Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Here’s a very interesting book I just found out about. The author candidly shares her story, to help break the cycle of abuse and the damaging effects that result from that abuse. Kindle-Wounds-of-the-Father-High-Resolution-188x300


In the bestselling tradition of Smashed and Glass Castle, this raw, eye-opening memoir tells the powerful story of Elizabeth Garrison’s fractured childhood, descent into teenage drug addiction, and struggle to overcome nearly insurmountable odds. Elizabeth invites the reader behind the closed doors of a picture-perfect Christian family to reveal a dark, hidden world of child abuse, domestic violence, and chilling family secrets all performed in the name of God under the tyrannical rule of her father. Like countless teenage girls, Elizabeth turns to drugs and alcohol to escape. With smack-you-in-the-face honesty, Elizabeth chronicles the dark realities and real-life horrors of teenage drug abuse, living on the streets, foster homes, and treatment centers. She paints an unsparing portrait of scratching and clawing her way out of the grips of child abuse, addiction, and betrayal to find the strength within herself to save her own life.


Elizabeth Garrison has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and works as a researcher for the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. Her research focuses on the effects of childhood abuse and developing interventions to help children recover. She also is a well-known celebrity ghost-writer. Given her talent in helping others to tell their stories, Garrison decided it was time to tell her own story. Visit her at www.elizabethgarrison.info.

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I’m getting closer to publishing my next memoir, Healing The Writer. I put it on my website today as “Coming Soon,” with the front cover I plan to use. DanLHays.com

The woman who edited my first book said she thought this would be one of the most powerful books I would ever publish. I didn’t get it at the time, but I’m beginning to understand what she meant. I’m about to read the whole manuscript for the first time. I published the first 29 chapters on Life As A Human magazine, but have been letting them get cold while I wrote the final chapters.

Book Cover Cropped

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“Dear God.  I am really angry with You!”

Just saying those words out loud made me hold my breath.  Would I bring down the fabled wrath for having said that?  But it was true – it was the most honest statement I’d ever made to God since I’d started trying to pray.  I was really angry – for a lot of reasons.  But I had been somehow conditioned that you don’t talk honestly to those you have a problem with – so the same should logically apply to God.

I knew something was really wrong in my life.  I had been plagued by problems for years, problems I couldn’t pin down as to origin.  I had even tried to talk about that as a prayer, many years before.  When I was about 21, there was a Sunday evening service at the church I attended, and at one point in the service, they would dim the lights, and people were invited to come down to the altar rail, kneel and pray.  One time my prayer had gone something like “Dear God, I don’t know if You’re really up there, and if You’re really listening, but if You are, I know there’s something terribly wrong with my life.  I seem to hurt deep down inside, and I don’t know where it’s coming from.  Please help me God.”  I didn’t seem to get an answer at the time, and for a long time afterward.

But it was just after Christmas in 1987, and my Dad had just died, at a time when the problems I had been struggling with had escalated.  It felt like my whole world was spinning out of control.  I was 37 years old, and my anger at God had already started to surface.  In anger I had torn up and shredded a lot of Bible study notes, frustrated at the seeming lack of answers in all that study I had done.  Then I got the phone call – come home; Dad is dying.  I had returned to my parents house, had been there when my Dad died, delivered the eulogy at his funeral.  It had been a hugely emotional time, and I was still reeling from it.

Now, a month later, the anger was back, and boiling.  I was willing to risk all sorts of possible bad things to be honest with what I was feeling, and just say – flat out – how angry I was at God, and at the situation.  Having stated my anger, and not been struck down by a bolt of lightning, I sat down and started writing what I was angry about.

I had recently started narrowing down where all the issues were coming from.  I had remembered several ugly incidents with my Dad when I was a teenager.  First my Dad had shamed poetry that I had written for a school literary magazine, told me it was worthless and I’d never amount to anything.  It was a horrible experience, and it felt like a light went out in my soul when my writing was taken away from me by being told it was worthless.   The next thing I had remembered was arguing with my Dad over being able to wear my hair like the Beatles.  He was a former Marine, and refused to allow it.  Then late at night he came into my room and beat me up, telling me not to talk back to him.  I had a feeling there may have been more – the evidence pointed that way – but I didn’t know how to root out whatever still might be underneath.

Then there was the horrible hurt I was feeling over my Dad dying.  Our relationship had been strained for a number of years, but recently we had found a new supportiveness and peace between us.  And then he died.  It wasn’t fair!

So it came back to “Dear God, I am angry with you!”  I knew I couldn’t keep carrying that anger, so I took a risky step.  I set up a meeting with a minister at my church, to admit before a man of God about my anger.  Wow – now that felt risky!  But it also felt necessary.  I had watched as my Dad denied his anger and refused to deal with it for many years.  He had suffered numerous health problems, and had died in his late 50s.  I had been watching his behavior and expecting his early death for several years, and knew – somehow I just knew – that if I didn’t deal with my own anger, I would end up going down the same path.

I met with the minister the next day.  I shared with him what I had written, and the things I was angry about.  I held my breath, expecting some dread penance for irreverence.  Instead, the minister confirmed that many people felt things like I was feeling, and had experienced deep anger at God.  It just wasn’t supported at church to talk about that, so everyone put on what I called the “happy Christian game face” and didn’t talk about things like anger at God. He said I had opened the lines of communication with God in a whole new way, and God would honor that honesty.  He told me it took great courage for me to share what I did, and that it would only help my healing process. Then the minister said something very interesting – he said not to be surprised if other things continued to be revealed to me.  He was right!

Several weeks later, I found the deep source of the issues that had plagued me.  A very deep and violent incident with my Dad when I was seventeen, while he was drunk.  I kept getting clues that something had happened, followed them, and was led to have this incident revealed.  It was a horrible event to remember, and I knew it would take a long time to fully work through the effects.  But – there was also a tremendous sense of relief.  I now knew why my world had been so skewed, and in the big picture, things made a whole lot more sense.

So saying I was angry at God, being honest in that way, had led to a huge healing process.  Not eternal punishment, chastisement or condemnation.  I still had some of those teachings stuck in my soul, and it took a while to release those old beliefs and realize that God really did want the best for me.

Then the question.  Did God hear my plea down at the altar rail when I was 21?  Were things revealed to me at a time and in a way that I could handle knowing the truth?  It sure seemed like it!  I know I couldn’t have handled knowing about the violence when I was 21.  It came out as gently as it could given how horrific the abuse had been.

“Dear God.  Thank You for revealing this incident with my Dad at a time when I could handle it.  Thank You for being so loving toward me.”

Quite a different prayer than the earlier one.  But they felt connected – the angry prayer led to the thankful prayer.  I do believe that.

Photo Credit:

“Speak Truth Banner” Donnaphoto @flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Right Reserved.

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We recorded a new Dialogues with Dignity radio show on Tuesday – “Listening Between The Lines” – that was a very thought provoking dialogue between Ellen Brown, Stash Serafin and Dan L. Hays.  Ellen led us to consider how do we listen for direction from God, and then we branched out into listening to others.  We next explored how do we listen to ourselves when our “gut” is trying to tell us something.  Very insightful and interesting conversation!

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It was 1971.  I was a newly minted Christian, and eager to share the good news of what I had found.  I had gone to what the Methodist Church called a Lay Witness Mission, sort of a revival, and given my life over to God.  It was phrased as “give as much of yourself as you can, to as much of God as you can understand.”  It wasn’t much in either case – I didn’t understand much, and I couldn’t give much, but I did what I could.  One of the things they had emphasized was the need to share the message of the faith you had found.  They didn’t say much about how to do that, but just had a few lectures on the basics of Christianity.

So there I was one night, sitting in a dorm room at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, trying to share my faith with a friend of mine.  I had gone to high school with Jerry, and we’d spent a lot of time water skiing and hanging out at the lake.  He was at Tech to get a biology degree, and wanted to eventually get a PhD in some specialized type of biology that I didn’t understand.  I had barely gotten through the dissecting the frog course, so I had no idea what he was studying, but I did know he was really smart.

I stumbled through the basic concepts of Christianity I had been given, somehow thinking that to be effective I needed to be sure of what I was saying, and convicted in the correctness of my position.  Only later did I realize that I hadn’t thought through what I had been taught, wasn’t sure if I believed it or agreed with it, and that this made for a less than effective presentation of certainty.

Then Jerry said something that baffled me.  “I think we come to faith through doubting.”  I was perplexed, because they hadn’t given us an answer for that thought in the lectures.  In some vague way, it felt like not being faithful to even question the validity of Christianity.  I ran my stock answers past him one more time, trying to speak them clearly enough that he would understand what I was saying.  I could see he remained unconvinced, and somewhere deep inside me, I felt unconvinced myself.

It took me many years to understand what he had said.  Only after I had gone through doubting phases did I realize the strength of the concept he was trying to share with me.  And the irony of that didn’t escape me.

I reached a point where I had tried all the Bible Studies I could sign up for – to try to better understand God.  I had been very active at our church, involved in singles ministry, working as a counselor with the high school kids.  I had even gone on weekend prison ministries – where we would spend the majority of the weekend inside a Texas prison unit, only returning to our motel rooms late at night – witnessing to the prisoners about our faith.

I later realized that what I was trying to do, particularly with the Bible Study – was to understand God well enough that I could quantify Him, put Him in a box, and essentially, not have to trust in God.  I began to wonder if I agreed with all I had learned, and felt that all the effort wasn’t allowing me to feel more convinced when it came to my faith.  Did I really believe the things I had learned and thought I knew about God?

Somewhere during that time, I also attended a Great Books study group, and heard a wonderful quote by Socrates.  Paraphrased – “the beginning of wisdom is to know we don’t have wisdom.”  I translated that to be free to give up trying to understand and quantify God – because it couldn’t be done.  I relaxed a lot after that.

But I was still left questioning my faith, my direction, and my relationship with God.  As I realized that there were unresolved issues from my childhood that had broken my trust in God, I began to see why I was not giving myself more freely.  The essential question was: “If you’re an omniscient, omnipotent God like I’ve been taught – where were You when the bad things were happening, and why didn’t You stop it?”  I didn’t find a simplistic answer to that question – I’m not sure if one exists – but I made peace with the fact that there had been abuse and violence that had caused me to doubt.  Wait – caused me to doubt?  So did I come to trust more and have more faith, through doubting?  Sure seemed like it.

So now Jerry’s statement took on a whole new meaning.  “We come to faith through doubting.”  I didn’t understand until I had gone through it myself.  But it gave me a whole new appreciation for the faith process.  By questioning what I had been taught, by doubting God because of my past, I had come to that certainty that had been missing earlier about my faith.  By giving up the need to know everything – more accurately, by admitting the futility of trying to know everything – I came to a greater peace about accepting life as it was, and taking faith as “the evidence of things unseen,” and relying on them as I went about my life.  It freed me to a more pure spirituality – not religiosity – that allowed me to connect with God in a way I had never done before.  And if I doubted occasionally – I was fine with that now, and knew it would eventually strengthen my faith.

Photo Credits

“sensitive noise / obvious 2”  milos milosevic @flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

“Question mark.”  Marco Bellucci @flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

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One time I heard someone talk about having Balcony People in your life – people who were in the balcony cheering you on, and pulling you up by their positive encouragement.  I later realized that I had allowed into my life a number of Basement People – people who were trying to pull me down into the muck of their unhappiness as I was trying to climb out and away from that dynamic.  So I had to write the following poem.

(Written October 16, 1986)

To The Basement People

You choose to stay in prison,
Behind the wall that you create.
You say that you are happy,
But your eye is filled with hate.

I choose to seek my freedom,
You do not understand.
I follow inner guidance,
Not every move is planned.

I need less your approval,
You feel me pull away.
Expending every effort,
You try to make me stay.

My freedom is convicting,
It says so much to you.
If I am free to come and go,
Then so, perhaps, are you.

But also with the freedom,
You’re aware there is a cost.
To take a risk, have less control,
It’s what you fear the most.

So not to leave your prison,
You try to limit me.
You undermine me all the time,
My efforts to be free.

By sowing little seeds of doubt,
Among my growth and gains.
You take away the awful sting,
Of your own prison chains.

I took it for so many years,
Allowed you to control.
But farewell, you prisoner,
For God has freed my soul.

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I received this question from someone who had just read my book, ” Freedom’s Just Another Word,” where I confront some pretty bad demons from my past:

How did you overcome your fear of dealing with all the pain coming to the surface? I have not been able to conquer this fear I have of experiencing all that pain. I can talk to myself, try to reason it all out. I know this stuff is poison. If I let it all stay buried in there it is going to continue to rot my soul. I can know this in my head, but the fear is greater than my reasoning.

Here’s how I responded:
OK – that really is the essential question. The fear of dealing with all the pain coming to the surface. A very real, very pertinent question. It sort of gets back to simple concepts – “The way out is through!” “The only pain you can avoid is the pain of avoidance.” In my case, I had watched my Dad for 20 years be sober in a 12 step program, but not be willing to deal with the feelings underneath his drinking, which I strongly suspect were from his childhood. He had his first heart attack at age 44, open heart surgery at 47, a colostomy at 52, and died of a stroke at 59. OK – for me, I knew I was destined to go down that same road if I didn’t change the dynamic in some way. Intuitively and spiritually, I knew that meant I had to face the demon of the old, buried feelings – it would continue to “rot my soul” and I would end up dying early as well. So at that point – at the time of ” Freedom’s Just Another Word” – dealing with the pain was for me a life and death struggle. Once I acknowledged that, I became more like they talk about in recovery literature, “willing to go to any lengths.” Hence the title, and the associated second part of the song line I had “Nothing Left to Lose.” I didn’t choose that path, I was watching all my friends have normal lives and I was having to go through this shit, and resenting it – but that was the path I needed to go down.

So I had realized I needed to do this work – but how to actually get to it. Several ways. Fortunately I had the wonderful sponsor in one of the 12 step programs who gave me this huge gift. He told me that if we start doing feeling work and it gets to be too much, there is a natural defense mechanism in the body that will shut it down. I found that to be true! I would start crying a box of Kleenex cry, deep and intense for several minutes, and then almost magically I would pull out, it would ease off, and I would be fine for a couple of days until we needed to release some more feelings. It happened many times with the sadness. Where I didn’t trust it was with the anger. That’s a couple of books down the sequence, but I will soon write a book about how it was for me in dealing with an anger so pure and white hot it scared me. And eventually it went away. It was that way with the feelings. They felt like they would never stop, and as I kept unloading and unloading, they subsided and finally went away, and I was left with a new awareness, attitude and sense of peace. It really happened! I was pretty surprised, because I sort of never thought I could get there.

Another thing that really sustained me in continuing down the path of dumping all that old stuff was a book I mentioned in Freedom – “Hind’s Feet on High Places.” It is a Christian allegory about a woman named Much Afraid who lived in the Valley of the Fearings with her cousins, Bitterness, Envy, Fear and I believe Resentment. She left to go on a journey to be with the Shepherd in the High Places. That book spoke so much to me about a journey of faith, knowing what you should do and doing it – even if others don’t understand, coming to a deeper faith in trusting that God is with you when you go on that journey. It is a powerful book, it soothed my heart, and kept my feet moving forward when I wasn’t sure I could keep going.

The third thing that I think was hugely beneficial was a strong set of friends who did support me and encourage me to keep going. I had to let some people go who were negative influences, but I still had some solid people who could be there for me – even if they didn’t really understand what I was struggling with. Yes, it is an isolating journey, and I think friends like you have will be an invaluable asset for you in countering that isolation as you let those feelings out. I mean, the essence of what I learned in a 12 step program for those who grew up with alcoholism was “Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel” and those were the family rules I was trying to overcome.

I hope this helps, and I know with your great therapist, you are setting a platform from which you can confront those old feelings and bleed them from your system! They do eventually go away – I’m living proof. I just turned 59 (yes, the age my Dad was when he died) and I plan to be a 90 year old guy, writing books and doing Tai Chi. When I went for my physical last year, the doc said “so other than a few allergies, you have nothing wrong with you.” It took a while for the power of that statement to sink in – all the old ailments I was accumulating while stuffing those feelings have gone away, and I am in a whole new space!
Dan Hays


Footnote: I just went back and looked, and I received the email with this question on April 21, 2009.  I have stayed in regular contact with this person, and since overcoming the fear of the pain, this person has made huge strides in getting past some substantial abuse issues from the past.  It is a real life example where confronting the fear is easier than the continuous effort needed to try to avoid it!  Avoiding the buildup of “the poison … that will rot my soul” – great way to put it!

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(Written November 12, 1988)

By holding on to hate, focusing on those objects of anger, I tie myself to the past.  But denying the anger as well did not work, because I was tied just as much, without knowledge, unable to escape the chains.

By moving through the anger and hurt, I am freed – freed to live in the present and look forward to the future.  Savoring each day and each just more rich experience.  To feel the power of the lion, rather than the rage of the tiger.

Yet, paradox once again.  I am returning; returning to a realm of almost forgotten knowledge, awareness.  Of the time when I had what I am.  I knew what I know now.

Who I am, what I want, what I want to do.

To know the incredible sweetness of the spiritual flow of words from my pen to paper.  Feeling at that time empowered by God, blessed, enriched, in harmony with life, embracing my destiny, fully myself, not a role or what someone else wishes of me, joyful, hopeful, expectant.

Knowing – that I am to have a special someone.  Someone I don’t know and cannot describe, but who will, with perfect divine order fit my needs and meet my needs – all those that can be fulfilled by a lover.

Aware of and accepting the limitations of that relationship.  Not teenage fantasy of being everything, each day flawless and goodness and goo, but commitment – I love you when I don’t like you, when you leave your socks on the floor, when you need space and I need to be held.

The mundane of bills to be paid, stubbed toes and egos, upsets and in-laws, shopping and ironing, the IRS.

But even so, more comfortable together than alone, comfortable in silence, enjoying going to movies, walks on the beach, exploring the wildflowers, expanding each other, seeking God together.

I at my computer, composing, concentrated, enveloped in creativity; she respectful of it, yet not waiting for my return, sitting and toe tapping, but also enrapt in her own world, developing, growing, blooming.  Then free to return to togetherness, sharing the growing.  No fear – of leaving, because at last we are not runners.  The need to leave for a time – to walk amid trees separately – brings no fear of abandonment, because the commitment brings freedom and the knowing of return.  The steward of each other’s solitude.

A return also to the full awareness of my spiritual richness.  The ability to transmit warmth and safety.  So that cats and small children feel safe to draw near, are attracted to the warmth.  Aware that I think of someone and they – if they are a kindred spirit, receive and know of my thoughts.  Knowing the joy of looking across a room at someone facing the other way, sending a silent message saying “I love you;” they turn, look, then smile at me – she doesn’t know why, but I do.

Having healed the wounds, yet never losing the scars, knowing that I understand those who have been at war, and those who have stood in an old Western town in the middle of a dusty, lonely street, facing an opponent with a gun.

Aware of the incredible paradox of being a boxer with a killer instinct who can also craft fine poetry, play sweet music, wishes no harm to others.  This too, is my destiny.  I cannot escape it, but as I embrace it, though it has its own special sadness, I become more fully me.

Feeling so harmonious with God that at long last I am able to follow God, blind as a newborn puppy, having shed the everpresent why, relaxed and expectant through the unknowing.  Knowing that when I know not what to do I will be shown.  That I cannot describe that special someone, but God can and is gently, firmly, leading me to her.

Knowing full well the gratitude and deep humility of the time when with all the efforts, willingness and surrender, I stood before Him not knowing what in me was broken, yet knowing it was, and He showed it to me, even in my hour of deepest defeat, and released me of it.  The hour pride was killed.  the realm of miracles.

Knowing that this hour is a beginning, a fresh start, all will be brought to fruition.  As I most fully claim the many talents I possess, I have not to battle against the old pride, because the brand of humility has been so deeply burned into my soul.  By grace I am alive and know.  By grace has the tiger been silenced.

So to joy, to experience, to fulfillment, the pen flows more freely, the words leap into congruence, wisdom, insight, harmony, in an everchanging simplicity.

I even look different.  The eyes, open, wide, childlike. The brow no longer furrowed, arms uncrossed, shoulders relaxed, loosely smiling, radiant with love.  yet through the anger the boundaries – you have your space, but leave me mine.  The balance.

Always the balance.  Maintaining harmony.  Celebration.  No hurry, no rushing to finish one even to be on to the next.  The celebration is in the moment.  So now to joy.



I wrote this piece in 1988, but hadn’t read it in almost 20 years.  I found it, almost by accident, when I was looking through files for things to post on my blog site.  I was astonished by the voice I heard speaking to me through this piece.  In the early ’80s I read a book entitled “The Bridge Across Forever,” by Richard Bach.  In that book, Richard from 20 years in the future came and talked to Richard in his present time, and told him things about his future.  It was written metaphorically – you thought, but you weren’t sure.

When I read Celebration, I had that eerie sensation that I’d had a similar experience to Richard Bach in his book.  The things I said in this piece could have been written today, and were infinitely more true about me today than back then.  In 1988, I was 15 years away from even beginning to see the impact my grandmother had in my life and the abusive seeds she had planted in me at age 8. Those events directly locked up my creativity for many, many years.  The publication of the book I wrote entitled “Freedom’s Just Another Word,” brought those issues to the surface, and broke the back of those old wounds with Grandma.  Which freed me to be where I am today!

I embrace Celebration as a statement of my present!



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Written December 30, 1988

At Thanksgiving of 1988 I returned to Fort Worth, a place of many of my roots – my family, early friends, beginnings.  I had lived there for about a year and a half in 1967 and 1968.  My family had moved back to the town where my parents had grown up, and where many of my relatives still lived.

We began attending Mathews Memorial Methodist Church, which my parents had attended while they were growing up.  It was there I had first found a sense of church family, and had formed some bonds that had lasted until the present.  It was currently known as University Methodist, but in my heart it would always be Mathews.

I had seen a flyer that stated there would be a garage sale at the church on Saturday morning.  That day I went over to the church, planning to browse the sale and just look around.  I went into the gym, filled with the chaos of a typical garage sale.  I saw a few vaguely familiar faces, but could not connect them with names.  I bought two books I had wanted for a while, and left.

As I passed the side doors of the church, on a whim I pulled at one, intending to roam the once familiar halls.  To my surprise, the door opened on to the side of the sanctuary.  I stepped in and listened, but could hear no one.  It was much smaller than I had remembered; a sanctuary seating approximately 400, with light blue carpet and baby blue walls, stained glass windows of Bible scenes down each side.  Now it was hushed in muted stillness, tranquil and warm.

I walked in and sat on the second pew, memories flooding me.  Our gang had all been in a Christmas play together, performed on the platform beside the pulpit.  Our youth minister had stood at that pulpit and preached a memorable sermon, using the analogy of a ship: “Who are you, where are you going, who is your captain?”  A stately matriarch sat in the choir loft on Sunday mornings and glared at the fidgety ones (like me) sitting in the balcony.  Once I had forgotten and worm white socks with my suit.  It was Communion Sunday and I had to kneel before the entire church at the altar rail, convinced they were all looking at my socks.

Then my eyes wandered up to the wall behind the choir loft.  It had a large circular stained glass window; Jesus, seated, with arms outstretched – offering.  Along the outer border were three segments of a verse: My Peace – I give – unto you.  I had always been attracted to those words, because you could combine the segments any way you wanted and they still made sense.  I had forgotten about the stained glass, and it affected me powerfully.

It hit me with tremendous force that the title of my first book was “Search For Peace.”  It was an autobiographical chronicle of my spiritual journey, my struggles to find God, yet also my resistance against God.  For the first time I realized that the title of my book came from some corner of my heart where the words in the stained glass window had been stored.

Looking back down at the altar rail I remembered Sunday night services.  They would dim the lights in the church, and people were free to come forward, kneel at the rail and pray.  I suddenly remembered vividly a prayer of mine one night when I was 18.  I had said something like “God, I don’t know if You’re up there, but if You are, and if You are listening, here’s what I have to say.  The way I am running my life is not working.  There’s something bad wrong, but I don’t know what it is.  So if You’re up there, and if You really care, help me! I can’t give you much, but whatever I have I give You.”  That experience had stayed with me vividly through all the years.  I could even tell exactly where at the altar rail I had been when I prayed that prayer.

I had recently been feeling an incredible sense of peace and freedom, after a long struggle with some very deep seated issues.  The peace was not just intellectual statements any more, but I felt it down very deep inside me.  My gaze drawn back to the stained glass, I thought of a completed circle – finding peace and returning once more to the exact place where the journey began – from beginning to beginning.  I went and knelt at the altar rail, at the same spot, tears welled up and a prayer of thanksgiving flooded from my heart up to God.


Several weeks later, just before Christmas, I was back home in Houston and awoke to a rainy day.  I had been carrying the experience in Fort Worth in my thoughts for several weeks, yet its full significance eluded me.  There was some element of it that whispered at the edge of my awareness, like a long forgotten but barely remembered memory.

I needed exercise, and went to a local mall, The Galleria, to walk – which I sometimes did when the weather was inclement. It was a pleasant form of exercise; it had the additional bonus of fascinating people watching.  As I began walking, I noticed the vast number of people hurrying, doing their Christmas shopping, but in a terrible rush; some of them did not look happy!

For several laps I had noticed a grand piano sitting in an atrium area at one end of the mall.  As I passed one time, a young, neatly dressed black man sat at the piano, playing a light, soothing melody – appealing, yet unrecognizable.

I stopped, sat down on a bench, and began quietly listening.  It was a complex piece, lifting up to airy heights, then deepening, ripening fully, powerfully, then scaling back upward in a soothing pattern.  I found myself becoming very tranquil and calm, though the hordes were still bustling past.

He finished and arose.  He had seen my interest among the bustlers, came over and sat next to me.  In talking with him, I discovered that the piece was his original composition.  He had had no formal training, could not read music, but just played for the love of it.   He did not work for the mall, but had just seen the piano and sat down to play.

Since I had missed the beginning, I asked if he would play it again, which he gladly did.  After he finished, he returned and sat shyly next to me.

“Wow,” I said, “that is a really beautiful piece.  No one gave you lessons or anything?”

“No, I just picked things out by myself.  I’m out of practice.  You should hear it when I’ve been working on it.  I missed some parts.”

“Well, it’s really wonderful as it is.  You really do have a gift.  You should stay with it and develop it!”

We sat quietly for a moment.

“By the way, what’s the piece called?  Does it have a name?”

“Yeah, sure. I call it Redemption.  It just seemed right.”

“Why did you call it that?”

“Because of what Jesus has done in my life.”

“Mmm.  That is really special.  Beautiful.”

We talked for a few minutes more, shook hands, bid each other well, and he went out of my life.

It took several more weeks before I realized the gift he had given me – a Christmas gift.  He gave me the word that had been eluding me, though the concept was well documented.  I guess I had been too close to the experience to see it.  It was the sensation I had been experiencing and trying to describe.  Redemption.  From the vague and pleading prayer at the altar rail at Mathews, to the thankful prayer of gratitude upon return to the same spot.

Redemption. My Peace – I give – Unto you.  I had sought; I had found.  It was not just an awareness or intellectual comprehension of a concept.  It was an offer that had been made – by God, through His Son Jesus, and at that moment of my life, I could fully appropriate it, claim it.  Not just thinking it to be true; not just believing it – but knowing it.  Deeply.  I felt overwhelmed with love.

My greatest Christmas gift. From God, to me – Redemption.


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For the last two years I’ve been working to overcome the effects of damage done by my Grandmother, who we all called Mamaw. When I was 8 years old, she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said a famous writer, and she was appalled, and said “If you are a famous writer, they’ll call you crazy and lock you up!” She reinforced that message by telling me the doctor she worked for as a nurse had confirmed that if I was a writer when I grew up, and went crazy from it, he could have me put into an insane asylum. One night she shut me up in a closet to show me what it would be like to be locked up in an asylum!

I had done some powerful therapy work over the spring of 2009 to release those old messages, but realized over the summer that my inner child, who I called Danny, was afraid to leave that closet he had emotionally lived in for over 50 years. He was afraid that if he stepped outside, the bad thing would happen! I decided to do an exercise to get it across to Little Danny that he was in fact free, and didn’t have to live with that fear any longer. It was an exercise I had tried before, and written about in my book Freedom’s Just Another Word. Although it sounded kind of silly when I would describe it, the exercise had brought powerful results for me, and it just seemed like the next thing that needed to happen.

Note: This is a visualization – it didn’t happen in real time.

This is a dialogue July 4, 2009 between my adult self, and that wounded inner child:

“Danny, I’m going to show you in a whole different way that you are free – that you are free of Mamaw, and can leave those old messages behind forever. Are you ready for that?”

“Yes, I am!”

“Excellent! Danny, do you remember the movie Forrest Gump?”

“Oh yes, I liked that movie a lot!”

“Remember when Forrest had a bulldozer knock down the house that had caused Jennie so much pain?”


“Well, we’re going to do that to Mamaw’s house today.”

He grinned, then got very thoughtful.

“What are you feeling?”

“That feels – deep. Powerful. good. It feels right! So her house, the closet, all of it, will be gone? I like that image! Let’s do it!”

“Alright. First, imagine yourself back in her house.” He shuddered a bit, then nodded. “You are standing in the closet in her back bedroom.” I could see him visualizing being there. “As you look out of the closet, there’s a bright golden light like we pictured in the therapist’s office. So there are no scary things in there. Do you see it?”

“Yes, it’s beautiful!”

“Good. Danny, do you remember the lion in the Chronicles of Narnia?”

“Yes, I liked him a lot!”

“What did he represent?”

“God. Jesus.”

“He was pretty powerful and golden, wasn’t he?”

“Oh yes, he was enormous, and you knew he wasn’t a tame lion, but you felt safe with him. It was really special.”

“Yes, I agree, Danny. Alright, I want you to picture the lion standing in the middle of that back bedroom. Take your time. See him?”

“Oh wow – that is amazing!”

“OK, Danny, here’s what we’re going to do. When you’re ready, you’re going to take my hand, and we’re going to step out of the closet, and go to the lion.”

He nodded, then thought about that for a long time. The lion stood there placidly, watching us, in complete repose.

Finally I said, “Danny, are you ready?”


“Good. Then take my hand.” He did, and then we began to walk, two steps and we were past the door of the closet. I heard his breath catch, but he kept walking, until we were standing in the middle of the back bedroom, next to the lion.

“Danny, you can pet him if you want. He’ll let you.” He started stroking the lion’s mane very gently. This continued for a long time. Finally he stopped and looked up at me.

“Danny, I want you to hold on to the lion’s mane, and then we’re going to walk out of the house.” He reached up and held the mane, and the three of us began to walk. We squeezed through the bedroom doorway, went down the hall, across the living room, and out the front door. We crossed the lawn, stopped out be the curb, turned, and looked back at the house.

It was nothing remarkable – a small white shotgun house, two bedrooms across the back, bathroom, small kitchen to the left as we were facing it, dining area and living room in the middle, attached garage on the right. It still astounded me that something so unremarkable could store so much pain.

The three of us stood there for a long time looking, Danny still holding my hand and the mane of the lion. Finally, I could see him notice the bulldozer, sitting silently off to the right of the garage.

“Danny, that bulldozer is going to knock down the house. But he won’t do it until you wave at him. That’s his signal to start. Take your time to get ready. We’re in no hurry.” He stood and looked at the house for the longest time. Then he let go of my hand, and waved at the bulldozer driver, and took my hand again.

With a rumble we could all feel through our feet, the powerful diesel cranked up. The driver pulled slowly up to the corner of the garage, put his blade down and started crunching through. The roof of the garage started caving in, and the driver backed out to let it fall. He moved over to the left of the porch and rammed his way directly into the living room, until it too began to fold up. He backed out, then did the same at the left corner of the house. I heard screeching noises that I presumed were the tiles on the kitchen counter folding in. Now the front half of the house was buckled down. The driver backed up, then drove up on to the rubble in the middle, wood crunching under his tracks, until the weight of the dozer collapsed the pier and beam foundation, and the whole living room area started flattening. then it was like the house broke in the middle along the roofline, and the center portion of the house dropped, leaving exposed beams. He made a couple of more passes on the right, and then the left. We heard a terrible squeal when I suspected he ran over the old metal bathtub.

Then the driver backed out, went all the way to the right of the house, and began to push on the back half of the house. He seemed to be working very methodically. He pushed through the back bedroom and collapsed that part. He backed out, moved to the center, and pushed right through where the closet had been. One more pass, and Mamaw’s bedroom collapsed, behind where the kitchen had been.

All this time, the three of us were standing silently and watching, fascinated. The driver began to run back and forth over the rubble of the whole house, breaking it up into smaller and smaller chunks. I had paid him well and told him to take his time. Finally the ruins were broken down and pulverized, and the only things standing were the concrete steps at the front door, and another set of concrete steps leading to the kitchen – what used to be the kitchen.

Then the driver went once more back to the right of the house, and lowered his blade to the ground, and began pushing the rubble backward, toward the back yard. It took several passes for each section of rubble, but finally as he pushed he would be exposing raw dark dirt under the foundation that hadn’t seen light in many, many years.

At last it was done. The rubble was pushed far out into the back yard, and where the house had been was only raw dirt. The driver backed out, turned off his engine. The silence felt good after all the noise and rumbling. You could still hear ticking noises off the diesel engine, but otherwise, it was silent.

We stood there for a moment longer, then the three of us began walking across the front lawn. We walked up to where the front wall of the living room had been, and stopped. I didn’t want to go further, in case of random debris. All we wanted was to be able to see. Brown dirt, crisscrossed with bulldozer tracks, was all that was left of the house, all that was left of the closet.

We stood there looking at the empty space for a long time. Then we turned, still holding on to one another, and walked away.


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