Monday, March 24, 2008

Laying Jennifer Cuellar To Rest, Lifting Jesus Up on Resurrection Day, and More

Jennifer Cuellar's graveside service was on Good Friday, and her celebration service was on Saturday. For a person who lived just 28 years (on this side of eternity) she left a mark on so many people. More than 300 were at the graveside service, and Church For All Nations (a mega-church in Tacoma) was nearly packed on Saturday.

Pastor Wolfson officiated at the graveside service and read a letter Jennifer sent him. Every page of the 4 x6 cards (that's the way Jenn sent letters; I have a one-page note from her on a colorful card, which I cherish) was a different, bright color, and she used several different colors of pen during the course of the letter, even on a single card. That was Jennifer: bright colors and the trademark flower-in-her-hair would let you know you were in the presence of a true light in the world, and when she grinned and giggled and her eyes crinkled with delight (which happened frequently, no matter how wiped out she might be) you were transported. You knew she had something few others have. What she had, in a nutshell, was a reflection of God's love coming through her face and features.

Saturday's celebration service for Jenn's life was fabulous -- 80% joy and love, 20% tears and sniffles. My former boss, Pastor Ken Ecker, was the emcee. This man is truly anointed, and I need to write him again and tell him. (When I worked for him, I made him a home-made card that said, "Whenever I'm in your presence, I see Jesus." But Jesus as only Pastor Ken can channel him!

Pastor Ken is both a very serious Bible scholar and an effervescent, fun, sometimes wonderfully wacky teacher of God's word. (P.S. So was Jesus when he walked among us in the flesh! People tend to forget that aspect of Jesus, but it's why kids and others flocked to him in the thousands. He was Quite Sum'pin Else -- and it wasn't His looks that drew them. It was his authority, love, miracles, scholarship and concern. This description also applies to Pastor Ken. So he's a genuine reflection of the God he serves.) Pastor Ken can take a difficult theological subject (as was his question to those gathered to celebrate her life, "Where is Jennifer Cuellar Right Now?") and have everybody in stitches first and in happy tears just seconds later. If there's a video of his presentation, I am going to get it and show it to everyone I know. If I can get permission, I will even publish it here!

My answer to Pastor Ken's Question, "Where is Jennifer Now? can be found at the URL below: Play it -- then come back here and read the rest of this!

Pastor Ken might disagree with me. He said he's not exactly sure where she is right now. "Until the new heaven and the new earth are rolled out, she may just be asleep right now... but wherever it is, there is no sorrow, no tears, no suffering, no fears...."

For the rest of the celebration service for Jennifer, anytime anyone else would mention Jennifer dancing with Jesus or being in Heaven, they would look at Pastor Ken (sitting in the front row) and append, "-- or WHEREVER!"

By the end of the service, people who loved her without limit were saying, "God, Bless Jennifer, Wherever!!" and laughing.

I'm sure Jenn was looking in on all of us, praise be to God, and loving every minute of it!

But Pastor Ken said something very serious that will stay with me forever. He had a ball of fabulous, glitter-filled (or silver thread filled, or whatever) yarn at the podium. One end was coming out the top. He had a volunteer take the sack of yarn up the middle aisle and out the back door as he held the starting point of the thread in his right hand.

As the yarn sack disappeared past us, leaving a long single thread that stretched from the sack to Pastor Ken at the podium, he said, "This beautiful, multi-colored, glorious thread represents Jennifer's life. My volunteer will be gone quite a while, because she is taking the other end of this thread out through the sanctuary, into the mall, out the front door, south to Portland and San Diego and Tierra del Fuego and Argentina and out of our atmosphere and across the Milky Way galaxy, and then she'll be heading out to the farthest reaches of the universe and starting back with it...

"So we won't wait for her to return. But take a look at this part of the thread." He held out about two feet of it, and continued, "Most of us will live 75 or 80 years, about this much of the thread, on this side of eternity." And he cut it off and laid the "eternity" part on the podium as he regarded the two foot section he still held. "Jennifer Cuellar didn't make it to 75 or 80 and we're all having a hard time with that. In the natural, it stinks. Jennifer lived just this long here on earth." And he cut off a piece about four inches long. Held it. Twirled it. "It looks small, too short, it looks utterly insignificant when measured against the 80 years many of us will enjoy. And it looks completely negligible compared to the eternal part of life." And he held up the thread that stretched out the door and across the universe.

"But just look what she accomplished during her little snippet of existence on this side of the scissors, the Great Divide! She invested it connecting other people to the eternal part of their story in a way that saved them and destined them for kinship with the Father. That was her focus and that is why so many of us are here from all across the country today -- to show and to celebrate the impact she had on us. Her entire focus was in reflecting God's love and helping people realize how special and wonderful each of us are in His eyes."

The above is a paraphrase. Pastor Ken said it better. This is the essence of Pastor Ken's message about Jennifer.

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We all wonder, I think, what kind of a legacy we will leave, how many people will drop everything to attend our "coronation service" (memorial service). Our egos, those pesky things, want to know. But even more deeply than our egos, our souls long to know.

We want to live lives of significance and contribution: our Creator made us to be significant and to contribute. It's in our DNA! We're supposed to make a difference!

We're supposed to reflect Him -- how cool is that?

And Jennifer did it -- in Technicolor -- all the days of her life.

To quote Jennifer Cuellar, "How "stinkin' cool" is that?!!"

(Jennifer was talking about God sending His Only Son to die on the cross for HER when she wrote into her journal, "How stinkin' cool is that?")

Pretty stinkin' cool, Jenn! Pret-ty stinkin' cool!!!!

God bless You, WHEREVER!

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Resurrection Sunday was fabulous, too. Although fighting a bad cold, I got dressed and went to Bible study at 9 and to the Resurrection Celebration Service following at CFAN ( My hoarseness and congestion disappeared as we sang forty minutes of crucifixion and resurrection songs. Some people raised their hands; others danced, others knelt and prayed.

I love attending Church For All Nations because it is truly representative of 54 different nations, including a Deaf Church, which praises and worships in sign language. Sometimes I stop worshipping long enough to watch the ways in which other people groups worship. Doing that can transport me into the Throne Room of God at warp speed. Sometimes it's good to get outside one's own head and see how others interact with God. It's unutterably fabulous!

At our church, you'll see the "frozen chosen," those from denominations where standing utterly still (reverent) is the norm; Jewish Dance (Messianic Jews who dance before the Lord); Deaf Church (seeing the signs for Holy Spirit, God Almighty and other terms put me in tears the first few times I saw them; the signs are so expressive); Hispanic ministry, Middle Eastern, European... you name it... Everyone worships uniquely. It's a joy to behold.

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Something else. I invested in The Word of Promise, the New Testament brought to life (New King James version) in audio format using a full orchestra and more than 120 actors, ten of whom are award-winning or very well-known people (Richard Dreyfuss, Marisa Tomei, Jim Caviezel, Stacy Keach, Louis Gossett, Jr, Luke Perry, Terence Stamp, Lou Diamond Phillips, John Schneider, Michael York, etc.). I put the first disc in (there are 20 total) and wasn't able to stop listening until I hit disc 5 and it was close to midnight. I've read the Holy Bible cover to cover at least four times, but hearing it (which is the away it was originally heard, learned and passed along by elders until the Gutenberg Press made Bibles accessible to everyone four or five hundred years ago) .... fully orchestrated... with dramatic highs and lows expressed via instrument and human voice -- well, it's just fabulous! If you want to check it out, here's the link to it at

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Guess that's all for this time. Be well!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Governor Bill Richardson Endorses Obama...

Bill Richardson recently endorsed Barack Obama. Here is the video of his endorsement.

This is an important endorsement. Senator Clinton and former President Bill Clinton are close friends of Richardson and it took him a long time to take a stand. It wasn't an easy choice.

But the choice is getting easier and easier as the days pass and as Barack faces new challenges.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Read "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle

I highly recommend The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. He is the author of the book Oprah is discussing Monday nights on her special webcast (mentioned in an earlier blog), A NEW EARTH.

The Power of Now is subtitled "A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment," and I'm afraid that will freak out some Christians and numerous others (including atheists). I don't really see that much in the book about spiritual enlightenment. What I see is a discussion about how our egos (with their fear-filled, self-made "life stories") always live in the past or the future in an attempt to keep control of our mind so that it can keep dictating to us what to see, how to feel, and how to interpret and react to whatever happens during the eternal "now" that is our life.

If you have read other self-help books, The Power of Now won't be as difficult to understand as many of the concepts in A NEW EARTH may seem to those who haven't taken a look within and decided that things aren't as tidy or peaceful in there as we would wish. It's eye-opening to read of the many ways in which our ego is out to win at any cost, even at the cost of our internal peace and our external security.

Tolle quotes Jesus numerous times in each of the books, stating what he believes he really meant when he said such-and-such. I don't always agree with Tolle's interpretation of Jesus's words, but I do find his interpretations worthy of consideration and contemplation. I think the church has made some interpretation errors along the way, too, and I'm always reading to see if an alternate interpretation makes better sense than what is usually considered "canon interpretation." My mind is open -- not so open that my brains will fall out and splatter on the floor -- but open enough that I want to explore varying degrees of interpretation and see how it resonates against the Holy Spirit. I trust the Holy Spirit's interpretations, so any AHA moments I have do not violate what He knows to be true.

Anyway, even if you're not in the least spiritual, I think THE POWER OF NOW and A NEW EARTH can take you inside yourself to discover the why and how about all the static and seeming unhappiness or frustration that exists inside, and how to observe your mind and create spaces between thoughts so that your Source (Being, Internal Witness, God, Holy Spirit, intuition, whatever else you choose to call it) can calm you and administer sanity to whatever it is that your mind tells you, almost non-stop, every moment you are awake.

The books say that we are, to all intents and purposes, "unconscious" as long as we let our minds and egos legislate how to see the world and how to behave in it . It's when we relinquish our personal past "stories" and future personal "prophecies"that we can offer enough space to our Internal Witness , so that we can learn to live in the only time truly available to us in which to make things happen: the eternal "now."

How true! It is an on-going combination of "nows" which lead to what we conceptualize as our future. As long as our wounded, self-possessed egos are reaching out to an unmanifested future or reaching back to a now-dead past, we are squandering the only time we have to make a difference, to make a change, to heal our life and the accompanying planetary dysfunction that abounds because of our own egoic "insanity."

Sounds logical enough, eh wot? The books are pretty amazing. They take us along as Tolle breaks down the components inherent in creating our ego's "life story," all of which is based on illusion and internal dialogue created while we are still terribly vulnerable to those around us (our parents, siblings, media, school chums, etc.). Since most of the world's population is "unconscious," we learn unconsciousness from all those around us who are in a position of influence.

But we can also learn consciousness (presence, awareness, clarity) from great spiritual masters from many different regions of the world -- Jesus, Lao Tzu, Buddha, and others. These "enlightened ones," divorced from their egos, lived their "nows" in complete obedience to the law of Love, which is the only power in the universe that is unadulterated and purposefully pure. Not the "love" we see manifested on earth by unconscious, ego-driven folks, but the love displayed by God in creating the universe and everything in it -- including us!

Try the books. Start at the library and see for yourself if these are books you will want to own and share. They would make wonderful "book club" discussions, I think! Psychiatrists and pastors might benefit, too. (It helps to get outside one's own "club and paradigm" and read other perspectives at times... it helps direct additional light and insight to one's own vocation.)

I love reading and learning. I'll never stop!

On a Sad Note ... Jennifer Cuellar Has Passed Away

Jennifer Cuellar

"To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

The beautiful person in this photo went home to be with the Lord yesterday morning after more than a year battling leukemia. We miss her terribly, even though we know she's dancing with Jesus as I write this!

Jennifer Cuellar occupied (and transformed) the cubicle next to mine at Church For All Nations. She was in her mid-20's and as utterly dedicated to her mission to God as anyone else I have ever known. There were times I'd arrive a half hour or an hour early -- or come back to work later at night -- and she'd already (or still) be at her desk, working away, or discipling a Core student, or in some other way making sure things happened far beyond what is considered (even in church circles) to be a normal business day. And she nearly always had the smile you see on her face in this photo (which I took at the Zetterberg's beach house one day in July about two or three years ago).

What you see in the photo is exactly who she was. I think she was a bit shy, but she didn't let it stop her from doing what Jesus called her to do (the Great Commission he called all of us to do who know Him as Lord and Savior). She had a beautiful voice and used it to speak and to sing about salvation, grace and love.

She frequently left notes of encouragement on each of our desks, letting us know what it was about each of us that she thanked God for when she prayed. And whenever she knew we were going through a trial, monumental or minuscule, we'd hear from her that she was praying for us, always through that sweet, shy smile.

She was -- and will remain -- a light in this world for those fortunate enough to have been in her presence even once.

Please pray that her twin sister, Frances, and the rest of her family will experience the "peace that passes all understanding" even as they go through the grieving process. May they understand that Jennifer's days on earth were numbered from the foundations of the earth and that she wonderfully fulfilled her purpose in the very few years she had in which to make a difference while still in the flesh.

Her legacy will live on in the hearts, minds and ministries of all those who knew and loved her.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Billie Rae Weighs In On McCain and History...

Billie Rae Walker has this to say about McCain. I respect and will publish all thoughtful comments re the front runners. As I say, we all need to think this out and vote for who we believe will carry our country forward in the most responsible way. Bille Rae believes in a strong military and fighting aggression "over there" before it comes to our shores, as delayed response can be horrendous -- and I get that. WWII showed that in spades. I don't think either of the Democratic candidates will "sell the farm" to aggressors -- I just think a Democrat would have attacked Afghanistan and gone after bin Laden where he was instead of heading to Iraq... but that's all water under the bridge. Billie Rae makes some good points, to wit:

"Senator McCain believes that if we quickly bring all our troops home and/or advertise a timetable for withdrawal, it will result in genocide [as it did in Vietnam and Cambodia], and that "they" will follow us home. I'm afraid that history agrees with him......

Just as history ultimately proved FDR right about our needing to enter the fight before it came here [and it came---to Pearl Harbor]......and proved President Reagan right about a very strong defense being necessary to combat the Soviet Union. I didn't think I would live to see the Berlin Wall come down, but thanks to him I did.

I believe in the equal worth of all cultures [I'm an anthropologist after all], but if another culture desires the destruction of my culture I really don't want to wait until they arrive on our shores again.

In many other matters Senator McCain really is a Moderate...... which the interviewer last nite was giving him a good natured hard time about, telling him that sometimes he sounds like a Democrat [and sometimes he does..... which is fine with me as a lifelong registered Independent]. His views on some things, such as Immigration and undocumented aliens ["They are also God's children"] really upsets the very conservative Republicans; that, and the fact that he often works "across the aisle" with Democrats. Many of the Conservative talkshow hosts still won't support him.

I respect his dedication to stopping earmarks that are added to legislation, and the fact that he has never taken any earmarked funding for his district. I still need to learn more about his plan to improve health care coverage for every American; and how he intends to contruct his plan re: not raising taxes.

Whatever the outcome, I'm encouraging my students to register and VOTE, whomever they vote for...... I don't remember another election as interesting as this one in many years. And they'll not likely see another one like it for quite awhile either.

When the candidates start campaigning I'm hopeful that they'll come to Upstate New York so that we can get a chance to see/hear them in person. I had a chance to go to one of President Reagan's campaign stops, but work interferred...... I wish I'd been able to attend.

Will you be involved when/if Senator Obama comes back to your area ? Are his supporters in your state organizing for the general election ? In three weeks we'll see how the voting goes in Pa.....perhaps then there will be a clearer picture re: who's the likely Democratic candidate. It's quite a contest......

Friday, March 14, 2008

McCain Comes To Obama's Defense -- What a Gentleman!

Thanks to Billie Rae Walker for this:

"Hi Kris....

"I thought you'd be interested to know that, during an hour-long TV interview yesterday evening, John McCain strongly came to Senator Obama's defense re: the current "uproar" about his pastor...... stating that each of them [the candidates] have supporters whose ideas the candidates themselves may not be in agreement with. He also stated that he considered both Democratic candidates to be people of integrity, and that this campaign should be a respectful debate re: differing ideas and visions for America's future [not personal attacks].

"When I watched the news today I only saw one mention of Senator McCain's defense of his fellow Senator..... so thought I'd pass this on to you [in case the news stations continue to not cover it / of course it's not argumentative enough to make sensational "copy"for the news].

"I hope people will listen to him and stop the attacks on one another..... but unfortunately I'm afraid they won't heed his advice. Hope all goes well there.....

Billie Rae

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Unabashed Obama Bashers

Oh, for heaven's sake. Now there's a "controversy" out there about Senator Obama's pastor, despite the fact that Senator Obama has already stated that he doesn't agree with numerous things his pastor has said over the years.

This campaign used to be kind of fun to watch, but the way it's going now, it is beginning to seem like "politics as usual" except in the Obama corner.

I don't know any parishioner who agrees 100% with every concept floated from their pastor's pulpit. I certainly don't agree with my pastor every time. In fact, there are times when the man truly ticks me off (not when he's teaching the word of God, but when he's pontificating on matters where I have disagreements with him outside theology)! Pastors are, by nature, controversial creatures -- counter-cultural consciences. It's part and parcel of their job description. Show me a pastor who never ruffles feathers and I'll show you a pastor who's a theologically impotent misfit.

I didn't think what the pastor in question said was all that controversial in this instance: He said that Obama has a better sense of what black people need, and where they are emotionally, than does Hillary Clinton, since he was raised by a single parent and has had to learn to survive and thrive in a culture that hasn't been terribly sympathetic to the unique trials and tribulations of people of color and other needy folks. While we have made huge strides in America -- we have Barack Obama's serious candidacy for President as proof of that -- we certainly aren't "home yet."

There has been an undercurrent of rumors, gossip and innuendo surrounding Obama's candidacy lately that is verging on ridiculous: among them, is he a closet Muslim; is he a black supremacist; what was he doing wearing African duds during a "photo op" in Africa?

Fer gosh sakes, look at him, listen to him... and let your intuition decide what kind of American he is. My intuition -- and ears and eyes-- tells me he's an articulate, intelligent, visionary gentleman who can heal the divisions in our land because he doesn't view those of us in America who disagree with him as "enemies" or mental midgets. He respects their opinions, listens without rancor, and finds ways to honor the effort to communicate -- and to compromise when people are better off for it.

I find him thoroughly honorable. When he "fights back" against challenges, he takes care to give the other person space to "agree to disagree." He doesn't attempt to metaphorically "blacken eyes" to score. His goal and focus is to "reason together."

I think he'll be a fabulous President. I think Clinton would be a less-fabulous President because she has caused such animosity and division during her years in the spotlight to date. Not that it has always been her fault... but recently some of the stuff she has been bringing up against Obama makes her seem willing to burn the village (and both Obama's and her own bridges to the White House) to the ground to smoke him out and destroy his candidacy so she can win.

That's a shame. If she's the Democratic candidate, I will support her, but not with the fervor or the hope with which I support Obama's candidacy.

Obama has earned my support by remaining sane and humane all along, no matter what kind of stones are tossed his way.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Thanks to all the folks who have been sending snail mail and e-mail birthday cards the past few days. With my life as up in the air as it is at the moment, I may have forgotten all about today being The Day if not for the sweet reminders!

On Saturday I moved out of my condo so the Realtor can stage it and see if it sells that way. I'm living with my sister; the cats are cozy in her garage with a heat lamp, rugs, a recliner, a lamp and a radio tuned to my usual station (SPIRIT 1053 in Seattle). They seem to have settled in well but can't understand why I won't allow them into the rest of the house. (Jackie is allergic, is why.) My grandnieces visit them briefly every day before I drive them to school (five minutes away), so they're getting lots of attention in addition to the attention they get from me.

The good news is that I was awarded unemployment compensation. It took six weeks to get it but I won the day and all is well now... I'm looking daily for new opportunities at several employment websites, but so far nothing has happened.

Being unemployed can wreak havoc on one's sense of worth. It shouldn't, but it does. I want to find something that not only pays the bills but is a creative, enthusiastic contribution to the world at the same time. For me, that has always involved writing. (Big surprise there, huh?!)

I need to start again on the enthusiasm book. It might re-ignite my enthusiasm! Having just read A NEW EARTH, Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Tolle, there's a lot in there that spotlights why enthusiasm is such a necessary part of awakening to one's purpose. And enthusiasm is what I have been lacking these past two months. It seems most of the air has been sucked out of me. That's because I'm facing two major stressors at the moment:

No home to call my own; I feel displaced! (Most of my stuff is stored...)
No job; and no immediate prospect of one

Any one of these stressors is enough to make a person feel off-balance -- both of them together make for a very strange feeling!

But God is in control. I choose to rest in the knowledge that He has a plan. I am to wait until I feel confident that I know what His plan is. My plans are wildly inferior to the ones he has. He sees the big picture; I see only a part of it.

I need to get back to exercising. That always helps me connect with God's spirit. The weather hasn't been very conducive to it the past few days, and I've been congested, but today and tomorrow look good.

I may drive over the Chambers Bay and walk again today and tomorrow. But not until later this afternoon because the air is arctic right now -- there was thick frost on the windshields this morning -- and icy air in my recovering lungs would probably not be a good thing.

Hilary did well in Ohio and Texas last night, so the race for the Democratic nomination continues. I think if Obama and Clinton will agree to combine forces and run together, theirs will be an unbeatable team. I hope they will reach that conclusion sooner rather than later so that they have as much time to "get it together" and present a united effort as Senator McCain will have, now that Huckabee is out of the race...

This is a crucial time on our planet. I hope every voter will take the time necessary to go over the issues that affect all of us and determine what it will take -- and who it will take -- to move forward and make the changes necessary to give us a better chance at surviving as a species and as a global community.

We can do better. On all sides. I think we can all agree on that!

Whether you're presently for Obama/Clinton or McCain, keep an open mind as you study all aspects of both campaigns and party platforms. All those running are patriots. Don't fall into the trap of "them vs. us." Vilification is not the way ahead.
Honorable people disagree. So please disagree kindly.

I don't agree with the entire Democratic platform; I don't agree with the entire Republican platform. I don't agree entirely with any of the three candidates, not being a clone of any of them.

There's a lot we can all agree on. Let's head for those areas where we agree and see what we can do in the next four, eight, twelve, sixteen years to help as many people as we can.

"And the glow from that fire will truly light the world." John F Kennedy