Monday, June 27, 2011

Don't leave home without it...

 I spent two hours at Willow Springs Water Park - having a quiet time, enjoying the sun shimmering on the surface of the pool, doing water aerobics, working on my tan - perfect morning...   As I was driving away, I realized that one eye wasn't focusing very well - it's my worst eye and I've been reading in my Kindle, shall we say, waaayyy too late at night with just my book  light for illumination.
     It's Jeanette Windle's fault, by the way, that I've been reading into the wee hours of the morning.  Her new book, Freedom's Stand, at times was so intense that I had to skim some of the details to find out if the hero  would actually be able to   rescue the  other leading characters ... Actually found myself sitting up on the edge of the  bed, hoping I wouldn't wake my husband who might not be too sympathetic about a fictional U.S. aide worker trapped  in a dire situation in Kabul, Afghanistan at 3 in the morning, our time.. not hers... ;>)
         At any rate, I finished the book - no way I could sleep until I did!  And this morning I fell out of bed somewhat bleary-eyed, still rehearsing what the heroine should have said to her nasty supervisor who, if ever anyone deserved having the tables turned on him, it was this guy who.... well, you get the picture....   The only problem with the book is that you have to read the first one, Veiled Freedom, in order to understand the second one so....hmmm.. been keeping a lot of late hours lately...)
     But I digress... back to the eye issue.  As I'm driving towards home, I realize my vision is not in focus, put one hand over one eye and it works okay.  Reverse the procedure and realize that the other eye, which has never been good,  is not focusing.  Like it has a film over it or something... Like - can you get a cataract going in just two hours at the pool????
    So I thought about how I was too young to have to have cataract surgery.. and my left knee is still bothering me -what a coincidence - it was also my left eye that was gimping up on me!  So maybe like my whole left side is deteriorating faster than my right side, which would be distinctly odd 'cause I'm pretty sure I haven't had a stroke...   And really the bottom line is that I just went to the pool for some fun and now I'm thinking  maybe knee surgery and cataract surgery are in my near future????
    But then I remembered hearing about maccular degeneration on a t.v. ad which I'm pretty sure is not good so I began to pray fervently that it was just a cataract problem!!!! And then I put my hand up to push my glasses up on the bridge of my nose and realized that where there should have been  a lens... there wasn't... =/
   At that point, I remembered hearing a "snap" back at the park and realized that must have been my left lens popping out of the frame....  Soooooo.... I panicked!   Backed our truck into someone's drive  as if banshees were after me and then rapidly headed toward the park, thinking things like, "I'll never find the lens.... needle in a haystack would be more doable.. probably crushed into a thousand pieces...  should have had the lens refitted after I popped out the lens the first time months ago... "
   Then I belatedly shot up an arrow prayer for help  and thought to feel around in my swim bag.  And, voila!  There was the lens intact, lying at the bottom of the bag. So I pulled into another drive way, fitted the lens into the frame,  did another turn around and headed home - fastest cataract fix ehhvv-errrr!
   I don't know all the reasons that God commanded us not to worry but I do know one - sometimes worry is just plain stupid...
   Phil. 4: 6-7   - Don't leave home without it:)
   And if you are looking for a good read - ditto on the book, Freedom's Stand;  not only for the neat romance, the riveting plot, the insight into why $ alone cannot change Afghanistan but also b/c it gave me a greater understanding of what Christ did on the cross - can't explain how, it just did.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blog of Heroes...

     Beth Moore - Commentary on the story of Daniel's three friends in the fiery furnace:
     *Sometimes God delivers us from the fire - the suspicious spot on the x-ray turns out to be benign.
     *Sometimes God delivers us through the fire - the spot is cancer which necessitates treatment but the treatment works.
     *Sometimes God delivers us by the fire to the feet of Jesus - the cancer is healed in His presence.
     This is for those who have gone through the fire and are cancer free  (survivors), for those who are going through the fire  now (warriors), and for those who are in the presence of Jesus where even though they have gone through the fire, they now stand whole, healed, not even singed....(Overcomers)   
     The names are all mixed in together b/c I don't think God divides them into categories but sees them all as they really are: whole and loved no matter where they are right now on this journey...
     Mary Louise

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

There's no way...

    Today was my husband's day off and he spent it doing a small  car repair job for friends.  He had no intention of letting them pay for the labor and they had no intention of letting him do the work for free.
   Into this generous mix came two neighborhood boys who both have single moms who have just graduated from college. The boys are polite, sharp and funny - one is fourth grade and one is 6th grade.
    These boys like to hang around our house, look up to our son and his friends, and love their video games!!  Also they are bored and sometimes they drive me crazy, wanting to talk about things that mean diddly squat to me.     So Phil and I talked about the boys and decided that we might as well  use this time to not only keep them  busy but also get them into some Bible study.  I go to Willow Springs several times a week and what better way to keep the guys active and give their moms a bit of a break than to take them along?  We figured we could pay to get them in and then we could ask them to memorize two verses a week - starting with their second visit to the water park, they would have to say a memory verse to get past the gate and swim, the memory verse being their "ticket" in....
       As I've already indicated, today Phil did an auto repair job for friends - the owners didn't ask him to do it - but he was more than willing.   As it happened, the friends are also the   owners of Willow Springs.   This was the first real day Phil could do the repair  and after he got started, he realized they were were absolutely bent on paying him for his labor while he was determined that the labor would be free.
        Then, on  his trip home to get tools, he said, "I've had an idea.   Do you think they would give us a discount on  season passes for the boys in return for the labor on the car?"  I told him it sounded good to me  and that I would ask.  But they, of course,  did more than that - they gave us the passes for the two boys and would still like to do something else for Phil.
     So this afternoon I gathered up the two guys and  explained about the Bible-verses-for-swimming deal  and told them to discuss it with their moms to see if it was okay.   It was and we had our first swim, courtesy of Mr. David and Mrs. LouAnn.
     This evening, Phil and I walked across the street and gave each boy a list of Bible verses and a "due date" for each one.  The first is due tomorrow:  Genesis 1:1  "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth."
     After dropping off the list tonight, Phil and I then went for a walk down the street.  He was pleased and said, "Cathy, just a day or so ago, I prayed God would use me and now here's an opportunity to help these kids and it just fell into place without me planning it."  As he's talking gratefully about the goodness of God, I'm  seeing  him in my mind's eye as he was earlier:  we had just finished swimming and  I was herding the boys towards our car to go home.   Suddenly I was taken aback to see Phil lying flat out  on the pavement, half under the front of a car, soaked in sweat and pulling on some part so hard that he was gritting his teeth.  As I saw him pulling with all his strength, I immediately sent up an arrow prayer for his safety.  But within minutes, whatever he was doing was finished and he was up on his feet, smiling at us and saying something funny to the boys, apologizing that he couldn't help me much with the inflatables because his hands were black with grease.
     I thought about how I would hate to spend my days off from school having to teach - yet Phil never seems to mind helping family and friends with cars on his days off - especially if it involves some type of ministry outreach as Willow Springs does.  I thought about how he is willing to work hard and about  how many times he's helped fatherless kids in our area with bicycle problems...  I thought about how honest he is - people want his opinion on car problems whether he fixes them or not.   Finally,   I thought about how  he had a customer whose car " broke down" on the road  because she had made a simple operating mistake.Phil was just relieved the car was okay; when he learned she was rattled because she'd been at the hospital all night, he   asked if he could pray for her.  She was fine with that so he simply asked God to bring healing to her loved one and to help her get safely home.
     I guess some people would call my husband a "grease monkey" but honestly, no one's ever done it to my face and that's a good thing!   Simply put.. there's no way that you will ever convince me that God doesn't love hands covered in grease and you might be amazed to know how He uses them!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Academics - going against the grain....

     I saw an article in the paper about  stakes being too high  in our  high schools.  I know it's the current trend to put a lot of work on AP kids and I've seen my niece average 3 to 4 hours of homework a night plus 8 to 10 hours of work on weekends. She's been doing this since 7th grade and I feel sure she has a bright future ahead of her as far as college and a career go.  Yet, still, I feel uneasy about the system.
     Even though it's not popular, these are some concerns I have:
     1.  I'm not sure that I could ace some of the requirements for AP kids in high school these days. I've heard other teachers (privately) say the same thing. I could do it in college but not in middle school and maybe not in high school.   If some teachers have reservations about the current work load, maybe we need to voice those concerns and look at the AP program - especially  where it is headed.
    2.  I think - particularly in middle school - that the EOC tests have engendered a "More is better" philosophy and that's not always the case.  I've seen my niece bring home 100 multiple choice and open-ended math questions to do over Christmas break along with science and English homework.  So I'm asking - why a 100 math problems? Why not 30?  For middle school kids on Christmas break?  REally?? I think 30 is plenty.
   3.  I've seen my niece come to dislike classic novels - novels that I read in high school and loved - because they were assigned as summer reading between 7th and 8th grade or between 8th and 9th grade - no instruction: just read and we'll test the first week you get back.   Some things have to be taught and some things need to be appropriate for not just the child's reading level but also their social maturity and their frame of reference.  On the other hand, I've seen literature taught "to death" (not in my district that I know of) with kids having to do 7 one-page essays on each chapter - which pretty much destroyed the tension in the plot build-up so that by the time they reached the end of the novel, they simply hated it.  I loved chicken and dressing until my mom made me boil the chicken and de-bone it... :)  I think we have to be careful how and when  we have our kids de-bone great literature.... (And yes, I know... Moby Dick was not a chicken...)
   4.  And then there is the reason why we are doing this to our kids.  For the most part, it started years ago when we decided to catch up with Asian students who were kicking our posteriors on standardized tests.    For many years, our family worked primarily with Asian students who were attending UALR.  Over  and over, as I worked with these students, I heard them lament the pressure they experienced in their native schools.  Some talked about nose bleeds every time test day rolled around or stomach cramps. Others told me that each graduating class had a 10% suicide rate.  The pressure they experienced was intense.  All I'm saying is that maybe it's time to look at both sides of the coin here before we go much further down this path.
   5.  Another thing that really bothers me: the school is not a substitute for the family.   As it is right now, from August to the end of May - if your teen-ager is bright and involved in the school system, your days are determined by school schedules and for the most part, you have to pencil in family activities around the school curriculum as best you can.  Now the curriculum is starting  to dominate weekends and vacation time as well - especially small breaks like Christmas and Spring break. I understand that the family is falling apart in our society. But still, the family unit should have priority on weekends and vacations.  The school didn't bring the child into the world; the mom and dad did.
   6.  Another thing that bothers me is how normally sweet people can turn into piranhas when it comes to their kids' grades.  People who are otherwise sane can suddenly flip into the ozone because their child doesn't  have an A in every class or no child had an A in a particular class at mid-term or their child got bumped from the number 1 spot re. GPA to the number 2 spot... And it affects the kids as well, creating  hostile - not friendly - competition between adolescents.         Ummm... do you even know who had the number 1 spot in your graduating class, assuming you've been out of school for a while?  Seriously, do you even care?  I promise you, when I was getting married, going into labor, tending for my terminally ill mom, and/or trying to balance the check book when funds were tight, I didn't sit around and recite my high school and/or college GPAs in order to calm my nerves or bolster my courage.
   7.  The last factor that bothers me is the end product.  If academic success brings happiness and fulfillment, then our college professors should be the happiest and most fulfilled people on the planet. Judging from my years as an undergraduate student, a graduate student on two different campuses, and a member of the staff at a college I never attended as a student, I'd have to say that isn't the case. Some profs. are well-rounded, happy and fulfilled. From what I saw, many are not.
  Over the years, I've seen the school system lacking something and now that I'm out of the system, I still see that something missing, maybe even more now than when I first started.  The thing that's missing is balance. To me, the AP program is rapidly becoming a good example of that.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Full hearts... Short blog, promise!

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 There is a scene from the old Disney film, Blackbeard's Ghost, where the ghost - played by Peter Ustinov - cuts off his young friend - played by Dean Jones - by just butting in on Dean Jone's speech with the words, "Not now, Lad.. Our hearts is too full ..."  Jones is left with mouth hanging open in mid-sentence while Blackbeard refocuses everyone's attention on .. himself  :)
    Our hearts is too full....  Maybe not the best grammar but I wonder how accurately it describes me?
    Wondering if my heart (and my blogs) are waaaayyy too full of myself; feeling like I'm missing something here...



like ...Sudan....

Make Way Partners - endorsed by Randy Alcorn.
     I know the reasons not to get involved.... 
                      they're always fighting over there; it's a hopeless conflict.
                     I already gave at the office; it's just a downer to think about it...

But what if it were my child?
     I'd want someone to help... even if the shelter built today was burned to the ground next month,
                        I'd still  want my child to have a roof over his head for as long as possible. 
                                   And didn't Jesus say ...  or how does that song go.... 
                                                 He loves all the children of the ..Sudan?

Make Way Partners Ministry. The founder paid a high price to start this ministry. She tells about it in her book.  So thankful I don't have to live it; you don't have to read it.  Please, just pray this new round of genocide stops quickly and please check out the website. Or just volunteer to sponsor a child.  We already sponsor two in other countries.  But with a few less trips to McDonald's, we could easily sponsor a third and probably never notice it even though we're not rich by any means.  We're thinking about it.  Would you?


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Got Worry?

      Tonight on Amazon (yes, a place I need to avoid like the proverbial plague) I typed in a Corrie ten Boom book that I mentioned in an earlier blog.  The book is called, Jesus is Victor and it helped sustain my mom during 10 years of heart trouble.  Unfortunately,   it  has been out of print for years which to me is sad because it deals with three topics in a simple but profound way, mostly through apropos stories from Corrie's own life. The topics are: anxiety, sickness, and terminal illness.
     There are two things that stand out in my mind whenever I think of this book.  Shortly after Phil and I got married, his father came to stay with us for a weekend.  Mr. Abernathy had significant brain damage because of alcoholism and so he could not live by himself.  Phil's older sister was taking care of the dad at that time but whenever they went out of town, he would stay with us or with Phil's other sister.
    Dealing with my father-in-law was quite different. If you've ever had someone in your home whose short-term memory can suddenly leap-frog into the past in a second of time, you know what I'm talking about.  He could start a sentence talking about his wife and then, before he finished the sentence, he would be talking to me as if I were his wife.  Conversations were interesting to say the least. He still had a great sense of humor at times but his language was salty and so we never knew exactly what would come out of his mouth.  We often found ourselves laughing while, at the same time, looking over our shoulders to see if others heard what he just said - that type of thing.
    And since we didn't really know how much he could remember and how much was posturing, our interactions with him were often frustrating for us as well as for  him.  For example, if he got mad at us, he would invariably hide his false teeth and since we ate out a lot, it would be a stresser to remind him several  times before leaving the house to put  his teeth in -  only to have him open his mouth wide at the restaurant to show us he had no teeth... again... (On those occasions, he would never open his mouth before we left but would just nod and mumble that his teeth were in and he was ready to go.)
    But then there were other things that he did which plainly indicated to us that he really couldn't figure things out. For example, he had been an architectural engineer but one day while staying at our house, the window unit AC turned his room frigid.  When Phil got home, his dad had unplugged the AC from the wall - clearly, he could no longer figure out how to turn the knobs on the window unit so he finally managed to pull the plug from the socket. And, of course, those were the sad times when we realized that this once brilliant man who designed entire buildings could no longer even turn a simple knob on a window unit. This, frankly, is the  reason that we don't have alcohol in our home. (This plus the fact that Phil's brother  died of cirrhosis of the liver when he was 29.  We don't have a problem with other people drinking in moderation, it's just not for us.)
   One Saturday in particular, things had been tense - lots of mishaps, frustration building, etc. We decided to go out to eat in the evening and of course, after we got seated at Wendy's, Mr. Abernathy bared his gums for us in a broad smile as if to say, "Look!  No teeth!"  and  for Phil it was sort of the final straw. He bit his lip and looked away from his dad to hide his frustration.
   As a new bride and as a person who hates tension, I sat quietly  hoping things would get better. But his dad was really on a roll  that night and to this day, I'm glad Phil was  looking away from his dad when the next event happened.  For some reason his dad chose at that moment to take a little paper cup with  ketchup in it and tip it up as if it were the elixir of life. I watched with big eyes as he held the cup over his head, tilted his chin up and opened his mouth wide to catch the red stuff,  slurping it happily  and then smacking  his lips, all things that Phil hates. (The smacking and slurping. Don't think drinking ketchup was anywhere on his radar screen  at that time...).
   So the next thing that went through my mind was: Okay. This is not good.... Wonder what he's going to do next?    As my anxiety ratcheted up a notch, I did what I usually do when I'm tense, I started reading....    I had Corrie's book, Jesus is Victor, with me that night so I opened it up and started reading in the section about anxiety, appropriately enough:)
    To this day I remember reading a story about  how she had to travel on icy roads to get from one conference to another. It was late at night when her driver showed up and as she put it, after they got on the dark, slick roads, she could tell that he had been drinking and that he had enjoyed not a little...:)  As they skidded from one side to the other in the dark night, she realized that she would not be fit to speak at the next conference if she spent the entire drive in white-knuckled anxiety.  So she prayed about it and then told the driver that she was going to let him drive while she slept. And she went to sleep!  She arrived safely and was able to speak the next morning at her conference!
    Her story really had nothing to do with my situation -yet after I read it,  I didn't feel anxious anymore. The situation had not changed but my perspective had. Somehow we got through the meal without saying the things that were probably on all of our minds and much later, when I told Phil about the ketchup thing, we were both able to laugh about it.
    The other thing that comes to mind when I think of this book, is the time when we heard that one of Phil's relatives had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. We weren't sure where this relative stood spiritually and I immediately thought of Corrie's book, Jesus is Victor.  The only copy I had was in a hard-bound anthology, which would be really tough for someone who was ill to even hold, much less read.  It had been years since I'd been able to find a paperback copy and by that time, even the anthology was way out of print.
    So I remember taking my hardbound copy and tearing up the spine so that the Jesus is Victor book was separated from the other two books in that edition.   AFter I pulled it out, intact but coverless of course, I mailed it to this relative. I never knew if it helped or not but I do know it was the first thing I thought about sending in a time of crisis like that. In fact it was the only thing I thought about sending as I knew the person already had a Bible.
   Then, for many years, I just didn't have a copy of the book  anymore. Couldn't find it anywhere.
   So I'm not kidding when I say that tonight, after looking for this book on Amazon (duhhhhh), I was thrilled to find quite a few paperback copies as well as some copies of the hardback anthology. I ordered two of the paperbacks and one of the anthology.  I wish I'd thought to do this sooner - to me, it's just a little book that I'd like to always have on hand for myself but also for  others. Whatever you are facing, daily anxiety or imminent transition to eternity, it's just very comforting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Looking up or... Grasshopper Theology:)

Okay.  Lately I've been losing things. That's not unusual. Over the years, I've lost my mind, keys, grocery lists, glasses, sense of humor, my current book I'm reading, the dog, and once, even the car - I knew it was somewhere on the Wal Mart parking lot but could NOT find it and finally had to call Phil to come pick me up and drive me around until one of us spotted it...  But there are some things (a few) that I just don't lose. And one of those things is official papers. I even have birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc for my great aunt, my parents,  and  Phil's parents.

But yesterday I could not find my birth certificate.  I tore the house up trying to find this vital piece of paper, went through the lock box and both filing cabinets twice and then, just for good measure, went through them all a third time - this time making sure I held every single piece of paper in my hand.  Last night, Phil helped me hunt again and this time I pulled out all my notebooks, loose papers left over from school, etc. and then we gave up. Only about 11 p.m., Phil said something that made me think I could find the certificate so I went on a new hunt and when I finally gave it up at 2 in the morning, the house looked like it had been ransacked by a burglar - not that we have anything worth stealing but still...  You couldn't even walk in the spare room.

So then I went to bed and lay there, my mind spinning as I thought,  Okay. Great. No birth certificate.  I can't even prove I was born.  No telling what else I've lost.  What if someone else has gotten my birth certificate and at this very minute, they are stealing my identity.... Well, if they are - good luck with that one!   And now the house is  a wreck! I've dragged out all these files, scattered books, moved small furniture around  and now I'll have to go through and  sort all that stuff out, toss some of it.  Actually toss a lot of it.... No, really, I should just tip the whole bloomin' house on it's side and just let everything fall out and then start over again...

When I woke up a few minutes before nine this morning, I hauled out of bed to get ready to go to the dentist, stepping over the flotsam and jetsam on the floor  - stuff that used to be in a plastic storage container under the bed before I went wild last night and started pulling everything out.  My mind barely noticed the clutter as I began framing excuses for the dentist - I meant to floss after every meal, really I did.  I know it's probably going to be worse than usual when you clean my teeth this time and I'm ready for the lecture.  I know I deserve it.  I'll do better next time, promise!  I'll even put floss in every room....   (and why not? We can string the floss from one wall to another and in that way, find our way through the  jungle that currently passes for our home).

After I got dressed, I had just a few minutes before I had to get in the car so I thought I would pull out my Bible and read it but, of course,  I couldn't find it!!!   However, there was an oversized book near my chair,  a book I bought for PHil at  Christmas called The Work of His Hands, written   by the astronaut, Jeffrey Williams.  It's a coffee table book full of pictures from the International Space Station with fascinating commentary about what it's like to live on the ISS.  I hadn't looked at it since Christmas break and so now I opened it up at random  and found myself staring at some breathtaking pictures of the glaciers, clouds, and snow. One picture in particular (p. 66) caught my attention and held it. You could see a couple of mountain ridges in the Himalayas which had a covering of snow along the very edge. And although the sky was blue, you could see white, wispy clouds merging with the mountain tops.  It was spectacular.

I finally tore myself away from that pic and the next one that caught my eye was of a military station out  in the middle of the Sahara Desert.  Quite a contrast but no less impressive to see hundreds of miles of sand with a few brown lines streaking away from the station, going in various directions to what appeared to be.. .nothing.

There are a lot of things that I fear... the dentist (nice guy that he is) being a case in point.  But I also fear growing older except that.. .the alternative is also something that I fear and I fear it more than I do growing older....if that last sentence made any sense...  I'd like to believe that God is always going to do things the way I want but I know from experience that He doesn't always do what I prefer.  Sometimes He lets me and my loved ones go through really rough times.  And I fear that.

But as I looked at the desert scene and then looked again at the mountains reaching up into the sky, I thought, "He made all this.  The Bible says that all of this  is the work of His hands.   And if He is big enough and smart enough to fashion entire mountain ranges in one area and then create an ocean of sand in another then He's big enough that I can trust Him."

Surely you know.  Surely you have heard.
Surely from the beginning someone told you.
Surely you understand how the earth was created.
God sits on his throne above the circle of the earth,
and compared to Him, people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the skies like a piece of cloth
and spreads them out like a tent to sit under...
Look up to the skies.
Who created all these stars?
He leads out the army of heaven one by one           
And calls all the stars by name.
Because He is strong and powerful,
Not one of them is missing...
Surely you know, surely you have heard
The Lord is the God who lives forever,
Who created all the world.
He does not become tired or need to rest..
He gives strength to those who are tired 
And more power to those who are weak."
Isaiah 40:21 - 29

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ten on the Tenth...Waiting for something?

1  Day....      A young woman living in the Arabian peninsula was terminally ill and losing ground steadily.  Finally, although a Muslim, she came to a Christian women's prayer group and asked them to pray for her.  They did.  The very  next day was her weekly check-up. The tests results were negative so  the doctor thought there was a huge mistake on the nurse's part or the lab's part.  He ordered the medical tests again and once again, they came back negative.  Finally, he  told her she was well and canceled her next appointment. She and her husband became believers the same day.   Sometimes miracles happen!  Don't quit praying and watching  for them!     story  from   the book Which None Can Shut.

3  Weeks....      Hudson Taylor  adopted the motto  "move men through prayer alone."  Once Taylor's absent- minded boss forgot to pay his salary.  For three weeks Hudson asked God to remind his boss to pay him.  AT the end of the third week, it seemed God had failed. Hudson's bills were coming due and even if his boss remembered to write a check, the banks were already closed for the weekend. But after closing hours, a wealthy patient came to the office and insisted on paying a large bill in cash, Hudson's boss remembered that he owed Taylor money, and Taylor went  home with enough money to pay his bills and meet his other needs. This convinced him that he could trust God for all  his needs on the mission field - he eventually established the China Inland Mission which is known today as The Overseas Missionary Fellowship.   The news right now is full of dire predictions about the economy.  God has ways of caring for His own, even financially.  The Bible tells us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking..

3 Years...      Romanian Pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, spent three years in solitary confinement under the Communists because he preached Christ after the Communists told him not to.  He kept his sanity by composing and delivering sermons in his dark, silent, underground cell even though no one was there to hear them.  He also tapped out messages in Morse code to encourage whoever happened to be in the cell next to him.  He said that the presence of God  became so real to him during this time that it was a bit of a  let-down when he eventually was allowed to live with the other prisoners. Feeling isolated and alone? Keep asking and waiting and know that  God can bless our "wait" time in totally unexpected ways.

4 Years...      Ed White was one of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who died in the capsule fire on Jan. 27, 1967.  Many people may know about his death and some probably know that he was the first American to walk in space.  It's probably lesser known that Ed really wanted   to take  a Bible to the moon. For four years after his death,  the NASA chaplain and prayer group prayed that Ed's dream would come true.  ON Feb. 5, 1971, it did - Astronaut Edgar Mitchell landed the lunar module  on the moon and inside  was a copy of the Bible - through the prayers of the NASA prayer team and the efforts of others, Ed's dream had been realized and the Bible has not only circled the globe, it has landed on the moon.  Sometimes dreams crash, we lose people, and everything seems to have come to an abrupt end.  But with God's help, the dreams (like the people who once held them and have gone on to something better) can still live on!  And be accomplished!   If you are still left here on earth, it's for a reason:)  (And if you are reading this, I assume you are still earth bound...) Keep on keeping on in His grace!

7 years...    Isabel Kuhn lost her faith in college and stayed away from all things Christian for many years while she pursued life as an agnostic, much to her father's grief.  When she finally went back to church again, she was stunned  to learn that one  of her father's friends had been praying for her for 7 years. She eventually had a 180 degree turn-around and  went on to spend the rest of her life as a missionary in China . But that's not all, she wrote several classic books and her daughter followed in Isobel's footsteps by investing her life in  Thailand as a missionary. Her father's prayers and the prayers of this other man were answered, I think...   Don't give up on your kids; pray for them!

8 years..     J. O. Fraser left England and moved to China in 1910 to spread the Gospel among a tribal people, the Lisu. He had a few converts at first but then for several years - nothing. And the first converts began to backslide.  For the next six years, he traveled over mountains and lived in really tough conditions - worse than I can imagine - preaching to people who were afraid or unwilling to respond.  By 1916 he was discouraged; he wrote this heart-felt prayer  in his journal, "Give me Lisu converts and I can truly say I will be  happy even  in a pigsty!"    He began an intense season of prayer and asked others back in England to pray in faith as well.  Later that year,  whole  Lisu families suddenly responded, began to grow in faith,  and then went out to  spread the message themselves. By 1918, 8 years after Fraser arrived in Chinathe Lisu Church had baptized  thousands of believers. Sometimes years go by with nothing and then suddenly, amazingly, the answers start rolling in.  Seeds planted in His vineyard will eventually bear fruit and sometimes I think He likes to surprise His worn-out  workers by busting out with answers that leave people open-mouthed and wide-eyed in wonder.  Keep working and praying.. you could be that "someone".

18 years...  At one time, Albania claimed to be the only 100% atheistic country in the world - that wasn't true by the way b/c there were Christians in the country even during the worst persecution.  An Albanian Christian living in exile, Sali Rahmani,  began broadcasting 15- minute- Christian radio programs into Albania from Western Europe.  He did this day in and day out for 18 years before he got his first  letter from a listener in Albania letting him know that someone was actually out there, hearing his broadcasts.  Not only were people hearing his messages but totally unknown to him, a small, underground church was thriving.  If God has given you a message to say, keep saying it.  If He's given you a story to tell, it's important that you tell it even if no one seems to be paying attention.

39 years...  In 1956, Nate Saint, along with four other missionaries, was speared to death in Ecuador by the  primitive Waodani tribe.  Over the years, the Waodani became Christians and then 39 years after they had killed the 5 missionaries, they asked Nate's son, Steve, to bring his family to the jungles of Ecuador and live with them.  So  that's what Steve and his family did .  During the year that  Steve and his family lived in the Ecuadorian jungle, the Waodani man  who had actually killed Steve's' dad  became like a grandfather to Steve's son.     It took 39 years but God brought everything full circle.  He has a way of doing that!  And somehow, I don't think Nate has any regrets right now for the way he spent his life - would imagine he's very proud of his kids and his grandkids.

100 years...  In 1844, Corrie ten Boom's grandfather, Willem ten Boom, started a weekly prayer meeting in his home in Holland - the purpose of the prayer group was to pray for the Jewish people.  One hundred years later his son, four of his grandchildren, and a great grand-child  were arrested in the very same house where the prayer group first started. Why?  Because they were involved in the Dutch underground movement to save the Jews from the Nazis.  In the book, Father ten Boom, Corrie wrote:  "Four of those arrested died in prison.  That was the divine but incomprehensible  answer to my family's prayers for the Jews."  P. 29. How many Jewish lives did they save?  I've read that the number is as high as 600. That is also an answer to Willem ten Boom's prayers.  Prayer can be dangerous... but a world without prayer is infinitely more so!  What if that group hadn't been established to pray for the Jewish people a hundred years before Hitler arrived on the scene?  Would those 600 have died? Who would have carried on Corrie's ministry for the next thirty years after she was released from the camp?  The bottom line is what Corrie herself learned during her time in  a concentration camp:     the only safe place for any of us is in the will of God. And prayer can span generations before it comes to fruition.... soooooo... :) keep praying - if it's not important for the here and now, it will be for the then and later...

2000  years +  From the foundation of the world, God planned to send His Son as the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world.  But it would be a while - more than 2000 years  -before the Messiah appeared on the dusty streets of Nazareth, bringing light to those who lived under the shadow of death.   Most of the twelve disciples probably came from generations of devout Jewish ancestors who had longed for, waited for the Messiah.  Even though it took longer than probably anyone imagined, when the time was right, God sent forth the Messiah just as  He  promised. That was back then. So how does that affect us now in 2011?  Without getting into the details - which I am NOT clear on- Jesus definitely said that He would be coming back.  How all that will play out is His problem; mine is to be found working for Him and waiting for His return.

Yet with respect to the promise of God, Abraham did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.  Romans 4:19-20.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Remembering the past...

        As I think back over my life, I see so many twists and turns that often made no sense at all at the time- yet now I can see the hand of God in most - not all - but most of the things I encountered.
      I started college in the Fall of 1972.  Among my circle of friends, we only had one car between all of us and none of us belonged to the same church so we took turns going to each other's services on Sundays.  For that reason, I was able to go to  the Baptist, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, and Catholic churches in our area.  I think this worried my mom a bit but I believe it proved to be a good background for me spiritually and I remember with great fondness all of us piling into one car (seat belts weren't always in use as I recall - but it wasn't necessary because we were wedged in so tightly that no one would have been thrown from the car in an accident so it was all good...) - at any rate, we'd all squeeze into one vehicle and head for the church of choice for that particular Sunday.  I will always be grateful for those times.
      Politically, the Vietnam War was a hot issue among students and I remember standing in the lobby of my dorm, watching the televised announcement that the war was ending.  (No, there was no t.v. in our dorm room. But that was okay, too b/c the girls across the hall had two sets and ran them full blast most evenings -on different stations simultaneously - so we weren't deprived electronically. This was obviously before cell phones, ipods, and whatever...).     I was so immersed in studies, my job, and campus life that President Nixon's announcement about the war was the only thing he did that  I really took in during my college years. I do remember a Professor chewing us out once  because we didn't know what Watergate was but, honestly, it took a good-looking Robert Redford and the film, All The President's Men, to get me interested in one of the biggest  political scandals of our history.   AFter seeing the film, I began to read every book that I could find on the subject - most of which I've long since forgotten.  However, JOhn Dean and Chuck Colson were names that stood out to me - John Dean because I thought he was a hero and Colson because I thought he was a bit crazy.  Later, Colson's book, Life Sentence would radically impact my life in a positive way. And I would find out that John Dean's book, Blind  Ambition, which I read more than once, was totally ghost-written - I'm not even sure that he ever read it. (It's still a great book on Watergate but I guess I learned through Nixon's dishonesty and the way my opinions of these two writers radically changed that things aren't always what they appear to be on the surface)
     I remember the Yom Kippur War in 1973, mainly because word spread around campus (like wildfire) that no civilization had remained strong for more than 200 years (clearly whoever started that rumor knew nothing about the Roman Empire and those of us who were idiot enough to believe it... also knew nothing about the Roman Empire.. not to mention a little civilization called ancient Egypt.)  At any rate,  since we were approaching our 200th anniversary in the U.S., it was being spread around that  Armageddon was going to happen before 1976 and of course, we'd all be destroyed.  (Maybe this is one reason I don't get too worked up about things like 2012...)  At any rate, this war impacted my life significantly - instead of playing Spades into the wee hours of the night as we usually did, my friends and I would gather in someone's dorm room  (dorms  were definitely NOT co-ed back then and you had to sign in and out when you were gone overnight) and we would search frantically through our Bibles trying to find out how the end of the world was going to pan out.  The war didn't last long and we returned to our card games in pretty short fashion but the whole thing made me stop and think - how solid is the ground beneath my feet when the Middle East obviously can blow at any time and I knew for a fact that we were sending planes from Jacksonville Air Force Base to the Middle East.  I think it was good for me to begin to sort out what was lasting and what wasn't.
    I also remember the oil shortages after the Yom Kippur War and the problems with inflation. But again, my focus on world events was pretty narrow.  I remember that it was deemed unpatriotic to waste precious energy by putting up Christmas lights - a huge bummer for me!  (So glad we have LED's now!!!)  And the other thing I remember is how the speed limit was lowered to 55 mph on the freeway to save energy, which we thought was ridiculous!!  (But the police didn't...)
    I also remember approaching graduation with what I now realize was a lot of hubris matched only by my ignorance of the real world. When one of my friends said that she dreaded graduation because she figured college was our last ivory tower, I had no clue what she meant.  The author, Dee Brown, spoke at our graduation and encouraged us by sharing how he, as a young college graduate,  had found work in spite of the lingering effects of the Great Depression.
     But try as I might, I could not find a teaching position - the field was terribly overcrowded. One principal told me that he had a hundred applicants for every vacant teaching position and I think that was pretty common in the larger school districts back then.  Fortunately, Hendrix offered me a job in their library so I was able to go straight from college into a job that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, the job didn't pay well.
    And as luck would have it, shortly after I went to work for Hendrix, I did get a job offer from a Little Rock school because a teacher had quit suddenly, school was in session, and they had to have a replacement ASAP.  I was really tempted to accept the offer but since I had signed a contract with Hendrix, I turned Little Rock School District down.  This also meant turning down a significantly larger salary and I was single at the time, just barely making it on a shoe-string budget.
        AFter I turned the job offer down, I had more than one person tell me that I had been stupid,  that people break contracts all the time.  I honestly didn't know that and came to feel that I had really messed up.  But I can't say how many times, after I got a teaching job in Benton and after I saw the problems that the L.R. schools were going through over the ensuing years, that I blessed the day I said, "No, I"m sorry but I'm already under contract to another employer."  In short, I came to realize that honoring your commitments is a good thing even if it meant that I struggled financially for another three years at the library before getting my first teaching job.  Coincidentally one  of the reasons that the principal at the Junior High hired me was because I had given him a sample lesson I had taught ... in Sunday School.  It was the only lesson I had to show him since I had never taught in public schools (aside from practice teaching where I spent most of my time filing a backlog of papers that   my supervising teacher had:)  So, although my two years at the Junior HIgh were a fiasco in my opinion and also added the phrase "baptism by fire" to my vocabulary, even in this event I can now see how God moved me into a teaching position when the odds were against it.
      Dwelling on the past is not always a good thing but I think if I had reflected on these things more often, I wouldn't have questioned my decision to go into teaching as much - like as in every I"m-going-to-pull-my-hair-out-if-one-more-kid-asks-me-a-stupid-question day:(  
     Sometimes it's just good to remember the past because, for a believer, the past holds the key to the future:  in spite of all life's twists and turns, if we follow the Shepherd -even half-heartedly and in ignorance as I have done so many times - He has promised to go before us, to teach us,  and  also to bring good out of bad. (John 10:4, Romans 8:28)  HOnestly, the only good thing I can remember from my first two years of teaching is the time I got the flu and missed a week of school.  It was glorious and I'm not kidding.  I also remember my Sunday School teacher telling me how he hated his first year of teaching but went on to teach for five more years and loved it and he was sure I would do the same.  Even as he was telling me this, I was thinking: there is no way in heck that I will ever stick this out for 5 years... it's impossible.
      That was 31 years ago... Sometimes it's necessary to look back and remember the mercies of God. (Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and forget none of HIs benefits...Psalms 103:2.)  In retrospect, I can see that my professional career was "birthed" in the midst of war, inflation, political upheaval, job shortages, campus unrest,  and my own personal ignorance. Yet somehow, God used it all to shape me and guide me through the labyrinthine pathways of life and I'm grateful.