Kind Pastor Roland

Dear Pastor Roland,
When Ted and I were raw from leaving the Seventh-day Adventist church  – when we were trying to figure out what to do with church as we didn’t want to become skeptical about Christians in general, when we were calling churches all over the community trying to think through what to do (irritating many pastors with our theological questions) trying to find a group of believers pastored by someone who understood concepts of the new covenant, with all our questions…
You were the exception
You were respectful
You took the time to listen before you talked
Not listening politely, but listening with your person
You knew your Bible
You understood the issues
You were caring
 
After a lot of thought and prayer, we came to your church. That was 15 years ago. Thank you for helping us stabilize during a really hard time in our lives.  Sitting in church week after week, just raw from the jolt of such a change, your faithfulness at keeping the main things the big deal healed our hearts.  And your jokes, those dry jokes, they helped us heal, too:)
 
Now you’ve slipped away to Jesus after a long hard fight with cancer. I can only imagine how painful this is for Dottie. For Julie.  For the entire family.
 
Dottie helped us stabilize too, as she was always the Sunshine in the church lobby that made us feel at home. Julie and Matt helped… just chasing kids, Boeing talk and connecting.  Changing churches is no big deal unless you belong to more than a church – say like growing up Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, or Adventist. Then your church is your entire life. And so leaving Adventism was traumatic for us, losing people that were uncles and aunties to our kids, leaving a system we could travel anywhere in the world and belong.  Leaving what we knew and loved.  Thank you, Roland and Dottie, for making a church home for so many, and for us.
 
We would have never had the courage to follow what we believed and leave a church we didn’t agree with if it hadn’t been for the driving desire that our children be able as adults to worship God authentically, rather than live inside a belief system they could not support Biblically.  As it turns out, our children who made the church change with us – at that time, our 10-year-old son Marty and 8-year-old daughter Maley- are now all grown up and both serving God in their own unique ways.  Baby Henry we brought to Mountainview was same age as your grandson Jaden and they have become lifelong buddies I’m sure (well, one of the many buddies who love mud and bikes and nerf guns and ….). All three of the older kids were baptized in the chilly river surrounded by Mountainview church folks during church campouts. You dedicated our baby Mary – your last baby dedication before you retired.  I remember you made a joke about her trying to beg food off the communion tray during the dedication:)  
Thank you for staying in touch even after you retired.
Thank you for always asking about how things were going.
Thank you for being real.
Thank you for those great accordion songs.
Snohomish is lacking without you.
Heaven is richer for you.
Always Grateful,
Lisa and Family
If I have the gift of prophecy
and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but do not have love,
I am nothing.
I Cor 13:2
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Christian Prostitute.

The occasional ding, ding of a heart monitor. Halls mostly quiet. Patients waiting behind drawn curtains — dozing off. Nurses, doctors, the social worker (me), we are upright but mostly sleepwalking. A rather demanding case has been completed, I quickly grab free clipboard and head for the next challenge, room 32. Knock knock I say as I slip behind the curtain into dimmed room. Slight frame shivers under the white blanket.

Working in the trenches changes people. It has changed me. I once lived in an Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories world — identifying all persons as either good or bad. Things done right or done wrong. Christian or sinner. As a kid, I heard it everywhere. The message simple. People who choose rightly and act accordingly belong to the kingdom of God. People who make wrong choices and act wrong belong to the Darkness. Kind of a Yankees — Red Sox rivalry, never to be blurred, each with its own uniform and identifying ways. It’s understandable why adults tell children these things. The hope is to prevent the child from doing something that will harm them. Still, the overall message is a lie.

From the vantage of a congested urban emergency room for about 20 years as a psychiatric social worker, hours of interviews with people, teeth black from meth, bodies covered in abscesses from heroin use, faces broken and deformed from domestic violence, infected by prostitution, my view has been close up. An hour or so of taking history, huddled on cot and head down, the tears and shame of it all, I end the interview by asking, “How have you managed to survive?” and many times I’ve heard the same answer, through tears… “I never would have made it without Jesus.”

We have this idea that when we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, there is a certain something about us that is different from what I just described above. I know Jesus stabilizes our lives. That’s the hope we all have, isn’t it? Why, then, after I gave my life to Jesus, do I still have a temper? Why do I still use foul language when I’m stressed out, even though I try hard not to? Why do I say unkind things to my children though I’ve taught my kids that Christians don’t want to be unkind?

God HAS changed me over the years. Cleared out much of what kept me stuck. At the same time, I’m not being kicked and hit and torn at. I’m not being raped. I’m not being lied to. I’ve had resources. I have strong friends, many for over 30 and 40 years. Friends who love and support me. I have a safe and loving husband. I have a job, and food and shelter.

God describes how we can tell if a person is a Christian or not “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. Love is different from addiction-free. Love and a cycle of hell sometimes coexist. If the church today were to write a list of Christian identifiers, the list would most likely look like this: “By this everyone will know you are Christ’s disciples, if you are strong, do well financially, dress well, are emotionally healthy, have a stable group of friends, are not addicted to meth, not shooting heroine, not living on the streets, not living with an abuser, etc..” Love and disaster in this life are not mutually exclusive. Love and human weakness.  The best of us and the worst.  Who we want to be and who we really are.

The God I’ve come to know while sitting alongside emaciated human shivering under thin white blanket on hospital cot is a God who does not abandon when we are too weak to get out from under the hell we’ve found ourselves in. God reaches into our darkness and holds onto us. In reality, not one of us fully escapes this sordid life till we step to the other side. The wretch we distance ourselves from has been made in God’s Image, very well could be my brother in Christ, my very own sister. Our mansions in Glory just might be parked side by side. Eternal neighbors with the hooker I turn my face from when light turns red on my way to work, good girl that I am, bad girl that she is. Sisters.

A fantasy, really, of us and them. The Bible teaches of the saved and the lost. Still, scripture reminds us that we as humans must not be the ones to determine who is lost and who’s saved. The sad reality is that if Jesus held hand and walked broken little prostitute into church this Sunday, I’m certain we wouldn’t recognize Jesus, and wouldn’t accept his company. I’m guessing your church would do as poorly as mine. No room in the inn. What would we do with her language? Her habits? With her reality? With his lack of discernment? We’d have difficulty making sense of her life. We’d question His love for her. Because Christians are liars. Our problem is not that we don’t believe that God cares for broken humans. The problem is our refusal to come to terms with our broken human self. We lie to ourselves about ourselves. We quick turn away from who we really are, causing us to quick turn away from anyone whose wounds are showing. Ultimately causing us to hide from Jesus. “Adam, where are you?” The question bounces off the emptiness of our lonely existence, God still searching for our hiding selves.

”Oh, it can’t be that bad!” “Praise God in all things” and on we blather, using God’s Word to shut each-other up from speaking truth about our real and messy lives. So much evil in denial. God Himself is the most solid model of seeing all, telling all, and loving, even-though. Scripture is full of stories — stories of what really happened. God’s people were often up to no good, he corrected them and yet continued to own them as His, His own broken kids, even when they were despicable.

There has been a lot of talk recently about churches and why women in domestically violent situations are less safe at church. It’s true. And the reason, Christians have fine tuned pretending. Telling a woman who is being beat at home ‘…all things work together for good’, ‘men are wild at heart, honey’ — yes, words spoken to battered women — words that kept her in a dangerous situation far too long.

When my patient’s arrive for therapy, they need help. They are willing to own what is. Every person who sees real change has a single thing in common. They are done pretending. There is a willingness to lay it out there, even despite the consequences. Because they want wholeness more than face saving. They want to get well more than to avoid pain. They also realize on an intuitive level that face-saving does harm, and so they pursue honesty.

Jesus Powerful Cross leaned hard on the wall between God and us and broke that wall down. The Cross tore the curtain from top to bottom, the wall that separated us from the Presence of God…. drawing us closer, still closer to himself. Not the pretend part of us. But all of us. Even the disgusting parts of us.

I think the sin of the church in our century is the sin of pretension (deceit).

Lying to ourselves about who we have been and who we really are. Minimizing our stories. Holding up the wall between us and them by pretending about us. The people hurting and wounded will never be accepted until I replace pretension with a good hard look at my own compost pile of a life, I embrace my actual story, I see the way God’s grace has met me in my pain. When I do, I am filled with love for others like me, with messes like mine, and there is acceptance.

Street Sheep. Jesus precious kids.

Baby girl born to house of drugs, molestation and rape since age 4, a runaway at 10 who became a prostitute for the safety of the thing, now trapped. desperately needs me to see her not as despicable but as made in Holy God’s Image.

Woman deformed from years of domestic abuse, I’ve seen her again, and again, every fresh visit to the ER, I work hard to provide her a hiding place, she always returns for more of the same, and is broken again, and much worse than the time before. Silent and tears, and shame. She repeats in a whisper “Jesus, Jesus, ….” She is my sister. Walking through this life alongside each other. Both needing Jesus to save us from ourselves. Both hopelessly stupid. Both clinging.

Man with abscesses from heroin. All the warnings in the world and he’s at it again, and worse off than ever. The PTSD war horror that he tries to manage in ways he knows how, and finally the needle is the only thing that stops the pain, and it will kill him. He always asks for prayer, tears streaming. My own brother. Together we strive to survive, letting Jesus hold us.

I can see them, the masses. The despicable. The broken down by life. The ones I distance myself from. Unbathed. Teeth mostly gone. Faces hardened by life. Bodies stiff from life under the bridge. Oh when the saints go marching in…. The lady who pulls eyebrows out and most of her hair – since the rape, forever pulling. The man stuttering his answers, face red from shame. The child covered in blood, still alive, saw it all. The young boy had never used a drug, talked into it at some festival, word salad and parts of words is all he can manage, and the rocking. His heartbroken parents with no answers. The confused Grandma who lives alone with her cats in a trailer. The dirty woman who just can’t get clean – life in the shelter, safer than home… I see them all together – moving forward, full of muted love for a Jesus who knew it all, never left, and refused to let go – they move together forward…. Oh when they march around the throne, when they march around the throne, I want to be in that number, when they march around the throne. 

 

Oh When The Saints Go Marching In: Black Spiritual

Thanks to Ian Espinosa for image.

When I Can’t Pray. What God Does With Muted Souls.

...because healing spreads

The dance with God is a dance with the invisible.  It’s like I’m up in my room, house empty but for the dog, and I’m folding towels. The giant trees out below my window along greenbelt are heavy under the weight of rain that won’t slow.  I hear it strong on the roof above me, and against the windowpane.  The giant mound of laundry.  The relentless rain.  The bowing trees.  And I sting to the bone with the goodness of God.  There between the bed and the bookcase, me and the white towel, we dance.  We dance with God.  It’s a celebration of all that is.  And I know He is.  I’m alive with God, celebrating the gift of the laundry, the rain, the bowing trees – the song playing in my veins. 

God and I could be different. 

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Joe and Donna – Thank you.

It was a winter day when I first remember Joe. Pretty sure I’d met him before, that’s just the day that comes to mind. The day I’d had enough of the darkness — was done trying to stay alive. The day I didn’t care anymore, gathered my 15 year old bulimic suicidal hair pulling self, boots and long black coat, and headed toward the freeway in hopes some crazy trucker would pick me up and I’d end up anywhere — I couldn’t kill myself, maybe somebody would help me out. Shaking with the self loathing of the thing, I stepped through heavy glass doors of the girls dorm out into the darkness of the evening. No one in sight, I hurried through campus winds toward the road. I don’t remember how it happened but there was a giant man coming toward me from the road — looked down so wouldn’t have to answer any questions as was pretty sure it was a teacher or staff of the school… he asked them anyway… “Young lady, where you going?” I don’t remember the rest. I’m sure I was tongue tied — tears, I don’t know. Never was any good at lying. All I know is that Joe took me across the street to his house to spend the night with his family. Remember nothing of that night except that I slept in sleeping bag on carpeted floor of their library just off living room. Remember being taken to counseling a few days later. Remember getting a job at the library that his wife Donna ran. After that night, I was always welcome in their home.

So many memories. Reading Pat McManus books in their living room. All of us laughing till our sides hurt. Joe rattling off math facts, hoping I’d pick up a few facts myself. Sorry, Joe, the math facts never stuck. Donna talking me into doing aerobics with her and a bunch of old ladies — (they were all in their 20’s and 30’s:) Donna inviting me to help her linseed oil their getaway cabin in mystic land of wilderness. The hours out in Joe’s automotive shop, hanging there when I had nowhere else to go. When the money ran out for me to stay at the school, having to call a dozen or so strangers — ‘Can you sponsor me to stay at Mount Ellis’ I wanted the floor to swallow me up, but then Joe said, come on, you can do this. And so I did. I got all the support I needed to keep going. I remember the stress of an audition for choir. Out in shop, Joe would tell me to try it. In the library Donna would tell me I would do fine. I did. Would hear me sing the song during choir tour — he drove bus, they would always tell me I did great.

Joe — the bus driver. He was the Abominable Snowman. Snow was not a problem to him. It was a challenge, kind of the way he took on the rest of life. Once the windshield wipers broke while we were barreling down the road. (I would stand up front as I’d get very nauseated back of bus.) Since I was up there anyway, he asked me to pull a level back and forth that he’d rigged up — keeping the glass clear so he could keep schedule and get another busload of kids to the next concert.

Joe was gruff and large and bearded and dark eyed. Not a guy I’d ever feel comfortable around… except that under the gruff was a guy who cared. A human being. And besides, Joe had his exact opposite, a wife who was as approachable as a meadow of happy flowers. She invited me to help her paint her brick brown fireplace all lovely white. Our work produced a fine looking makeover. I helped her wallpaper, do housework, organize library cards. She taught me things, and also shared hard things in her life. Told me about the day she and Joe, her boys and two of their friends went camping. About the tree that came down middle of night — right through the little boys tent. Her boys lived. The two brothers in the middle didn’t. How the other family lost all their children at one gust of surly wind. Tree that robbed them all of the feeling that life is safe.

Tree did it again, a number of years ago, when it hurt Joe bad, in the back. And this week, tree took Joe away. Joe, the rough-round-the-edges, who cared deeply.

Joe, Donna’s life.

Joe, Dad to three kids.

Joe, Grandpa of more.

The guy who helped random kids find better footing –

sent them out for catching strays

in world of surly wind and hopelessness.

Too many kids to count.

And that, no tree can take.

Thanks Jaunathan Gagnon, for the photo.

How To Not Pick An Abuser Over And Over Again

Picking The Wrong One

The story we hear often. The girl who has finally made a break away from the abusive chaotic man, only to have fallen in love with his twin brother. The question is what causes a woman to find another abuser, and another, and another.

Some say it’s what she knows. Her childhood was abusive and chaotic. Her dad was unpredictable, her Mom complacent and shut down. She might have been passed around.

That’s not always the case, however. Sometimes these women have not grown up in abusive addictive environments. Then what’s the draw?

The draw is the first abusive relationship. Even if the first one was with a teacher, a sibling, a boyfriend or husband.

The first thing I will say is that when we are harmed, say a slap in the face, its not just the slap that causes the harm. It is the element of surprise. That being the case, times of calm because frightening. The body has learned that experiencing calm and feelings of saftey is a dangerous place to be, because calm is where the shock of abuse occurs. Therefore being with someone who is volatile feels almost safer than with a man who is always kind and caring.

Another aspect to this is that when we are in relationship with someone, and when we are close to them, our body produces a chemical dump in response to that relationship. When we move near the one we love, our body responds by dumping hormones into our body — driven by the brain. Research shows that the juices dumped into the body for bonding are significantly stronger in an abusive relationship that in a safe healthy relationship. That means the sparks are much stronger with a dangerous man if you’ve been abused before, than with a good solid man. If you’ve been abused and bonded with an abuser, teach yourself to RUN when you feel the strong sparks. Then teach yourself to slowly bond with a good kind man. The healthy relationship takes time. Take the time. Love that is deep is amazing. The sparks will come, they just won’t be there the first minute you meet him. Or the first couple months, either.

Picking the wrong one is what you’re use to. Fight what you’re use to. True love simmers slow. Life is short. Don’t waste your precious short life on the roller coaster.

In conclusion, bullies are triggered by weakness. The more someone is harmed, the weaker a person presents in relationship. Work to tap back into your compassionate strong self. A bully looks for someone he can push around. Try out the word ‘no’ on your first encounter. Try it out again and again. How ‘no’ is tolerated is telling. Make sure you have a strong group of friends who are truth tellers. Most of the time, abusers are sniffed out by strong types right away. Listen when a friend cautions you.

Change is possible. You can do this. A gentle safe life awaits you.

By; Lisa Boyl-Davis, LICSW

 

First posted on Medium on a Publication called Better Marriage 

Help’n Momma

Another song… tune written by Danny Rash, arranged by Ted Lombard, lyrics by me.. has the sound of a Pink Panther sneaky doings-on.  Original title is Muddy Minor:

 

They all think

nights the night

We do pizza, pop and rum

They don’t know 

Momma’s got spinach in the dough

 

They all say

‘not my turn,

Oh so tired’

They don’t learn

 

They can’t see

Momma’s up to sneak-er-y

 

A cup a soymilk

And now the Barley Green

A pack a tofu

Baked in the apple pie

Oh and some castor oil

And topped with turmeric

 

One wild supper

And they be help’n Momma next time

Help’n Momma

They be help’n Momma next time

Help’n Momma

Work’n in the kitchen next time

Oh so helpful 

They be oh so helpful next time..

Help’n Momma

Da de da da da de da doo la dee da

Help’n Momma

Humm humm ….

Help’n Momma…

Help’n Momma…………..

 

Tune by Danny Rash

Arranged by Ted Lombard

Lyrics by Lisa Boyl-Davis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beethoven

Dimmed light of the music studio, I sat listening to my 9 year old play a halted Fur Elise, her first time through – blond braids moving to the rhythm. The teacher asked her if she had heard the story of the man who wrote the song.  She shook her head no and continued to play – mighty hard for her to stop once she gets started.  And while she played the tune over and over he told the story of a little boy who played the piano.  About the way his dad must have been proud of his abilities as he was bound and determined to make a child prodigy of him – the next Mozart.  So determined he was that while the boy played, his dad would rage and beat the boy, slamming the lid of the piano down on little hands if a note was missed, showing no expression at all when he played it correctly, always wanting more and still more out of him.  He would drive the boy to practice long hours, and often middle of the night, coming home from the Alehouse would pull his young son from deep sleep out of bed, hit him in the head to awaken him, to play for his intoxicated friends.  I hadn’t heard this story before, but remembered reading about Beethoven years before – I’d hang over side of my bed, book on carpet below, I’d read out of green and white Children’s Encyclopedia.  The story of the wild hair, wild eyed man Beethoven, completely deaf, who could hear music in his mind, all of it.. all parts, how he’d write beautiful and complicated works even though unable to hear a thing.    

Mary played awhile, and I wondered about deafness and beatings.  About drunkenness and lack of sleep and rage and rich complicated powerful music.  And in my wonderings, scribbled out a song back of envelope… a song that starts with Fur Elise and ends with a phrase of Fur Elise. 

Beethoven

Another Mozart

Another beating

Hours at music and the iron fist

Tormented spirit, all walled up in deafness

Bled through the layers and layers of silence

Song found it’s way…

.. into the world

 

Dance in the thunder

And so beautiful

Let the score say what you never could

Flower of yellow

Burst’n up through sidewalk

In a concrete world

You shine anyway….

Another Mozart

Another beating

Hours at music and the iron fist

Tormented spirit, all walled up in deafness

Bled through the layers and layers of silence

Song found it’s way..

… into the world

By Lisa Boyl-Davis August 11, 2018

Beethoven could have loathed music for the way his dad tortured him. The harm done left scars that ran the gamut of his being, and still somehow the harm was unable to rob Ludwig of his run to music, of the creations in his mind – was unable to stifle love for God. 

There is so much more to his story. 

About the way he adored his mother, and lost her too soon.

About the way one sibling, then another and another passed on.

About the way each girl he fell in love with refused to marry him, for although most of his life was spent mingling with the wealthy, he himself was not, and therefore took for music, but not as a husband. 

About the way he suffered mental illness. 

About suicidal wishes. 

About his rage. 

About the mistakes he made. 

About the squalor he lived in. 

I could go on… and really the more I know of his life, the more I am in awe of the human spirit.  The way a dance in the thunder can make Beautiful.  The way flowers burst through concrete and shine anyway.  I think of all the survivors of abuse I have encountered.  Much like Beethoven.  Messy, complicated.  And contributors to some of the richest rarest forms of beauty I have encountered. 

Somehow, song finds its way into the world. 

The Curlew Store

This song (the tune) was written by Danny Rash, arranged by Ted Lombard (my music teacher) and I wrote the lyrics.  I have memories of walking, hot summer day, down to the Curlew Store, hoping there would be a letter waiting for me, as I was 14 and had a boyfriend in another state.  I lived and died for those letters.  That’s what this song is about.  About being a kid.  Experiencing a small town, experiencing something hoped for, and being let down.  A sweet memory of a tentative time.

 

Down to the store 
On a hot dusty day
Past the long wooden bench 
For waiting

It is cooler inside
Down the tall walls of goods
To the back of the store
The wall for mail

Turn the dial to the right 
Stop at 7, and then
Spin it round to the left
And I peer in

The letter I hoped would be there 
Had not made its way 
For waiting

The letter I hoped would be there 
Had not made its way 
On this hot dusty day 
Past the long wooden bench
For waiting

I’m waiting…..

 

By Danny Rash

Arranged by Ted Lombard

Lyrics Lisa Boyl-Davis

 

 

 

 

Flipflop Blues

I’ve never experimented with writing children’s songs.  Here’s my first attempt.  The tune was written by Danny Rash, and arranged by Ted Lombard.  It has the sound of hurried feet headed out the door – off to go fishing:)

 

7 dusty flipflops go’n fish’n

7 tired flipflops headed home

7 lazy flipflops on the back porch

Where to find the other one?

Look’n under

Look’n over

Hunt’n clover

Where’s that shoe?

Look’n under

Look’n over

What’s a lonely foot to do?

7 muddy flipflops in the bathtub

7 shiney flipflops in the sun

7 flipflops ready for adventure

Where to find the other one?

Look’n under

Look’n over

Hunt’n clover

Where’s that shoe?

Look’n under

Look’n over

What’s a lonely foot to do?

Someone sing’n flipflop blues….

Oh ya:)

 

Song Written By Danny Rash

Lyrics By Lisa Boyl-Davis

Arranged by Ted Lombard

 

Biking Next To You

Evening summer

Passing shadows with you

 

When the sun drops down

Hiding all our troubles

Biking all our troubles far behind

Biking next to you

 

When the sun drops down

Hiding all our troubles

Biking all our troubles far behind

Biking next to you

 

This ole hill has blocked our view

so tired to the bone

You and me, we’re almost there

And now we’re coasting home

 

When the sun drops down

Hiding all our troubles

Biking all our troubles far behind

Biking next to you

 

Lyrics by Lisa Boyl-Davis

Music by Danny Rash

Arranged by Ted Lombard