A little Easter story

I wanted to share something with y’all. It’s something I wrote a while ago, but was able to share publicly for the first time on Friday, aka Good Friday.

It’s a short story from the perspective of John, watching Mary, Jesus’ mother, at the foot of the cross. My church held services on Good Friday during which each of the seven last words of Christ was addressed. I was asked to address the sixth word. My story, “Tetelestai,” covers the moments just before Christ calls out, “It is finished,” which is English for the Aramaic title of the story.

I was humbled to read from John 19:29-30, and then talk about the meaning behind “tetelestai.” I followed my brief thoughts with this story. I hope you enjoy it. If so, please visit my Facebook page and click “Like.”

 

Tetelestai

by Jay Lamborn

 

            Her heart relaxed between beats, the semilunar valves closed and the atrioventricular valves opened.

            The crimson drop slid down his forehead, slowly and methodically, as if attempting to avoid separation from its point of origin.

            It moved ever so slowly along beneath the crown of thorns, slipping into the space between his brows, where it waivered for a moment before deciding to take the track along the inside edge of his left eye.

            Her atrium contracted and blood flowed to the ventricle.

            Agonizing as it must have been to have the dot slowly moving down the edge of his nose, the man made no attempt to shake his head and dislodge the dot. His hands, nailed to the wood, were useless.

            The ventricles of her heart contracted.

            Waves of sound broke against the man, but none moved the globule from its appointed course. It continued to slide, through the hair above his mouth, moving now along the upper lip, delicately tracing a path along it before moving down through the scruff rough Roman barbers had left him and on to his chin.

            The ventricles emptied and the semilunar valves opened. Her focus on this singular dot was amazing. She was racked with sobs, tears flowed freely, but she never lost sight of it.

            The sky darkened and still her eyes kept watch as it quivered upon his chin. His voice rang out, laying bare his pain, and the movement of his jaw sent the scarlet blood flying. Her eyes locked on it, following the drop through the air and onto the suddenly shaking ground, even as her heart stopped the end of the contraction to begin its next beat.

            “It is finished.”

The Lesson I Unlearned About the Bible

I had certain verses pounded into me growing up. Chances are, you did, too.

John 3:16, anyone?

How about the 23rd Psalm?

Year after year my Sunday School teachers focused on the same stories and verses. Repetition taught me something I didn’t realize fully at the time – they taught me to believe some parts of the Bible are more important than others.

They aren’t.

God clarifies this in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. All Scripture is God-breathed, which is to say it is the Word of God. That’s in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

It’s like saying that chapter with Tom Bombadil isn’t important in The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve read the books (seeing the movie doesn’t count), then you know that several things could not otherwise have happened. To remove it is to impact the story as a whole.

The Bible might seem to be a whole bunch of stories, but in reality it is just one story – the story of God redeeming his people.

I thought some parts were more important when I was a kid. As a man I finally put childish things behind me and learned otherwise.

OK, so I put aside this silly notion that some parts of the Bible are more important. A couple of days ago, some 20+ years after most folks would say I became a man.

What is something you believed about the Bible as a kid that changed when you grew up?

Walking for guide dogs

My oldest daughter is blind. You probably know that already, but maybe not. We have begun exploring getting a guide dog for her and visited a nearby breeding and training facility called Southeastern Guide Dogs.

It’s a great place. For about 30 years they’ve been breeding and training dogs to assist the blind or to work with those with other disabilities. In recent years they’ve also provided a lot of support for veterans.

This weekend my daughter, the rest of my family, and some friends, are going to Bradenton to take part in a fundraising walk-a-thon for Southeastern Guide Dogs. My daughter found out about this event when we visited Southeastern a couple of months ago. She’s the type of girl who wants to help those who help others when she can’t directly help someone herself. She also feels that taking part in the walk-a-thon is an investment in her future, for the time when she is able to have a guide dog herself.

She named her team Blind Anchors, in part symbolizing her time spent in her school’s Naval JROTC program, but also to symbolize that she won’t let stereotypes hold her back. She seeks to conquer blind prejudice with blind faith, that she won’t be defined by her lack of sight. She’s on the board of the Florida Association of Blind Students, a part of the National Federation of the Blind. Their motto is “Changing what it means to be blind.”

Please consider supporting the team this weekend by making a donation through our team page, or comment below with a message of support. It will mean the world, not just to my daughter, but to those who benefit from your support of Southeastern Guide Dogs. Thank you for reading. In return, you can have this cute picture of a guide dog puppy playing.

Image

My family’s deep, abiding love for … something furry

It’s been a tough week. I’m taking the last class for my bachelor’s degree and one of the assignments due this week really kicked my butt. To be honest, I haven’t given a lot of thought to any writing for a few days.

So what am I writing about today?

My dog.

Image

Brandi is an 8-year-old Brittany. My youngest son rescued her from a shelter in 2008. In 2009 my son came to live with me, and a few months later Brandi joined us. My wife’s daughter Heather quickly fell in love and she and Noah have argued ever since about whose dog Brandi really is. Carolyn mostly argues about Brandi getting on the living room couch and the amount of hair she leaves lying around the house.

If you ask Brandi whose dog she is, I’m pretty sure she won’t pick just one of us, but all of us.

Noah bailed her out the day she was going to be put down at the shelter and she seems to know it. She always seems to know when he’s almost home from school and starts to get excited.

Heather always loves on her and Brandi is always there for Heather whenever she is down. Again, Brandi knows when the bus is due to arrive from the high school and she gets up from wherever she is and sits in the middle of the living room floor. When the bus pulls up her tail and butt start sweeping the floor. She bounds to greet Heather when she comes in.

Or, if not Heather, then Rebekah. Brandi loves her, too. Rebekah tries to play tough, and she does have a cat, but Brandi loves her anyway. I get a lot of joy from seeing this furry ball of excitement race to meet my family when they come home.

She knows not to jump at Carolyn, but she still gets excited when Mommy gets home. Sometimes Brandi gets so excited about it and she forgets and bounds to the door, then hits the brakes and slides to a stop right in front of Carolyn as she’s walking in.

Robert and Job aren’t around much, but Brandi still gets excited when she sees them. Job was just as much a part of her rescue as Noah. He was there in her home every day until she came to Florida. Both boys mess with her, playing games and tricking her by pretending to throw her toys. She loves it.

My dad calls her “Randi,” though I know he knows better, but I stopped correcting him a while ago. Besides, Brandi doesn’t care; she just knows she is going to get love from the short white-haired guy. Even my mom gets in on it, giving her love, and getting some in return.

I’ve never seen how Brandi reacts when I’m coming home, of course, but I know how she is when she’s around me. She shadows me most of the day when I’m home. My every movement is an invitation to play, go for a walk, or some other excitement.

I don’t want to keep her all to myself, but I’m pretty sure if you pressured her on it and she HAD to choose just one person to call her own, it would be me. And if anyone else in the family wrote this, they’d say the same thing.

Olympic Dreams

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are underway. I haven’t watch much of it this year, not like I used to as a kid when I’d watch every possible minute. Even so, I’ve seen some incredible performances.

I wonder, which event catches your attention? Was there, when you were a kid, an event you dreamed you’d compete in during the winter games? If you could compete now, is that still the event you would choose?

I’ve been skiing a handful of times in my life. I loved it. I knew I would before ever I strapped on skis, though. Why? Because as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to do giant slalom or downhill. That’s still my pick. I watched Bode Miller on the downhill last night. It was the longest downhill course in Olympic history, with the most vertical drop in Olympic history as well. Bode lost an edge once or twice, he stood up a little too much. I could feel the ice under me, hear the snow as I cut through it, feel the exhilaration of the jumps, and the wind rushing in my face.

What about you?

Follow Friday For Blogs

Time to give back. I benefit from the work of others. I want to share some of those others with you.

First, without a doubt, is Jon Acuff. He has two blogs, including the incredible Stuff Chrsitians Like and his personal blog, Acuff.me. Jon’s blogs have encouraged me, made me laugh, kept me going, given me inspiration. He set up 30 Days of Hustle to help people make their New Year’s resolutions pay off. That, in turn, has helped me work harder on my writing and my health.

Two other blogs that help me a lot are Donald Miller’s Storyline and Mike Hyatt’s blog. Both focus on things like building a platform and organizing your work day. Miller has a focus on telling your story, while Hyatt is more about maximizing your tools. If Jon Acuff pushed me to work harder, these guys helped me work smarter (not to take away from Jon; he’s got lots of smart stuff to offer, too).

I write. Writers read. Michael R. Hicks is one of my favorite sci-fi authors and he has a blog at his website which gives insight into his work, as well as tips and pointers for publishing. Another of my favorite writers writes Southern noir in a contemporary setting. Think Mickey Spillane meets small-town Mississippi in 2012. That would be Phillip Thompson. He’s an excellent cartoonist, too, but I haven’t seen anything lately from him in those lines. He’s from the south, so it’s no surprise his site has kudzu.

Bryan Allain writes about putting together your tribe, and on his website he strives to entertain his. If you’re looking for some good laughs, or some good advice on building a community, that’s a good place to start. Also, please don’t forget that Bryan is a mammal.

Several years ago I knew enough about economics to know I didn’t know enough. I also had developed some logical ideas on what sounded right. I wasn’t far off, it turns out, as Sean Malone helped me strengthen my understanding of the field and showed me my instincts were leading me in a good direction. Sean’s Logicology blog is a great place to put economics under the microscope of logic.

This is just a short list, but it includes those blogs I enjoy most and get the most from. Of the seven, three are people I know personally, a fact I thank God for fairly regularly. They offer valuable advice and direction, they challenge me, and the encourage me. While I might get some of that from the other blogs, it’s much more meaningful from people who are aware of my faults. But I digress. All of these blogs have something to offer. I hope you are able to take a few minutes to check them out.

What are some blogs that you find helpful? Comment with them. Who knows? Maybe you’ll help someone else out.

Faster Than Light

I’m doing something different today. I’m not going to bore you with several hundred words about my life or my family. Today I’m giving you a glimpse inside my fiction.

Well over a year ago I read an anthology called Battlespace. The editorial staff are all veterans. They actually have a really awesome podcast called The Science Fiction Show. Check it out. Anyway, they did something cool. They put together a bunch of military sci-fi, published it, and gave the money to a charity that helps veterans. In this case, the Warrior Cry Music Project. For some reason, even knowing they were looking for contributions, I didn’t even try to write one. After reading it, though, I thought I had a story in me for the next volume. And yes, I’m told there will be a second one.

So, I wrote a short story and ran it by some folks. They liked it. Thing was, it was the conclusion to a larger series of events. Since then I’ve been writing short stories that peek inside that larger series of events. Faster Than Light is one of those.

———————

Faster than light. Hyperspace. Warp speed. Science had reached the point where we knew it was possible. After all, our enemies were able move at such a speed. Now it would be our turn. The Bugs were pushed back against the gravity wells of Neptune and Uranus. Jupiter and Saturn were both at a point in their orbits of Sol that they, too, where on that arc of their orbits. Mars and Pluto, the other outer planets, were at about 9 and 3 o’clock, respectively, if Uranus marked 12 on an analog clock. The path to the other side of our system was free, other than the asteroid belt, of any gravitational flux.

Terran Space Ship 10-101, The Warped Tour, was small compared to the warships hammering and being hammered millions of miles away. The one-man ship was about the size of a small transport, grossing about the same tonnage as one of the old 20th Century Space Shuttles. Its shape, too, was 20th Century, but in this case it was inspired by science fiction. Entertainment creators hadn’t envisioned the Galactica’s Vipers to be quite so large, but The Warped Tour was a test bed.

Already it was accelerating away at a slight angle that would carry it above the asteroid belt orbit, as well as away from all the major bodies in the system. Bob Mauer, the test pilot and great nephew of one of those killed during first contact, was letting the flight test squadron know he was ready. Fast-as-light communications meant that the team aboard Terran Orbital 2 were seeing and hearing everything at the same time, but the reality was we were a few minutes behind. What we were seeing and hearing was in the past now.

Even as the go-ahead came over our speakers, the blip on our screens representing Warped winked out. Nearly 30 minutes later a report came in. Mauer had come back to realspace, corrected his angle, and accelerated out again, this time aiming for a point in an almost straight line from Earth and on the same level of the elliptical. It meant he’d taken just a few minutes to leave Earth orbit and arrive at a distance nearly equaling Jupiter’s from the sun, before transitioning to the turnaround point, and the final real test, before coming home. Another fifty minutes passed and we received the report from the gunnery range. Mauer had transitioned, found the targets, and destroyed them, then returned to Midpoint.

A blip suddenly appeared on our screen. Though we were sure it was Warped, we were on wartime footing, so everyone tensed. Then the message, “I’m baaaaack!”

Cheers. Slapping each other on the back. Someone broke open a bottle of champaign.

Admiral MacLaughlin stepped over to a comm unit, asked to be put through to the assembly line.

“This is Admiral MacLaughlin. The test was 100% successful. Start installing those drives; get the ships to the armory. As soon as Mauer arrives, debrief him in the presence of the other pilots. We can turn the tide.”

I can’t talk … and I’m wiser for it

So, I went and got sick again. Sorry about that.

The good news is I’m feeling better today.

The bad news, in my opinion anyway: I’ve lost my voice. My kids are probably rejoicing over this. Quietly, anyway, and somewhere I can’t see them. My wife is a bit annoyed about the lack of ability to carry on a conversation conventionally, but is probably glad I can’t raise my voice if the kids misbehave.

I know everyone else has had bitterly cold temperatures and lots of snow. In Southwest Florida we’ve had below-average highs and a lot of rain lately. My dog is the one feeling this the most. It’s hard to go outside when you don’t like getting wet. No, that’s not right. She doesn’t mind getting wet, so long as it’s under her conditions. Rain and baths don’t meet her conditions, so she’s had a rough last few days and has been getting antsy.

So, being unable to engage with my family, who are basically ignoring me until I can say something about it, I took the dog for a walk.

Most loops through the neighborhood might include a wave to someone, but generally my neighbors, though friendly, are usually not out in their front yards when I walk by. Today several wanted to speak. Of course. It was maddening and saddening. I mimed and they understood; I wasn’t being rude, I just couldn’t speak.

I’ve never seen a few of them outside before so they probably think I’m mute.

When I realized this, I got to thinking. What else was I going to do? I mean, the dog probably couldn’t have heard me if I had tried to talk about it, and she was right next to me.

You probably know by now that I’m familiar with folks who are missing some things the rest of us tend to take for granted, like sight or hearing. We also tend to be horrified by the thought of losing our own sight or hearing. I don’t have any experience with the mute. My thoughts today ran to what someone who is mute experiences.

The blind cannot see the world. The deaf cannot hear it. For those born that way, the pain must surely exist, but probably not as deeply as for those who lost their ability later. Either way, you are cut off from the world. You can respond to it, move around it in it, and speak to it, though.

Being mute, you experience the world, but cannot respond to it.

I can’t figure out which would be worse.

Quite a few people might say it would be a good thing if I couldn’t speak. It would leave a lot less opportunities to stick my foot in my mouth, but that’s a wisdom thing; something much different indeed.

I’m fortunate to know that in another day or two, I will try to say something and it will come out normal. I hope, anyway. Not everyone gets that.  We are all fortunate, however, to live in a time after people like Hellen Keller or Jacobus tenBroek have blazed a trail for those who cannot connect to the world in the same way most of us do. Thanks to them, and many others, being deaf or blind, even mute, can become something more in lines with a minor nuisance than that which defines who someone is and what they can do. Further, they’ve helped ensure that people have the opportunity to connect and respond to the world around them.

Twenty years ago I’d have been horrified to lose my voice, even from being sick. I was horribly frightened, about 27 years ago, when I put the wrong contact lens in my right eye, and the cleaning solution managed to put a serious damper on my sight in that eye. I thought, for a short time, that I might not have it at all. I was terrified, since about 17 years ago or so, when I began having tinnitus. Today, however, I’ve been comforted by my faith, my maturity, and my increasing wisdom and knowledge of the world.

The horror isn’t in blindness, deafness, or being mute. The horror is in letting any of those things keep you an outcast.

Walking in the dark

Have you ever worn a really good sleep shade? You’ll know if you have. You could stand out in the bright sunshine and still see nothing; not one tiny glimmer of light.

I’ve done this a couple of times. The first time was nearly three years ago in a hotel lobby in Boca Raton. I had someone at my elbow and a white cane in hand as I walked from a meeting room to the front entry way and back. A little case of nerves, but that was all. My biggest worry was the water feature that made up part of the area we walked through.

The second time?

That was a few days ago and it was rough. We left the hotel, walked across A1A in Daytona Beach, traveled through a strip mall, and entered Publix (that’s a grocery store chain if you’re not in the southeast). Then we walked through the store.  There were five of us, total, and three of us were blindfolded. There was someone around to check on me, but I had to rely principally on my cane. I’d been through the area we covered several times, which helped, but imagine not having that mental map to rely on. Our country, our world, is full of blind people who face such a situation on a regular basis.

My oldest daughter has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that limits her visual field. She has about a 10-degree cone of vision and her vision is about 20/100 in that cone. With glasses she can correct it to 20/70, which helps her a small amount in some situations. We own a pair of goggles that simulates her vision. I can’t walk through our house safely with them on.

Being blind can be scary. As humans, many of us struggle with a fear of the unknown. For the blind, much of the world is unknown. Being blind, if you weren’t born blind, is full of unknowns. One of the biggest unknowns is whether people will accept you as you. This fear can limit blind people from building relationships.

I’m fortunate enough, as is my daughter, to belong to an organization dedicated to accepting blind people as they are, but helping them to change what it means to be blind. My experiences with sleep shades have come while attending the annual conference of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. I’ve been privileged, and Heather would agree, to have met people for whom blindness is a nuisance, not a defining characteristic of their lives.

Like Heather, and many others, they have asked themselves over and over what God intended for them to do. Heather has said it often, and I hear others talk about saying it: “God, why am I blind? What purpose could my life possibly serve in this state?”

In the Bible some of the disciples asked Jesus what sins caused a man to be blind. Was it because of something his parents did? Was it something he did? Blindness could come from something the parents did or something an individual did, or could be the long-term consequence of a broken world. People have free will and God has a plan. Time and again I’ve seen blind people step out in faith, both literally and figuratively, and the result has been the glory of God.

Coincidentally(?), that was the answer Jesus gave  his disciples, that sometimes someone is blind solely that they may be the way through which God is glorified. Jesus returns the man’s sight in that passage, but God can be glorified through other ways, as well.

This weekend Heather grew a lot. She still wears the same shoes, the same clothes, but something inside her changed. She got involved in her blindness. She joined, and subsequently was elected to the board of, the Florida Association of Blind Students. She voted in NFBF elections. She listened to speakers talk about overcoming blindness to achieve success, often in ways they never dreamed of. She heard, too, of people who trusted God in ways I don’t often see in similar sized groups of sighted people.

Walking in the dark is scary. Finding the light in the darkness can make a lot of difference. Do you know what it’s like to walk in the dark? Literally? Figuratively? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Finding joy in the midst of depression

Depression is trying to tell me my dreams are dead.

And I want to listen. I’m tired and outside influence on my schedule is working against me. I barely have time to get done things I have to get done, like assignments for school, let alone the stuff I’d like to get done, like writing this.

Depression likes to suck the life out of everything. Don’t take my word for it, though. Feel free to ask other people who suffer with depression.

We live in a broken world and I certainly believe that part of my depression is in response to my environment, but it’s also, in part, chemical – something inside me that’s broken.

What to do about it? Well, in part, seeing the right doctors and taking the right medicine helps. The other thing, the one that keeps me going, is Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1 

There is joy and hope in knowing Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-9Galatians 5:22,  and Psalm 51:12.

Sometimes I struggle to find the strength to carry on with my dreams, but is these verses, and many more, that remind me that I can go on. Christ sustains me. Like in Philippians 4:13 where it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” These verses serve as reminders that the darkness doesn’t win and we don’t have to let it win in our daily lives.

I’ve heard that Billy Graham is famous for (among so many other things) once saying, “I’ve read the last page. God wins.” That’s a comfort for those of us who walk with God. He is, as it says in Psalm 46:1, our ever present help in time of need.

I don’t know about you, but I feel needy often. I need help to overcome depression. I need help to overcome bad habits. I need help to figure out how to make the money we have cover the bills. I need help feeling grateful and being forgiving. I need help sometimes just loving my wife and kids. God is there for that. Thankfully. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go this alone, with just doctors and medicine to make me right. Just thinking about that makes me feel more depressed. Seriously. My doctors are in the VA. The psychologist position at my clinic has changed hands five times in the last two years, maybe more. The psychiatrist blew off my problems, behavioral issues, to want to look for the roots of my depression.

Look, dude, I know the roots of my depression: it’s living in this messed up world. I’d love it if they’d focus on things like overcoming addictive behaviors or developing my skills in anger management. I took a great class on that at my church. I used to feel guilty about being angry, which just fed my depression, but then I learned a great verse, Ephesians 4:6, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Couldn’t even get the VA doctor to talk about anger.

Anyway, the point is, I have joy in my life despite the depression. I have a wonderful wife. Incredible kids. I’m about to finish my bachelor’s degree. I have great friends. Even though I’m unemployed, I’ve had some really great opportunities to go do things, meet people, and experience lots of cool stuff. Just in the last 18 months I’ve been able to be a part of the work done by a number of incredible ministries like YoungLife, Inca Link, World Vision, MudLove, and more. Later this year I hope to take my youngest daughter on a mission trip to Moldova with Operation Mobilisation.

I may not smile all the time. Life’s going to be hard, but through all of this I have learned a few things. The obvious lesson, of course, is that God is always there. Another, perhaps not as obvious lesson, is that happiness and joy are two different things. It’s possible to have depression issues and still experience and have joy in your life. Finally, that there are people out there willing to listen when things get hard. Please, please, if you are having serious problems with depression, turn to a friend or find one of the many help lines out there.