining way. 130 kids indicated at the end of the 4th and final day that they had prayed to accept Christ as their savior that morning. Wow.

The week ended with a Skill School Program and outdoor Family Fun Night on Thursday night. I didn't know until Wednesday which of my kids would be there for the program. So, we put a skit together from each class on our last day and performed them Thursday night. The older kids did a version of The Good Samaritan based on one in a kids choir show at Hope. The younger kids did The Prodigal Son, Godspell style. They did a great job. They were great kids. I couldn't believe we pulled it off . . . wow.

Family Fun Night was promoted to the whole community -- an entirely free event. The church gave away over 2000 hot dogs, not to mention all the chips, drinks, ice cream bars and cotton candy. A live band played, big blow-up bouncy things were available to play in . . but the highlight of the evening was the HUGE waterslide they set up on the hill by the church building (take note, Hope folks -- you have a hill beside the church, too!). They estimated that 2500-3000 people from the church and community were there. Wow.

It was an amazing week. It's a huge event, one that makes the reputation for this church in the community. That's one big similarity I've found between Sunnybrook here and Hope Church back in Jersey: most everyone in the community -- even those who don't attend any church at all -- knows about and respects this place. They have the reputation of being a place where God is at work.

And that's why we're going there.

How to Use my SHAPE

So, I started the other day reading a huge book I've had laying around for a while: The Underground History of American Education, by John Taylor Gatto. It's a book much touted in the homeschool world; it talks about the problems inherent in the public education system. Written by a former NY State Teacher of the Year.

And while I'm reading it, I've been inundated with other stories about problems in the schools. Just today, for example. The news this morning had a story about NYC schools eliminating the designation of valedictorians -- it promotes "unnecessary competition". Of course, the competition and subsequent recognition for excellence that happens in sports and other extracurricular activities -- that would be necessary. But honoring kids who've busted their butts to learn in school . . . unnecessary.

An article was posted to my FB page about a book out examining schools in four states, including my previous home state of New Jersey. These four states had court-ordered mandates to increase funding and make necessary changes to improve the schools. Yet, student achievement had not only not improved, in some cases, it declined. The article said that per pupil spending in New Jersey exceeded $20,000 last year. Amazing. What I could do in my homeschool with $20,000 to spend in a year . . .

At our church in Springfield many moons ago, I took a class called "Determining your SHAPE". SHAPE is an acronym: Spiritual Gift, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experience. We took a bunch of tests and got matched up with ministries in the church that needed the kind of person God had shaped us up to be.

I'm thinking about my spiritual gift of administration, my experiences in the public school and homeschooling worlds, my abilities to teach and organize ideas and find structures, my heart for a well-educated populace . . and I'm wondering where all this is going. I've long felt frustrated with the broken system of education in America and convicted to be part of fixing it. But it's a monumental task . . . completely overwhelming . . . almost impossible . . . and I'm so inadequate to even a small part of the job.

I read a quote somewhere from somebody, something to the effect of . . . "We would accomplish a lot more things in life if we didn't think of them as impossible." A nice platitude. Probably true. Wish it gave me more direction here.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Another old friend who's found me on Facebook. In school, we called him by his initials, but I'm sure he cringes at that now. The first time I remember noticing him was when Mrs Barcelo, the music teacher, gave him and me the only two acting roles in the 6th grade musical. That was a significant enough event for me -- as much as I wanted to star in a play, no one had ever deemed me capable before. I'm not sure I deemed myself capable.

As I recall, our rehearsals were full of the expected awkwardness of a couple of 11-year-olds who don't know each other having to act like a married couple. But I still felt a sort of comraderie with him. And when we got on stage, we were good. Only inexperienced-sixth-grade-actor-in-a-cheesy-kids'-musical good, but good nonetheless. We reacted to each other's lines. We fed off of each other's energy. We clicked. It was SUCH a high, and it made me want to do more of this acting stuff.

We were in another play together in 8th grade: Lucy and Edmund in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". In 9th grade, he went to a different school, but at the end of the year, I saw him in a play there. I hadn't seen him in about a year, and he'd grown -- physically (boys do at about that age) and theatrically. I was genuinely wow'ed. "He's good! I mean, he's so, SO good!!" To this day, when someone speaks of a person being a natural on stage, I think of P.J. He had a gift. I left the theater that night with quite a crush on the boy . . . which came to nothing because he moved out of state the next year. C'est la vie.

I'm not sure why I'm sharing all this history. I've just been struck since we re-connected at how this guy, who could easily have been just a blip on the radar screen of my life, ended up having an impact on my psyche. That sixth grade show lit a fire in me for the stage . . . but it may not have happened if God hadn't had a naturally gifted P.J. there to use as the flint.

Amazing how God can use people to accomplish His purposes . . . whether or not they know it . . . whether or not they know Him.

I wanna be a flint.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Managed Chaos

I'm recovering this afternoon from a busy week (visiting family, parties, child-sitting) . . . and building up a store of energy for a busy week coming up (Skill School at church). It took me all of seven months in our new home to get to a point where I recognize I have to start showing some wisdom again in saying "no."

We had birthday party #2 yesterday. This was with homeschooling families -- Thursday night's was with girls from the neighborhood. We didn't necessarily mean to segregate them that way; it's just kind of how it happened.

Anyway, some of you who know me well would have been proud of me yesterday. I had a house FULL of children, male and female, aged 13 years to 3 weeks, for four hours (with a few moms, but they mostly sat visiting on the deck). We set out some games, a bunch of snacks, ordered pizza later in the day, but other than that, we let things happen as they may. No particular schedule or plans. In other words, I was remarkably spontaneous. Alert the media!

I did feel a bit of stress later in the afternoon, but I recognized it as unwarranted and plunged ahead. Everyone was having fun. Nothing was being destroyed. It was quite loud, but a kids' party is supposed to be.

But it gets better: at the moment, I'm sitting on the sofa listening to my girls and four neighbor girls in the basement playing . . and I think they're making a phenomenal mess. But my blood pressure is good; breathing normal; demeanor calm. They're enjoying themselves and getting along well -- why should I freak? It will all clean up again.

In fact, it is all making me reconsider my zeal to get rid of so much junk in our house -- because kids seem to make such great use of junk when they play. I will, however, need to find a better way to store it all so they can clean up after themselves.

Keith reminded me the other day that there was a time in our distant pre-parenting past when I expressed the desire to have the house where all the kids hung out, so I could keep an eye on things. Egad! I told him I have matured since then. I know myself better now.

Wellllll, maybe I need to mature even more. Maybe I need to not just assume the rightness of my natural inclination to fight the chaos and instead find ways to use my God-given abilities to manage the chaos. After all, when you have kids, chaos happens. And sometimes, it's in the midst of the chaos that the important stuff emerges.

But, of course, only when well-managed. Not ready to give up complete control yet. :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

No Fair

I just found a fascinating website -- http://www.yourmorals.org/ -- which was mentioned in a fascinating article I was reading about the psychological differences between conservatives and liberals.

This website is set up, apparently, by a group of psychologists who are doing research on this topic. There are a bunch of surveys to do on various topics such as politics, religion, personality, etc. If you register on the site, they get information on your demographics, including whether you consider yourself liberal or conservative, and they draw conclusions from all that.

Setting aside the possible problems with the validity and reliability of such data (flashbacks to my grad school days . . . ), some of their findings so far are interesting. The essence of it is that liberals and conservatives don't just have different opinions on things, they literally think in different ways. For one thing, they have different ideas about morality:

Liberals emphasize fairness and protection from harm, while conservative morality means upholding authority and loyalty, and a strong sense of disgust.

Makes a modicum of sense . . . but also begs for elaboration. For example, how do you decide what is and isn't harmful? Or determine a source of authority? Disgust over what, exactly? Over anti-social behavior, or over something like vomit?

And how do you define "fairness"?

Brief summary of a parable I just read: a group of peasants were lumbering down a long, hot road. A man galloped past them on a fine, fast horse. One peasant saw him and grumbled in his mind, "It's no fair that man has a horse! He should have to walk like the rest of us!" Another peasant saw him and thought, "Cool! A horse! I'm going to work really hard and save up money so I can have a horse, too."

Is it unfair that one man has a horse and another doesn't? A "yes" or "no" isn't sufficient to answer the question. And therein lie the differences between liberals and conservatives.

I'm a conservative. I'm also very concerned about people being treated fairly and being protected from harm -- people with horses and people without. So, am I an atypical conservative, or is this summary of the data a bit simplistic?

That's a rhetorical question, in case you can't tell.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Finding Your Passion

I read something recently that defined one's "passion" as "the thing you are willing to sacrifice for". Leslie was willing to give up her own birthday party today to babysit a couple of preschoolers. I do believe we've found her passion.

No surprise. The fact that Leslie has a gift with little ones became clear to us years ago. Kids just flock to her; she has a real knack with them. Others have recognized it, too. When Hope started up its MOPS program, they called Leslie and offered to pay her to work in the nursery -- at age 11. (Later, when they were going to have to let her go for lack of funds to pay her, she enthusiastically offered to work for free.)

And she loves being with little kids, unlike her mother. Last summer, the girls and I spent a day at the house of a pregnant mom friend with four kids so she could go to some appointments and run errands child-free. Leslie watched the little ones, Eastin played with the older ones, and I pressed and folded a monstrous pile of clothes. And we all went home with a feeling of satisfaction about the day. We did ministry together, each using our own gifts; it was a cool thing.

The person offering up this definition of passion was encouraging parents to help their kids find their passion and build on it. It brought to mind the older brother of my best friend in junior high. He had his own lawn-mowing business. I mean, a real business -- he hired out other kids to work for him and everything. By the time he graduated from high school, he had a good-sized nest egg to use for college . . which he needed because he ended up going to medical school.

So, Leslie and I have been talking about her offering a Mother's-Day-Out once a month. A few hours of babysitting for preschoolers at our house, on the same day every month, so moms can schedule their appointments and so forth for that time. She's very excited about the possibility . . . and surprisingly, so am I. It's a very cool thing to see my daughter in her zone, doing what God has gifted her to do.

(And for the record, she didn't have to give up her party, just postpone it until evening -- as in, right now, as I write. Quoth the Grinch: "Oh, the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!!")

Living in the Real World

When we first started homeschooling, one of my concerns was that my children would be too isolated -- not from other kids in general, but from other kinds of kids. We belonged to a Christian homeschool co-op; other than our next-door neighbors, pretty much all of their friends were from church or co-op. It worried me a bit that they didn't have many friends who weren't Christians.

I expressed that concern to my sister once, and she reassured me. Pray about it, she said, and if God wants them with other kids, he'll open up doors for that to happen. She was right. I'm fine with how their friendships evolved in Jersey. And I'm also confident about the decision to put them in school for the fall. Leslie, especially, is ready to expand her horizons in that way.

But this is symptomatic of a problem I've seen in the church in general in the past couple decades. We've created our own little sheltered world and shut ourselves off in it. Sometimes it's almost comical. Pick a product, an interest, an activity, whatever . . you'll find a Christianized version of it. Christian schools. Christian counseling. Christian music, every genre. Christian days at the amusement park. Christian books and bookstores. Christian clothing. Christian exercise videos. Christian cruises. There are Christian breath mints out there, for crying out loud.

And I'm not discrediting the value of any of these things per se. Some of them, like Christian counseling, I would put in the category of critical to the health of the Body. But the cumulative effect has been to shut believers off from the "real world" to which we are meant to be salt and light.

My friend Randy and I talked once about the difference between "Christian theater" and being a Christian in the theater -- and our desires to do the latter more than the former. Not that Christian theater isn't a great thing. But it's been done. I feel more called to be a godly influence in the secular part of that world.

Yeah, I say that . . but then a part of me really likes the comfort of this cozy little Christianized world. It's an awkward dance, sometimes, to live in a world of different values and beliefs. Staying true to yourself without alienating, or insulting, or patronizing others. Loving people so different from me. Or maybe that's just because I'm out of practice.

Hmmmmm. Lots of loose strings from earlier posts coming in here . . . my American Idol obsession (yes, it's connected) . . . being known by our love . . . making comfort an idol. Love it when that synthesis stuff happens.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

I bought some new clothes this week -- for myself. And yes, that is a monumental enough event to write home about.

But actually, I only mention it in passing while I get to Pam Lapke. She's my neighbor next door who owns "The Jewelry Lady." Purses, jewelry, watches, scarves, bling-bling belts -- she's got it all and at a good price. Her motto on the wall: "The older you get, the more you need to accessorize . . . or is that exercise?"

We've discussed a few times how I needed to take in some outfits and have her fit me out with appropriate accessories since I am so fashion-impaired myself. So I did that. She had a wonderful time playing around with different necklaces and all. And I was happy to have somebody else dress me.

I don't like the fact that I am no good at the necessary feminine skills of beautifying myself. And not because I'm vain and want to look good (although I probably am and do). But mainly because I feel inadequate to teach these skills to my daughters, and I believe they are important skills to be taught. Some of you may think that sounds odd, but I am very serious about that. I remember meeting friends in college who owned one ugly little skirt that they wore only on necessary occasions and they looked ridiculous wearing it. I thought that was terribly sad.

I want my girls to be able to put on and wear pantyhose without destroying them. I want them to be able to walk in heels. I want them to be able to sit gracefully in a skirt or dress. I want them to be able to look and feel girly when the occasion calls for it, because there are occasions that do.

Femininity is a lost value. I have no problem with girls being strong or athletic or aggressive when appropriate. But they also need to be gentle and delicate and submissive when appropriate. As I recall, the goal of the Feminist Movement was to increase the options open to women, not narrow them -- or exchange one set for another.

This is why I still insist on my girls dressing up for church, at least every other week. When else are they going to do it? As old-fashioned and sexist as it may sound, I really believe that one of God's special callings on women is to beautify the world -- through the acts of their hands, the words from their mouths, and, yes, even the flutter of their eyes. So there.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Confess and Repent

I seem to be writing about a lot of less-than-cheery stuff lately. I guess a lot of less-than-cheery topics have been thrown into my lap.

I talked with my friend Shelley yesterday about the murder of Dr. Tiller. I found out this week that one of my Wichita friends worked in his clinic for several years. She's a writer now and blogged about her feelings on the matter all week. She copied there a comment some person out there wrote about her reflections--a perfect stranger who called her a moral monster.

Did you hear that? A moral monster. Yeah, that's the way to win friends and influence people. Much as I disagree with my friend on the abortion question, she is in no way a moral monster.

I've been furious with some of the pro-life reaction to the whole event (who publicly questions the eternal destiny of the recently departed while their friends and family are still mourning?? So cold and tacky). I've also been angry and offended at many of the pro-choice comments about pro-life religious folks, a group which I claim.

However, I'm having a slow change of heart about that. I've always protested the charges of hate that has been leveled at Christians over the abortion issue, the gay marriage issue, etc. etc. But I've become convicted. We need to be honest with ourselves.

The very fact that such a charge of hatred could be directed at the church and have any chance of sticking should bring the church to its knees in repentance.

Jesus never said that people would know we're his disciples by our correct convictions. Or by our proper political stances. Or by our righteous behavior. Or by our deep scriptural knowledge. Or by our our large numbers. He said they would know we are his disciples by our LOVE. And Lord knows, that's not what His church is known for in America today. How miserably have we failed in our greatest calling: to love.

Shelley mentioned yesterday how many Christians have become much too obsessed with the "correctness" of their cause. "We're right. Our cause is just. Our doctrine is correct." As if that justifies everything. Who bloody cares how right you are if you are also cruel??

And I'm not excused by saying that I, personally, didn't do any of this. I don't hate anyone. But how much have I actually loved? Love is a pro-active act of the will -- not merely an absence of ill-will. It's all well and good for me to sit around talking about how ineffective the pro-life movement has been and to pontificate about what should be done to end or reduce abortions in America. But to my shame, I have been quite happy to sit back and let others fight the battles their way. Like the non-voter who reserves the right to complain about the administration anyway. Hypocrite.

So, I'm wallowing in my guilt and conviction now. But I don't know what to do next. I can't work for every cause; I can't fight in every battle. I guess I just pray for direction. For the next few steps on my path to be lit well -- and for the courage to take the path as shown.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Praying at the Rodeo

When I mentioned on my FB status last week that our family was going to the rodeo, an old high school friend commented, "You? A rodeo? ......... not buying it!" I understand her skepticism.

But we DID go to the rodeo Saturday night, and I actually did enjoy it when I wasn't shivering (I always forget that Iowa is two states further north than I'm accustomed to). Eastin rode the bucking bull ride and had a blast. Leslie loved the horses. The clown was amusing. I did have to explain to a teary Eastin that roping the calves didn't hurt them -- and then eat my words when they carried one off on a stretcher.

However, the most memorable moment for me was in the opening "ceremonies". They had a very patriotic opening -- lots of flags and proud-American music. Then, the announcer said (and I'll paraphrase), "Now, let's celebrate one of the freedoms we have in this great nation by thanking the God who gave these freedoms to us." And he led the whole crowd in prayer.

I cried. Not enough for anyone to notice (because most people had their eyes shut praying). But I was very moved. Well, actually, I'm not sure if I was moved or if I was saddened at the fact that this felt like such a subversive act at a public gathering.

When Leslie was a baby, we inexplicably found in her diaper bag a cassette tape of a local speaker telling about his calling to, and preparation for, mission work in Salt Lake City. Never figured out where the tape came from -- for all I know, God plopped it into the bag out of the sky, which wouldn't surprise me because I listened to it many, many times and it has profoundly influenced me over the years.

He (don't remember his name now) talked about how he felt led to approach this as a "Daniel ministry". Can't go into the Mormon world as David about to slay Goliath. You go as Daniel to Babylon -- a foreigner, on their turf, there by their invitation and grace, simply living truth in their midst and praying to be given a willing audience.

I feel like Daniel these days. My friend Randy said something a while back about this being the first post-Christian generation. The truth and significance of that has taken a while to sink in. I often felt like I was in Babylon on the east coast, but I didn't expect to feel that here, back in the midwest Bible Belt. Yet, here it is.