Silent Crosses

This is, most assuredly, that “one post” that will get me shot. The crux of the matter is, pro-life advocates may hate me just as much as the pro-choice ones do. I struggle to even post this on a website entitled “Laugh Anyway”… There’s nothing to laugh at. This is terrifying.

However, I promise you I will not be that pro-life advocate that clucks her tongue and thumps her bible. I was born with Cerebral Palsy. Abortion has been said to be the merciful action for cerebral palsy victims. I am not in the least an advocate for abortion.

I have, at the same token, reasons to understand why the lie, “abortion is good if it saves those already living,” can be completely believable. It’s not truth, but fear becomes exceedingly blinding– even when a little one’s life is at stake.

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The above picture is about a third of a field filled with these crosses. When you’re counting them, they blend so intensely together and I’m not sure I have the numbers correct. Every cross represents four abortions. The count I reached was 45 deep, 15 wide. That’s 2,700 abortions since 1987.

In a moment of… Something.. The poem below was given to me as I stood and pondered the depth of what this sight means. What it means for the women that made this choice, what it means for the heart of God, and what it means for the responsibility of the Church to love anyway.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, you are incredibly loved… Entirely loved.

Silent Crosses

I pondered once a field of crosses
I pondered often the devastating losses
I pondered the Father’s broken heart
I pondered the lives taken before they could start

I ponder the sweet mothers too terrified to act
What of the lies, what did they think they lacked?
How many times did they almost fall in love
Yet couldn’t see a child as a gift from above?

I walk silently by the crosses and quietly pray
“Deception comes with a cost none want to pay
Lord, forgive those that acted completely out of fear
Forgive us for believing you were not near.”

As you walk past the women that made this choice
Please, take the judgement from your voice
Some understood, some truly did not
Now, help them heal, the battle’s already been fought

As you mourn the lives these crosses represent
Realize the tears, the anguish has already been spent
God did not send you to judge in His place
He sent you to show the Broken His face

The Church Forgotten

Recently, I had a chance to tell my story to a virtual stranger who happened to be a part of the new Church I’m in. Now, please understand, I have one of those stories that make 45+ -year-old saints blush. It’s also the type of story where people hung up on sin have walked away with the words, “you know too much about Jesus to make this story absolutely true.”

They’re right. But it’s still true. Somehow, I went from the missionary kid, the girl on fire for The Lord and the innocent, naive girl to a young woman that didn’t stick out in most secular crowds. I didn’t stick out because I was the worst of them all but exactly like them, too. I knew my Bible. But that didn’t matter. I had loved my Jesus, but I was convinced that wasn’t enough. My story is proof that the most confident in the faith can still falter- save but by the grace of God. His grace was still there for me, but I didn’t want it.

When I started telling my story to this precious lady, something happened that ticked me OFF. With no assistance from this gracious Believer, I was blood-chillingly terrified of telling the truth of my story. I started thinking of poetic things to say in order to make my story less offensive.

There is no way to make a guttersnipe’s story sound cute. It’s messy. It’s embarrassing. It is so very much the epitome of life without Christ. It shouldn’t be easy to tell. It most assuredly shouldn’t be pretty. I knew this the second I was redeemed and brought back to Christ. In all honesty, it’s a fact that makes me smile. The woman I am today is an impossible thing to be created out of my story. And yet, because of Christ, that impossibility was made possible. Hallelujah.

But still, I gave a 5-second glance to my spiritual journey, saw the woman God was asking me to talk to and literally heard myself mutter, “I can’t tell my story to her- she’s too Christian.” My palms got sweaty, I started stumbling over my words and I refused to make eye contact. If you didn’t know better, you’d think my next words were going to be, “Dearest will you marry me.”

WHY was I so scared? What had this woman done to allow the idea of transparency and a genuine attitude terrify me so? ………. Absolutely nothing. As a matter of fact, when I pulled myself together & told my story, she accepted it with open arms, a loving heart and a knowing smile. She knew my past, but she was and is getting to know my present. That was enough for her.

My point is this… Church, Body of Christ, the Beloved Called Out Ones– we have got to wake UP! I know my fear of fellow believers isn’t unique. It should be, but it’s not. We tell people we know how to love because Christ leads us. Yet when we get to be transparent within our own selves, we tremble in fear with the thought of showing each other who we really are. How dare we.

How dare we:
1. Judge each other so cattily that we can’t trust the smiles on each others’ faces because we fear that what they truly think of us is just being hidden because it’s “church-time”.
2. How dare we forget that although we may be able to hide our sin, the same amount of blood was shed to kill our Lord because we over ate, as was shed because we fell to habitual, sexual sin.
3. How dare we push the Body of Christ away from ourselves simply because a handful of people showed that their humanity was just as able to wound as ours is. Yes, protection from hurt is natural … Forgiveness and restitution takes time, effort and risk… But it’s worth it.

I often times have “heart to hearts” with the men in my life. Often times I firmly tell them to stand up. But this time, it’s not just “my men”. It’s the entire Body of Christ.

Church of Christ, arise! Start allowing people to hurt just as much as be imperfect. Learn the difference between condemnation, and sober judgement. In Galatians 6:1, we are called to “restore (those in sin) in gentleness and love.” What does that look like? Why is a church that does that truly, biblically and strongly so rare? Possibly because we’re so scared of each other that we don’t stick around to see that step of restitution– we just leave.

Stand up, my Friends. You are the Body of Christ. WE are the Body of Christ. Live in such a way that those who don’t agree at least see the difference.

Handshake humility

I remember moving from Indiana to Alaska when I was 8. My brother was at least 13, and he was already under the assumption that high-fiving anyone over the age of nine was so very unacceptable. I still remember one of our interactions with a Church elder shortly after arriving in Alaska. The gentleman raised his hand to give my amazing Brother a high five and Ty looked at him like he was from Mars.

You don’t… High five… Big kids. At all. Nada. Get with the program.

Even at 8, I remember thinking that my brother could’ve loosened up a bit and smirked later. I even remember thinking I’d never be that hard on the people I was around. I mean, let’s face it, the elder was at least in his late thirties. He was just trying to be cool. He was too old to remember how. (Back then, my analytical cynicism was never spoken— but oh my heavens did it exist!)

I should’ve known that God would wait a very, very, very long time and then make me eat my words. Cuz that’s the big God humor-like thing to do.

In Alaska, we don’t do the whole Chick and/or bromance handshake thing. We high-five. Its the cool thing to do. If we’re really trying to be gangsta, we “pound it”. Everyone. From ages 2-102… But we do not do the, “shake, clap, smack, snap, flick… ‘Ahhhhh-yeaaaah!'”-thing. That’s weird. If most people in Alaska do it, they’re being smart a… Ah, I mean smart aleks.

In Indiana, 17 years later, apparently they do both high-fives AND handshakes. A student came up to me and went to do the whole, “shake, clap, smack, snap, flick… ‘Ahhhhh-yeaaaah!'”-thing.. And my adorable li’l paper weight of a right hand just kinda.. didn’t move when my friend thought it should. That would be because the thing people think is a right hand on this spunky body ain’t a hand. It’s a humility builder.

Conclusion- handshakes are a GREAT test if you suspect that your peer, colleague or client may have cerebral palsy. If they don’t respond with even a half hearted attempt to figure out the handshake, they’re probably sending themselves into a stroke attempting to make sure their hand doesn’t do anything too embarrassing.

Next time, I’ll try and see past the stupidity and quip, “Hey! Alaska is 20years behind y’all. No one knows what these things are.” Most of them still have no idea that igloos are hunting shelters, so they’ll believe anything that has the scent of an Alaskan “fact.”

Finger of God…

I have been incredibly blessed. Talk to anyone that knows my story in full and they’ll give you at least a million reasons why I would say that. However, to some of their surprise, they will have no idea what I’m thinking at this moment. (It’s not, by the way, hard to read my mind. Air is transparent; translucent at best.)

No, I decided at 4:23a today, that I’m incredibly blessed because for twelve years of chronic epilepsy, I lived in an environment that only had a lightening storm once in fifteen years. I never praised God for the ability to work through epilepsy without lightening before. Up until this morning, I had no reason to think about it.

Every epileptic I know is scared of random light. Seizures haven’t been an hourly occurrence for almost five years. You put me in a room filled with flashing cameras, head lamps or disco balls and – to this day – I want to scream. It’s not funny, but it can be slightly comical seeing me anywhere near any of those things.

I woke up this morning to a racing heart, unfocused vision, tense muscles, and random bursts of light. Seizing in my sleep is something rather new to me, but hallelujah, I wake up just about every time. This morning,I was not thrilled to have to fight through the epileptic fog and somehow acknowledge the light wasn’t going to kill me. You add to that the issue of thunder that makes a 4-story brick building quake and believe me, the self-talk gets weird.

After the seizure was over, I went right back to sleep- after I stayed awake long enough to make sure the flashes of lightening were indeed just that.. And not a warning that I was temporarily losing my vision completely. I wasn’t really interested in finding a trace of God’s mercy at that point. I just wanted sleep.

Later this morning, after sleepily reminding God that His insane plan of transplanting this Alaskan Woman in the midwest had a few crazily fearful annoyances for this Child of His, I honestly think I heard Him sigh.

“Child, you’ve somehow stopped seeing Me in everything. Not everything I give you will make you happy and wealthy. Not everything I allow will have a great life altering point. Sometimes, the only reason I allow things is to give you something to point to when you doubt My grace. Stop analyzing everything to the point where you can’t hear me. Just hang on to Me.”

For better or worse, Lord… I needed that wake up call.

Wee bit of a novelty

So, in case y’all didn’t know this– Alaskans are put on display in the Midwest. Kind of like polar bears. Or the zoo. Either way, just know that if you’re an extrovert that is desperate for new connections but can’t find any (because you’ve made it your mission to know everybody) just use this one simple, magical phrase:

Hello! I’m from Alaska! You shall have instant friends. As well as instant groupies. It’s great. You should try it. After you try it, you may send me royalties for giving you such a splendid idea. I’m not kidding, this works. (*Cue infomercial background music*) On a campus that has 3,000ish people- all 3,000 and their Mothers know me.

The problem is, I really, really couldn’t care less about being known by everyone. Walking the campus that takes up an entire block, I randomly hear, “Hi! Cassie! What’s up?!”
What’s up, sweetheart, is I don’t know who you are. But you know me. That’s weird. Stop… Or at least realize that I’m not a horrible person for not remembering your name; seeing as I’ve never met you.

If Alaskans reacted like this every time we saw someone from Texas, Florida, Maine, Hawaii or even Louisiana, we’d never get anything done. Nor would our brains be worth much because instead if remembering procedures for our jobs, our minds would be on overload trying to remember about 30,000 different names and their places of origin each year.

Plus, to make it worse, we’d never get a serious conversation out of the way. Here in Indiana, I say I’m from Alaska, and the most common reaction is a gasp, squeal or comical 30-second stare. I’m not even going to attempt to mock that… I have no idea how to be shocked when someone is from Iowa and they’re standing on my Alaskan soil. I’ve tried. It’s pathetic.

I realize I’m not the only novelty in this town. We have certain students from Haiti, Nigeria, and Switzerland. But in 24 years, I’ve never had my place of origin be a constant recipe for instant overreactions. When the conversation lulls in a new crowd, all my friend has to say is, “Did you know Cassie is from Alaska?” Let the 20 questions/drama class auditions begin!

Heaven forbid that anyone introduce me as, “Cassie from Alaska, Brain surgery survivor.” If they do this, I may never, ever, ever ever get through this semester alive.

Buck up, Dearest. Learn to laugh anyway.

Unseen mourning

Christianity is not for the faint of heart. Every disciple of Jesus Christ knows the warnings He gives. Often times, crowds of believers can be found pouring over the passages that declare we cannot serve two masters. The passage that strikes healthy fear in the hearts of Christians is in Matthew 7, when the Master warns that there will be many that call Him Lord; yet were never known by Him. Christianity costs full surrender. It always has. It always will.

When Christ warns against the hypocrisy mainly seen in the Pharisees in Matthew 6, many people focused on the punishment given to them. When looks of admiration and words of awe-struck wonder were all the men looked for, that was all they received. Christ looked for a heart that did every deed for the Glory of His name and found none. Their flushed cheeks filled with pride at man given praise was the only praise they would receive. Their reward was immediately paid in full. Christ would give them nothing of eternal value because they didn’t want it.

This is often times seen as a passage used to warn against passive allegiance- as it should be. However, what is often times overlooked is the tone of mourning that Christ uses as He depicts the Pharisees. His followers saw it as worthwhile judgment on puffed-up, egotistical leaders. However, Christ also meant it as a plea. A very desperate one.

The chapter warns over and over again that, “They have received they’re reward in full.” An English major will tell you very simply the word “full” means, “all encompassing, complete, or void of emptiness.” To anyone reading Matthew 6 in the English language, it only conveys that there is nothing else the Pharisaically-minded individuals would receive. It’s seen as a firm, swift judgment they brought on themselves.

The Greek word for full, however, is Apechō, which meant to “keep off, keep away, and be distant.” Yes, Christ was warning that the Pharisaical attitude left little else to be received as a reward. But He was also heart-wrenchingly mourning the fact that because they had filled their lives with their own importance, He could not commune with them and fill them as He desired to do.

When Christ spoke this Truth, He did it with a broken heart. He wanted the Pharisees to love Him the way He loved them, and therefore be completely full. Yet instant gratification filled them faster than any future reward. It filled them as air fills a balloon. They were puffed up long enough to feel as if they were larger than life. But the second the winds of life kicked up, they were blown away, and their accomplishments were proved unsteady. Christ wanted so much more for them, so much more with them. I wonder if they realized just how eternal their refusal would be?

In Truth, the Master wanted to do anything other than keep away and be distant. Yet even despite the most gut-wrenching pain, He chose to show mercy and let the Pharisees choose what they would depict as a worthwhile reward. Christ never pushed their hands in worship, nor manipulated their hearts into surrendered praise. In the end, they chose to worship themselves.

Just as Christ pled with the Pharisees, He pleads for us today. His eyes remain overwhelmed with a love that breaks through any reality, a firmness that holds fast to Justice, yet a desire for intimate relationship. Quite simply you can hear Him as He whispers, “Don’t make me walk away, don’t make me give up on you. Let me be your answer; I can’t bare the distance between you and I, Child. You hold my heart. Choose your reward wisely. Let Me make your life full in a way you never imagined.”

Shocking laughter

I knew the day was coming. Any of you that happen to know someone with Cerebral Palsy or have it yourself know what I’m talking about. The day where… No matter how much you try to hide whichever body part is effected; no matter how much you work at not letting a new crowd see what some deem a “deficiency”, someone spots you. And it’s all over. Let the drinking from the fire hydrant of questions begin…

Don’t get me wrong, I love my quirks. I think it’s hilarious. But the wide eyed look of shock when you run directly into a treasured person -who is by no means small- usually ends with, “Dude! First off, how did you not see me, and.. What the HECK is your hand doing?”

Well Sir, ya see, sir.. Um. I don’t know? It felt like dancing and your waist is it’s stage and I can’t tell it to stop cuz it’s just too darn cute, okay? No.. No. That’s not an appropriate response at a Christian College. (It’s not appropriate anywhere). Someday, some merciful PhD needs to spend millions of dollars investing in a short quip that explains cerebral palsy to a blushing man. It’d do a world of good. Any doctors out there willing to contribute, let me know.

Cerebral palsy is a motor skill disability. A large portion of the people mildly effected look normal. Heck, they are normal. (Yes, I’m an expert and of course I’m going to say that). Fine motor skill “deficiency” (not being able to pinch something to pick it up, inability to move one finger at a time) are the most typical.

When the person is tired, however, all bets are off. All of them. Hyper tension sets in, and somehow, these digits and limbs that you were able to command three seconds before grew their own brain. Pronto.

When that happened the other day, I did something I’ve done since before I can remember. I crossed my legs, put my arm between my legs and squeezed. Object of the move? Don’t.. Let.. The..monster… Out. I look like I’m trying not to pee, but it works. I just pour on the humor and people don’t notice.

I ended up explaining it to the best of my ability to someone this week. His response? (Side note, Minors in Bible are just as bad as majors in Counseling)

“So, your left side really DOESN’T know what your right side is doing! Wonder what Jesus would’ve done if YOU were in the crowd the day He said that!” (Matthew 6:3) I wasn’t sure how to break it to him that my Dad had let that joke make its grand entrance years ago. Oh well, the guy was proud of it.

The questions stopped when he realized just how much it didn’t matter. When I started teaching him simple phrases in sign language, he got confused when my right hand never looked exactly right. With a look of concentration as he glared at his own hands, I heard him mumble, “Remember.. Pay no attention to the hand behind the curtain. Just do what you’re told.”

I think I’ve entered Oz. My quirks followed me, though.