No VCR, no DVD's, no computer, we were dependent on movies to arrive on cable television once a year: Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Willy Wonka, Sound of Music. Of course I loved movies of adventure too but these were the ones I could predictably count on to come to network TV.
Years ago, our family pictures were divided up three ways: for me, my sister and brother. In an effort to bring the pictures back together, each summer I bring my photographic scanner up to my home town where my sister and I scan old pictures; we each get a copy. I had forgotten about an event until I saw a picture. The huge smile on my face reminded me of the feelings that day.
There was a school play: Wizard of Oz. Like the miracles in an episode of "Glee", I was given the part of the good witch. I needed a costume worthy of a great part. My mother and her co-workers did not disappoint. They made me the most fabulous wand and crown a girl could want. On top of it, my mother assembled a costume where I truly thought my heart would burst with joy. Thus, the smile on my face.
I remember one time when my sister and I were fighting, my dad gave us boxing gloves and asked us to take it into the garage. He was serious! We had a boxing bag in the garage and we watched all the big televised boxing matches. LOL- not exactly the image of a little girl longing to be Cinderella but now, I am even thankful for that image because it helped me to not only become as tough as nails.... but a longing to be pretty.
I know when the fear of flying hit me but it wasn't always the case. First story: I had been living on my own for a couple of years; the pressure was mounting. I had just flown up to visit my grandparents and parents for a holiday (Thanksgiving) visit and they had dropped me off at the San Francisco airport for my return flight. I remember sitting alone looking out the large plate glass windows; melancholy having said good-bye to those I loved.
My gaze from the plate glassed windows only left for a mili-second. I felt the first moment, followed by hearing a sound the second, and finally seeing with my eyes an unlikely scene, the third. First: the walls and seat that I sat in shook violently, second: the horrendous sound of crashing and windows vibrating filled my brain. Finally, returning my gaze to the scene outside the window was one I shall never forget. Like from a movie imitating cinematic drama, the largest "mushroom" shaped cloud filled the view in front of me. For only the length of a second, the cloud was a beautiful, surreal mixture of dark grey, black and vibrant streaks of red. In the next second, however, the thought hit me. Right before my eyes, a plane had crashed. I later learned it was a 6-8 seater; the pilot had mis-diagnosed it's landing and burst into flames. There were no survivors.
The next few moments were a blur of activity. Emergency vehicles responding to the scene outside. There were no cell phones so I quickly got word to my family that I had not been on the plane that burst into flames. I think they re-routed our exit gate. Fear hit. Should I get on the next plane out? A part of me wanted to run home and never look back but I boarded the plane.
Back up a few years. My step-father took me to see the "Blue Angel's". I was instantly hooked. I wanted to be a pilot. It is not easy to become a pilot and one that requires years of dedication, commitment and luck. Although I never pursued that dream, I had the opportunity to co-pilot (only for less than a minute) a small Cessna aircraft that sat 4 people on a four 1/2 hour flight from the Santa Barbara to Truckee, Ca airports.
The instrument panel was filled with lights, dials and buttons. You could easily get confused with so much to remember but my friend, Chris said the the most important thing was to "watch the horizon". It would guide the plane regardless of the weather conditions. We had long talked about Bernoulli's principle at one of the families' many parties where their house was filled with 100+ young people. Chris is one of five boys- all of whom were either pilots or musicians. When the eldest son died in an automobile accident in Lake Tahoe, Ca his Senior year of high school, they took me under their wings in Santa Barbara, California. I still consider their mother, Vivian, one of my dearest friends. A blond haired, blue-eyed, Southern Italian knock out and stewardess for American Airlines when that meant class and distinction.
I tend to be all over the board so how can a game of "Dodge Ball" bring a story about rainbows and flying a F-14 Tomcat together, while weaving elements of faith? That is the challenge this month!
We did it. My husband and I raised three children to adulthood; our youngest just turned 18. I do not say that lightly. It represents 110% of who I am. I left every ounce of who I am on the court; I can honestly say, I played the game, holding nothing back and although our children will always need me as their mom, i can feel the tide of independence washing over me.
There are two things I don't talk about: my age and that I was an elder in a church. That's it; two things. If you met me, you would probably say I am a little younger than my chronological age. It is true. My closest friends are all a little younger than me. I think it was God preserving a part of my heart and intellect so I enter hope and faith with youthful enthusiasm. I don't talk about being an Elder in the church for the same reason I don't talk about age. The expression on the faces of people that sit across from me erode my confidence.
Even though I was an elder with a prominent church, there are still men who feel uncomfortable with women in leadership positions in the church. An Elder is a three-year term that represents unspeakable humility that grinds even the sharpest glass into a dull-ocean tumbled rock. Those years represent tears, struggle and a full exhale of breathe.
About six weeks ago, I took my two youngest daughters to dinner for the purpose of relationship but also to ask their opinion of me going back into youth ministry. After giving me their endorsement, I "jumped" back in. Wednesday night, youth night, after a friendly competition of volleyball/dodge ball, we formed teams for a regular game of dodge ball; it gave me a great vision for ministry. Let me explain:
As a kid, I HATED picking teams for Dodge Ball. Didn't they have any other P.E. games in school? Although I had leg strength, I had no upper-body strength. Yes- you guessed it. I was ALWAYS the last one picked. It was excruciatingly painful.
I am a lot older and wiser now. I love Dodge Ball. We draw the lines in the sand. We know what is "out". There are players with upper body strength and they stand on the front lines, anxious to take and receive the "front-line" shots. These are the predictable "strength" players who everyone counts on but there are all sorts of players in Dodgeball. There are the quiet players who hold the line, ready to catch the opponents slam; when they catch the ball, it brings back into the game the front-line players that got "out" on the last play. It takes all kinds of players to make a good team; a good coach knows the value of each of his/her team players.
Jesus spoke to the crowds of thousands, breathed miracles into individuals but really invested his life into 12 guys. He loved these guys. As I see it, if the cross is both vertical and horizontal, he has given Himself but also other people. Who is on your faith team?
I don't even have my full set of 12, but my faith team is strong. I sometimes hear a "whisper" sort of voice that says: "I don't know why you haven't been picked for Dodgeball before, but you are now." Sometimes the unlikely, seemingly weak players are picked last but they contribute to the team. That sort of confidence gives you a sense of strength when you know your team-players can "kick butt" through prayer and tough front-line faith shots. Each of us knows how difficult ministry can be.
We may be writers, musicians, theologians, prayer warriors or "advancers of the faith" pushing open the box of church in order to reach lost souls for the Kingdom of God. Either way, we cheer each other on to the finish line. Isn't that what the disciples did?
That could not have been more tangible for me as it was a week or so ago. I had a 3 1/2 hour surgery, where I would be almost entirely positioned on my head. A remote and unlikely outcome was blindness which fortunately did not happen. I was so surrounded in prayer that it was the last thing I thought of and the first thought that awoke me. Literally! and then everything else was covered in prayer too, from the surgeons, to new technology that absorbed the gas needed to blow up my abdomen to a private room in the new part of the hospital. The doctor had me laughing the next day (which is very painful) after showing me pictures and telling me stories of my surgery, she asked "who I knew to get a private room". I said, "I was covered in prayer". She rather thought of it as "good people attracting good things" but I know otherwise.
I have a strong backing of faith strength; people willing to pray for and encourage me as I would do for them. I love the above quote from Mother Theresa: "When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live that life radiating that love." I may just need a lifetime to "process" that quote. As much as I have been given, there is still a part of me that wants more and for that I am truly thankful because it keeps my "eyes on the horizon."
So... I might end right where I started... with a very large smile. No longer a little girl with the desire for a wand and a crown but a woman of faith who puts her hope on the other side of the rainbow who is not afraid to play it out in a "dog-fight" inverted position, knowing I am backed by stronger faith warriors than myself who is among a team of unlikely servants, weak players willing to "lay it on the line" for a savior they love. Jesus.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.