God’s Heart for Haiti and the Child for Whom I Have Prayed


For the months and weeks leading up to Haiti my prayer was adapted from a Christian song that says “break my heart for what breaks yours.” I prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His about Haiti.

What He showed me is this: while the poverty and starvation and sickness saddens Him, what breaks His heart is the spiritual poverty, spiritual starvation and spiritual sickness.

So going into the trip I was prepared to minister to the spiritual. I didn’t want to go to Haiti and just see what it’s like. I wanted this trip to have positive impact on the country’s future, one community, one family, one child at a time.

So this little boy above was one of my “one child at a time” moments.

He walked in with a group of children, all between the ages of 3 and 7, I guess. An adult sat him on a bench full of children and his little head immediately started bobbing down and back up as he nodded off to sleep and jerked back up.

Without hesitation I walked straight to him and scooped him up, holding him where his head could rest on my shoulder. I was a complete stranger — and one with white skin! — yet this little son was so exhausted he didn’t care. He rested on my shoulder and was out like a light in a matter of minutes. He, and the other children, walked a long way to come to the sports camp. The heat anywhere in Haiti is intense, but in Souvenance there are hardly any shade trees, and it’s very desert-like. So these children, and especially this young boy, were hot and tired before they even played the sports games we brought.

He slept on my shoulder for nearly an hour while I walked around dispensing crayons to our group of color-ers and commenting “bell” (creole for beautiful) to the children coloring.

It was near time for the evening worship to start and I sat down with him. I shifted to hold him like in the photo above and he didn’t stir.

One of the friends with me asked, “What are you going to do with him when it’s time to leave?” Goodness, I hadn’t considered that. No woman had approached me to check on her son, so I had no idea who he belonged to. Someone would come inquiring for him, I assumed, at least the children that he walked with, I hoped. Or if we needed to walk him or drive him home, we’d figure it out.

I learned through the translators that he came with one of the young women in the church and he was her cousin’s baby. These cousins were part of a family who participated in voodoo worship. I asked his name and it was something like Fredrick.

So for the next near hour I held Fredrick while he slept soundly — It was like working in the Haitian church nursery — and I prayed for him. I prayed for his health and rest, that he be protected from the evil practices of his family, that the revolution to set this community and this country free from the bondage of voodoo start with him as a new leader who believes in Jesus and follows Jesus. I believe it can and will happen and that this child could be the catalyst.

Near the end of the church service, he woke up and I could tell by looking at him he felt refreshed. He sat with  me until another child came up and took him by the hand and led him out of the back of the church.

I watched him til he was out of sight, and just like that he was gone.

I watched out the door to see if I could see him and the adult who came to fetch him or he and the other kids walking down the road when he popped back in the door and walked down the church aisle straight back to me. Just as I started to scoop him up again the child came back for him, took his hand and made him leave me. Fredrick cried and protested by the child made him go.

It broke my heart. I kinda fell in love with him and his future in those two hours.

I didn’t see him again the rest of the trip, but I haven’t stopped thinking and praying for him. I really hope I’m back in Haiti some day and that I see him again and that some day 20 years from now I’m privileged to see and hear his story and see him as a mature young man doing great things for the Lord in his country.

I want to see him again and show him the picture of us and tell him “I prayed for you as a baby and I dedicated you to the Lord,” because while he is not by biological child I believe God gave him to me in that moment and I dedicated what God gave me to God and His purposes and God will honor that.

Can’t wait!

finn_icecream

Long Lost Journal Entries


Apparently back in the summer of 2006 I started journaling and apparently it was going to be this sweet little mommy journal of all those sweet moments from the boys’ childhoods.

My use of the word apparently will be apparent soon.

I bought a fancy little book and everything.

finn_icecream

Finn & Caden, summer 2008

The first entry is so sweet, from July 7, 2006. Finn was one week shy of his 3rd birthday. Caden was 6 months old.

It goes like this:

Finn’s going to be a good big brother. This week John was suctioning Caden’s nose and Finn says, “Don’t hurt my Caden.” He’s fascinated with how Caden is too little for things or can’t walk, talk, etc. I tell him that we’ll have to teach him how to do all those things.

Caden started making gurgling sounds this week.

Aww. Isn’t that adorable? Protective big brothers and baby gurgles.

There’s more.

The second journal entry is three weeks later and is just as sappy.

Tonight Caden has his first bath sitting up. I ran Finn a bath and let him play while I got Caden situated in the baby tub with the seat in it. He love it, making a mess with all his kicking and splashing. We had a better night with Finn too. He ate all of his pizza with only minor protests about wanting or not wanting pepperoni. After Caden went to bed we played with his PlayDoh and tools until near bedtime.

Caden has started blowing bubbles and spitting his bottles and baby food. He also pushed his knees under him tonight like he may want to crawl soon. He’ll be 7 months Saturday!

Awww. Brothers taking baths together and baby bubbles. Cute, cute, cute.

The next entry … oh wait (cue: record scratching sound symbolizing a screeching halt). There’s not a next entry. The rest of the book is void of words. Apparently my sweet fantasy of writing sweet journal entries after my sweet little boys were sweetly sleeping was just that, a fantasy. I’m guessing I became too busy and too tired (still am).

If I were still maintaining this journal today, it would look like this:

Tuesday, June 2

Yesterday the boys were killing me. Caden forgot his swimsuit for swim and I felt so sorry for him I went and bought one at Target (bought a cheap towel too) making me later for work than I needed to be. After picking them up this afternoon we picked up bacon wrapped pizza, which he’d been asking for, and Gigi’s cupcakes for dessert. They ate all the breadsticks before we even got to Gigi’s and then Caden had the audacity to give me attitude that I wouldn’t let him eat the cupcakes in the car on the way home. At his annoyed sigh, I lost the cool I’d been keeping all day. I make a special trip to buy you a swimsuit that you forgot to bring, buy you pizza and cupcakes and you’re going to give me attitude that you can’t have the cupcake right this very minute?? Really? So he had to go to his room when we got home and write three things that he was thankful for that day. He wrote more than three, thankfully, as well as “Forgive me check yes or no.”

I checked yes.

Not 30 minutes later Finn was telling Caden to shut his food hole and Caden retorted with something just as rude.

Sigh.

This morning though, I got into the car to leave and they had packed a lunch for me to have at work today. A slice of the leftover pizza (on a plate and wrapped with plastic wrap, I might add), two ham and cheese rolls (Finn’s favorite), two oranges and a fruit rollup. Also a sticky note from Finn saying “shine bright like a diamond.”

Smile.

I just might be doing something right.

Priscilla Shirer breaks down what it means to put on the FULL armor of God



If you’ve never had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of Priscilla Shirer you are flat out missing out. This woman is empowered, y’all. Like Yoda said about about Luke, “The force is strong in this one.” And by force I mean Holy Spirit. She’s got an anointing, that’s for sure.

She was in my hometown a few months ago presenting a simulcast that was broadcast live around the world, and I and several thousand others were so fortunate to have attended this day of worship and teaching in person and in my city!

She taught from Ephesians on the armor of God, giving us a battle plan for victory and teaching us how to push the enemy back and take back what he’s stolen.

Stop right there. Take back what he’s stolen. Hmm. He’s a thief. But just what has he stolen from me? I wrote down a few things: my marriage, my faithfulness, my integrity, my loyalty, my reputation, the future I envisioned, my ability to trust myself. That’s a lot, and I want it back. Think about it: Just what has he stolen from you?

Before getting deep into the armor, our teacher spent the morning setting up our battle scene

Ephesian 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

The struggle is unavoidable.

There is a struggle, but it’s not against what we think it is. It’s not against the people in our life or the circumstances we are in. In my case, it’s not against my messy habits or my being too busy, it’s against the enemy in heavenly realms. That’s what the verse says. The enemy, Shirer said, wants us to think that life is a playground not a battle ground. But which is it, really? No matter where you go or what you do, you will have a struggle. The enemy can not destroy you, but sure is going to try to distract you.

We may not want the struggle or the war, but quoting the movie Lord of the Rings, she said, “Open war is upon you whether you (want) it or not.”

The enemy has lost and he knows it. He wants us, though, to forget. Let us not forget.

Your enemy is invisible.

Satan is not the opposite of God. God has no opposite. Satan is nothing more than an illusionist and a copycat. If he’s paying attention he’s probably pretty mad I just typed that.

The location to battle is accessible.

The battle is in heavenly realms and we’re stuck here on Earth so what are we supposed to do about it? Well, good news. Ephesians 1:3 tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places …” and Eph 2:5-6 tells us “even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

We have access to where the battle in heavenly places is happening, and that way is Jesus! We have access to to the places where the battle is really happening through Jesus, and there are spiritual blessings waiting on us there. Amen!

Our weapons are not physical.

The armor of God is not an actual armor of strong metal. It’s salvation, it’s truth, it’s peace. It’s intangible but nevertheless real. Also — and this is good — it’s not our armor. It’s God’s. We get it from him, it’s provided to us and we are commanded to put it on.

Victory is irrevocable.

You won! Don’t act out of fear or insecurity. Stand victorious and with confidence that you won!

So there’s 7 weapons: 6 that correlate to physical pieces of armor and No. 7 is prayer.

Weapon No. 1: Truth

What is truth? Truth is God’s standard, not ours. Satan’s greatest tactic is deception, especially distorting God’s truth. He is the master illusionist. One of his greatest illusions is to keep you in the dark about your own deception. When you’re in the midst of deception you don’t even know it, you can’t see it. Everyone else can, but not you.

But there is hope in truth. Ephesians 5:13 says “everything exposed by the light becomes visible.” The light is God’s Word. God’s word will reveal truth. Test it.

Weapon No. 2: Righteousness

What is righteousness? Upright living that lines up with God. Unrighteous living opens us up to a full frontal attack, leaving us unprotected. Righteousness takes on the role of a breastplate, guarding our heart. Living unrighteously exposes our heart, leaving it vulnerable for attack. And once he gets to you heart, he’ll mess with your thoughts and what you hear. Guard your heart with the breastplate of righteous living.

Weapon No. 3: Peace

I don’t have more notes about peace, sorry. I got up during this part to go get a coffee. :-)

Weapon No. 4: Faith

Your faith is a shield!

Here’s something cool I bet you never thought of: the first three pieces of your armor are your uniform. You wear it. Never leave home without your truth, righteousness and peace. They are your belt, breastplate and shoes.

The other three pieces though, beginning with the shield of faith, are not things you wear. They are things you carry, things you take into battle with you. Cool, huh?

So about faith: James says put your faith to work. Faith without works is dead, he says. In Shirer’s words: give your faith a job!

If/when God calls you do something and you say no and/or resist, you are saying that you’re God is not faithful, that you’re God can’t be trusted.

Your/our enemy is sending flaming javelins at you/us to distract us. These distractions can take on the form of fear and insecurity. But our God is faithful! Walk in faith anyway! Doing what God has called you to anyway — aka faith — is the only thing that will make the fiery darts stop! Activate your faith!

Weapon No. 5: Salvation

Salvation is to be worn as a helmet protecting our mind. This isn’t just salvation from hell and to heaven but that are saved from the strongholds of sin and the world. We are saved from bondage and given to freedom.

We are to practice who we are in Christ and what are salvation truly means. Ephesians 1:4- says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will …”

Those few verses alone call us chosen, holy, blameless, loved, predestined and adopted, and the rest of the Word tells us more of the same.

Here’s a video I took of Priscilla Shirer showing us how to practice who we are in Christ. It’s incredible!

Finally, Weapon No.6: The Spirit

This is the Holy Spirit in personal form, a personal Rhema word from the Holy Spirit in us to us. The Spirit is a sword. All the other pieces are defensive. The sword is offensive. We’re to use it fight, not just to protect. How do use the Spirit as a sword offensively? Speak God’s Word outloud. Speak God’s word over your life and chop the enemy to pieces!

Reflections on Losing a Man I Never Really Knew


john and winston t john and winston t b

I received an email today that the man whom I called my father-in-law passed away. He died April 23, 2015. More on why I’m just now finding out in a minute.

Winston T. Smith Jr., age 80 of Murfreesboro, Tenn., passed away on April 23, 2015. Funeral services were held on Sunday, April 26, 2015 from the Williams Cove Holiness Church. Interment followed in the Trenton Cemetery. Bro. Pat Coffee and Bro. Wayne Williams officiated.

Mr. Smith is survived by his daughter, Sandra Darley; sons, Tim Smith and Wendell Smith; eight grandchildren; ten great grandchildren; sister, Earline Allison. Mr. Smith was preceded in death by his son, John G. Smith; sisters, Emily St. Clair, Eloise Pogue and Willie H. Smith.

I’m glad that John was included as his son, preceding him in death, and that my sons are included in the “eight grandchildren.”

See, that side of the family — the “Smith” side — doesn’t really stay in touch with me, so I wondered when their father died if I’d know and how I’d find out. The email telling me was sent by a cousin of John’s, who stays in touch with me about a tract of family land that belongs to John but is cared for by this relative.

I hadn’t seen him in many years. He didn’t come to our wedding, but he came to John’s college graduation. We saw him about once a year from 2003 til about 2007. When John died five years ago I was told that his father was not well enough to receive the news about John’s death, that he was in an assisted living home with dementia.

I have mixed feelings about his passing. It’s one of those times that I wish John were here to tell me how he feels about it and tell me how I should feel, what I should do, if anything. Should I send a card to his siblings? I had to break the news to John’s mother today, and that was sad. I wish he were here to do that.

The reality is though that both John and his dad professed to believe in Jesus, so what that means, to me, is that John knew of his dad’s passing way before I did and that they’re together now, without the tension and problems that were part of their relationship here on Earth. I’ve never doubted John’s salvation, but I know John was troubled about making sure his dad believed and would be in heaven. I hope with all my heart that his profession was sincere.

John and his dad weren’t that close. Their history was hard. His parents split when he was young, and he spent summers and the occasional weekend with his dad. He had funny stories about fishing and country living. His dad lived in the sticks. He was a farmer and a truck driver.

I remember John telling me how hard his dad was on him to succeed and do well in life and to make money, and how he never felt he could live up to his dad’s expectations. When his dad gave him a hard time over and over again about not playing well at baseball, John quit the sport and didn’t play any more. The grief from his dad wasn’t worth it.

His dad was the one who encouraged him to study engineering and gave him money for a computer and other college costs. He pushed him into engineering because it would make good money. Turns out it was a good fit for John; he had a brilliant engineering mind.

My boys have lost a granddad they didn’t know they had. They’ve heard me refer to their dad’s dad and they’ve heard a story or two about when they were babies and we took them out to his trailer in the country. His dad didn’t keep his trailer very clean, and once the boys got mobile it was difficult to keep them from getting into the snuff cans and popcorn kernels that were scattered around.

One time John picked his dad up and brought him to our home to visit with us and we took him out to eat at Ryan’s. I remember that John called him the day before to tell him to be ready, but when John got there he hadn’t remembered and wasn’t ready. John helped him get cleaned up so he could bring him to our home. That’s the last time I saw him, I’m pretty sure. John saw him a few times after that, but we never went back as a family.

John was the only child of his mother and his father, but his father had three children from his first marriage, significantly older than John. Old enough that some of their children were John’s same age. He was never close to those siblings either. When John died, all of his siblings came to his funeral and expressed sympathies. I thought that was kind of them.

It feels strange to me to bear the last name of a family of which I’m not really integrated into, and for my sons to pass on that name and line and not know their relatives of the same last name.

The Bedford Talk: Journey from Bedford, Indiana to ‘Bold They Rise’


I had the opportunity to give a Bold They Rise talk recently in the community where I spent the bulk of my print journalism career. It was important to me to go back there and offer a book talk because my time there was very instrumental in me ending up working on Bold They Rise and I wanted to go back and tell them that.

So I titled my talk “From Here to There” and filled in the missing 11-year timeline from the time I left the community and the newspaper in 2003 until now.

The highlight was bringing with me their hometown astronaut Charlie Walker. His missions are included in Bold They Rise, so it was a privilege and an honor to do this talk with him.

So my talk started with this picture of Charlie Walker on the space shuttle in 1984.

charlie walker 84

I told the people that while Charlie was doing this, I was doing this.

heather 84

In 1984 I was 4 years old and more into Minnie Mouse than I was astronauts and space.

It was important that people “get” that yes, I grew up in Huntsville, Ala., the Rocket City and home to Space Camp and Wernher von Braun and NASA, but I didn’t learn to appreciate space exploration because of that upbringing. If anything that upbringing caused me to take astronauts and space travel for granted.

It wasn’t until I moved to southern Indiana, to Lawrence County Indiana specifically, that I saw how the rest of the world viewed space. Three astronauts hail from this little southern Indiana community — more than any other county in the U.S. — and the people there are very proud of that. Their pride made its way into the newsroom where I worked as the paper covered space-related news and kept up with the comings and going of these space heroes and their legacies.

Writing about space-related things gave me a hearty set of clippings with which, upon my return to Huntsville,  I used to apply for a writing position at NASA.

I think those clips made a difference in my getting the job. My Bold They Rise co-author says they didn’t — he should know, he made the hiring recommendation — however I might not have even applied had I not felt that I had dappled enough in space writing to be able to do the job.

So in my talk, I told the audience that I went from here, my old Times-mail mug shot

tm mug

to here

nasa mug

my semi-official NASA mug shot; this photo accompanied a blog I wrote for NASA during my time there.

I briefly told stories of getting to do this, a reduced gravity flight

heather flying

and this, attending Space Camp,

heather space camp

and then writing Bold They Rise.

It was important to me that the people of Bedford, Mitchell and Lawrence County know that their community played a role in this book, and I wanted to bring it to them and share the book and its story as it relates to them.

After that I introduced Charlie who told his own “from here to there” stories about growing up in Bedford with his fellow “rocket boys” friends and his journey from Bedford to Purdue to McDonnell Douglas and to space as NASA’s first payload specialist astronaut.

walker rocket boys

We’re all travelers, traveling from here to there, we just don’t know always know where “there” is until we get there.

This is a story of what it’s like for something to come full circle, because that’s exactly what happened. Extremely grateful I got to go back and finish the loop.

Violence & Video Games


At the science writers conference I just got back from, I heard this really interesting science lecture on violence and video games. What I write here is by no means a case for or against the playing of violent video games, but just some things I learned and a few opinions I have based on what I learned.

To start the lecture, the psychologist went up to the podium and asked half the room to close their eyes and the other half to silently watch a slide show of images and then fill in the missing letters from the following words

k i _ _

g u _

h a _ _

r_ p e.

The group with their eyes open (of which I was a part) saw images of guns, knives and other weapons, and of military and police using weapons.

I, and the majority of my half of the room, filled in the blanks with

k i l l

g u n

h a t e

r a p e.

Then he had my half of the room close out eyes and he showed the other half of the room a different set of images and fill in the blanks. We found out later that the other side of the room saw non-violent images. Not necessarily happy images but just regular things. Office supplies. The outdoors. People smiling.

The majority of that half of the room filled in the blanks with

k i t e

g u m

h a n d

r o p e.

Hmm…

Interesting, isn’t it?

The point of the exercise was to demonstrate what the psychologist called the “weapons affect,” or the idea that the mere presence of weapons can make people more aggressive.

They did more tests where they assessed people’s moods and feelings before and after playing certain kinds of video games, and they found that after playing even just 20 minutes of a violent video game people report a tendency toward more violent or negative response in real life.

For example, a person who played a non-violent video game for 20 minutes was asked afterward how they would respond if they were in a fender bender on the way home. They responded much more calmly than the person who played a violent game for the same amount of time, who said things like they’d yell at the person or want to crush their skull in.

The most shocking to me was the revelation that violent graphic images, like those in video games, are used to de-sensitize military special forces to being able to kill without question or hesitation. I didn’t know that.

Also shocking was that we tell ourselves it’s OK just for 20 minutes or just for a few hours, it won’t affect our behavior. But if a 30 second commercial can persuade our behavior to buy a certain product, how much more will 20 minutes plus of shooting people in video games persuade our behavior as well?

Now I don’t know if I fully believe that playing these games will cause players to go out and shoot people. But I think the research supports that watching violence and playing out violence affects how we feel and may cause to react more aggressively just in general.

I kinda have to ask myself the question, why do people find it so entertaining to pretend to be violent in games, whether it be shooting a gun or fighting like ninja warriors? Is it a power trip? Do we feel stronger, more powerful, in control if we can outlive or kill? And if we do, then does playing violent video games create a false sense of strength, power and invincibility, all of which are sure to boost our ego, too, right? Do we then cross over how confident we feel in the game into real life, sometimes blurring the lines, so that if provoked to tap into our “violent side” this side of us is trained and ready to respond? Video game-like virtual reality simulators are used to train astronauts for space travel and soldiers for war, so it makes sense that our minds perceive the video game experience as a sort of training.

I don’t have the answers, and neither did this psychologist on this day. But he’s studying it and drawing interesting conclusions, conclusions that made me think, thus why I’m sharing it here to maybe make you think too.