Thursday, April 21, 2011

Light in Dark Places

As I have mentioned before, I wowed every time that I go to Inner City Arts. As I volunteer there I see students empowered and staff who are passionately committed to the arts. I wanted to share a story from my latest experience there. I was ushering for a Stand Up Comedy show that they were holding as the finish to a high school comedy class. As I was greeting parent and friends who were entering the theater, I saw a little boy probably about 4 years old walk into the black box theater with his family and then run out crying. His sister comes out after him and discovers that he was scared of the darkness of the theater. His sister was trying to tell him to come inside because it wasn’t scary but he was refusing to come in. One of the staff from Inner City Arts saw this happening and approached the boy. She talked to him in a way that did not belittle his fears but acknowledged that dark places can be very scary. As she interacted with him she offered him some suggestions of what would make it easier for him to be able to go into the theater. She offered to put a chair right by the door so that he could be close to the light, or that he could go in once the show had started so that there would be more light in the room. She asked the sister not to force him to go inside. He still did not want to go in so they brought him some coloring pages to play with in the hallway. They brought him some glow sticks that he could wear around his hand so that he could carry some light with him. By this point there were several staff caring for this child and trying to come up with different ideas to help him.

To an outsider it might seem that they were babying him or being accommodating to a tantrum, but I saw the values of Inner City Arts lived out. Inner City Arts strives to make everyone feel safe and comfortable when they step onto their facility. The staff did not want this child to be forced into the theater that was very scary for him and have a negative experience that he would associate performing arts with later. They really wanted to make him feel safe so that he wanted to go in and have a good experience. I did see him eventually enter the theater, although I was not around to see what made him feel safe enough to enter. I was blown away at the dedication of several staff to care for this child. This was not even one of their students who come to take classes. But everyone who steps foot on Inner City Arts should have a safe and positive experience with art.

This situation also struck me as an analogy of how God cares for me. There are a lot of risks and scary situations that God is inviting me into. As I can not see everything that will happen in this place (similar to the boy in the dark theater) I am very hesitant to enter. But God is not forceful and will not drag me into the theater. God has been very gentle with me. He offers that I just stand by the door or take a step closer when I am ready. And eventually I make it in. And it isn’t as scary, not because anything has changed but because God has taken steps to care for me so that I can feel safe.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How the Camel Got its Hump

How the Elephant Got Its Hump

This week is Spring Break for LAUSD so afterschool program that I am working for is having our Spring Break Camp. I was teaching a class on storytelling. I read the students a story called How the Camel Got its Hump by Rudyard Kipling from Just So Stories. We then talked about other animals who are funny looking and wonder how they got that way. I had the students write their own versions of these different stories. Here are a few to share.

In the students original words and spelling. (1st and 2nd grade)

How did the anteater have a long no’s mabe it was Jast like peenoceo (Pinocchio) whin he told lie’s he grow a long no’s.

How the swordfish got his sord noise (nose). The sordfish got his sord noise by wat it eats. But wat is spiky in the sea? Made some plants are spiky in the sea.

How the zedra (zebra) got its stripes. Onec there was a zedra who always runs and dose nothing else. But one day He went to an evel wich. So he thought that She could make him faster then inny thing. So he took the dile. but the She made his stips white and black.

How did the sparrow get a gray body? I thick the how the sparrow got a gray body by just painting gray all over so his body can be gray with his hole family can look the same way in his family.

How the sting ray got its flat body? They were swimming then they almost got crushed by a boat. Then they got crushed by a boat that almost crushed them.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


My little sister told me that she wanted to go skydiving for her 21st birthday. When I asked her who she was going with, she said none of her friends are the type of people to go skydiving. She said she was fine going by herself. I said she couldn’t go by herself. I have always wanted to skydive. After thinking it over I decided to take the day off work and do it. It’s a once in a life time chance to go skydiving with my sister on her 21st birthday. Carpe diem!

Maybe it’s because I got into a car accident a few days before, but I really wasn’t that nervous about it. Even when we got to the skydiving place I felt calm. The instructors jump 6-20 times a day so they really make it seem like it’s not a big deal. I didn’t get that nervous until the plane to the door open. But at that point they move you out so quickly you don’t have time to hesitate. You don’t jump out of the plane either. You instructor rocks you out so quickly you don’t have time to look down.

My mom really wanted a video to live vicariously through us. My sister didn’t want the camera man right in front of her while she was falling because she just wanted to enjoy the experience. So my mom paid the extra to have the camera guy shoot me instead. (It’s really expensive to get the video and pictures but man, the pictures turn out good.)

My first thought when I jumped out was: this is really cold. My mouth was really dry. That’s about all I can remember. I don’t even remember looking at anything during the freefall. I wanted to see myself falling through clouds, but it’s much too fast to notice that. The freefall lasted about as long as I wanted it to. I was ready for it to be over when he deployed the parachute.

After that it didn’t feel very real. It felt a little like I was in an airplane except it was kind of windy. I don’t know, it just didn’t seem real. I think I would need to go again to really be able to appreciate it. The first time you don’t know what to expect and you’re just in shock. It also goes really fast. It’s expensive so it will be a while before I do it again. But I feel like I couldn’t full appreciate the whole experience the first time around.

If you are considering skydiving in your life, do it! Once you decide to do it, it’s about as a scary as a six flags roller coaster.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Protection and Provision in Car Accidents

What physically happened?

I got into my first car accident on Friday. Thankfully I am fine and no one was hurt. Here is what happened. I was driving on the 110N toward Pasadena. There is an entrance to the 5N that is a sharp turn off to the left. Right before the 5 entrance I see the car in front of me slam on his breaks. I slam on mine, but hit him, causing my airbag to deploy. I pull off to the right shoulder. A tow truck must have just been driving by and saw us. The tow truck driver came over to me and said that the guys wanted to meet at an IHOP off the next exit to exchange information. Since I am crying and shaking the tow truck driver offered to drive my car for me. Once at IHOP I find out that there was a car ahead of the one that I hit that first slammed on his breaks. So car #1 slammed on breaks, car #2 hit car 1, and I hit car 2. Car 1 took off and did not meet us at IHOP and we didn’t get down his license plate. We think that he was trying to merge at the last minute on the 5N freeway and didn’t make it and had to slam on his breaks. But car 2 was there and we exchanged information. We called CHP and filed a police report. I called my insurance to file a claim. My insurance was not tell me where to take my car so the tow truck driver was really helpful and took me to a place he suggested that I would get the best quote for how much my car is worth. I really had no other choice but to trust him because I didn't know where to go. While I was talking to my insurance he said he wanted to give his statement as well because he had talked to the driver of the first car before he took off. He was like, “I’m going to do what I can so that this doesn't come back as your fault.” He was so helpful in the midst of my tears and falling apart. The place where we took my car was really nice as well and got me a rental car. Really things seemed to be happening quickly and people were just guiding me from one step to the next. I just kept asking, “Will my insurance cover this?” They kept saying yes, so hopefully they are right.

The damage

I have a few air bag burns on my arm and I am little stiff today but really nothing too bad. I pray that no other pains surface in the days to come. The guy from Car 2 seemed to be fine and didn’t tell us that he was injured at all. We don’t know about the guy from car 1, because he took off. So praise the Lord no one was hurt. My car is not doing so well. It can drive, because tow truck guy drove it off the freeway. But because the air bag deployed he said that the damage may be more than the car is worth. We looked up my car on Kelly Blue Book and it’s only worth about $3,000, which is not really enough money to buy another car. So right now my insurance will cover a rental car. I won’t really know anything for sure until and adjuster looks at the car but things aren’t looking so good. Since I am only working part time at the moment there is not really any room in my budget for going out to dinner or a movie, let alone a car payment.

What spiritually happened?

After reflecting on the accident last night and today I realized a few things. When things like this happen to me my mind usually assumes God response to be 1) punishing me for something or 2) testing my faith. In this case my mind went to God is testing me. Recently I feel like I have done pretty well with trusting God with my finances and that he will provide for me even though I am only working part time. But I felt like the accident was God’s way of saying, “See how you do with this. Now you don’t have a car and don’t have money to get a new one. Are you still going to trust me?” But my view of God’s attitude in it felt very mean spirited. More what I felt like he was saying is, “See you really don’t trust me when times get really hard.” And then I feel a tremendous amount of guilt and shame.

I realize that this is probably a very inaccurate picture of where God was in the midst of my accident. He is probably not standing back far away saying, “Let’s see how you do with this curve ball.” So I have been asking, “Jesus, where were you really during the accident?” As I was praying the first image that came to mind was strangely from the movie Twilight. There is a scene where Edward supernaturally stops a truck from crashing into Bella with his hand. Although the accident did happen, I got an image of God bracing the impact. The hit really didn’t feel that bad to me in the moment, it didn’t feel strong enough for the airbag to deploy. I don’t have whiplash or any serious injuries. Since my windshield shattered on the passenger side I got the image of God putting his hand on the windshield to stop the severity of the impact the way that Edward did. (Except God is way cooler and real!)

The second thought I had about how God was with me is hard to describe. Basically God was “the man” in the situation who just took care of everything so that I didn’t have to. This is probably being really stereotypical and chauvinistic but I just love when men step up to take care of things, especially car things. Yes there were actual men in this situation who helped me, but really it was God who was “The Man.” As I prayed about where God was present I saw him stopping traffic so that I could pull my car over to the shoulder. I saw him flag down the tow truck driver. He opened my door and helped me sit in the passenger seat as I was shaking and tearful while the tow driver drove my car off the free way. He helped me through the steps of calling CHP and my insurance. He was the one who made all the arrangement to get my car to this auto place and get me a rental car. I was really taken care of every step of the way in this situation and none of it was by my own doing. My first response is always to call my mommy before the police or my insurance because my mommy knows how to do everything. (She really has an answer for everything. How do moms know everything? I just don’t understand, but that’s another blog post). Well my mom was at work and not answering right away so I had to rely on the kindness of strangers and the Lord to tell me what to do. Not that I was incapable of figuring out what to do after a car accident, but it was just really nice just be led through the process and have the Lord be “The Man” and take care of me. I hope that made a little bit of sense.

I also see that God is not condemning me that I don’t trust him with my money but is inviting me into something deeper. It’s not a punishment but a gift to be able to experience God’s miraculous power and know him deeper as my Provider. Right now I really have no idea how I will be able to get a car or the transportation that I need to get to work in a few weeks. But I know that God took care of my every need and more during the accident. He will continue to take care of my every need because he is a good Father and knows what I need.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sin and Brokenness Starts Early

This last week at work has been particularly difficult with my students. A lot has happened that feels particularly burdensome to me. Obviously I can’t go into details on this blog, but I have seen a lot of disturbing behaviors in my students and fear what may be happening to them at home. I have been able to see how easily sin can be perpetuated. My students are K-5 and already I see the effects of sin and brokenness in their lives. I see how the sins of their parents have an enormous effect on them. The absence of a father, divorce, anger, abuse, and lack of discipline comes out in their behavior daily. I have seen how I even perpetuate cycles of sin in my impatience and anger toward them. As I communicate to them frustration in my tone which leads to anger and yelling, they model that behavior back to me and to their peers. Although I am praying and working through the sin that is in me, I fail in some way with them every day and worry about how my actions are hurting them. I see how their sin toward each other escalates and gets caught in these destructive cycles. Name calling, hitting, fighting, stealing, lying are issues that come up daily.

It saddens me how Satan can already have such a strong hold on these kids who are only 8 years old. They are already caught into the web of sin and lies at such an early age. It seems so unfair. Why Lord are these kids already so young to be so broken sin? Because I have been through counseling, I can see how these issues will affect them throughout their whole life. They are developing defense mechanism and shutting down emotionally, issues that will come up as they are adults.

It feels burdensome to me this week as I have felt powerless to stop it. Not only do I feel like I can not stop the cycles of sin, but I am contributing to it. I am not trying to say that I am a complete failure and I am horrible to them. I do care for them and there are times when I am patient and really affirming, but every day I sin and fail them in some way. The situation just seems really hopeless. I weep as I think about all of this.

I know that the Lord has a plan of redemption and healing for these kids but it’s hard to see in the midst of so much destructiveness. But my sister reminded me that praying for them is the best thing I can do for them. I may be the only one that is praying for them. Lord I just pray that you would break Satan’s grip on these kids. Protect them from lasting scars of pain and hurt. Bring into the light any evilness and put a stop to it. These are your children.