Monthly Archives: February 2016

Do It Like Olga

Olga Savitsky taught me (by example, as most important lessons are taught) why David was a man after God’s own heart.”

I used to believe David got that reputation because of his creative side, that God’s heart was reflected in the David who wrote psalms. But Olga taught me about David’s warrior side.

After she got diagnosed with cancer, Olga became an avid fan of ultimate fighting, which at first troubled me. My son Cody had taken up the sport. I don’t enjoy watching anyone get beaten, and the last man I’d ever want to see hit, or kicked, or thrown down and wrenched into submission, is my son. The second man I’d least want to see treated that way is anybody Cody might do it to. So, I failed to appreciate anybody for encouraging my son in that sport.

Meanwhile, Olga came to love ultimate fighting because it was as close to real fighting as our civilization allowed, with few restrictions except eye-gouging and murder. The fighters, she told me, go at it with every fiber of their bodies, nerves and wills, which gave her examples to follow in her fight against cancer.

Like David, Olga was a poet and a warrior, who during the battle devoted her all to believing; to studying scripture and applying its promises; to praying and meeting with the friends who lifted her spirit; and to avoiding those who weakened her, though she might love them. Sentenced to death, she devoted herself to the art of staying alive. To her, ultimate fighting was a perfect metaphor for the way God wants us to fight for all good things.

Which led me to better understand King David.

Before Olga, I tended to view the Old and New Testaments as separate books, since much of the Old Testament is stories and prophecies concerning strife and war, and the chief themes of the New Testament are love, redemption, and the peace they bring.

Olga made the books into one by teaching me that we can live in peace while at war. The better we love, the more peace we find. And to love better, we need to battle the powers of heaven and earth that create discord, destruction and all evils that use hypocrisy and lies in the effort to haunt, confuse, and embitter us.

To seek truth, as artists are called to do, is to battle against lies.

My grandma was Mary Garfield, a poet, story-teller and painter who insisted that lying was the behavior that grieved her most deeply. And I’ve come to feel the same. Among other evils, lies can lead even people of good will to do awful acts.

While Olga helped me to understand Cody better and to admire him more (though I continue to hope he’ll switch to a gentler sport), she taught me that King David was a man after God’s own heart because he, like Olga, was both a warrior and a poet.

The warrior battles material enemies. The warrior poet battles lies.



Losing Faith?

A dear troubled friend recently told me she lost her faith.

Although I understand what she means, I don’t believe her statement. In the world I see, nobody loses his or her faith. If faith goes, it’s because a person gives it away.

To avoid semantic arguments, I’ll give my definition of faith: belief in and trust in something or someone. Since my friend was referring to spiritual faith, specifically faith in the Christian God, I will address that in particular.

Her father was a Methodist minister. He taught that if we do right, God will bless us here on earth. He wasn’t an advocate of what folks call prosperity gospel. Still, he proposed that if we are good, work hard and help others, our lives will be rewarded in material ways. So my friend grew up expecting that the degrees and honors she earned would lead to a satisfying and secure teaching job, and later that her attention to diet and exercise was bound to lead to excellent physical and emotional health. And so on.

Her expectations haven’t always been met. Neither were her father’s, by the way. So, either God is at fault or doesn’t exist, right?

Sure, an easy answer is: maybe her expectations were in some way misguided. I’ll buy that. But let’s dig a bit deeper.

I grew up with two parents who didn’t abide by any particular religion, a grandma who professed to be a Christian Scientist but paid little attention to the creed, and another Christian Scientist grandma, this one very devout, who was in my estimation an angry and demented person (The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles exposes my feelings about her). Anyway, with the exception of a mild dose of fear, I grew up having no use for religion.

But my mind changed (see Reading Brother Lawrence). And at a Billy Graham crusade, I made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

I believe my friend’s and my different backgrounds give clues to decoding why she feels faith can be lost while I maintain it can only be given away. Her faith was given to her, and given in a package with expectations. My faith was chosen, and not blindly as I had experienced enough of what else the world had to offer to make a reasonable decision that what faith in Christ offered appeared far better than living in any other way. I stepped over a border into another mysterious world about which I held no real expectations.

I’m not proposing that teaching our children about God is wrong, only that we should be careful what expectations we give them, and that we should allow and even encourage them to make their own decisions.