Saturday, July 21, 2012

Faith Believes Good Lies Beneath the Bad

The tragedy in Colorado yesterday left my heart very sad.  I don't know anyone there.  I have never even been to Colorado.  I didn't expect to know anyone even remotely involved with anyone who might have been in the theater.

But it made me sad.

It brought me back to other phone calls, other tragedies announced, other events that can never be undone.  "It's John."  "Dean was in an accident."  "He's in jail.  One of them had a gun."  "He was just sleeping on the couch and someone drove by and shot into the house."  "The gun went off.  It was an accident." 

Every time a senseless death occurs, two lives are lost.  The one who holds the gun, the one who receives the bullet.  The one who drives drunk, the one who is hit by the drunk driver.  Every time a strong armed crime is adjudged, two futures are altered.  One whose youth is stolen in prison, one who faces fear every time the door clicks open behind them.

Two lives unalterably changed.  Two sets of families and friends grieving.  Two sets of tragedy.

I hate guns.  I hate alcohol. You can't change my mind.  I know those things are part of American life.  They aren't a part of my every day, but their stamps remain long behind.

The shooting in Colorado reminded me also of other tragedies:  Columbine, Oklahoma City, Ground Zero.  I wasn't connected to any of those events, either, but they made me want to hug my kids and find a way to protect them from the random violence of the world.  Now I add Aurora to the list.

I would like to wrap them up - all the kids of mine - and never let them out of the house just to be sure nothing bad ever happens to them.  I want to find a way to eradicate the violence so they never understand the sadness of traumatic loss.  I want to cover their eyes and ears and build a wall around them.

I'm not the one in charge of the world, however.  What if they are the one to find the answer?  What if God has given them a difficult path to face leaving behind a wake of compassion, grace, strength, hope?  I'm not saying God is the author of tragedy.  But I know from my own life that if we give God an opportunity, He will teach us something through the worst days.  Some good lays beneath the sadness if we allow Him to show us.

I have a list of survivors I could give you. Some became bitter, angry, victims of the events trying to self-medicate the pain away.  Some became activists spurred to draw attention, change laws, bring the elephant in the room out of hiding.  Some became gentle, compassionate, listeners who change the future one hug at a time.

I hope the senseless tragedies which left footprints and holes in my heart have made me the compassionate type.  I hope I never forget how it felt to hear the phone calls so I have grace to give when the phone rings for someone else.

You can think I'm simple or foolish.  That's ok.  Black days have taught me to have faith.

I have faith in God who tells me regardless of the awful, tragic, horrific events of life, some good can be found beneath it all.  He is the Author and Finisher of my faith and teaches me all things work together for good for those who love Him and those who are called according to His purpose.

To order a copy of A Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges or a Friend Named Jesus, please visit my website:  Writer's Pages

Facebook:  Author Kris A. Newman

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Writer at Camp

My heart is absolutely overflowing with words today.  Some good, some sad, some sappy.

I spent time at Wisconsin District Family Camp last week.  Love those camp grounds.  One of my favorite places on the planet.  I really hope my boys find a way to scatter my ashes there.  So many good memories of good, good days floating around that atmosphere. 

Laughter and tears and quiet, calm, refreshing moments.  I wrote Summer Morning Song there.  I can still see the morning I wrote it.  I had gone to morning prayer and coming back to the room I was silenced by the feel of the sun on my skin, the song of the birds and trees and the surrounding presence of God.  I sat on the steps of the double-deckers and let the words fall onto the page.

I see myself again, there, another time, another summer morning.  Sitting by the fire pit.  Emotions swirling around me.  Difficulties waiting for me at home.  My soul in turmoil.  But for that moment, for that dot of time on the line, absolute peace and quiet blanketed me. 

I watched my children grow up there.  It was as though some strange vitamin was in the water.  They would start a week of Family Camp or Junior Camp at one age, and leave another.  The responsibilities they were allowed, the expectations placed on them, the pride bestowed upon them expanded their thinking and they grew exponentially. 

The year of the tornado is a good example.  Violence filled the air, but calm undergirded the Tabernacle.  Most mothers’ children were huddling under pews praying for their lives.  My children were not.  They worked beside the adults in charge.  They brought water and comfort.  I watched them both, boys only on the outside, but men's character on the inside, as they quietly did whatever was asked of them.  

I’m not sure which honor pulled them taller – platform ministry or security.  Being allowed to sing and play is a big deal at Camp.  It starts at Junior Camp or Children’s Church when a Director approaches and asks, “can you help us today?”  Those Director types they aren’t only looking for talent, but desire and compassion.  I’m pretty sure the Children’s Church platform is the first to have hosted Johnathon and Mathias, but surely not the last.

Thi was six the first year he helped with Security.  Not officially, of course, but because the Security Director was on crutches, Thi became the tray-carrier, drink-getter, runner-arounder.  The golf cart made him taller, I’m sure.  Johnathon worked Security, too, on and off, but I couldn’t tell you when it started.  The years fold together in a flip-book of blurred images. 

Funny, looking back I don’t remember the sleepless nights, but only the stars and the quiet.  There were hot years, but I don’t remember when.  Storms, we had a few.  Cold nights, yes, I’m sure.  Their stories are blotted out by the other memories. 

Deep, rich, touched prayer times.  Sharing lives, making impressions -the kind of personal connections that build walls of faith for times of trouble.  These are the people who held me up in prayer and supported me through the dark days.  Their opinions of me matter.  

It seemed to all culminate last night.  I thought I was ready to leave.  It was getting late and the drive loomed.  I wasn’t ready to go, though.  Something – or Someone – held me back a few more minutes.  I had prayed with some very special friends, I had sung until my voice was gone, I had taken notes of some excellent teaching and preaching.  I had chatted with this one and that one confirming our mutual admiration.  I even smiled inside at the appearance of my books – MY BOOKS – at the PPH tent.  How absolutely sublime!

Ready to flit out, I saw one more friend, whose story I don’t really know, with her head bowed still praying. 

I know from having walked through a crisis that oftentimes what’s noised abroad resembles little of real life.  Thanks to Facebook, assumptions are made based on two or three lines of text.  I also know from walking through crisis that those two or three lines of text sometimes contain years of information.  Sensitivity is the key to dividing rumor from reality.

All I needed to know about my friend I knew.  Someone knocked on my heart and reminded me of the similarities.  That one last alter call gave me the door to reassure my friend that someone on the planet understood.  Some tears, some grace, some strength sharing.  

Then I knew I was okay to leave.

Me and Jesus have some talking to do about some other things from Camp this year.  Some words don’t ought to be written, but only prayed.  Some changes need to be made, some promises need to be kept, some hopes are to be seen.

If you have never been to church camp, you probably have read this post and think I have lost my mind.  You might think I’m simple or addled or out of touch.  Like the words that ought be prayed and not written, some things must be lived not explained.  

That’s how a writer sees Camp time.


 To order a copy of A Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges or a Friend Named Jesus, please visit my website:  Writer's Pages or stop by the PPH booth at your UPCI camp and request it.