Sandy Hook, Franklin Regional, Fort Hood, KinderCare

A picture in front of KinderCare last night. Taken by @MarinaMarraco.

A picture in front of KinderCare last night. Taken by @MarinaMarraco.

Fia is a funny little kid, a few weeks ago she asked me to “put talking on” – we were listening to her favorite Spotify mix, but she wanted some NPR.

On Monday I dropped off my daughter at the preschool/daycare she goes to two mornings each week, this morning there was some piece about Sandy Hook on as we were pulling into the parking lot of her daycare in Winter Park, FL and I thought of all of those parents who sent their kids to school that day and never heard their voices again. Fia walks and runs like a champ, but she wanted to be carried in that day and I was more than happy to hold and hug her tight on our way in.

Wednesday afternoon, after we’d picked her up from daycare, after hearing about the stabbings west of Pittsburgh, I got a call from a friend asking where Fia’s preschool was and if she was there. He said something about a car running into a daycare in Winter Park and that kids were hurt. Even though I could see her curly mop focused on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, my heart dropped out.

The Winter Park KinderCare is less than a 1.5 miles from Fia’s school. As we drive there, I know that we pass cars carrying kids that are headed to KinderCare. There are definitely children that live in our neighborhood, it’s just too close for there not to be.

As I carried my first baby in on Monday I thought about how much her absence would wreck me, not just her being at school absence or her one day going to college absence. But, if she was gone. If she was taken like little Lily Quintus is, the child killed by some big jerk with a big ego in a big truck, one of two things would likely happen. I’d either turn into Liam Neeson from Taken, but without the “particular set of skills,” or I’d end up a kind of empty shell for a while. I’d snap out of it eventually, I’d have a wife to love and comfort, a son to raise, and most importantly I have a God that is merciful. I’d eventually get to the point that King David did when his first son died, believing that I will see her again.

I don’t have a point that I’m aiming at. I’m just processing a little.

I used to get mad at these kind of things happening (I still do), but more and more often they lead me to hug my wife, my daughter and my son tighter and to try to soak up every minute we have.

I hope they find Robert Corchado, if it turns out that he really is the guy that cause this I hope they throw the book at him. I hope he goes to prison and is know as the guy who killed a 4-year-old. Eventually my anger turns to mercy, my rage to forgiveness, my desire for justice for my desire for the same mercy that has been shown me by this God that sees the depths of our hearts and still calls to us.

Driving cars off the road. Shooting kids. Stabbing classmates. Escalating fights to the point of violence at work.

But for the Grace of God, there goes Jayson Whelpley.

God’s Voice is Like A Headache

This is an approximation of the zig-zag visual...

Scintillating Scotoma as imagined by Wikipedia.

As a follower of Christ, I’m inherently – at least at some level – a mystic. At least one dictionary defines the word as , “a person… who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.” What I’m talking about specifically is what is often referred to in Christian circles as “hearing God’s voice.” (This is almost always followed up with “I don’t mean audibly, I don’t think I actually heard anything,” as if a group of fellow semi-mystics have any right to judge if someone did claim to hear something from God.)

I do believe that there have been a few times in my life that I’ve been distinctly ‘spoken to’ by God, but the how of His voice in my life are not always easy to explain. Recently I came up with a way of describing it that is no less subjective, but, perhaps, somewhat illustrative.

God’s voice is like a migraine.

When I first got my migraines in 2004 they came on pretty gnarly, so bad in fact that I ended up getting tests done to make sure I didn’t have a tumor. They would (and continue to) start with what experts call a scintillating scotoma or a migraine-aura (see the image above) and every once in a while with one side of my face or a few fingers in my hand going numb. Thankfully, the tumor-fear-inducing numbness is now far more rare. This is how I first started knowing that my day was ruined… I wasn’t going to be able to read anything the rest of the day, driving was going to be a difficult for at least a half-hour. Day ruined.

Nine years later, I can see them coming 5 minutes away; that is 5 minutes before my vision gets all trippy. I don’t have any way of describing what I’m feeling, but I have close to 100% accuracy of feeling it coming before it does. Even more so, I can always tell when it’s going to go away about 10-15 minutes before it does.

Constant Homeless Prayer

For three of those years, we lived in the Washington, DC metro area. I’d never really had experience in living in a legitimate city –  the public transportation and eating-out options are still life changing experiences in my life. Living in a city with a ubiquitous population of homeless people was even more life changing.

People often have “rules” about how to deal with people asking for money on the street. I am not really a “rules guy,” but I am a “systems guy.” I like having processes to solve problems, I don’t like always/never guidelines. So, I had to come up with a guideline for how to deal with the situations. It seems clear to me from the Scriptures that followers of Jesus are to care for the poor, but there’s debate whether giving money is a good thing at all and I don’t know what the answer to that is. But, I believe there is a “best” in every situation and that the Lord was willing to tell me what that was.

The only always/never rule is that I will always buy a new issue of Street Sense from a vendor with his license/ID displayed.

So, here are my guidelines:

  • They have to actually ask for money or something else.
  • If they ask, I will quickly pray and ask God what I should do.
  • I do what I’m told.

It was amazing how often I got to pray this prayer. On Metro days (as opposed to driving days) I would walk by at least 10 people asking for something. Over the three years, I probably prayed the prayer more than 1,000 times. Still, it took about a year, but I actually found out that Jesus’ promise that His “sheep hear [His] voice” was true! I honestly would get an answer just about every time.

“Give her $5.”

“Not today, but if you see him again tomorrow.”

I did.

“Reach in your pocket and the first bill you touch is his.”

That bill ended up being a $20.

“No.”

“Give her your gloves.”

I did.

“I want you to take him out to dinner.”

That last one will be one of my life-long regrets. I didn’t.

So Many Voices

I think that we often struggle with hearing from God. How often have you bounced back and forth between “yeah, I think that’s the Holy Spirit,” and “nah, that’s just my own thoughts.” (It’s funny how often “it’s your own thoughts” when it’s something that is stretching or distasteful.) But, I know His voice now! When I hear it, I know it like I know my dad’s voice , my uncle Dal’s voice or my brother’s voice – a voice that kinda sounds like my inner voice, but it’s definitely not! It’s not that sneaking voice that entices me to stay on that show a few more minutes or to have just one more of whatever. That voice sounds like mine as well, but is far too easy to hear and far too similar to what I want to do anyhow.

The thing is, I can’t describe or explain why it is that I know one voice from the other. Or one tug versus another. The only advice that I can give was actually just described to me last Tuesday by my friend Jon who is a pastor in DC:

You have to keep practicing.

Learning to Hear

I hate my migraines, but I know them. I know their voice, I know how they feel coming and I know how they feel going away. But, it’s an experience that’s pretty close to solipsistic – I have no idea how to describe it. I’m impressed that someone was able to somewhat accurately create an image of what I see when it’s coming on. Just add tunnel vision. My migraines have helped me learn to hear my brain’s “voice.”

I loved our three years in DC. They were formative in a number of ways and I am hopeful that one day we’ll move back. But, even if we don’t it will still reside in a foundational location in my life — it was the place I learned to hear God’s voice, tutored by the 7,000 or so homeless residents of the area.

Things to check out:

Open Letter to Judge Lu Ann Ballew

messiahtennesseeBack in August there was the whole incident where a Judge in Tennessee decided that two parents weren’t allowed to name their kid Messiah. I wrote a letter to her that I never sent. And then another judge overturned it. I’ll share it though.

Honorable Lu Ann Ballew
P. O. Box 70
New Market, TN 37820

Dear Judge Ballew,

I find it unfortunate that the combination of your faith and your ignorance has led you to believe that you have the right to change the first name of a child in a case that had nothing at all to do with it, and in so doing continue to fuel the cultural belief that all of us who follow Jesus the Messiah are ignorant.

Your statement “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ” is simply untrue — according to the Bible. Since you’ve studied law, I would assume that it would be important to know all the facts of a case before making a judgement on it. It seems that you’ve not done your due diligence in this case.

“Messiah” is the Hebrew word משח which simply means “anointed one.” I’ll list the things that are called “messiah” by the authors of the Scriptures as inspired by the Holy Spirit:

  • Solomon.
    “And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed (משח) Solomon.” — 1 Kings 1:39
  • Sinful Priests.
    “If the priest that is anointed (משיח) do sin according to the sin of the people…” — Leviticus 4:3
  • Isaiah.
    “The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed (משח) me to preach good tidings unto the meek…” Isaiah 61:1
  • Bread.
    “And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed (משח) with oil.” Numbers 6:15
  • A Baal-Worshipping Gentile King
    “Thus saith the LORD to his anointed (משיח), to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him.” Isaiah 45:1

I don’t understand why, if God himself has no problem calling other people his “Messiah,” it should be a problem for parents to view their child as anointed by God as well. I don’t know the specifics of the case beyond what the media has picked up, but it seems pretty clear that you acted against the will the parents and have attempted to strip from this child a blessing or anointing that they intended for him.

I don’t wish or intent to impugn your own faithfulness it you would claim it, but I do abjure your reasoning in defense of this child or of Jesus Christ’s honor.  If you’re concerned about placing honor where honor is due it seems especially odd that you would name the child after the Roman pagan god of war (I do realize this is the mother’s surname).

I hope that Ms. Martin’s appeal goes through successfully. Moreso, I hope that you reconsider your judgement and overturn it yourself.

Sincerely yours,
Jayson Whelpley

Paul

188443_4550801637_8373_n6 days ago, on my 33rd birthday, the funeral for one of my best friends from high school took place.

As somebody said after I told them of Paul’s passing, “that’s 2 now.” Two friends that have at one time or another were my “best” friend have died.

The first was Chad in college. We’d been roommates for semester and friends for only a year-and-a-half or so when he fell asleep at the wheel and drifted into oncoming traffic. He passed about a week later having never regained consciousness. Carrie and I still stop in to see his parents every once in a while. It was hard, but it was one of the times where the assurances of the Scriptures were comforting. For me at least there was sorrow over a friend that I missed, it was washed away by the light of hope and joy.

On Saturday the 3rd of August, just over 2 weeks ago now, a member of our church family died. I didn’t know him well, but his mom is in the small group that we host at our house and he’d become a staple at least in our Sundays. The events surrounding his death are being kept private, but suffice it to say it was a new one for me — I’ve never known anyone who died in that particular manner before. From conversations that were had with members of our church there’s good reason to have hope as well, though I regret that I never really interacted with him.

Paul’s death, on the other hand, leaves no regret.

Mostly just questions.

At the end of our lives, I believe that there are two options: with Jesus and without Jesus. Call them what you want, but the people that have walked willingly with Jesus go with him; those who have resisted him will be allowed to go away from him.

Paul and I spent many hours in high school together. This is a portion of what I posted about him on Facebook:

We were in marching band together, in another band together. We rode our bikes all around Harborcreek. Stole things from the big box stores on upper Peach together which allowed us to play a lot of role playing games. We swam in the lake, trekked up and down streams, camped out, started fires, threw rocks at trains. We talked about the Bible and God. We smoked and sneaked into liquor cabinets. We had crushes on and dated some of the same girls. We laughed, we fought and after high school we didn’t talk much.

Neither was really the bad or good influence in our shenanigans. We formed a Christian hardcore band that we both ended up getting kicked out of.

"Please continue to watch over my family even when I'm not able 2."

“Please continue to watch over my family even when I’m not able 2.”

I remember him calling me out on doing something that the Scriptures clearly condemned once. He was reading them and learning them and applying them.

Yet, I know that his most recent “Religious Views” category on Facebook was “agnostic,” which seems to deny what he once believed. Currently, it’s not showing up as anything. He posted the picture and comment on the right as well.

The last time we interacted, I believe that God told me to relay something to him very specific.

I did. I sent the message.

“I miss you and always love you…”

I got no reply.

Really, as of August 7 when his heart stopped, I have no idea what he believed.

I have no idea what happened as the his pain faded along with his consciousness. I have met missionaries who started following Christ because of visions they had while taking narcotics. If that, why not a something like that for Paul?

Crucifixion is mind-altering. The pain. The countering endorphins. The dehydration and exposure and loss of blood. If that may have helped one of the thieves crucified with Jesus, why not something like that for Paul?

I don’t know what happened to his mind and his heart. That’s true really for the past 15 years in general, but 11 days ago particularly. So, I can pray for the past right? If I believe that God is sovereign over time, and over the future — why not the past? I’m not asking him to change something that I know happened. I’m asking him to do something that I can’t know if he did or did not.

I wonder if I’ll ever stop praying for Paul.

I don’t really regret how things turned out, life is the way it is. But I’ve missed him sometimes, and I’m sad that I he won’t be one of the faces that I’ll see randomly in Erie any more. I’m devastated for his 3 little boys. I’m sad for his mom, his sisters and his dad. I’m sad for his girlfriend.

I hope to God that I’ll see you again some day, brother. I’ll miss you Paul.

I miss you. And always love you.

That one is from me.