Saturday, September 1, 2012

Elixir of Life and Death

In Africa, we have a saying: “Americans have watches, and Africans have time.” Except now, there is little time left for my own dear Joseph. Was it just days ago that my laughing, mischievous son followed along behind his older brothers? Walking the mile to the river for water is a daily chore they can all help with, but Joseph is still young. In truth, he was more of a bother than a help. Charles and Andrew sometimes complained, but how I would rejoice to hear such complaints again. Instead, I hear only Joseph’s cries. Surely you hear them, too. He moans with fever that my remedies cannot quench. The pain in his stomach and head are severe, but he has no energy to resist. This, his lethargy, is what pierces my heart. He looks at me, and in his eyes I see his distress, his questions, his silent pleas for relief.

My village is familiar with the anguish I feel, for we are afflicted with many diseases. Diarrhea and Cholera visit and torment us often, and when they depart, many of our children have also departed. Trachoma claimed the vision of my only surviving daughter two years ago. Now she sits in front of the hut, her childhood forever gone, and her future a mere memory. The scourge that has condemned my Joseph is Typhoid. I am told all of these curses come from our water. Our water? Our source of life, producing death? How can a man protect his family? If my children do not drink water, they will die.

If they do drink water, they will still die. I am also told that a water well would change everything. How the source of our water can determine its goodness, I do not understand. One sits on top of the ground, and the other sits within the ground. How can it matter? But when your children are dying, you take hope wherever you can find it. If a well is the answer, then I say we must have a well.

Alone, my people do not have the resources, knowledge, or equipment to do this, but because people, churches, or businesses in America chose to sponsor a well we now have hope. The process Water4 will use is called hand drilling technology. They have told us that with teamwork, combined with their equipment and direction, we will have access to clean drinking water within just a few days. Can you imagine that? Such a short time to change the destiny of so many.

There is no hope for Joseph, but I have other children. Water4’s team will come soon, and when that day comes, I will be the first one on that site. I will be there to help for Joseph’s brothers’ sake. All I have to offer is time, but I will gladly exchange it all for hope and a future for my children. Photobucket

Monday, July 23, 2012

Out of the Past, Into the Future

A face from generations past, anonymous, yet somehow familiar, loomed above me. No words were spoken, but the image appeared to be waiting, expecting me to act. The unsettling dream had me sitting up in bed, my heart pounding. In the darkness, a sense of urgency overwhelmed me. I had to find a way.

When Angie picked me up that morning, she knew with one glance something was up. “So, are you going to tell me now, or are you going to tell me later?” was all she said, but I was happy to share with her. After relating the events of the night, I added “You know I’ve been immersed in my genealogy lately. Having 16 generations of names, dates and places has brought it all to life for me, but it’s also raised more questions. I mean, come on . . . medieval England? What kind of life did they have? What work did they do? What kind of people were they? But the biggest question is the one that is getting to me. Did they love the Lord?”

Angie looked puzzled. “I don’t think you’ll ever be able to . . . “

“I know. I’ll never know their hearts, but it’s more than that. It’s almost like I need to step up somehow, to ensure that future generations of Cooper’s will have the opportunity to hear about Jesus and the gospel."

“Wow, Jen, that’s a tall order. How could you accomplish something like that?”

“That’s the thing. I think I know.“

Angie looked at me sideways, waiting.

“After that dream, I spent the rest of the night praying. By the time I got up, I was confident that God is directing me to write.”

“Write? Really? You could probably do that. You wrote that poem for the Christmas party last year.”

I stared at Angie, considering her words. “Well, sure, I’ve done some things for my own amusement, but I don’t think I’m ready for all my descendents to be judging my results.”

“So, what can you do?”

I couldn’t keep the wonder from my face. “This is the really cool part. Last week I was surfing the web, and I came across a Christian writer’s site. It’s called FaithWriters. I took the time to explore and was very impressed.”

“First, writers sign up. Once you do that, you can post your Christian writing. There’s another place you can get your writing critiqued. That’s a good idea, especially for a beginner like me.”

“I didn’t know there were sites like that. But what if their critiques say you’re no good?”

“I don’t think that’s how it works. I think they tell you how to improve your writing. But I saw something else on the homepage. They have twelve Christian writing courses. And interactive writing forums, so I would be able to ‘talk’ to experienced writers.”

“This site sounds quite comprehensive.”

“I haven’t even told you half of it. There’s a writing challenge. That looked like a pretty big deal. I guess you write to a prompt, and there’s a deadline and a word limit . . . and something about little gold boxes, but I haven’t figured it all out yet. Doesn’t that seem like a good way to practice and improve? Oh, and they sponsor a Christian Writer’s Conference.”

Angie grinned. “You know Jen, it appears you have already decided to try this out. If you really believe you need to write, I agree that FaithWriters may be the place for you to start. Let me know how it goes.”


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Now That Was A Surprise

Most of my life I've been a DIY kind of girl. Sometimes that turns out to be a fine thing, sometimes, not so much. For instance, I am notorious for being a picky eater. You might think everybody loves Chinese food, but then again, you might be wrong. I do like the flavors of a few Chinese dishes, but usually don't like the dish as a whole. I've made several attempts to find a Chinese restaurant that could appease my taste buds, but alas, it appeared my only recourse was to DIM-do it myself. 

It didn't take too long to find the ingredients I was looking for, but I really didn't know if they actually were the ingredients I was looking for. I don't do a lot of cooking, so this was really taking a leap in the dark for me.

Wha-la! My creation of white rice, chicken and General Tso Stir-Fry Sauce was yummy! With the first bite, I was celebrating my culinary success. By the third bite, my taste buds were so happy I barely noticed the distress my tongue was beginning to experience. Plus, while I prefer to avoid spicy foods, I'm not a total wimp, so I continued to gobble up my generous-sized serving.
That was a mistake. By the time I finished, I was convinced there must have been steam blasting out through my ears! My mouth felt like I had just gorged on live coals, and there was something in my chest that felt like a ball of fire. I'm glad no one was around to see, for I had to resort to sucking in cool air and downing a cold soda. Eventually, the ball of fire moved to my stomach, and has now subsided to a warm glow.

Three times I went back to check that packet of sauce for the warning label the government requires for hazardous substances. Three times I found nothing.  So, in an effort to maintain my standing as a good citizen, I've gone ahead and composed one for them:                              

Partaking of this food additive will
         subject you to heat that is equivalent to an         

Atomic Fireball!

Who could blame me for indulging in an extra-large serving of ice cream?

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Christian's Tools for Evangelism

I have recently been introduced to an wonderful organization that has been around for over a hundred years. What can I say -- I don't get out much. :-) It has impressed me so much, I would love to share a bit about it with you.

Have you ever seen an electrician in action? How about a mechanic? They’re people with a job to do, a job they can handle because they have the tools they need to accomplish the task. As Christians, we have been given a job to do. The Great Commission directs us to take the Gospel to the lost. That’s a mission that can become complicated, because many people don’t realize they need what we have to offer. Just like the electrician, and the mechanic, we need to fill our toolboxes with the right tools to ensure we can get even the complicated jobs done.

Pocket Testament League is a venerable organization that wants to supply those very tools. Established 119 years ago, their mission is to enable Christians to effectively share the Gospel. Through the years, they have found creative and financially responsible ways to do that. As expected of any vibrant enterprise, they have a well developed website. is the link to this Christian worker’s tool crib paradigm.

Evangelism needs to be approached from various perspectives, in order to reach people where they’re at. The tools offered at PTL help to accomplish that. Evangelism Boot Camp provides 92 Ways to Share Your Faith; and Top 40 Ice Breakers. Five Reasons to Read the Bible will give the witness excellent support for conversations with those who are seeking hope. God’s Plan for Your Life is a small group study that speaks to the individual, with lessons that explore: God’s Peace, Purpose, Protection, Provision, and Power for Your Life.

The ultimate evangelism tool is always going to be God’s Word, and PTL makes unique editions of the Gospel of John available. Are you hoping to speak to someone in the medical profession? There’s a version meant just for them. An athlete? A stay-at-home mom? A writer? There are dozens of choices, in three languages, and several versions. You select the ones that would be of most use to you in your circle of influence.

The free membership offers the opportunity to receive a regular dose of encouragement, in your in-box, in the form of Free Daily Devotionals. Timidity can develop into passionate confidence through the Free Evangelism Training, or the self-paced study of Jesus’ ministry, The 21 Day Challenge.

When you need the services of a plumber or a mechanic, you want to have confidence in his work. You look at his past performance, and you talk to previous customers. PTL delivers those assurances right there on the website. You will find a timeline which highlights many of their contributions over the years. You will find testimonials from many who have benefitted from their services.

These examples are only the beginning. You will find so much more by following this link: The most important thing you will find is valuable support you need in order to do your part in making an eternal difference in the lives of others.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Are you like me?

Well, I realize you probably adore both tomatoes and strawberries. I may be the only person who ever lived who detests both of them. What I was really thinking of is the way in which you manage the hard things of life.

I’ve been told that everybody faces challenges at times. I can only speak for myself, but problems have been a consistent … well … problem for me. Some are more of an annoyance than anything else, but others are more serious. They cause issues. They linger … too long. I find I must go to a lot of trouble to find solutions for them.

And then there are times I am confronted with situations that just don’t seem to have answers. They stop me in my tracks, then they knock my legs out from under me. These kinds of problems can produce feelings of devastation, despair, hopelessness, and helplessness that can all be overwhelming. I’ve been there more than once. I know what it’s like to physically feel my spirit being pulled down into an abyss. I know what it’s like to have no joy left in me. I know what it’s like to wonder if I will survive.

Have you been there? Are you there now? Well, I’m here to tell you, you can survive.

I can say that because I have survived! The reason is that I have a Savior who walks beside me, whatever I must face. Every step I take, He takes, too. When I have no more strength for the next step, He gently picks me up and carries me to where I need to be. My Savior’s name is Jesus. He died for you, just like he died for me. He wants to see you through your trials, just as He’s seen me through mine. He loves you, just as much as He loves me.

My life isn’t over yet, and I’m certain there are more trials ahead for me, but I know I won’t be facing them alone. Jesus will be there. And when my life does come to an end, I know that my eternity with Jesus is sure.

Yours can be, too, for His invitation is open. If you know you are ready to accept Jesus as your Savior, follow this link:

Perhaps people have been throwing religion at you all your life, and you’re tired of hearing words like salvation, repentance, forgiveness, even Bible. They could still become precious words to you, but for now, if you want to know more about all of this before you make a decision, try going to this link. It will provide an abundance of articles that may help you:

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be eternally grateful you made the right decision.


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.