My Story #4

I was the fourth of five children. Maybe I picked up my “go with the flow” style from having two older sisters and an older brother. I quickly learned that the best way to be happy was to stay out of trouble and the best way to do that was to do whatever other people expected of me. I don’t believe that anymore… but, I have to confess that it is still my default game plan when I let myself run on “auto pilot”.

So, as a boy I embraced faith in Jesus and the Bible as God’s word I think mostly because that is what I was expected to do. Really, as I think about it now as I have completed the first half century of my life, I have spent most of my time living up to other people’s expectations. What a trap! But, I am learning how to be free.

I did pray “the sinner’s prayer” when I was eight or nine years old. I don’t remember exactly. You can’t find the sinners prayer anywhere in the Bible by the way. So, whatever you need to say to God about your own mess is your business. It will still be the sinners prayer and it qualifies 🙂

I was raised to believe that once I prayed the “sinners prayer” admitting my sins to God and asking Him to forgive me, I could then feel completely secure that He would do just that and He would also purify me from all guilt and dirtiness. That was amazing to me! Best of all I wouldn’t have to go to hell. That place of torment was reserved for the devil, his angels and everyone who didn’t pray the prayer! I can’t remember anyone saying those exact words to me. But, that’s the way I saw it. Even though I wasn’t sure I was going to like heaven I was fully convinced that hell was out of the question.

This was all happening of course in the emotional (and probably psychological) storm of discovering that I might not get to be with God or my family (I was convinced they would all make it) in Eternity. Pretty confusing stuff! But there was one more “mind twisting” hurdle for me.

As I listened to Christians around me talk and I tried to listen to my dad’s sermons a belief was engraved on my mind. From what I could gather, my family and my church believed that once I had become part of God’s family in His kingdom, I could still be bounced out of there if I committed sins and didn’t get them confessed and forgiven right away.

So, as I gained more independence and had more chances to do things my parents didn’t now about which were sinful and then had to lie to cover it up, I was sure that I had been expelled from God’s family more times than I could count. Throughout my teen years I would let sin and guilt stack up until I couldn’t handle it, knowing that I wasn’t a Christian anymore. I don’t know how I became such an authority on my own status in God’s kingdom. But, I was pretty sure of myself and I was confident I had walked away.

So, when the terror of going to hell and/or the heavy load of guilt got to be too much I would come clean to my parents and God of course and get reinstated as part of the family of God again. It sounds so strange now. But, that was the way I experienced my relationship with God.

Mixing this very insecure approach to knowing God with my game plan of staying out of trouble by simply living up to everyone’s expectations turned me into a “Chameleon”. The definition of a chameleon is:

“a small slow-moving Old World lizard with a prehensile tail,

long extensible tongue, protruding eyes that rotate independently

and a highly developed ability to change colour.”

That was me. I had a highly developed ability to change colour! This is where my two names came in handy. Dana became the worldly “unchurchy” party guy with my school friends and Dan became the clean living, polite, Christian young man. I began to realize that I really wasn’t either of them. But, I couldn’t seem to let go and share that with anyone except for a few of my friends (who had no idea what they were doing either) and as I mentioned before I felt I could open up a bit with my sister Dawn. Somehow I knew she understood and would never reject me.

What I didn’t know is I was never rejected by my family or God. I wasn’t expelled or bounced out of His kingdom at all. Jesus was with me every step and every minute of each day. I just didn’t know it was him.

to be continued…

My story #3

I remember those early years of development and I smile. Sometimes I laugh when I think of the wide range of life skills I and all of my friends were learning… tying my shoes, counting, reciting the alphabet, saying please and thank you, shaking hands, keeping my elbows off of the table when eating and of course learning to pray and that included how to properly address Jesus in prayer… In my world it was always “Dear Jesus”.

Of course there were times when the wiring would get a little crossed and I would raise my hand in class and call my teacher “Mommy” or I would find myself raising my hand at the dinner table to get permission to speak forgetting that I wasn’t at school anymore and no one at our crowded table was going to notice anyway.

But, my favourite memories of those times that still can make me laugh are the few times when I would answer the phone and instead of saying “hello” I would begin the conversation with “Dear Jesus”. I was so embarrassed. But, the adult on the other end would always get a good laugh out of it and they would tease me with comments like, “Wow, you are going to make a great pastor someday!”

I also learned about the Bible and all of the intriguing characters found there. From the beginning life has been on fire for me. There has always been something to figure out and I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t have a list of things I was thinking about. It seems that God just “hard wired” it into me to want to find peace through understanding people and the world and then to enjoy the music and rhythms of life so that I could share it and make everyone sing and dance… well maybe not dance (dancing was forbidden in my religious world). It never really made sense to me that I wasn’t allowed to dance. I always wondered how Bible people got away with it and I couldn’t! Well, at least I got to marry a dancer 🙂

Needless to say I have loved stories from the beginning. I loved my imagination and I still think it is the best gift God gave to us. The best part of life for me is creating with the Creator of it all. I think one of the greatest evils in the world is the lie that God is all done with creation. I believe He is inviting us to help him create new futures and explore new possibilities.

Back to the story…

I am rambling a bit… I know, but I am sort of avoiding a very troubling and confusing subject from my first years of discovery. Learning about heaven was the best. But, hell really messed me up.

The story I was taught included an epic ending for all of us. I began to understand that not only did I need to figure out life here on earth but I was also going to have to prepare for forever. There was this thing called “Eternity” after I die and it was either going to be amazing or it was going to be pain and torment forever!

So began a journey in my imagination that continues to this day. I wonder about life after death a lot. I have thought a lot about what was on God’s mind before anything or anyone else existed. At what point did it become necessary to have a lake of fire which would become the eternal home for me (if I am not found ready for heaven) and the devil along with all of his angels? Or was the existence of that place of torment inevitable? As I already mentioned, I have been blessed or cursed with a vivid and nonstop imagination! Just be glad you don’t have to live with me!!

As a young boy I do remember cherishing deeply my friendship and love for God and feeling so secure in His hands. So, when I began to find out about my own day of judgement and that I might not be with Him forever I honestly didn’t know how to process the information.

Somehow I knew in my gut that God knew who I really was and in the end our friendship would win the day. I would reassure myself in my bed at night that even though I committed sins sometimes and technically I deserved to go to hell, God knew I was a good kid and Jesus would work things out with His Father and an exception would be made for me. I wondered sometimes if I would be the only one who gets into heaven even though I’m not supposed to be there.

to be continued…

You’re the best story – the “Re” Network FB page

You’re the best story that I’ve ever read

What could you say that has never been said?

I wouldn’t be the same without the  color of your thread

You’re the best story that I’ve ever read

I started a face book page that is designed for you to share your heart and tell your story. Many of us are shaking off the dust and actually connecting with the glory of God that wants to burn through our uniqueness. Hope you go to the “Re” Network page and decide to “like” it so that you can share your heart.

There are people reading your life like a book. We are experiencing life in a fresh way through the story you are living.

Dedicated to sharing our hearts and stories as we restore God’s creativity in our lives and communities. There are many “re” words that reflect God’s glory like a prism… renew, restore, renovate, rebuild, rework, rethink, etc. Let’s connect and share our stories as we roll up our sleeves and discover the future together.

God is showing His creativity through you. He is calling all of us to love Him with all we are so that we can light up the world with Him in our generation.

Your story needs to be told because God is writing it and He has called you to partner with Him for the good of us all.

My story #2

My dad, John Lamos was a pastor in a city church in Springfield, Ma. The church wasn’t located in the suburbs but in a multi racial inner city neighbourhood. He was raised in an Adirondack Mountain town in New York State called “Long Lake”. So, he brought his hard working blue collar attitude and his “fight to the death” loyalty to family and friends attitude to our city life.

It is hard to imagine today, but he was a full-time Junior High School teacher in a town about a 20 minute drive from our house and he served as a pastor in his “free time”. Oh and he was a husband and a father to five children… Darlene, Darrell, Dawn, Danny (or Dana depending on whether we were at a school event or not) and Doreen.

For my dad, mom and our family, God was in charge of it all. And like most Christians living in New England in those times, we understood God through our religion. Ah Religion… that Goliath of a giant is another story that we will get to another day.

From my earliest memories, I have believed that God exists and loves all of His creation. I have known that He created humans as the only creatures that could choose whether or not we would live the way He does and choose not to violate any of the house rules of the universe. Pretty heavy stuff for a little kid, right?

I also have known that Adam & Eve and all of the rest of us can’t seem to help ourselves and we break the house rules pretty much every day.

Here’s where it got freaky and scary for me. This might take me some time to sort through, so please be patient…

Remember this is a story and not a text book on Theology.

As a young boy I believed in heaven and in Jesus, God’s Son. I knew that He was “standing at the door of my heart” knocking in hopes of being invited in. That didn’t seem right to me to leave him out in the dark and cold night. So, as a young boy I invited Him in. That was awesome! The bible promised me that He would come right in, hang out with me and even eat with me. I always hoped that he would bring something amazing to eat, like popcorn and Chocolate Almond Chip Ice Cream or something like that.

But, I also knew His Father. Together they were kind of confusing to me. His Father would never stand at the door and knock. He would probably blow the door in or just walk in whenever He wanted. What He said was the rule and I was required to ask “How high?” whenever He said “Jump”! Somehow I felt that Jesus understood this and would be there as my older brother and buddy to help me deal with His dad and the rest of life.

I didn’t really get what heaven was going to be like. But, I pretty much figured my family would be there and they would work it out and I would be fine as long as I stayed with them and of course, my dad and Jesus would take care of us.

I also wasn’t convinced I was going to like heaven with an eternity long church worship service. After 10,000 years we would still be singing Amazing Grace… Wow! I was afraid that was going to be a little much for me!

And then there was hell…

to be continued

My story #1

I have always felt it would be a good thing to share my story. So, I think it’s about time for me to do that. I don’t know how long it will take. But, I need to share it. And if you are reading this, I also know that for the good of all of us and to bring a smile to God’s face you need to share yours as well. By the way I am the little boy on the right in the picture 🙂

So here goes… I will start today and take as many days or weeks as I need to tell the tale.

I have always believed and known God. From my first memories He has been my companion. I say “Him” because God was always introduced to me as a male and the Bible I read refers to “Him” and the full expression of God was in the person of Jesus Christ, a man from a little “good for nothing” town called Nazareth. So, God as a Him makes sense to me, but honestly I don’t know if it matters. It may.. but the women I have depended on and others that I respect and even some that I am struggling with reflect what God is like…. so you’ll have to work that out for yourself. And, for the sake of my tale I invite you to translate “He” into “She” or “it doesn’t really matter to you” if it helps you stay on the journey with me.

So, with God as my companion and Shepherd I started making my way. The name I was given by my mom and dad was Dana Charles Lamos. My grandfather’s name was Charles. So, I was granted that name in His honor. I love that man!! Love that I have his name to carry. However, there are two other names I sort of wish my parents had given me.

One of those names is John. That’s my dad’s name and my oldest son’s name. John True Lamos to be precise. My older brother carries my dad’s name Darrell John Lamos. That’s cool to me because he stepped in and fathered me when John couldn’t be around to get me through many of the the fun times and the crappy times of growing up.

The other name I would have liked to have is “Daniel”. I wish my legal name was Daniel. There is a confession! I am not sure my family really dug me as “Dana”. In fact they always called me “Dan” or “Danny” from the first day I can remember. But, the name on my record of birth is Dana.

Thus started a strange dynamic to my story. I had always been Dan or Danny until I entered the public school system in Springfield, Massachusetts at 4 years old. At that time I became Dana Lamos to my all of my teachers and my school friends and enemies I might add. I remained Danny at home. This was always comical to my siblings and school friends when they called the house looking for me… lots of wrong numbers…  The two identities grew throughout my school career. It was convenient for me since I found that the Jesus I knew at home and with my church family knew me as Dan and the Jesus that was an undercover spy with me whenever I mingled with my teachers and the rest of the school crowd and school programs knew me as Dana.

The undercover detective Jesus was the one that I most trusted with my life in those school years. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Never really discussed it with anyone. But, I worked hard at developing the character and I pulled it off for the most part.

Since I really didn’t feel I could share my strategy with my mom & dad or my brother and because of my immaturity, I never realized that I was building a prison for myself. My friends were aware that I was doing this. But, I guess we all sort of had each others back and we couldn’t afford to blow each other’s cover.

In those years I did find that my older sister, Dawn was someone that I could let into my world. She seemed to be aware of both Danny and Dana and she unconditionally loved us both. She probably had no idea or maybe to this day will never really understand how the Holy Spirit was using her to keep me “sane” and to show me what God was really all about. He was absolutely never going to leave me or forsake me! She never ever told me that with words. But, through our friendship, family bond and many stumblings and attempts to get up, brush ourselves off and start again she sent the message loud and clear.

As I think about that, I am really thankful for my family who has always affirmed me “as I am” as someone God loves and that He and they would never forsake me. I am richer because of them!

to be continued…