Sunday, October 9, 2011

Road Closed

A beautiful fall day is a treasure. It combines a pleasant relief from the hot and humid days of summer, with a welcome reprieve from the coming frigid conditions of winter. This one beckoned to me and my camera, and we were happy to oblige.

I had been waiting for a day like this. It was the perfect opportunity to go exploring. At that time, I lived just far enough out of town to be able to say I lived in the country. One benefit of country living is that you are surrounded by the beauty of nature, but though I had been there for a couple of years, I had never really taken the opportunity to look around. Today would finally be that day.

I came across many interesting sights, but one had a clear message. It was easy to see. In fact, who could miss it? A huge sign proclaiming, “Road Closed”. This was on a little used dirt road, and yet, the county had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to erect this elaborate blockade. Looking at the photo, you have to wonder “why?” It is such a short span of road, and nothing is visible that might be of concern. In spite of my doubts, though, there was no way my car was going to continue down that road. The county had seen to that by putting up a barrier so complete, no vehicle would find a way through.

I’m not the kind of person who ignores barriers, so I didn’t even consider breaching that roadblock. I do happen to be acquainted with a local resident, however, so the next time we crossed paths I asked her what was going on. She said that span of the road is actually a little bridge that had been condemned. This has been a major inconvenience to her family, making their commute to anywhere 10 miles longer than normal. Even worse, it had already been closed for a couple of years, and would be a couple more before the work got done.

Wow! That is inconvenient. Linda’s family adjusted easily enough, but I wonder how I would fare. While I felt sympathy for her, I was glad my little bit of country still had open roadways. I got to wondering, though, about the other kinds of obstacles I am confronted with. We all have them. Every area of life has its insurmountable complications. How’s your health been lately? What about your relationships? Or your job? Have you ever planned and worked for something, maybe sacrificed for it, only to find it was not available to you? How have you reacted?

It is easy to become overcome with frustration, anger or even depression, when we face hardships. Typically, emotions refuse to be confined to the area they belong in, so other parts of our lives eventually suffer. Very often, things continue to go downhill. Instead of blindly stomping down this destructive path, we can find encouragement from God’s Word.

Over and over, we read that God knows everything about us, and nothing is allowed into our lives without his permission. To me, that means there is a reason for whatever I am going through. I may not be able to see what it is. It may never make sense to me, but if God wants it this way, I will accept it. That doesn’t mean I won’t suffer in some way. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or quickly resolved. It means that God is in control. My life has already taught me that is a far better strategy than for me to be in that position.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

According To The Dictionary...

I recently came across a little booklet that made me want to stand up and shout. It is a “Special Abridged Edition” of the book The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich A. Hayek. I don’t know what it says and have no idea if I agree with the message, because I haven’t read it yet. Nevertheless, I am glad I picked it up.

Since this book was originally printed 67 years ago, the editor felt a clarification was necessary for the modern reader. At the beginning of the book is “a note to the reader”. It is summed up in the final paragraph, which I quote below:
Please understand that when Hayek mentions “liberals” and “liberalism”, he is generally referring to your conservative principles and mine, not those of today’s American liberals or self-described progressives.
Liberal? I’m a liberal? Who knew? Apparently, years ago I would have been considered one. What a drastic difference 67 years can make.

And that’s my point. How can the meaning of a word change so much? I believe a word should always mean the same thing it started out meaning. Instead, I am told that language is static; ever evolving. It’s just a natural occurrence that can’t be prevented.

I sometimes have a vague idea of the meaning of a word, but on occasion, I need to know the exact definition. During my college years, we were expected to have up-to-date dictionaries so I replaced my ragged one with a new edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. After looking up a few words in this new dictionary, though, I felt I had wasted my money. When compared to my previous notion of what the words meant, and to the definitions from my old dictionary, the new ones were slightly off. Disappointed, I put the new book up on the shelf, and for many years, reverted to using the old one.

As a writer, I realize I must accept this evolution of language. I have even acquiesced to using the newest edition of Merriam-Webster. There is no way to prevent society from assigning a new meaning to a word, and so, dictionaries are edited and updated every ten years. But what about the millions of previously published books? In 50 years, or a hundred, will the author’s words say what they were meant to say? Legal documents, classic literature and historical accounts may not be understood properly. What repercussions does that have?

What about the Bible? I have always loved the King James Version, but I have to admit, if there was ever a reason to accept the need for newer translations, this would be it. It is, and always will be true that God never changes, nor do his promises. However, if the message we receive from the Bible is different from the original meaning of the words, then we haven’t really heard from Him.

People like to say that the Bible is full of contradictions. Maybe this is part of the reason for that impression. If it seems that way to you, maybe you should not be so quick to discredit the whole book. Instead, do some deeper study. It may be that all you need to do is sit in on some sermons at a Bible-believing-and-teaching church. It is not uncommon for preachers to refer to the original Greek and Hebrew words as they address different passages in the Bible. Their intent is not to flaunt their education. It is to impart to the congregation a true understanding and relevance of passages that were written hundreds of years ago. That’s almost like hearing it first hand.

Surely, that is better than resorting to the newest dictionaries to define the oldest of words.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Clover, Grout and Jesus

A yard full of nothing is all Mom saw out the window, but in her mind, she saw piles of mud-caked laundry that would never come clean. Her vision sent her to the gardening center for a supply of grass seed. With a wave of his hand, the clerk directed her to a couple of stacks of seed. The bag she started to pick up was torn, so she chose one from the other stack. It was not until the seed was already spread that she noticed the bag clearly said “Clover”.

A yard full of clover felt luxurious on bare feet. It did fulfill its purpose in eliminating mud, but when the blossoms emerged, every bee in the neighborhood came to our house for dinner.

Flash forward 50 years, to another generation, to another time and another place. The bathroom desperately needed to be painted. Before I could do that, though, I would need to patch several sizable holes in the wall. I had done this kind of thing before, and knew just what to do. In fact, I looked forward to seeing the finished product—a wall without spot or blemish. What I didn’t know was that the little tub of patching plaster looks a lot like the little tub of grout. I did notice the texture didn’t look right, but since we had opened it quite a while ago, I assumed it was just getting old. When it dried with the consistency of sandpaper, I realized something wasn’t right.

If you ever have to patch a hole in your wall , make sure you don’t grab the tub of grout. Finishing that job was so much harder, and so much more work than it should have been. The holes are filled and the paint is dry, but I can never go into that room without remembering the blunder I made.

Our lives are full of choices. If we make the wrong choice, there are consequences we will have to live with. Sometimes, they are not too difficult to live with—clover instead of grass, or a wall full of grit. They can be more troublesome, though—hundreds of bees buzzing around your yard, or raw knuckles and aching shoulders. So, we live and learn, and next time, we choose better.

There is a vital choice that every person will be required to make at some time, and it will have eternal consequences. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…” You really want to get this one right, because no matter how sincere and committed you are, if your faith is not in Jesus Christ, in the end, nothing else will matter. Don’t allow procrastination, distractions, and assumptions to keep you from knowing Christ. Decide today to serve the Lord.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Such A Cute Puppy!

Today is the day you’ve been waiting for. Instead of boring you with the major events of the summer or the trials of my relationships with dogs, today you get two in one as both topics come together, and I introduce you to Guinness.

At 9 months old, most puppies are about half-grown. If that holds true, we’re going to need a bigger house, because Guinness is a big boy. Even the crate he came in is too big for me to carry, and he fills it up. I didn’t know they made puppies this big. I once saw a super-jumbo sized rawhide bone in a store. The thing was so huge you had to have a shopping cart just to get it to the checkout. I couldn’t imagine a dog big enough to be able to gnaw on the thing.

This puppy loves them.

Guinness rests easy in his crate, but once released, he becomes the poster-puppy for perpetual motion. It’s actually just normal puppy exuberance that he is expressing, but since he’s the size of a house, and he’s inside a house, every move has a huge impact. My first meeting with Guinness was for the purpose of putting his leash on so we could go for a walk. How naïve I was. I never accomplished either one. The harness he was wearing had no obvious way to attach a leash, and by the time I gave up looking for one, I found myself on the floor. His greeting to me had been friendly, in a mastiff sort of way, but by the time he was finished with me, both of my arms were dripping, having been coated with a liberal application of mastiff slobber.

You may recall I have a strong dislike for dog slobber.

When Guinness is around, you have to stay on slobber patrol. His head brushed lightly against me as I walked past him one day, and I needed a towel to blot the wet spot he left on my slacks. If you ever saw the movie, “Turner and Hooch”, you will understand. That's right…yuuuuck!

But I’m still learning to keep my guard up. I walked, unsuspectingly, through the door one day and there he was. I could tell immediately what his intentions were. I even had a second to brace myself. I don’t know. Maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t, but his “gentle little nudge” came close to toppling me. Even the earthquake hadn’t done that.

His saving grace is, he is as sweet as he can be. He loves you, even if he hasn’t met you yet. He especially loves Rose. She barricades herself to avoid the inevitable greetings he insists on, but that doesn’t faze him at all. Can you picture a 90 pound mastiff puppy crawling underneath and working his way around the back side of a dining room table, just to share a friendly “Good afternoon” with an 81 year old woman? He can’t help himself, he just has to do it. Once it’s done, he obediently responds to commands. His mommy trained him well, and I am exceedingly grateful for that, but she didn’t train the friendly or the happy out of him, and I am also glad for that.

We’ve got an abundance of friendly and happy around here lately.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Ultimate Impact

An earthquake, a hurricane, and a mastiff make a lasting impression, but none of them will have the impact of my final experience.

I finished up the summer by driving to the airport.

Driving on unfamiliar roads, especially if freeways are involved, may be my least favorite thing to do. In the past, I would not drive on the freeway at all, opting to take side roads if I absolutely had to get somewhere, but this time, there were no options. Someone had to drive to the airport, and I was the only one available to do it.

I imagine that BWI is similar to other major airports. My exit was well marked and accessed easily, roads were in good shape, and airport traffic was light. I even had a GPS for reassurance. All the same, my stomach was in knots and my limbs were trembling by the time I pulled up to the curb where my family members waited. My relief could not be measured when I finally turned the car keys over to my son.

I realize it makes no sense to feel this way, but it is a good example of how we are all unique. Each one has weaknesses and each one has strengths.  I doubt that I will ever be comfortable driving on unfamiliar roads, even though I have made several trips of hundreds of miles on my own. My first trip of any length was about 55 miles and took about an hour. It doesn’t sound like much, but even this was a drive I wouldn’t have made if I had any other choice. I have also driven from Michigan to Florida, then back the other way, three months later. Are you impressed? Don’t be. It took me six days, both ways. Last year I had to drive to Tennessee from Michigan, and most of that trip was driving through a blizzard at night. If you look closely, you can still see the imprint of the steering wheel on my hands. The last trip was just as nerve-wracking as the first.

By now, you may think I’m pathetic, and maybe I feel pathetic myself. However, I understand two things. Number one, we all have our “freeways”. Every individual will face what seems like an impossible challenge at some point, but pressing forward in our own strength is not the answer. Instead, it can be a tremendous opportunity to reap one of the benefits of being a Christian. That’s number two. A Christian always has resources available that others don’t have access to. God’s grace, his mercy, his enablement, his wisdom, his power and so much more, are at our disposable. The only requirement is that we ask for it. That means humbling ourselves and admitting we are not able to succeed on our own.

A Christian ought to be able to do that.

This doesn’t mean we don’t try anymore. It does mean that our efforts will have greater success and be directed in appropriate ways. Psalm 46:1 tells us: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Hebrews 4:16 confirms this and emboldens us to ask for the help we need: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

What a great God we have. He is willing to bear all of our burdens for us, even the stress of driving to the airport.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What A Way To End The Summer!

It started with the East Coast Earthquake of 2011.

You can’t really prepare for an earthquake, except to have a plan of action in the event you ever find yourself in the middle of one. Normally, only a trip to some remote corner of the world, or at least to the west coast of the USA, would make such a concern reasonable for a resident of the DC area. A couple of weeks ago, that line of thinking proved to be faulty, as Mineral, Virginia produced its very own trembler.

The entire eastern part of the country felt it, including my town, about a hundred miles from the epicenter. In DC, the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument will both need major restorations done, but my immediate area suffered little damage, and the quake seemed to be more of a curiosity than a disaster. That is not to say I was not shocked, though, when the earth moved under my feet on August 23, 2011.

Before the wonder of the earthquake had faded, tropical storm Irene made its appearance. It soon developed into an authentic hurricane whose predicted path encompassed the entire eastern coast of the nation. Only time would tell which area would be hit the hardest.

Unlike earthquakes, hurricanes allow plenty of time to prepare, and that’s what the Mid-Atlantic coast did. Stores sold out of batteries and drinking water before you could dig out your shopping list. Peanut butter, tuna fish, bread, and snacks soon followed. People stored their lawn furniture away and taped their windows. I hunkered down, alone with two cats and a small dog, to see it through.

Irene turned out to be pretty easy on the region, saving her wrath for points farther north. The power was out for some time, and small branches littered our front yard. The heavy rain added five or six inches of water to our mostly empty pool. I won’t deny that I was happy to have sturdy shelter that night, but at my location, it wasn’t much different than a good, old summer storm.

Two harrowing events that many people will never experience, both happening within the space of 5 days, by themselves, would make for a week I will never forget. But there’s more.

Enter Guinness…a 90 pound, 9 month old bundle of exuberance and drool who thinks he’s a lap dag. In reality, he is a puppy who chews and licks and commands, by his very presence, everyone’s attention. Have I mentioned how much I dislike dog slobber? Guinness is now going to be part of my workday…a turn of events that certainly qualifies as another major event of the summer.

An earthquake, a hurricane, and a mastiff make definite impressions, but none of them will have the impact of the final experience. Come back next time to find out about “The Ultimate Impact”.


Photo from Nasa.Gov

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not Just Another "Laundry Event"

The washer has given me some problems, but the shaking I felt just after starting another load seemed different somehow. When I looked up and saw the kitchen swaying back and forth, I realized this was not just another “laundry event”. Rose asked, “What’s going on?”, and I responded “Earthquake!” Then, another thought occurred to me. “…unless something hit the house.” Whichever it was, I didn’t want us to be inside if the house collapsed.

Without even thinking, I found myself grabbing Rose by the shoulders and moving her out of the kitchen towards the front door. I was not aware of any rumbling noise. I was aware of seeing a hanging bell in the china cabinet swaying back and forth, Though I did not hear it ringing, I do remember the tinkling sound of glassware and knickknacks sliding around. By the time we reached the front door, all the quaking had ended. Once we were out of the house, I walked around the yard, looking for a fallen tree or a wayward car, but found only a quiet, deserted neighborhood. After a minute, the sound of barking dogs began, and though I saw no one, I heard some male voices calling across their yards to each other.

Everybody will have their stories of the East Coast Earthquake of 2011. Friends in my area all chimed in on our social media site. A few were able to contact family members, but for most, the cell phone service was out. Evacuated buildings in business districts remained closed until safety inspections could clear them for occupation. Idle employees chose to head home, only to become trapped by gridlock on the highways. But as I looked around me, I could see no damage, inside or out, and initial TV reports seemed to confirm that. There seemed to be little evidence that an earthquake had taken place. Our lights hadn’t even blinked, and no buildings or structures had collapsed. Reports of the extent of the affected area continued to grow, starting in Mineral, Virginia and eventually reaching from Georgia all the way to Canada, and as far west as Chicago. A quake of 5.8, affecting such a wide area, might have devastated some regions of the world. Why didn’t that happen here in Bowie, Maryland, only a hundred miles from the epicenter?

Yes, the early opinion was that damage was limited or non-existent, but by the end of the day, that proved to be wrong. All evening, the news reported that structural damage would keep buildings all across the area closed. My stop at the local discount store later proved fruitless, since the store had not been reopened because of damage to the roof. The local school district reported that many of the public school buildings had suffered so much damage that school had been canceled for the next day. There were reports of buckled pavement, and one condemned building. In D.C., many government buildings remained closed, and the National Cathedral had lost at least one of its towers.

So maybe my question has answered itself. Damage had been done, but it took a while before it was revealed.

Inside Rose’s house, a porcelain lighthouse lay in pieces on the floor, unnoticed for an hour. We had been so relieved that everything appeared okay, we hadn’t really looked closely for minor damage. Isn’t that typical? We have schedules to follow, and obligations to meet, and if something interferes we do a quick fix, then turn our attention back to the “normal, everyday” stuff. Often, damage, injury, and pain don’t show up immediately. When negative life events impact children or relationships, they may need more than just a cursory glance or a quick hug.

It’s times like this that will show your true devotion and concern. It’s also times like this that will show your lack of the same.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Maryland...No, Michigan...No, Maryland

Who would have guessed? Even I didn’t know, but it must be true. Debbie Engle is currently attending The 2011 Faithwriters Conference, and yet, here I am in Bowie, Maryland. You may suggest that it must be another person who happens to share my name, but if you look closely, you will recognize my face. I’m told she hasn’t said much, and that, too, would be further evidence of the startling truth…I am twins!

How I could have come this far through life without figuring this out is beyond me. Through all the lonely and difficult times, why didn’t I know there was someone so much like me who would surely understand my sad and confused thoughts? Someone who would welcome my calls to share news, good or bad? Being a twin must be special, but not so much if you don’t even know about it until you’re, umm, … older.

Well, I have a feeling this conference won’t benefit my twin much, since she can’t hear. She can’t get around by herself either, so she may not make it to very many sessions. She’s actually not a good candidate to take part in a writer’s conference, but she’s there for my benefit. There are others there, just like her, and they are helping the cause by putting a smile on the face of several Faithwriters who could not attend this conference.

My twin is known as Flat Debbie. Somebody printed out a headshot of me and glued it to a cutout body. It’s all been done in fun, but it makes a pretty big statement. At Faithwriters, we support each other. When someone hurts, we hurt with them, and we pray for them. When someone finds success, we all celebrate. Taking Flat Debbie, and Flat Pat, and Flat Chelly, and Flat Marianne, and all the others to the conference in Michigan is their way of encouraging those who couldn’t be there. That’s what Faithwriters do.

That’s what God does, too. I don’t need a twin to find the comfort or understanding I need, because He will always be there for me, and He knows me better than even a twin could ever know me. As his children, we should always be ready to reach out to others with encouragement, or comfort, or celebration. Whether it’s through your church, or a group such as Faithwriters, caring about others and showing it by how you live your day-to-day life is just basic stuff –Christianity 101, so to speak--but what an impact it can have. Diana spent her time and resources to encourage me, as well as a bunch of other people. I believe we are all happy to be included in Faithwriters’ biggest event of year in such a fun, creative way. It has put a smile on my face and in my heart. Thanks, Sister.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Password Pandemonium

It started in Junior High. Twelve year olds, in an unfamiliar building, starting their day an hour earlier, remembering -- or not -- to bring their gym clothes, navigating an unfamiliar building, changing classrooms for the first time, were issued their first lockers and told to memorize the combinations within three days. Many did, but a few never managed to accomplish that task. They could frequently be seen making their way to the office, feeling dumb and hoping nobody noticed. Well into the year, distraught students could be heard bellowing, “My locker won’t open!” More often than not, it did though, as soon as the right combination was tried.

With the passing of time, the culprit morphed from locker combinations to the dreaded password. Password pandemonium crept upon us slowly at first, but soon picked up momentum, leaving shattered people in its wake. Since the introduction of computers, passwords have become as vital to our way of life as breathing. For years, I staunchly resisted doing business on-line, but a recent count revealed that I currently have 19 passwords, and every one of them came with the admonition to “memorize it”.

Memorization has never been my strong suit, but let’s pretend I do manage to remember my 19 passwords. Now I also have to memorize which password goes with which account. That’s just asking too much of my feeble brain, so it only follows that on occasion, I log in with the wrong password. The powers that be must have seen this before, because they have already provided a way to resolve this problem – simply request a temporary password. All I have to do is “click here”, and answer two security questions.

That’s not a problem, since I know the answers. After all, I told them what they were. So, how could they stump me? I know the city where my dad was born, and I know the hospital where I was born. Regardless, the program insists I have given them the wrong answer, so maybe I typed it wrong. Or, it could be that I spelled it wrong. Is it Trumbell, or maybe I used the complete name: Trumbell General Hospital? Maybe it’s spelled Trumbull, or Trumble. After three more tries I give up.

On occasion, I have been able to get beyond this obstacle, but now I am confronted with the security word: a nonsense word in a blurry, bizarre typeface. If I guess right and type in the correct word, I am allowed to continue the process. Soon an e-mail arrives with a temporary password that looks something like this: pT4ZxA3Bwl7hg9bhg8nie3vsc2qqU. I’m supposed to type that in correctly, but, surprisingly, I rarely do.

By the time I reach the “Change Your Password” page, my mind has been so focused on following instructions and producing correct answers, it is incapable of giving way to the creative side of my brain that could actually come up with a suitable word. Besides that, there are guidelines to follow: Case matters, or case doesn’t matter; use at least eight characters; include two upper case and two lower case letters and one numeral; use one special character; don’t reuse an old password; change password periodically; and don’t write password down. Reading those final two makes me laugh, but the laugh has an hysterical inflection that concerns me a bit.

As much as I resent having to go through all this trouble, I do understand the need for it. A password does keep me out, but it also keeps the bad guys out. If not for disreputable fiends that care nothing about integrity and that have no concern for their fellow man, on-line programs could be designed to function without such maddening complexity. If I ever had the chance to vent all my password related frustration on a cyber-criminal, it would not be a pretty sight. Why can’t people just do what’s right?

Well, I know the answer. People don’t do what’s right because they have no understanding of what true righteousness is. Nobody can understand that before they come face to face with the Savior. Once that happens, the old ways will not be appealing or acceptable to them anymore. Seeing the lost turn to the Lord is always a blessing, but think of the difference it can make to a world beset by sin.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's A Grand Thing!

Even as a child I have always loved bread, and if, by chance, we were having biscuits, I really felt privileged. Mom’s biscuits were good with pan gravy, but the day I discovered “refrigerated” biscuits, my eyes were opened. Biscuits could be even better than I had thought.

Admittedly, I lived a very simple existence. Over the years, I began to experience a little bit more of life; however that never changed my affinity for bread. Then a certain baking conglomerate began to market a bigger and better biscuit, and I knew it was a red-letter day. That new biscuit was, by far, the best biscuit I had ever tasted. The company even called them “Grands”. The name itself told you they were going to be terrific. Anything that is called grand must be something special.

No wonder the word is used in regards to our families. Our grandchildren open up a whole new world for us. A special place in the heart is filled only when the grandchildren arrive. They’re so easy to dote on and spend time with. Even when they’re misbehaving, you can’t help but love them. That’s why we call them grand, and that’s the way it should be.

Whether you are known as Granny, Memaw, Papa, or simply Grampa, you have been blessed if your child has children. Grand-parenting is a special relationship between different generations. It fills a role in a child’s life that parents just can’t fill, and whatever the future holds for that child, your support will matter. Even if you aren’t able to spend time together, you can be a vital part of your grandchild’s life.

Long-distance grand-parenting is common in today’s fast-paced world, but neither money, time, nor distance should be an obstacle that keeps you from being part of your grandchild’s life. A little thought will give you ideas for plenty of ways to nurture that important relationship. What child doesn’t become excited when receiving their very own mail? Receiving a personal phone call would be even better. Pass on those old family stories no one else remembers; the fiasco created when eight year old Daddy had a lemonade stand, and the shopping trip you took with your Gramma when she bought you that special dress. Tell them about your wedding and how you nurtured your marriage and kept it strong and loving.

If you’re crafty, you’ll find ideas everywhere you look. I made my grandson a picture book illustrating the letters in his name. Maybe for yours, you will whittle a likeness of his first puppy, or write a poem for his birthday each year. Building memories and bonds starts with simple things like these.

No matter how often you are able to spend time with your grandchild, one thing you can always do is pray. Pray with them, pray for them, and pray over them. Teaching them to pray would be a memory they will never lose.

No matter how your relationship works itself out, the most important thing to remember is that it is meant to be a grand one, with love at the core.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Just Couldn't Do It

Crippling, painful, and terminal conditions swoop down on people unawares. My own immediate family has fallen victim repeatedly, but I have remained healthy.

Self-absorbed parents abandon their responsibilities, and families disintegrate into bitterness. Instead of embracing that example, my children go out of their way to stay in touch, and offer support of every kind.

A driver breaks down on the side of the road and is stranded. It might have been me, but it isn’t.

Loss of income creates financial distress and puts honest, hard-working people out on the streets. Extended unemployment knocked my feet out from under me, but loving arms ushered me into a safe place.

All of these, and so many more instances I could name, are the reason I survive. All of these are evidence that God is in control. My understanding will fall short, my abilities may fail, and my spirit might flag, but God’s faithfulness, grace and mercy are eternal.

I don’t have to think long to be reminded of things I am grateful for. Over the years, I have faced dozens of difficult situations that could have had terrible results. Instead, God’s provision, enablement, and blessing have seen me through it all. I have never missed a meal, or been homeless or alone. I have never been in jail, or been attacked, or injured in a car accident. But I’ve been through enough to realize that any of those things might have happened to me.

And what of the things I’ve never known about? How many times have I not been in that intersection when the other guy ran a red light? Or have I not gotten the job that would have kept me miserable, or not been able to take the trip that would have ended in disaster?

Aside from the difficulties of life, I see God’s blessings all around me, giving me so many more reasons to be grateful. The love of my children and their spouses keeps me going. My sweet grandchildren make me smile. The glories of nature that emphasizes God’s loving kindness to His children, feed my soul. Friends, and the bonds shared with fellow-believers, encourage me. The privilege of owning something beautiful and well-made, the thrill of using a talent to glorify God and bless others, the joy of being content and resting in God’s love, the assurance of God’s salvation…this list could go on forever.

A friend wrote a blog post about gratitude, and encouraged her followers to name one thousand things they are grateful for. Within just a week or so, they have almost reached their goal. I didn’t take part, though.

The gratitude I feel when I think about the events of my life, difficult and pleasant, overwhelms me. Emotions well up in my heart and spill over from my eyes in the form of sparkling drops of humility and thankfulness. It’s just too much to put in a few words. Even a thousand words couldn’t do it justice, though, because mere words can’t express the depth of my gratitude.

It was a great thought Vonnie, but I just couldn’t do it.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Yeah, You Probably Have

Have you ever been in a tough place, and couldn’t come up with a way out? Yeah, me too.

Have you ever just tried to “make the best of it”? Yeah, me too.

Have you ever felt yourself losing your resolve and determination? Yeah, me too.

Sometimes I believe this is the story of my life. Not that I feel sorry for myself—well, maybe sometimes I do. But I have to wonder if this is really the plan God had for me—never knowing what the next day will bring or what I can do to make things better.

Common sense would say of course, do whatever it takes to assure a secure future. So I try one thing or another, but my results aren’t what I hoped.

It can get mighty hard.

And I can get mighty discouraged.

In fact, I can get emotional, and withdrawn, and even depressed.

And then it happens.

Somebody, somewhere says just the thing I need to hear. Maybe it’s just a word of encouragement. Maybe it’s a sermon or a song on the radio. Today it was a verse someone posted on Facebook:

Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Wow! There are so many fantastic things about this. First, it shows me that God knows that I’m struggling and need encouragement. Second, He responds at just the right time. Third, somebody, in obedience to God, and without ever knowing if anyone will hear, has reached out in a way that helps me.

That third one is the one that spoke to me today. Somebody did the thing God gave them to do, without ever knowing if any good would come of it.

That sounds a lot like my life. God has put me where I am, and he has a purpose for it, even if I never know what it is. When He wants things to change, they will. I have to be prepared for that when it comes, but for now, I need to be content with the thing He has given me to do today.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

What A Day!

Traffic was heavy, so I was stuck behind a semi, and because of the height of the trailer, I never saw the traffic light until I was almost in the intersection. I did, however, see the light turn red as I drove under it.

I hate when that happens! Especially now, because many intersections have recently been equipped with cameras that snap photos of light-runners. Within a week or so, the picture, along with a traffic citation, is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle, courtesy of the police department.

Well, guess who received a very official looking envelope from the police department in the mail today?

On top of it being an extra-long work day, it was also a day when the stress level topped out. It was one conflict after another, and one frustration after another, since yesterday morning. The temperature hit a record-breaking 103 degrees, and I was physically and emotionally wrung out.

I fully intended to head for the shower the minute I got home, and then collapse in my recliner and not think for the rest of the day. But when I arrived, I found that letter from the police department awaiting me. And, before I had a chance to open it, I received a message concerning an urgent situation. A phone call might have settled the matter, but, as usual, my phone, the phone book, and directory assistance all failed me, so I had to return to work.

Contrary to what you may think, I really did keep myself under control. I refused to listen to the little voice inside that was urging me to vent my frustration, but somehow, the dog and cats must have sensed something was wrong. They followed me from room to room, which is typical, but they were quiet and mild-mannered, which is not. They also kept their distance, and when I sat down for a minute, they just sat and stared at me. This was so untypical, I couldn’t help but wonder what they were seeing. Was some extreme phenomenon happening in response to the pressures of my day? For a minute I imagined steam billowing from my ears and a loud, shrill whistle blasting away, but the humor escaped me at the moment.

Driving back toward work, my inner voice was growing louder, angrily proclaiming the injustices of the day, and throwing accusations all over the place. I knew that if one more negative thing came up, there would be no holding back. I also knew I couldn’t do anything about it, so I did what I could do…I called out to God.

Well, God is faithful. I did not do anything to embarrass myself or my testimony. My avalanche of challenges has come to an end, and my nerves have returned to their normal state.

The only thing left unfinished was that ominous letter from the police department. It turned out to be a courtesy letter informing me of something that may benefit me in the future. That’s a whole lot better than a traffic citation.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Life with Dogs; The Happy Ending

Butchie was in an admirable position. She was my very first pet. That alone should have given her a special place in my heart. Instead, I consider her to be wild and greedy.

Poor little Fluffy was destructive and high-strung.

Lizzy was smart enough, but also rather dumb.

Laddie was not only the King of Dumb, he was also supremely lazy.

And then there is Max. He has done much better on the scale of acceptable doggy traits. He is willing, optimistic, happy and loyal…but there is that persistent barking problem.

What a bunch of trouble. I have no interest in inviting anymore such headaches into my life, and often wonder why anyone does. I realize that sounds harsh, but it is my life, after all.

Well, no, it isn’t…not really. My life belongs to God because I turned it over to him long ago.

As He evaluates this life that I have surrendered to him, I wonder how it will measure up? Will my undisciplined ways be shocking to him? Will my vindictiveness horrify him? Will my bad habits disgust him? Will the thought of me bring to mind the phrase, “She doesn’t even have a clue,”? Will my positive qualities go unappreciated because the negative ones are so annoying?

Undoubtedly, the God who sees all things knows the unappealing truth of who I am. Miraculously, it does not change his opinion of me. He has called me the apple of his eye, and I will ever be precious in his sight.

Though my character may often mirror the unacceptable behavior of Butchie, Fluffy, Lizzy, Laddie and Max, I know God will not turn away from me. While I am eager to wash my hands of my little troublemakers, God has inscribed my name on the palms of his hands.

God’s ways are not my ways, and for that, I am eternally grateful.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Life with Dogs, Part II

Max is the little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who resides with us now. He is true to his breed, in that he craves attention. His life revolves around his people. His day is made if you invite him to lie in your lap, or even snuggle up next to you. The little guy’s goal in life is to please…no, that’s not right. Rather, his goal in life is that his people love on him. He is not too concerned about behaving himself.

Max has learned several tricks. The possibility that he might receive a treat for a successfully performed trick is enough to cause extreme excitement. His tail wags so hard, his whole body shakes. Even when he can’t remember which trick he is expected to do when asked to shake, he will perform his entire retinue just to cover all his bases. His dead dog always has a furiously wagging tail.

He loves the two cats, Buck and Jeeves, too. Max is just as devoted to them as he is to his people. I don’t think that they share that devotion, though. His intense desire to play with them looks a whole lot like torment. He is about the same size as they are, and though they tolerate him most of the time, occasionally, Buck or Jeeves will give him what for. This absolutely mystifies him. After one of these acts of retribution, I watched him retreat to the couch and stare into space for half an hour. Had he learned his lesson? For that day, maybe. The next day, he was in their face again, just as if nothing had happened.

Max’s loyalty has no limits. If his cats are outside, he knows it. When they are ready to come in, he knows that, too, even when his people don’t. You’d think a break-in was about to occur, the way he rushes to the door and barks, except, of course, that the sound of joy in this particular bark would do nothing to give a burglar second thoughts. Hushing him does no good. He will risk the ire of his people, before he will abandon his cats.

The problem is that he barks at the door way too often. Yes, he does bark when it’s time to potty, the only sanctioned barking around here, but once he’s outside he becomes distracted and forgets to do his business. If he’s bored, he barks to go out. If a truck goes by on the highway, he barks. If he hears a noise, he barks. If someone walks by, he barks like crazy. So of course, when I have had enough and finally decide to ignore him, that’s the time he really has to go, and resorts to finding an isolated hallway to get the job done.

But then there is that precious, sweet, little face; and his persistently happy personality; and his joyful enthusiasm at seeing me walk in the door. No matter how many times I have scolded or punished the little thing; no matter if I have stepped on his paw or painfully worked out a snarl in his fur, he never holds a grudge. If my arms open for him, he is there immediately. Who could resist such wholehearted adoration?


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Life with Dogs, Part I

Who hasn’t shared at least part of their life with a dog? If you believe the movies and books, it is sure to be a life-altering, positive experience. Somehow, that’s not the way it has worked for me.

My first dog was a little lady terrier with the unfortunate name of Butchie. She was a formidable bundle of untamed energy. That served her well in our household of untamed little boys who showed little affection toward her. She, in turn, showed little for them. Butchie survived their wild antics because she was wild herself. Her favorite activities were licking faces, and jumping up on people that wanted nothing to do with her. That was deceptive, though, because she wasn’t interested in bonding or pleasing humans. I don’t believe she saw people as anything more than a source of food and water. She once stole and ate half of a three layer cake in less than two minutes. When she ran off and got herself in the family way, she acted like it was our fault.

Fluffy was an adorable black miniature poodle that refused to be trained in any way. Maybe that wasn’t entirely his fault, for he came into a busy household that had little time for him. Hungry for attention, he resorted to tearing things up when left alone. My black leather recliner fell victim to one of his piques, ending Fluffy’s tenure in our family.

Lizzie and Laddie were litter mates with an obvious spaniel background. Lizzie was all black with a frizzy coat that may have indicated a vitamin deficiency. The disgusting habit she refused to forsake, which, in the name of common decency, I will not reveal, reinforced that assumption. But she was smart. Well, except for her self taught means of communicating that she had to potty. Standing by the back door in the laundry room, far removed from the rest of the household, didn’t always accomplish what she meant it to.

Her brother, Laddie, was beautiful, with his classic Springer Spaniel markings. Unfortunately, all he had to offer was a pretty face. He wouldn’t be house-trained, nor would he learn to walk on a leash. He never even learned his own name. He did offer us a bit of a chuckle, though when he lay on the floor with his head resting in his food bowl as he ate. Can you say “Lazy”?

Do you see a trend here? The dogs in my life have done little to earn a spot in my heart. I know, they have their good points, but I think I will pass on bringing anymore into my home.

Although I don’t have any animals right now, I do live with some that are part of my son and daughter-in-law’s family. Next time, I’ll tell you about their little Max.


Monday, May 23, 2011

A Sad Day

One man believed a lie. Because he was in a position to do so, that lie was broadcast to the world. People paid attention. They laughed and they joked and they partied, because it wasn’t possible to just ignore the promise that Christ would return that day. This past weekend, the lie was exposed, and people laughed and joked and partied some more, because Christ didn’t return that day.

Exposure of this lie was inevitable. Matthew 24:36 is only one of the references that explains why: “But of that day and hour, no man knoweth, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

Christians have a vital mission. We are to share the truth of the gospel with the world, but it is a lost and dying world that doesn’t recognize its desperate need. Our message is rejected before it is offered, and one of the reasons is because of events such as what took place over the weekend.

The Bible is God’s Holy Word. For a Christian to promote something which clearly opposes that Word is preposterous. Why would sinners respond to the truth, when Christians don’t abide by that truth? How can sinners respond to the truth when Christians serve up their own version of the truth? Without a doubt, the cause of Christ has suffered a severe blow.

The rapture did not occur last weekend, but it will happen someday. Matthew 24:42 says: “Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”

That means to be prepared because it could happen at any time. That is truth. I fear, though that many who might have believed, will now only scoff at such an idea. And for that reason, my heart mourns.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pop Quiz!

This is a test. Put your books and notes away. No talking.

Oh, no, that was in high school.

There was a test, though, but it is already over. Remember that miserable, horrible, no good, very bad day you had last week--the one you never wanted to think about again? Yes, that one. How’d you do?

Life can hit us hard sometimes. Dealing with routine demands doesn’t take too much thought, but on occasion, our day presents us with some surprises we would have chosen to avoid. Maybe the boss cancelled your vacation at the last minute; or your 15 year-old was spotted at the mall when he should have been in Algebra class; or, even worse, maybe the three year-old flushed your car keys.

How did you respond? Or did you? The reason I ask is that it is possible that you didn’t respond. Maybe you reacted, instead. There is a difference between the two. The words are often used interchangeably, but when I hear them used incorrectly, the brakes squeal as my mind comes to an abrupt halt.

The words themselves tell the difference. To react means that you act immediately because of something that has happened. To respond means that, after pondering, or thinking rationally and logically about the subject, you act according to the wisdom you have gained.

Into everyone’s life some chaos must fall. Amongst the daily responsibilities that clamor for attention, we can pretty much count on a few irritating, frustrating surprises to pop up out of nowhere. Of course, we shouldn’t stifle every emotion, but we should always maintain perspective.

The thing is, it is all too easy to react to situations that really could use a response. We see it all the time: the kids misbehave; someone fails us; something gets broken. Without thinking, we react by yelling, or retaliating, or becoming offended, and usually, regretting it later. It is possible to compensate for a wrong reaction to a little thing. However, if it has become a habit to react to every situation, we may have a problem when we are confronted with a major issue. Inappropriate reactions may create chasms that prevent any positive resolution to the next problem.

Reacting out of anger and responding in love are two common phrases we are all familiar with. If you were on the receiving end, wouldn’t you prefer the latter, rather than the former? The people in our lives would surely prefer the same treatment.

Any positive influence we may have in the lives of others may depend on how we deal with them when irritating mishaps come up each day. If we routinely respond in love, we will surely pass this test with flying colors. That’s not an easy standard to meet, but well worth striving for. Personally, I hope that when others think of their relationship with me, responds in love will come to mind.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Engine, Engine, Number Nine

You know, I handle irritations pretty well, if I do say so myself. That makes me feel pretty good, too, especially when I witness someone else reacting badly to some minor offense or problem. I mean, can’t you just grow up?

The thing is, some days, everything I try to do gets complicated, and when that happens, you really don’t want to be around me. My attitude goes right down the tubes. Maybe that’s hard for you to believe, but just let me tell you…

My new job requires a particular color of shirt, shoes and pants, so I’ve been looking around for them. I had some time today, and decided I would hunt them down, whatever it took. Since I was in the neighborhood, I also stopped by the local Christian bookstore to check on a book that was backordered. Both clerks agreed that it wasn’t in yet. So how come I found three copies on the shelf as I was leaving?

After purchasing the book, I continued my quest for the elusive outfit I needed. Two local department stores had nothing, so I headed a little farther from home. Halfway there, the turning lane that I needed to use was closed, so I had to go the wrong direction. But that was the only route I knew, so I had to wind around and backtrack before I could proceed on my way.

My whole day went this way. My GPS had no idea where this major new shopping center was. The attendant at the gas station I stopped at for directions barely spoke English, and she had no idea where this major new shopping center was. Directory Assistance had no phone number for this major new shopping center.

Who would have thought a major new shopping center would be so hard to find? If I had a shopping center, I think I’d want it to be hard to miss rather than hard to find. Eventually, I did stumble upon the store, but the clothing section didn’t have the clothes I needed, nor did the catalog department have the catalog I needed. Instead, I was told to go home and look on their internet site.

By now, my irritation level was at about 12 on a scale of one to ten. I’m really glad there was no-one riding with me. I wouldn’t have been good company at all. But, wait, there’s more to come. The trip home didn’t go the way I had planned, either. That meandering, mile-long road I took as I entered the shopping center took me to an unfamiliar exit when I left. By the time I found the right road, I was stuck in the wrong lane and couldn’t make the turn. That should be a simple fix, right? Just go through the intersection, find a place to turn around, and then start over. Surprise--there was no place to turn around.Instead, I found myself on the approach road to some huge stadium.

I’m really glad to be home.

I took a photo a while ago of a railroad track. The track heads straight--away, and there is nothing that can cause that track to move over or choose a different route. Today I realized that’s the way I try to be. I set my feet towards my goal, and expect that nothing should impede my progress. I move forward and pick up speed. I tend to want to eliminate anything that gets in my way, just as a train barreling down that track would do to anything that got in its way.

If I take another look at my photo, I see a pile of railroad ties lying along-side the rails. Apparently, there is some maintenance scheduled for that track. Looking back on my day, I believe God just did some maintenance work on me. Watching myself allow little things to have such a big influence on my attitude has been humbling, and has emphasized how much I need God in my life. I did not vent on anybody today, but I have a feeling, were it not for His grace, there may have been a major, unscheduled event by the time I arrived at that stadium.

Thank you, God, for never forsaking me, even when my attitude gets bad. Thank you for enabling me to continue to grow and learn.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Can You See Them?

I often run errands. I go from the house to the car, then into the store or the office, and I never see them. When I’m ready to go back home, I do it all again, and still, I don’t see them. I go to work and back daily, without seeing them. I pass right by the blessings that God has provided that would give some balance to the struggles of life.

My mind is focused solely on the immediate tasks, and every day holds plenty of those. The pressures of life leave me stressed out, and I don’t even realize it until some minor irritation invokes an extreme reaction that I immediately regret. Chaotic sights and clamorous sounds leave my nerves frazzled. Pressure builds up and becomes so intense, I feel like an over-inflated tire that is about to explode.

That’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to happen that way. As inundated as I often feel, I need to remember that I am also surrounded by stress relievers--delightful sights and sounds that offer relief from the unrelenting tension I live with every day. Sounds like the babbling of a contented baby, or the early morning serenade of a songbird. Sights like a smile from a passing stranger, chubby puppies tumbling over each other, or a vision of God’s wonders in nature.

A trip to the park is a great opportunity to enjoy these pleasures. Even if time doesn't allow for such an indulgence, these things can be found with little effort. They are out there, just waiting to bless us with some welcome stress relief. If you think about it just a bit, you will be able to see them.


Monday, May 2, 2011

The Same Old Story -- Praise God!

Jaded souls too easily find themselves in jeopardy; their jumbled thoughts justify their bitter judgment.

Ugly words and actions create upheaval; ulterior motives create unpleasant undercurrents.

Boundaries are breached; extreme behavior results in brutal bondage.

Indignation and insidious acts impose emotional and social isolation.

Lingering at length in such a loathsome state launches a longing for liberation.

Elusive hope emerges with the unmerited offer of everlasting life; forgiveness embraced evokes expansive exultation.

Elation engulfs the renewed soul; the righteous heart extols the mercy and grace of God.


Loss of possessions and personal freedom are sometimes unavoidable. Our desperate search for solutions often brings no results.

Hard times have always been a fact of life. The Israelites faced these same challenges. Their compassionate God provided the answers they needed by establishing the year of jubilee. Every seventh year, possessions reverted to the original owners, and servants were released from bondage.

That amazes me. Nobody had to earn it or deserve it. Nobody had to come from an influential family, or be charming or talented. No political regime or religious establishment could have instituted a policy like this. It could only have come about through God’s grace.

The demands of life we face each day can have dire consequences for us, physically and emotionally. Life happens to all of us, and doesn’t always allow for positive options. Sometimes, in our foolishness, we deliberately make choices that can’t end up well. No matter what kind of mess we find ourselves in, God has already provided for our relief. It will be an eternal jubilee in heaven for all who accept Him here on earth. That can only be through God’s amazing grace.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New and Improved -- Really?

Quick! What’s a 10 letter word for headache? My immediate response would be technology. Specifically, new technology. I can’t keep up with it. By the time you have acquired the new model, figured out all its amazing capabilities, and become comfortable using it, the new, improved version has been released. The commercial showing the dismay of the guy accepting delivery of his new TV, as he watches a truck go by advertising a newer model, says it all.

I like the simple life. In fact, years ago, I used to think that I would be better suited for life in the 19th century. Once I really gave it some thought, though, I changed my mind. Would I really choose filling a bucket at the pump 50 feet away, over having running water in my house? Not Likely. Would I even be capable of hand-sewing all the clothes for my family? No, suits and winter coats would be much more serviceable if put together on a sewing machine. Scrubbing laundry on a washboard is hard work, and leaves your hands raw. Who wouldn’t prefer to use a washing machine? So many new household products have been introduced over the years, modern day housekeeping is nothing like it was 150 years ago.

Reality made me realize that “New and Improved” has always been around. Aside from the accelerated rate of obsolescence, the difference might be that until recently, household products were “hands on”. You could pretty much figure out how to use something by giving it a close look. If it needed to be repaired, there would be some mechanically inclined person nearby who could fix it for you. The electronic technology of today is different. If your computer keeps crashing or your cell phone won’t turn on, there’s nothing in the toolbox that’s going to be of any help. More often than not, it’s obsolete anyway, so you’re better off replacing it.

My childhood memories include telephones that were connected to the wall. Away from the house, a phone could be found easily enough. Phone booths were located prominently on every other street corner. Television had three broadcast networks-ABC, CBS, and NBC. Music came from a stereo radio or records, and the TV and stereo were both large wooden pieces of furniture that you arranged your room around. One of my most cherished possessions was a brand new set of World Book Encyclopedias. I have a feeling many kids today have never heard the word encyclopedia.

So many things from my childhood are now considered relics from the past. I wonder what essential article will be the next thing to be put up on the shelf for good. If that shelf happens to be a bookshelf, it will most likely be an empty one. E-books and E-readers are taking over the field of publishing. Bookstores are already closing and books could very well become hard to obtain. Who would ever have thought that would be a sign of progress?

My three sons find my reluctance to embrace all things new to be amusing, and they have pushed me into the age of technology. I own a digital camera, and truly appreciate the convenience. My cell phone goes with me everywhere, even to the mailbox. I’m on Facebook. I know how to Google, and I’ve recently become a blogger. Who would have guessed?

My most daring step toward going with the flow took place about three years ago. After lengthy consideration, I confidently entered one of the reigning electronics stores, and boldly purchased a DVD player. My son was stunned, but he was happy to come over and hook it up for me. My delight was dampened some when he left. With cable TV, a VCR, and now a DVD player all hooked up to one television set, I needed a handful of remote controls to work any of them. The next day I had Ben come back and write down step-by step directions for me, designating when to use which remote. I was able to use everything, though, and was pretty pleased with myself. That didn’t last too long. Currently, videotapes are old school, and DVD’s are being pushed to the sidelines in favor of ON-Demand movies.

Though my efforts might seem pathetic, I am trying to stay in touch with the pulse of current society. Still, I’m holding on tight. I have learned there is one thing that will never change. Progress is relentless and unavoidable.


Friday, April 22, 2011

A Day To Hope

Circumstances have a way about them. When times are good, we don’t dwell on circumstances too much. We show some gratitude, we share our joy, but beyond that, we just assume this is how life was meant to be.

Then things start becoming difficult, and what do we do? We feel sorry for ourselves and we complain. We get depressed. We get angry. Emotions take over.

Circumstance delight in playing havoc with emotions. Failure, isolation, misunderstandings and disappointments, compiled continuously, sap drive and desire. Though aware of and grateful for blessings and for those who care, appropriate participation in life is not possible. Even a heart steeped in joy because of the one who never leaves nor forsakes, doesn’t equip a person to conform to the mold that life demands.

Those who find themselves in this condition need hope. Condemnation, ultimatums, and confrontations don’t help. Hope helps. Good Friday gives hope to the world. Clothed in the mask of defeat, there is nothing attractive about it, but without the cross, Easter couldn’t come. The empty tomb revealed on Easter morning is the victory.

Jesus promised He would rise in 3 days, and He did. God’s words are true. His promises can be trusted. No matter what you are going through, cling to these truths. This is your hope and your strength. Circumstances change, Emotions do, too. Just keep holding on tight, and He will make a way where there is no way.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Pickles and Centipedes Won't Mean a Thing

I took this picture a couple of years ago, and have always loved it. I realize you may not even be able to tell what it is, and that is the reason I haven’t shown it off to everyone. I like it anyways. If you were to ask me why, I probably couldn’t explain it. I just like it.

Not too long ago, I was horrified to discover that people willingly eat something called fried pickles. The thought alone makes me want to gag, but apparently others consider them to be a treat. I think I’ll choose the chips.

Yesterday, one friend was teasing another about eating a delicacy called…are you ready for this? Dried centipedes! In some cultures, they might be dainty morsels, but just the thought of eating one is enough to start a revolt in my stomach. Call me a picky eater, but I’m certain I’ll never be ordering that for an appetizer.

As the old saying goes, there’s no accounting for tastes. We’re all different. We like different things. Our life experiences and our temperaments combine to shape us into individuals. The same event might produce opposite responses in different people. We’re like snowflakes. Even in the heaviest blizzard, no two snowflakes are alike. No matter how many people are born, no two will be exactly alike, not even twins. No two will like everything the same, nor will two ever make all the same choices.

Most of the time, this makes no difference to anyone. There will come a day, though, when personal preferences for or against weird photos, pickles, or dried centipedes won’t mean a thing, but there is one choice that will make an eternal difference. Throughout history, one by one, every human has had to decide, “What will you do with this Jesus?”

Easter week is a fitting time to consider this. The response to this question is the only factor that will determine the destiny of any individual. To accept Jesus means that your place in heaven is secure. To reject Him assures your place apart from God, in a place of torment. Personal preference won’t matter then. Your family background won’t mean a thing. Nor will your temperament, your works, or anything else.

This may be the only choice that makes any real difference, and yet, many choose to ignore it. That won’t change the impact it will have. To ignore it is to reject Him. Don’t let that happen. Choose Jesus today.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Opportunity Is Knocking

I wonder how many people can remember what they were doing on February 2. Yes, I realize that was Ground Hog Day, but I’m talking about the evening, after all the festivities were over.

I know where I was, along with about 60 other people. Twelve weeks before the holiday, we all had Easter on the mind. That night was the first practice for the Easter concert my church will present next weekend.

Since then, the choir’s been working hard. We had to not only learn 12 songs, but memorize them, too. Most of the choir members manage this well, but the limited abilities of my feeble brain makes this a major challenge. The twice weekly practice gets me started, but I need more than that. Listening to the practice CD repeatedly helps quite a bit, but even that is not enough, in spite of the fact that I wake up with Easter music going through my head. I have found that the most effective way for me to memorize the songs is to write the words out. If I do that once or twice, then write out just the first letter of each word, I can successfully memorize my lyrics… mostly. I haven’t yet figured out a method to help me memorize the music. It’s always full of key changes and incredibly long phrases, and …well, you get the picture. Though I listen to the CD an average of twice a day, and pick out my part on the keyboard over and over, I’m usually still cramming when the lights go down. Still, it always seems to work out, and I’ve always been glad I chose to participate.

By the time the concert opens, I will have attended 20 practices, gotten writer’s cramp more than once, and listened to my CD at least 160 times. What a big commitment of time and energy. If you consider that dozens of others are doing the same things, it becomes huge. However, a choir alone does not a concert make. There’s also the directors, and the accompanists, and the actors, and the orchestra, and the lighting crew, the technical crew, the stage crew, the costumers… and on it goes. Why would so many adults spend their time in such an endeavor?

Some people just don’t understand why Christians do any of the things they do. There are people who disapprove of Christians who make their faith public in any way. In fact, I recently read a comment complaining about Christian devotional blogs. Maybe you’ve had some of these same thoughts. Well, now is the perfect opportunity to find out what’s behind all this “Christianity stuff”. Over the next two weekends, churches all over the country will be presenting concerts celebrating this holy day. I’m sure there’ll be one near you. Go to one, and get some of those questions answered. In fact, if you’re anywhere near the DC area, you might want to come to mine. It’s at Grace Baptist Church of Bowie, MD, 7 PM, April 22 and 23.

We’ll save you a seat.


Monday, April 11, 2011

That's Life!

It can’t possibly be even a quarter of an inch long. How in the world can it hurt so much?

It’s a little cut, right at the tip of my thumb, where the skin is extra thick. I got it while building an exercise tower for the cats. Buck and Jeeves aren’t kittens any longer, so aren’t all that active. Still, I got it in my head that they needed something to stimulate their curiosity a bit. I spent the better part of a week working with heavy duty cardboard, glue, industrial-strength tape, and a serrated knife. I doubt there are many who would put so much time and energy into such a project, but it’s just what I do.

The blister at the base of my thumb resulted from a more mundane task-yardwork. Spring clean-up on property with dozens of mature trees is no light chore. It was the raking that did it. I felt the soreness developing with every pull on the rake, but being caught up in the work, chose to ignore the minor annoyance. By the time I quit, the blister had broken open, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

My son invited me to join him and his family on a daytrip to Washington DC. By the end of the day, we had walked at least a bajillion miles. Why would I, with my bad feet, subject myself to such an excursion?

Because that’s life! What else would I do? It was a foregone conclusion that after a day of relentless walking, my feet would not recover for a week, but the joy of spending time with my family made the price insignificant. I knew when I picked up that rake that I would have battle scars before I was done, and I have never completed any of my cardboard design projects without a nick here or there. I do such things because they are worth it. Anything worthwhile in life comes with a price.

The Bible teaches us to count the cost before we start. If it’s important to us, we should be prepared to pay the price. If the price is higher than we want to pay, then we have to decide--how important, how valuable is this to me?

Jesus Christ faced that question. He could have turned His back on our need. He had every opportunity to avoid the agony of the cross, He knew what the price would be, and yet He left heaven. He knew, and yet He came. He counted the cost, and then He died for us because we were that important and valuable to Him. He proved it by paying the price that we couldn’t pay. He paid the ultimate price.

The pain of blisters, cuts or sore feet is laughable in light of the price paid on the cross, but because of His sacrifice, we have the promise of eternity with Him in Heaven. Now, that’s real life!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Purple Pansy In the Park

The bright sunshine and warm temperatures looked mighty appealing today and I’m pretty sure I heard them calling my name on the voice of the breeze. What else could I do but grab my camera and head over to the park? Ninety-seven shots later, I returned home. My point and shoot occasionally gives me pretty good pictures, and I did get a few today. Here’s one I hope you’ll enjoy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What's Good About the "B"?

Tucked away in a rarely used file is a little stack of mementos from my childhood. Mom saved them for me, and I wouldn’t think of getting rid of them. You may have the same thing bundled up somewhere, but how long has it been since you actually looked at your old report cards? At the end of second grade my report card was quite impressive, especially compared to my older brother’s. I still remember spreading it out and counting all my A’s. They were sprinkled over both pages, like brightly sparkling diamonds in a jeweler’s showcase. I was so proud. If you had 41 A’s on your report card, wouldn’t you be proud? There were some B’s, but I tried to ignore them. What’s good about a B, anyways? Well, it didn’t take me long to learn about humility, as my report card never sparkled so brightly again. Still, through the years, I have had mixed emotions about that letter B. My maiden name started with a B, but I never cared for it. It was an unusual name which lent itself too easily to taunts from other children, and who wants to go through that? On the other hand, if your last name starts with a B, that puts you at the upper part of most lists, often making your wait-time shorter. And then there is my first name. Deborah is supposed to mean a “bee.” I’ve never really known what to make of that bit of information. That leaves me at one positive, one negative, and one ambiguous B fact. Always hoping for a positive perspective, my mind takes off, looking for a more uplifting frame of reference for the B. Once I got beyond my prejudice, some things were quite easy to identify. • “Bravery” is something I have great admiration for, because it is no respecter of persons. Heroes demonstrate bravery in extraordinary events, and are most worthy of praise. However, most of us have occasions in our own lives to act courageously. Facing challenging circumstances head-on, and coming through successfully, is positive and inspiring. • The “Bible” is precious to any Christian. God’s inspired Word, in my hands—such compassion from the Creator of all, demonstrated to me, unworthy as I am. • “Blessings” are like bonuses from God that sustain me as I schlep through a troubled life. Nowhere is it written that God owes me anything, but He continually gives me good things. Sometimes I even recognize and acknowledge them. • “Beatitudes”, affectionately known as the “Be” attitudes. Matthew, chapter 5 gives a concise guide to understanding how to live life, from the very lips of Christ. Do I want mercy shown to me? Then I must be merciful. Do I want to see God? Then I need to be pure in heart. Do I mourn? I can take heart, because I will be comforted. That’s a pretty good start for my list. My search has come to a happy conclusion: There are plenty of very good things about the B. Photobucket

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Our Wilderness

Historic? Yes. Triumphant? Certainly. Memorable? Of course. Even auspicious. Joshua and Caleb leading the Israelites across the Jordan River was an event worthy of all of these descriptive words. It was an occasion of immense proportions. They were pilgrims who had endured forty years in the wilderness, suffering incredible hardship, as well as blessings beyond description. The lessons garnered from their experiences would fortify them for the years ahead, but what of future generations? Would they be doomed to suffer through similar circumstances? Undoubtedly, except for the foresight of an all-knowing and all-wise God who understood the nature of His children. So a memorial was built, right there at the site. It was meant to be a testimony to the provision and enablement of God. In years to come, youngsters would see it and wonder, then learn of the faithfulness and power and mercy of their God. They would learn of many historic events that would bring them to one conclusion-their survival, their existence, their every blessing all came from the hand of their great God. Such foundational lessons would become the basis for future decisions, personal or otherwise. Many centuries later, the settlement and establishment of another nation would prove to be an auspicious, triumphant occasion of immense proportions. Pilgrims had come to a wilderness and endured years of hardship, as well as incredible blessings. The years ahead would, no doubt, hold innumerable obstacles to be conquered, and impose unrelenting challenges. From where would future generations receive guidance, wisdom or hope? What would provide the foundational lessons that would be the basis for decisions, personal or otherwise? Like the Israelites, our forefathers went to considerable lengths to acknowledge and preserve the memory of the blessings and empowerment they received from the hand of God. Monuments were established, inscribed with God’s Word. Documents were created, interspersed with references to the Creator and His law. Public prayer was common, and in times of struggle even more so. Legal proceedings included an oath to God. For decade upon decade, these customs continued, and this fledgling nation thrived and prospered. Following the Lord and believing His Word is not something that can be mandated. As in ancient times, a choice must be made on a personal level whether to heed the lessons and testimonies of those who have gone before. As in ancient times, there will always be those who cannot abide such devotion and reliance on a righteous God. Some would claim all of these things are just outmoded symbols and beliefs and have no place in today’s world. It is an old argument, but the climate has changed for conservatives of all ilk, especially Christians. More and more, our country has begun to resemble the wilderness. We can dwell on that, complaining and fearful, or we can see it for what it is, while remembering that the battle belongs to the Lord. That’s what Joshua and Caleb chose. What will you choose to do? His Word still stands, regardless of the opposition, and our charge still holds. Within the heart of devoted followers of God, His vital truths reign. Regardless of the route we take to accomplish it, our mission is to be faithful, to trust, and to demonstrate God’s love, peace and joy to all those around us. That’s a big order, but it comes straight from His Word. Instead of being offended and intimidated by the escalating opposition, live out your faith. Be the Bible others refuse to read. Phots courtesy of Carrie Devorah Photobucket

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Perfect Timing

Sometimes it is surprising how the simple things can be such a blessing. It was just a bit of color, but it caught my eye. The blinds on the window of my lower level apartment were usually tightly closed, but it was spring, after all. I was craving some sunshine. So for a little while every day, I opened my blinds to the world. I’m sure it wasn’t there at first. Having a window at ground level, my view wasn’t very impressive, so I’m sure I would have noticed. When I finally did, it made me smile. I checked on it daily, cheering it on as it grew and developed. It wasn’t too long before it was covered with tiny florets of bright yellow, and I was thrilled. I had to have a picture of it, and now, a year later, that photo still gives me a happy feeling inside when I see it. Maybe none of you have ever harbored fond thoughts for a weed, but it was a little bit of sunshine during a difficult time for me. It could have sprouted up anywhere, but, instead,it was firmly rooted right in my window-well. I started thinking of it as Sunny. Sure, it was only a weed, but I recall someone saying a weed is just a wildflower nobody intentionally planted, sort of a rogue wildflower. Others have referred to them as “volunteers”. I believe my little Sunny was a volunteer with incredible timing. When you’re working afternoons, you are entitled to sleep later into the day, unless, of course, the grounds crew decides they are going to do the trimming under your window at 8 A.M. with an extremely loud, gas-powered weed-eater. Every single time they showed up, they used the dreaded trimmer, whisking away anything that dared to rear its dainty little head in the wrong place. Sunny must have been watching for them to leave before he allowed himself to sprout from the ground. He had to be cautious and wise, because he had a job to do. Once sprouted, he grew like a… well… like a weed. He must have practiced some form of stealth for I’m sure he escaped the trimmer once. He kept me company for a good 3 weeks, waving at me through the window. Rain or shine, there he was waiting for me and putting a smile on my face at one of the darkest times of my life. Then came a day when I looked out my window, expecting to see my little buddy, only to find…nothing. The grounds crew had finally gotten him. At first, I mourned his passing, but then I thought better of it. He may have been the only weed on the property to have survived past infancy. He lived a good long life, and he accomplished the job I’m sure God put him on this earth to do. I hope when my life comes to an end, others will speak as well of me. Photobucket

Sunday, March 20, 2011

He said “Mama”!

Just now, did you hear that cry? That’s my precious Little Guy. He’s been blessed with good, strong lungs For a baby still so young. Quiet days have disappeared. Babbling gurgles now I hear. Shrieking, too, seems quite a joy, To this bouncing baby boy. Listen harder, then you’ll hear, He said “Mama,” nice and clear. It’s the first time that I’ve heard. Baby uttered his first word! Ni’ni, gawggie, ball and bye, Baby words, soon set aside. Constant chatter fills the air Echoes of the words I’ve shared. Everything expressed by me Becomes his reality. What he’ll be in days to come Starts with words from my own tongue. Kind, humble, respectful, wise, Playful, funny—all advised. Such words convey character, Noble virtues, to be shared. Harsh or bitter, both destroy. Ridicule will steal his joy. I’ll show him through loving speech Qualities that can’t be breached. Give him strength, empower, too! Time is short, the days are few! Soon he’ll greet a trying world That would see his spirit quelled. Words are vital factors, yes; Proper attitudes, no less. Side by side, they’ll do him fine. Little Guy will surely shine. I once witnessed a rather heart-breaking event. I was in the grocery store, standing next to a cart with a one year old boy occupying the child seat. I smiled and said something meant to extract a smile, but his response just about curled my ears. I was extremely glad he was too young to actually speak, for he began vehemently spouting off the must vulgar stream of babbling, complete with facial expressions and hand gestures,that you can imagine. Even sadder, 10 minutes later when I passed by him a second time, he started up again, and I continued to hear his little voice until I left the store. Sadder still, his Daddy didn't seem to have a problem with it. In fact, he hardly seemed to notice. I can only pray that someone takes the time to show this little one the love he deserves, and to shower him with words that will nurture his hungry heart. Photobucket