Friday, February 29, 2008

calvary chapel of the coastlands--part 2

The plan had been to grab a latte after dinner before heading to the resort. I have to point out here that Corpus Christi, population 300,000, has two, count 'em, two Starbucks ... whereas my little town of 30,000, situated as it is in the shadow of Seattle (otherwise known as the birthplace of Starbucks), has nine. For a time, we had ten, but that was back when someone thought it would be wise to place two in the same parking lot.

But while formulating our latte plan, Noreen said something about the weekly prayer gathering for Hannah.

"When is your prayer meeting?" I asked.

"Thursday nights."

Rising above my jet lag and post-steak lethargy, I made a quick calculation. "Isn't tonight Thursday?"

Julie nodded.

"Could we go?"

So we did. While driving to the church, I asked what I most wanted to know. How is Hannah? Why did they move her so far away? What is the status of the case?

Noreen took my questions one at a time and from her answers, a dark picture of Corpus Christi emerged. From my home now, two thousand miles away, I picture that beautiful place shrouded in a black cloud of deceit and corruption. Noreen told me about the flat-out lies the prosecutor told about Hannah. She told me about evidence that had been squelched--and something called the Brady Law, which, all by itself, should have overturned Hannah's case. It seems when the prosecutor heard a not-so-welcomed deposition by a trusted doctor, that deposition got filed--without being shared with the defense attorney. I learned that just 2 or 3 such inconsistencies usually overturn a case, and that Hannah has 18 ... yet she sits in prison.

By the time we pulled into the church parking lot, the image I held of the whole lot of them--judges, prosecutors, CPS workers--had sharpened. They were a gang of Goliaths, taunting us with their bellows. They were a court full of slobbery Jabba-the-Huts, gobbling justice to feed their fat bellies.

And there we stood--stoneless, and with no sword in sight.

We went inside. I saw Rod, Noreen's husband (and the pastor), who I knew from our first trip to Israel. We'd joined the same tour then. My enduring memory of Rod (who is something of a daredevil ... he surfed during Katrina) was of him convincing Matthew, another pastor on our tour, to skip the tram up to Masada and run up the hill instead. From my window on the tram, they were just two tiny desert dots, kicking up even tinier dust puffs as they raced us up the mountain.

After a quick tour of the building, we joined a group of people in the church's coffee shop. Rod pulled out a guitar and we worshiped for awhile. And then the prayers began.

Nothing knits you to people like prayer. When one of the girls lifted Hannah before the throne, I nodded along with her. When one of the men began to choke up in the midst of his plea for strength, his tears filled my eyes. We asked God for refreshment, for comfort, for justice. I gave a silent plea for stones. But still, the sense of helplessness lingered.

And then, because I have a hard time keeping my eyes closed during prayer, I looked up and found myself counting the faces. Ten of us sat clustered at those coffee shop tables. Ten.

Ten. The word sunk in, and the Holy Spirit reminded me of something I'd tucked away long ago. Ten is the number of fullness, the number of completeness. In Judaism, you must have ten men in order to form a minyon, or a prayer quorum. God packed His law within ten commandments. Ten is enough ... enough.

We are a synagogue, Lord. And we who stand here with You are more than all who can come against us. Hear our prayers, Father.

We declare her innocent.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

calvary chapel of the coastlands--part 1

I've traveled to many places and spoken to many groups of women, but I've never before sent my heart on ahead of me the way I did on this trip to Corpus Christi, Texas. Long before I surveyed those 130 faces, they meant something to me.

We've been praying for this body of believers for months now. We've followed the story of Hannah and asked God to shake the earth and fling open those prison doors. We've waited for news. And as days and weeks have gone by with no such earthquake, no such miracle, we've shared in the frustration and fear and grief that Larry and Hannah Overton, Rod and Noreen Carver, and the body at CC of the Coastlands have felt.

So I awakened early (and I mean early) Thursday morning feeling jumbled up inside. I couldn't wait to finally meet these women; I dreaded saying anything that might highlight their pain. I was eager to meet Larry and the five Overton children; I didn't know where I'd find the words I wanted to say.

Before the clock even struck 4:00 a.m., Dave was at the stove, making a batch of farina for us. Grain is a good way to start the day. No time for coffee, as we had to pick up my sister, Nancy, by 5:00 and we still had a big pile to load in the car and a half-hour drive to her house.

Another 45 minutes down the road took us to SeaTac airport. Dave came into the airport with us, helped me shuffle my Bible and a few other items from one too-heavy suitcase to one with a bit of weight room, and kissed me good-bye.

Our Continental flight served breakfast, which was a good thing, because I'd squeezed every ounce of energy out of that farina by this point. But breakfast was cereal and a muffin. More grainy stuff. I ate it with visions of bacon and sausage and ham and chicken fried steak in my head. I might mention here that I'm just a teeny bit of a carnivore.

The first leg of our trip took us to Houston, where we had to dash to a far corner in the lower bowels of the building to catch our connecting flight. While scurrying there, we passed a number of restaurants offering all kinds of protein. I could see and smell dozens of not-grainy offerings, and I was so longing for meat that I toyed with the idea of "missing" our connecting flight. But I'm not quite that irresponsible.

We made it to the gate in time--time enough to hear an announcement. "Flight 5577 to Corpus Christi isn't here yet, but we expect it shortly and will announce when we're ready to begin boarding." With no more information than that, we couldn't risk leaving the terminal. So we sat, not eating meat, and waited for news. Eventually, growling noises forced Nancy and I to eat a granola bar each. I decided then and there that I hate grains.

Our flight arrived; we boarded. Just a few minutes into the flight, we were told that due to turbulence, there'd be no beverage service except for water. My hopes for a peanut evaporated.

We landed in Corpus Christi and headed to the baggage area. On our way, I heard my name, and there was Noreen and Julie, the assistant pastor's wife. We hugged and talked a bit about our flight. And then Noreen began to ask me a question. "Are you hungr ..."


She laughed. "What would you like to ..."


And that's how we ended up at the Texas Roadhouse. Nice and loud. Peanut shells all over the floor. A booth in the corner which enabled us to actually hear one another. I was so happy to be in that carnivore's heaven.

At Julie's suggestion, I ordered the rib eye steak. In the spirit of "When in Corpus Christi, do as the Corpus Christi-ans do," I also ordered a baked sweet potato. But I drew the line at ordering it with the works: butter, brown sugar, marshmallows, and caramel sauce. I can't go along with this notion of turning vegetables into dessert. Julie offered a bite of her loaded sweet potato; I tried it to be nice but couldn't restrain a shudder as all that sugar hit my tongue. My own, however, with just a nice shimmery layer of whipped butter, was pure bliss.

We talked about a whole variety of things in the way that women do so effortlessly. That means we tossed several topics in the air and took turns juggling. We spoke over each other as often as possible and finished each other's sentences at appropriate intervals. All this while eating. And laughing.

It was during all that talking, eating, and laughing that I broke down for the first time. I was just sitting there loving on that steak and listening to Noreen and Nancy and Julie, and all of a sudden I thought, I wonder what Hannah is having for dinner? The tears came; I couldn't stop them. It seemed so wrong to sit there soaking in all that pleasure, loving that moment in time and anticipating a weekend at the Port Royal resort, right there on the Gulf of Mexico, when Hannah was staring at walls that had no right to enclose her.

I finished my dinner. I couldn't finish my thoughts. They followed me out the door, into the car, and down the road to the resort. And I'd only just begun crying.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

another good-bye

I'm home from Corpus Christi and I have a lot to say--so much so that I think I'm going to have to write a series.

But before I do that, I need to post a tribute to another gift we've lost too soon. Larry Norman died this past Sunday.

When people talk about the Jesus movement and the early days of contemporary Christian music, Larry Norman's name comes up immediately, usually attached to the phrase, "Father of Christian rock." I never thought of him in that way; for me, he's always been the man in black leather with all that long, blond hair, and the writer of the song that put the return of Jesus in sharp perspective for me.

Here's a clip from his biography as printed in The Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Following is the song that made all the difference for me.

In 1956 he began writing his songs and performing them in public. He has continued to perform them all over the world. Instead of concentrating solely on America, he has toured exotic places like Russia, Lebanon, Israel, India, Hong Kong, and Japan. He has also performed in Western World countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, The Czech Republic, Poland, Holland, Britain, France, Italy, and Australia. He has sung in small clubs like New York’s Bitter End, and L.A.’s Troubadour, and also given concerts at The San Francisco Pop Festival and other outdoor festivals with crowds of up to 180,000. He has performed for The White House, twice - and in direct contrast, in Moscow at the 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium. He has headlined at venues like The Hollywood Bowl, The Sydney Opera House, The Palladium and London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall, which he has sold out six times; once filling it twice on the same day. Only recently has he slowed down.

For almost thirty years the press has referred to him as “the father of Christian rock” because it was he who first combined rock and roll with Christian lyrics. In the 70’s Billboard Magazine called him “the most important writer since Paul Simon.” To the church, in the early years, these accolades only deepened their doubts about him. He was banned in most Bible bookstores. But in later years he began to gain wider acceptance. Christian Artists Seminar awarded him their Lifetime Achievement Award and Contemporary Christian Music Magazine named Norman's Only Visiting This Planet record the most significant and influential gospel album ever released in the field of contemporary Christian music. This kind of recognition is not new to Norman. Time Magazine once called him “the most significant artist in his field.” He has said, “I’m just an artist, reaching toward Heaven."…


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


In just a few short hours, my sister (Nancy) and I will be boarding a plane for Corpus Christi, Texas. I'm doing a women's retreat for the ladies of Calvary Chapel of the Coastlands this weekend.

I know I'll have much to write about when I get home. This fellowship has been through an extremely painful two years. If you have a moment, please go to Free Hannah.com to read about Hannah Overton and the unbelievable turn of events her life has taken over the last two years.

And after you've read her story, please pray.



Thursday, February 14, 2008

light of the world

I love that my husband doesn't argue with me when I ask for things. This morning, while I was sipping coffee and correcting Tera's math, he slipped me a folded sheet of paper. "Happy Valentine's Day."

In the span of time that it took for me to reach for and take and open that slip of paper, the twelve-year old girl in me elbowed her way to the forefront. I felt a little bit Christmas morning and a little bit August 5th, all blended up. I felt shivery like I used to when someone handed me a box wrapped up in cartoony, primary colored paper.

A lantern ... Dave had bought a kerosene lantern. "It will go to a missionary," he explained.

"It's perfect," I told him. And it feels perfect. How absolutely appropriate. Somewhere across the ocean, someone sent by God to share His light with the world will have a bit of light for nighttime reading, or to help with the long walk between villages.

I'm still in the clutches of the twelve-year old me, who has gone back to Gospel For Asia to ogle more goodies. I'm greedy for more right now. I want to buy a bicycle, or a drum set. I want another goat. I want a sewing machine and a giant pile of blankets, and I want some of the big stuff. I want a Jesus Well, and a fishing boat, and a house.

I am Veruca Salt this morning. I want, I want, I want ... and I want it now.

Don't you want it too?



Tuesday, February 12, 2008


My friend, Andy, always sends me the best forwards. Here's the latest.

Look at the picture above and you can see where this guy broke through the guardrail on the right side where the people are standing on the road pointing. The pick-up was traveling from right to left when it crashed through the guardrail. It flipped end-over-end, across the culvert outlet, and landed right side up on the left side of the culvert, facing the opposite direction from which he was traveling.

Now look at the 2nd picture below... (if you click on it, you'll get a bigger view)

If this guy didn't believe in God before, do you suppose he believes now?

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Monday, February 11, 2008

better than chocolate

I like chocolate as much as the next woman ... maybe more. But I've decided I can live without another red velvet boxful. I'm pretty fond of sweet peas and daisies, and have never yet turned my nose up at a bouquet of roses. But I can live without flowers.

Thursday is Valentine's Day. That means Wednesday night (at the earliest) or, more realistically, early Thursday morning, husbands everywhere will be dashing to the florist or the candy store. But I've got a better idea. It's faster and easier (just the click of a mouse), it contains no calories, there's nothing to recycle, and it will leave a much more satisfying feeling than anything they can pick up at the store.

What if we all skipped the red velvet madness this year and asked instead for a donation to Gospel For Asia? Think about it: you could scan the donation store and decide between livestock (chickens, rabbits, pigs, or the bigger stuff), Bibles, blankets, tools, or a number of other much-needed items, and both you and a family in Asia would be blessed. And I mean blessed. When Dave bought a list of items in my name at Christmas, I couldn't help but cry. I can't remember when anything felt that good. And the family you touch could get the leg-up they've been praying for.

It costs so little to make such a difference. Please forgive the persistent nudge in this direction--but it's on my heart.

And that's really what Thursday is about, right?



Tuesday, February 05, 2008


"I want to go back," he said. So we made the right phone calls and bought a last-minute ticket to southern California (via Las Vegas).

His reasons were good. "I need to know I can do this. I need to finish." And he said he wanted God to break him. So though he'd left the Bible college campus a month shy of finishing his first semester, vowing to never go back, back he was going.

I helped him pack, cooked his favorite dinner, kissed him goodbye, and cried while Dave held me and we watched his friends drive him up our hill. The foursome planned to stay up all night in honor of Zac's departure, and then those same friends would take him to the airport Sunday morning after their usual Denny's breakfast.

Mark and Cathy Rich, my precious southern California friends, would meet him at the Orange County airport, feed him, shelter him for the night, and take him to Murrieta in time for registration. "Once he gets on that plane," I told Cathy, "I won't worry about a thing."

But that's when all the worrying begins.

The first leg is turbulent and full of sudden dives and screaming people. "I feel so sick," he tells me during his phone call from Las Vegas. I remember another flight, a long time ago, when he was little enough to pull in close during those turbulent dips and dives. "It will be okay," I'd told him then. He'd snuggled close, hiding his face in my side, trusting my promise.

This time, he'd made the flight alone.

"Not only that," the 18-year old Zac continues, "but my connecting flight is delayed." He doesn't know any of the new details, so I tell him to talk to someone at the counter and call Mark with the new pick-up information.

We say goodbye, but not long after, he calls again. "I'm so bored, Mom."

"Do you have any movies on your laptop, any games?"

No movies. And he reminds me that his laptop's chess game cheats, which makes him mad.

"Go grab a sports magazine at the gift shop," I suggest.

It had once been so easy, back when my bag of tricks contained crayons and coloring books, puzzles and picture books, finger puppets and Skittles.

"You'll be getting on that plane before you know it, honey," I say. "Maybe you can find a spot near the gate and take a nap."

From nowhere, Shawn Mullins begins to sing, heard only by me.

Everything's gonna be all right

I want to believe it.

But things get worse. After two hours on the tarmack, Zac's flight to Santa Ana is grounded due to engine trouble. They can't get him on another flight until the following evening. He can't find his luggage. They have no plans to put him in a hotel. And I'm a thousand miles away, and my arms aren't long enough to shake the unhelpful woman behind the counter and force her to care for my son.

Everything's gonna be all right

Dave takes over. We stay up for hours, making fruitless phone calls, waiting on hold, enduring three suspicious disconnects from "customer service." In the end, we cancel the second leg of his flight, find a bus that leaves Las Vegas around midnight, and instruct him on what to say when he approaches one of the waiting taxis outside the terminal.

"You'll be okay," I tell him.

But it's not over. The bus is full, and he has to wait until the very last second to learn that they found a spot for him. An hour into the drive, the bus breaks down. They have to wait on the side of the road for another two hours before a replacement bus arrives and loads up all the passengers and cargo. He winds up sitting next to a woman who keeps leaning on him. He temporarily loses his cell phone between the seats. He doesn't sleep for a second ... for the second night in a row.

When he tells me he's going to have to transfer buses at the LA greyhound terminal, my stomach lurches. We were there together once, when he was eight, and I was terrified of taking my eyes off of him. I didn't want him in that filthy place then, and I don't want him there now.

I'm powerless. I don't control the wind, or time, or circumstances. So I turn to the One who does. I like to think that around the same time that Zac looked up at the middle-of-the-night sky and whispered, "Well, God, You've got my attention," I was looking at my ceiling and whispering, "I can't protect him, Lord. I'm giving him back to You."

And when I do fall asleep, briefly, it's to a lullaby.

Everything's gonna be all right

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