i believe

the air was thick with heat.

we were munching our salad, slow as slugs, contemplating the designs on the table cloth.

mom paused, a smile catching the edge of her mouth and pulling up one side… “i remember how i knew i believed in Jesus,” she said.

we nearly jumped out of our skins, but hid it quite nicely, putting down our forks and turning to listen.

“i was walking past harveys restaurant. i looked into the restaurant, and suddenly i loved everybody that was sitting there. that’s how i knew i had found Jesus.”

my mind wrapped weary hands around a concept that’s long escaped me: peace. i found peace in my mother’s words. belief equals love.


weeding “it”

the alarm reaches across my pillow, tickling my ears.

i stumble out of bed. 6:30 am. time to feed the cat.

trip upstairs, still shocked to be on canada time. canada land. in canadian culture, whatever that may be.

find the cat, feed it, find myself in the kitchen, feed me, find my bible, read it, go on a run.

large square fields of whatever farmers grow. wind whispering lonely tunes through green leaves. wide open canadian space.

back home, mom is counting out her pills at the kitchen table. by noon she’ll have finished taking them, only to start counting her lunchtime ones. she looks up at me, big blue eyes like a china doll’s… smiles and opens up her arms. we hug.

i make my way around the house cleaning, doing dishes, folding laundry, then go outside into warm sunlight to dig in dirt and find weeds, throw them disheveled on the dandelion infested lawn… my favorite time of day. gardening. it used to be my mother’s. now she can’t handle the sunlight.

i keep a vision of my mother in my mind as i make her flowers pretty. her with her big straw hat, shovel in hand, wandering from garden to garden all day long, reveling in her work. that was long ago. before “it” arrived on the scene of her frontal lobe.

i hear her soft feet pitter pattering towards me. “it’s so hot outside, emily. you really should come in.” she shades her eyes, squints at me. shudders at the sun. “mom, u should really go have your nap. i’ll be in soon ok?”

she smiles, nods… “that’s a good idea.” she softly pads back into the house, back into bed.

i hate “it.” i wish “it” had never come to town. i wish i could dig “it” out like these weeds, and throw it disheveled by the wayside, letting my beautiful mother grow and blossom again.

the girl in the picture

kim750×509.jpgLast night I had the honour of speaking with Kim Phuc (www.kimfoundation.com), the girl running from the napalm flames in Vietnam during the war. The most famous picture of the century. She’s been on the Oprah Winfrey Show, has spoken with presidents, prime ministers, queens and kings all around the country.

Her message is very simple: one of forgiveness. She believes that if we’d all forgive, there’d be no need for war. A few years ago she personally forgave the pilot who dropped the bomb on her village. They are now, in her words, “best friends.” She goes on to say, “that is true reconciliation.”

The article I wrote on Kim will appear in Faith Today magazine (www.faithtoday.ca); however, below are notes from my interview with her; I have transcribed them exactly as she spoke.

How do you integrate your faith with your job as UN Goodwill Ambassador for Peace?

I do a very simple thing: I share my testimony. wherever I go to speak, I just share what happened to me as a child, and grew up with the difficult circumstances and for example, the question I always ask is “why me? why what happened to me?” and dealing with physical pain and emotional pain and I thank God that because of those circumstances, it made me really in the way that I was living with hatred, with anger with bitterness, everything, so I see my life as very – a burden – and I hated my life. I didn’t want to live anymore, but thank God because of that deep down in my heart I really wanted to find the truth and the meaning behind why I suffer, and why that little girl still alive. and thank God I got all that answered when I was 19. you know with my job, my mission is to share very simple thing: how the way taught me how to forgive. I am not involved in political or religion, but I just share the way how can I have a relationship with true God, and his love, and his work changed my life. so I accepted and moved on, and by his grace and his mercy and his miracle, it changed that little girl to who I am today. I am not involved in anything… but through my message, I think the people need that. peace, that kind of attitude, and behavior; as a human being I was in that spot, and now I can live by example. I offer my life to them, to the people wherever I go. they have their choice. like I had no choice when I was a little girl.. I didn’t know anything. I suffered, but I thank God that I have my choice now. and I choice the way that helped me. so I just offer htem – I just let them know it’s about the love of God, the love of people; that is more powerful than any weapon of war.

How do you personally make time for spiritual growth?

I honestly read the bible and discipline myself and pray everywhere that I will be. so even with a busy schedule, I spend – for example – I am in the washroom? I can pray. I wake ukp in the morning – I pray and read the bible; that’s the firs tnumber one for me. and before I sleep, I pray; and even if I have a little bit of rest time, in my heart I pray, “God help me.” that is myself… everywhere that I can pray – in the car, in the airplane, in the living room with people talking, I am praying. you know because it’s truly just amazing… I look back, at where I came from. that miracle… I was nothing. but now the lord gave me that opportunity… honestly I was scared to death to stand to talk to people, strange people, diff. languages, diff. cultures, around the world – this is really, I speak so many times, but I still nervous. that is helps me to lean to the lord and pray; “I need your help; I need your strength. I need your grace, I need your mercy.” that really helps me. and when the presence of the lord is on me, then I can speak. I really pray, in my life…. soon as I became Christian, number one in my life is prayer. but the secret is, when I pray I believe. I have no doubt about it. I just find joy in the middle of trouble. I’ll give u example. I have a lot of pain… physical pain from the burn, to this day. when the pain comes, I thank God that I am able to … of course I find different way to do it -o- but the best way I do it is through prayer; I spend hours praying nfor my family, my friends, my relatives, for people around the world…hours and hours.. The more I pray, the more I have peace. that is … u know, I’m not talking about religion. I talking about relationship.

Are you involved in a local congregation?

I am a member of Faith Way Baptist Church in Ajax. It is very encouraging… I need my whole church. I pray with my pastor – he is really a blessing to me. we just had a ladies’ retreat… it was so wonderful. my family as well attends that church.

How do you feel God is working on you right now?

Oh, he’s always with me. I always need him. he is merciful and faithful… like right now I’m so happy that I’m able to say after so many years I’ve prayed for my family – 16 years I prayed for mom and dad – they got saved. after 22 years my whole family got saved; even though they’re in vietnam. I really thank God for he answered my prayers. he gave me a big gift, that I could able to see all of my family in heaven. my favorite verse in the bible is matthew 5:14-16… “be the light of the world.” I just thank God that he blessed me and put his hand upon me and my family; it is so good for me. God is good, always! He never makes mistake. I believe very strongly that everything happens in God’s control.

That’s amazing for you t say, after… I read your story again and the people who destroyed your village, then took care of you… then they used you as a national symbol of war.. You must have felt very lost.

I did. I thought, ‘why me? why do I have to suffer?’ and truly, I suffered a lot. with physical, emotional pain… you know my heart, I can give it to you in a picture; it’s just like a cup of coffee. very darkness, with hatred, with anger, with bitterness, with sorrow… everything in there. but I thank God he loves me enough to let me see him. and the love of God changed my life. first of all, I just know that jesus died on the cross and paid for my sins. because of that I asked God, “do you forgive me?” and now I have his help. I stop asking God, ‘why me?” and I began asking “please help me.” and I began reading the bible and started trusting and obeying, and he gave me life. first he gave me peace, and then wisdom, and then patience, and then compassion… so those things is the fruit of the holy spirit. and that’s why I need a relationship wtih God. he gave me those things.. I asked God, how can I do this? how can I clean everything in my heart just like a cup of coffee? but I just poured out every day, my cup, until my cup became empty and God spilled his love into my cup, and I have a pure, pure love from God in my cup. and he brought the right person into my life. with true love, we have everything. that’s how God wants us to live. but that’s what satan wants to take away. and I just want to share a simple thing that’s happened for the people everything around the world; they need peace, to live with true love, hope and forgiveness. and if they live like that, we don’t need war. we don’t need that kind of … our mission is to keep going, to keep loving, and God is helping me every day that way. so I could able to see the point I want to help another people. in my heart, I have compassion because I pray. I would like to partner with IN Canada… they have a wonderful project. I said, I need to use my story and I can help the children – students in Vietnam; they are Christians, and they are under persecution, so they have no money to continue their education. I am bale to do it because it’s from my heart. if I can help one child, one student, we can make a difference in their lives.

Key quotes (from her message):

Later on in life, Kim said to her mom: “mom, I am no longer running. I am flying!” (No longer running away… from flames or fame or fear)

“Had it not been for war, I would not value peace.
Had it not been for pain, I would not know the healing power of love.
Had it not been for hatred, I would never have learned to forgive..
Had it not been for imprisonment, I would not value freedom.
Had it not been for fear, I would not value peace.
Had it not for living in want, I would not value everything that I have.”

“The most important things in life are a family’s love and God’s love: when you have those, you have everything.”

*napalm is a mixture of gasoline that continues to burn under your skin… it has a temperature between 800-1200 degrees (compared to the boiling npoint of water, at 100 degrees)
the soldiers didn’t realize that when they were dumping water on me, it only intensified the napalm. I had to pass out. I couldn’t handle the pain.

For 14 months I was in the hospital; I received 17 operations. every time they would shower me, I would pass out.
for years my mother would get me to do my exercises. she would tell me, “Kim, I love you.. I have always loved you. but I can’t take away your pain. you’re going to have to help. you have to do your exercises.”

So many of the children who were burned that day were not captured in a photo. Why me? I don’t know. my photo was an accident. but me standing here speaking to you is no accident. I am here to speak on behalf of my relatives and friends who did not make it.

washing feet

my head was a cage for unhappy thoughts flapping tired wings.

i sat at the computer, pounding the keys, as if i could hurt them.

she walked in, saw my wrinkled forehead.

walked out, in her slow, gentle way. returned, teetering forward with the dishpan full of soapy water.

she continued to bring in supplies, methodically, as if she’d done it a thousand times… dead sea salt, fresh towels, and her favorite stuffed animal.

turn around, she told me in her sweet mother tone.

i inwardly sighed, and half-turned, my thoughts still fluttering angrily inside my head.

i’m going to wash your feet, she said. they’re dirty, and you’re tired.

i looked at my mother. was it the brain cancer playing tricks? no, she was serious. kind crinkles outlined her eyes. humor wisp-ed around her mouth, as she turned to her yellow duck — her favorite stuffed animal — and flicked on the switch.img_1290.jpg

it began hopping around the room in a bizarre rendition of “if you’re happy and you know it.”

i couldn’t help but laugh. she shakily took my foot in her fragile hand, and began to scrub sea salt into my skin.

sweet mother of mine — her mind ravaged by cancer’s cruel fingers, her heart massaged by the ever tender balm of love.