Monday, January 30, 2012

What's on my mind???

       First thing this morning, I learned that a dear friend is facing cancer... again.
       It's never been far from my mind since.
       Off and on all day long, this has flashed through my mind:  I HATE cancer.
       I know that God can and does bring good out of bad circumstances when we love Him and trust Him.
       Nonetheless, I HATE cancer.
       I know that this world is not our home  and that we will like the next one so much better.
       But this is where I am here and now and this is where my friend is and this is where I want her to stay.
       And through the grace of God and the skill of the doctors, this is where I believe she will be for some time to come.
       Nevertheless.... I HATE cancer.

       Which brings me to my second point.
       I'm not too crazy about thieves either...

       I always try to be upbeat on these blogs.
       But tonight I sat here, staring at the eternal query on Facebook:  What's on your mind?
       And honestly, these are the things that are on my mind.

       Today, I have been distracted. I went through Wendys' drive through thinking it was McDonald's.  I'm supposed to be fasting .. but I didn't.   I forgot to charge my cell phone even though I knew it was almost dead.  And I mentally talked back to a lifeless question on Facebook of all things.  "What's on my mind???  You don't want to know what's on my mind - that's what's on my mind!!!"  
      But in the final analysis
         this is what's on my mind....
                I HATE cancer.
                  And right now, thieves are a close second on my bad list, right up there behind dread diseases...

       Thankful tomorrow is another day...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Light Streaming Through Broken Windows...

     Writing comes easily for me. And normally the more deeply I feel about something, the easier it is for me to write about it.  But that is not always the case.
     On Wed. evening, my husband stood in the pouring rain, in the dark, under an eave of the roof with water cascading down on him while I stood inside my sister-in-law's house, just on the other side of the wall from where he was working. He was stapling black plastic over his sister's  broken window. I was sweeping up shattered glass on the other side.  There was a brick lying on the floor beside the window fragments.
    It was a defining moment for me in some ways.  And one that caused me not to want to blog for several days, while I processed what had happened.
    The day itself started  well.  I took my niece to school - we were pretty much zombies like we normally are first thing in the morning but had a good morning prayer accompanied by a Mickey D. sandwich. As I recall, she quietly worked on her math as I drove through light traffic.
   At one point, she realized she  had left her purse at home - we discussed it and decided that she could make it without it. All she really needed was her house key and I had an extra key to her house so I told her I would pick her up after school and take her home. At the time, we had no idea that she'd lose all the valuable possessions in her purse before the day was over.
   Sometimes big things hinge on small decisions.  Now, knowing what happened later, I wonder if we'd make the same judgement call.  I have had to come to the place where I realize it doesn't really matter; hindsight may be 20/20 but... it's also pretty useless. Paul, in Philippians,  talked about forgetting the things that are past and moving on to what is ahead.  And I think that applies to both big things and small things as well... So we are moving on...
   On the way home from school that afternoon, we were more animated, laughing about nothing, having a good time.  I pulled up in her drive and handed her the extra house key.   She opened the door and brought the  key back to me with a smile and a "thanks!" I drove away but two minutes later, she called and said someone had broken into their home. I immediately turned around and was back at her home within seconds.
  She's 16 and the thing that has not faded from my mind in all this time  is not the brokenness of the window or the scattering of their personal and private possessions all over the beds and floors but rather the brokenness in her young voice as she ran to me and sobbed out the story of what she had discovered.
   Years ago a woman wrote her account of being diagnosed with breast cancer and this was the title of her book, First, You Cry.  I realized last Wed. that sometimes crying is the wisest thing you can do.  It's honest and it gets to the heart of the matter.
   She also had the presence of mind not to stay in the home and to avoid touching things as she retraced her steps back to   the front porch.  Within seconds, she had called her mother who left work immediately, asking her co-workers to contact the police, which they did.
   My sister-in-law arrived within minutes after I did and so did the officers.  I was impressed with the way my sister-in-law handled things.  She had been reading a book about a family going through tremendous suffering - living with a quadriplegic child - and yet, finding God's grace was sufficient.   She said that on the way home, she kept thinking that if God could get that family through their  crisis with their child, He could  get them through this situation which was mild in comparison.
   I was also impressed with the police. They were courteous, efficient but also used some humor (appropriately) to lessen the tension of the situation.  Before much time had elapsed, we were all fascinated with the finger print process and at the same time laughing at some of the more ridiculous situations they had encountered in the past.  (Like calls insisting that someone had wiped out their entire living room, taking every stick of furniture,  to which the officers automatically want to reply, "Really???  So...where are you renting your furniture from and how many payments have you missed?")
   In the end, the burglars didn't take much of value in the physical sense.
   But they did rob a young girl of some of her innocence.
   And that is what I don't like at all.
   As I was re-reading Kisses From Katie, I saw where she wrote about the dichotomy of adopting children. ON the one hand, she loves having her Ugandan daughters and being able to mother them. On the other hand, she grieves for them and what they had to go through in order to get to  the point of being adopted.  Yet, she takes all that a step further - she writes that she fully trusts the experiences her girls went through were part of God's plan for their lives and that He will bring good out of all of it.
  And that is where I am, still, several days after holding my niece in my arms while she cried over the reality of a broken, sin-cursed world.  I grieve for what she had to go through in those few minutes when she discovered the violation of her home.  But I trust that this is part of God's permissive will, part of His plan for her and that He will bring good out of it.
  And in a way He already has.
  An uncle coming straight from work to stand for over 40 minutes in the pouring rain to cover the broken window, a mother who was calm, comforting,  and who  modeled a logical, yet faith-filled approach to the situation.  And now, within days, she is seeing others come forward to replace some of the things that were taken.  And each time that happens, she sees the hand of God and how He can provide in miraculous ways.. through ordinary people.
  In this world, thieves do break in and steal.
  But in God's kingdom, which is the realm in which His children move and have their spiritual being  - a sort of dual existence in that our feet are planted on terra firma but our hearts are often unfettered- the good far out weighs the bad - and brokenness just allows His light to shine a little brighter into our hearts.

I love this painting by Ron Dicianni and I think the title pretty much says it all: Never Alone...
So thankful this is true...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


     I don't know if you ever feel like you've just "missed it" - like when the rest of the world was turning right, you somehow went ... left... and got ... left...
     When I was in my twenties, I thought everything would be great - I would teach until I married, then I would stop work and have children and they would grow up to be doctors, lawyers, or whatever and get up every day thanking God that I was their mother... ha!  And my house would be large and beautiful and always clean....
      Somehow, I didn't envision marrying late in life, having one child, working until I could take early retirement only to find that when my days were finally free, my knees creaked and my feet dragged and my mind almost always has something on it but... sometimes I only know that by faith because I can't remember what was just flitting through my mind ten or fifteen minutes earlier:)
    This morning I woke up early but just lay in bed, thinking, which is not always a good thing.
     First, I thought about how, comparatively speaking, I haven't done much with my life. Then I thought about how it's not a good thing to be living in a tiny house in a declining neighborhood as we approach our sixties and that somewhere along the way - many times along the way probably - we should have done things differently.  In short, we had "missed it".
   And then I remembered something I heard 23 years ago on a Sunday morning: the phrase "gossiping the Good News".  That morning I was impressed with the phrase and the idea - I'd never been one to want to beat people over the head with the Gospel but I felt I could just be myself, hang out with my neighbors, and when the occasion arose,  chat about the Good News, about what God was doing in my life.
  The man who lived behind us was pretty wild and at that time, we had no fence around our property. When I married, my husband warned me that *Joe (not his real name) was rough, had women over a lot, and rode his motorcycle right up a ramp into the living room of his small house. Also that this big burly guy had two Dobermans who had been trained to attack and they also  lived inside the house with him (which was smaller than ours).   Phil cautioned me that one night, before we married,  Joe had  let these dogs out and they had come running across property boundaries towards Phil as he was watering the backyard, not barking but intent on doing bodily harm.  All Phil could think to do was to pull out his pocketknife and charge them, yelling.  It did the trick thankfully.  After he warned me about this, I was always careful to watch for the dogs, especially at night -  but I never saw them so I figured it was all good.
   This particular Sunday afternoon, I was fired up by the "gossiping the Good News" sermon and when I saw Joe come out into his yard, I felt God was  nudging me to go introduce myself to him.  I told Phil what I thought and he said he would go with me but I told him it was okay - I felt I could go by myself.  So he cautioned me to be careful and not to get out of his sight.  (Phil was working in the yard at the time.)
   I did go over there and introduce myself, wondering how I would broach the topic of Christianity ev-vurr with this guy, thinking a lifetime of chatting with him over the proverbial fence would not be enough time to get my courage up. And then,  to my surprise, he asked me if I knew the Lord!  I stammered out  a "yess...." and asked him if he knew the Lord also.
   He did!
   It turned out that  a year or so earlier, he had become deathly sick.  His party friends just left him alone in his house and didn't send any help his way - why I don't know. He lay there for two days, unable to help himself at all.  Finally, his mother came to check on him, found him in terrible shape, and had him transported to the hospital. While he was there, the doctors told him  there was basically no hope.  But one night, he said that Jesus spoke to him, distinctly, clearly, and with authority. And the message Joe got was "This is your last chance to believe and repent."
   I've never had an experience like that myself but I figure the proof is in the pudding and there was proof in Joe's life that something radical had changed him. To the doctor's surprise, he got well and walked out of the hospital on his own two feet.
   The Sunday I met him there were no Dobermans around. Instead, he brought out his cat which - honest to goodness - was named Fluffy!  When I talked to Phil about all this later, he was astounded but then we both got to thinking and realized that there had been no wild parties or vicious dogs  over there for months and months. In fact, I had never seen any evidence of any of that since I had been married to Phil.
  Over the years, this man would greet our son often over the fence we did eventually put up - not to keep Joe out but to keep our small son in and away from the street traffic.  David would run to meet Joe whenever he heard the guy drive up in his truck and we would hear Joe telling David, "Son, whatever you do, listen to your parents and do what they tell you to do. I didn't do that and I messed up my life. But God has put it back together again."
  What a great encourager he was to our son!
  And what a tragedy it would have been had he died alone in the house just on the edge of our property. This first attempt to "gossip the Good News" with a neighbor  spurred me to continue to do that  over the years.
  As I lay there this morning and thought about the neighbors we've been friends with - some very much like us - some very much like Joe who owned the Dobermans or worse - I knew that we've been right where God wanted us to be all these years. I really felt that God was saying to my heart that He kept us here (and a few other families like ours) to establish a beachhead so to speak in an area that needed one.
   Bottom line, I woke up this morning feeling like "we'd missed it" and I got out of bed knowing that we hadn't...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I come broken...

   This morning we had a guest pastor and he did a great job.    The preacher talked about a man named Mephibosheth - not your standard name, I guess. And certainly his story is as unusual as his name.  He was born into royalty and privilege, the grandson of King Saul.  But when Saul was on the run and his rival, David, was gradually amassing his own power, Mephibosheth's nurse grabbed him and ran. She knew the new king would most likely kill off everyone in the old dynasty and that meant the child was in danger. While she was fleeing, however, she fell with the child and both his legs were injured. He never walked again.  After Mephibosheth was grown, King David, in an extraordinary display of grace, sent for  him,  had Mephibosheth brought to the palace and insisted that the paralyzed man  be seated daily at his own table.  The grandson of the man who had once tried to kill him.  Grace.
    That's what the preacher preached on this morning and he made the story come alive.   Now I'd like to transition to another story and hopefully tie it all together at the end.
    The other story is from  the book Kisses from Katie, which I am still reading and still in love with.. more so than ever.  The book delineates Katie's  desire to "live Jesus" in front of the Ugandan people as well as  her deep need to bring as many orphans as she can to her "table" to eat.  This week I've read of so many hopeless cases, of kids who had less than nothing, kids who were near death, kids who were abused and hated, kids who had never known love at all, in any shape, form or fashion.  And although it's hard, she and her workers love and feed and minister to hundreds of children with amazing results. As if that isn't enough, she herself has adopted 14 girls - they are her girls in her mind as much as if she had carried them herself. She is their mommy.
    All of her stories have touched my heart but there is one in particular that came to mind this morning during worship.  After Katie had adopted 11 children, she told God that was enough, that she didn't need to adopt anymore.  During this time, an old grandmother walked 7 miles to Katie's house with her granddaughter tied to her back. The granddaughter, a two-and-a-half-year old, could not speak, walk, or use her hands to feed herself.  The grandmother wanted Katie to take the child but there was no way Katie could add another child to her family, especially one with special needs.  So she sent the grandmother away with some food. This happened three or four times.
   By this time, Katie was dealing with hundreds of children each day in addition to her own girls so over time, the grandmother with the little paralyzed child faded from her mind.   Then God began to burden her in the middle of the night and in the small hours of the morning. Katie would wake up and begin to pray fervently, knowing God was trying to tell her something but unsure what it was. She would read her Bible extensively, wondering what God was trying to say.  After several nights of this, God impressed on her in an unmistakable way that her next child was named Sarah.  She already had a Sarah and didn't feel she could handle a "next" child so she was confused. But again, God whispered that Sarah was her next child.
  She accepted this and  began to pray for "Sarah" until she reached the place where she actually longed for this unknown child. Finally she told God that she could not stand knowing there was a girl somewhere who was supposed to be her daughter and yet  being unable to find her. Would God please bring Sarah to her door?
  The next day, the grandmother showed up at her house with the two-year-old tied to her back.  Katie took the girl in her arms and asked the grandmother what the child's name was. Her name was ...Sarah.
    This was to be her 12th daughter, the one God had prepared her heart for, the one she felt she could not mother on top of the other daughters she already had. The one who could not walk, talk, or feed herself.  But when Katie took the girl in her arms that first time, after mentally realizing this was "Sarah", the little girl held onto her hand, looked at her and said, "Mamma" much to her grandmother's shock.
  Then the grandmother got down on her knees and begged Katie to take this child, saying that God had prompted her several times to bring the child to Katie, telling her that this foreign woman would be able to care for her sick grandchild. She added that she didn't know what was wrong with the girl and had never been able to take her to the hospital but God had told her this Mommy of so many girls would be able to help her granddaughter.
  The rest of the story is nothing short of a miracle. But I won't spoil the book by telling you what God did through Katie and her other girls to help this child.  You will want to read it for yourself.
  Going back to the service this morning, after listening to the story about Mephibosheth, who could not walk at all, I kept thinking about Katie's 12th daughter, who also could not walk.  A child who had nothing, a child who  had to be carried everywhere, a child who was broken in so many ways.
   Yet she was adopted into this family of plenty (by Ugandan standards) and seated as an equal at their table.
   Then, as this graphic picture went through my mind,  the choir began to sing the chorus:
    “I come broken… to be mended
I come wounded… to be healed
I come desperate… to be rescued
I come empty… to be filled
I come guilty… to be pardoned by the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God…just as I am.”

    And that's when it hit me:   I am the spiritual special needs child who can't do anything for herself and God is the one who has brought me into His home and seated me at His table; I'm the one who has been mended, I'm the one who has been filled.  And yes,  I am the one who has been "welcomed with open arms."
    More than that, I am the one who is learning from some of the neediest children in the world - children who truly know brokenness and who, because of that, as they come under the protection of Amazima Ministries, also know, fully know, the power and love of God.
   WE have a saying in the States, "If it isn't broken, don't fix it."
    I think God was saying to me this morning, "If you don't understand, really know,  that you were once broken, you'll never really know or  understand the love I lavished on you in order to raise you up and seat you at my table."
   One of the kids that Katie cared for over a period of time, a little boy who was starving, abused, and clearly dying of malnutrition and who is now healthy and actually loved by his family - this little boy runs after Katie's van whenever he sees it yelling something like, "Auntie Katie!  I love you! I am fine!  I am well!!  I love you!!!"  
   Today I left church in tears, knowing that I should be running  after the hem of God's garment  every single God-given day, crying out, "Abba! I love you!  I am well!  I am fine!!!  I  love you!!!"
   As Katie puts it in her book: God loves us...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dead Sea Salt Oatmeal....:)

     Our church is doing the Daniel fast for 3 weeks - it's up to each individual and family to decide what they want to do in the way of fasting, if anything.  Phil and I decided we would do most of the fast with slight alterations  and we wouldn't get hung up on legalism, that we would keep in mind that the whole idea is to draw closer to God, not to lose weight or become nit-picking,  prideful, critical, or even guilt-ridden.
    We are now on day 4 and I've cheated every day.  But not to worry - it hasn't helped much and I'm still hungry much of the time - the Daniel fast is healthy but somehow, not satisfying to a junk-food addict like me.
    Our son is fasting from caffeine but he's also been trying to eat what we eat when he's home because he didn't want to drag out the cheese burgers and Hersey bars in front of us.   He's had a major headache for three days and when he came home yesterday he had some valid questions about fasting - questions that have often entered my mind as well.
    How does fasting help us draw near to the Lord when, as the day creeps by, all you can focus on is food, cokes, chocolate, food, and more chocolate?
    How does fasting help if the change in blood-sugar, etc causes you to be tired, irritable and since we're being honest  - not very nice???

   I don't know if these are partial answers - or even no answers -  but it's what comes to mind as I think about our current experiment.
 A) The first part of a fast is a food-fight, literally, or at least that's how it seems to me.  It's after the fight has been won and victory maintained that something besides a two-liter Coke Icee can flit through your conscious mind.. .ha! (Not to mention Chocolate pudding cake, eggs and bacon, and... hmmm.  Probably best if I quit there...)

 B)  Also, fasts bring the scum to the surface. I think they are meant to do that.  What I mean is this:  the stuff I keep hidden down deep, waaayyy  behind a big smile and a "How are you doing???  Isn't this a beautiful day???" tends to come to the top during a fast. Irritability. Impatience. Selfishness.  Laziness. Pride.  Being judgmental.  Those things are probably always near the surface in my case but doubly so when I don't have my comfort food, I'm quickly finding out!

 C)  Fasts also bring priorities to light.   Take away my fun food and it soon migrates to the top of my list of things that I want, demand, and feel I can't do without.  Yet Jesus Himself is referred to as the bread of life and the Bible as words that are sweeter than honey. But I can skip quiet times frequently and feel no pangs of withdrawal whatsoever.  My priorities are clearly delineated when I try to fast (which I don't do often - trust me on this!)  Food fast?  Bible fast?  I now know which one gets my attention the quickest...

D) Fasting, at least today, has brought me to heartfelt, cut-to-the-chase, on-my-knees-before-God real time prayer. Wasn't prolonged prayer because it didn't need to be. As soon as my knees hit the floor, my heart was aware of His Spirit working deep within me, dredging up sin from the depths within me before leading me to  intercession that, unlike most of my prayers, was, I think, wholly in tune with His.    Monday and Tuesday my prayers were normal - dry toast type of prayers, spiritual laundry lists, formulaic.  Yesterday my mind wandered all over creation, mostly in search of a burger. Today God broke through and business was transacted.  It wasn't the way I normally think prayer should be but when it happened, I knew it was the real thing. Which told me a lot about most of the prayers I normally pray.

E)  Finally, fasting helps me to identify with people in the third world, which I think encompasses billions of people on the planet.

And that leads me to a quote from the book that I'm currently reading,  a book that I highly recommend. It's called Kisses from Katie and it's about a young woman who had everything and left it all because as she puts it, "Jesus ruined my life...":)    She said that as a young girl, about 12 years of age,  she began to really study the Scriptures.  She writes:  "As I read and learned more and more of what Jesus said, I liked the life style I saw around me less... Slowly but surely I began to realize the truth.  I had loved and admired and worshiped Jesus without doing what He said.... So I quit my life."  (P. XVIII).

She did indeed.

Straight out of high school, she packed up her things and moved from an affluent neighborhood in Tennessee to a small village in ... Uganda.  And I'm reading this book after an evening of complaining about the Daniel Fast.  Coincidence? I don't think so.  At midnight Tuesday night, I'm reading  Katie Davis's description of their main food in the orphanage, which she said tasted a little worse than Elmer's glue, and recalling half-joking complaints I had made earlier that evening about not having the foods that "normal people" eat all the time.  Hmmmm.... I think God got me on that one. What do you think?

Another passage really gripped me:
   People often ask me if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid.  I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable.  Matthew 10:28 tells us not to  fear things that can destroy the body but things that can destroy the soul.  I am surrounded by things that can destroy the body. I interact almost daily with people who have deadly diseases, and many times I am the only person who can help them. I live in  a country with one of the world's longest-running wars taking place just a few hours away.  Uncertainty is everywhere.  But I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction because I am running from things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance.  I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of illness or tragedy.  (P. XIX).
After reading that, there wasn't a lot more left to be said.  The very reason I was annoyed over the call to fast was because it disrupted my complacency, my comfort and now, in conjunction with her book, was challenging my ignorance.

But those are actually not the quotes I wanted to share with you:)   This is the passage that riveted me in the wee hours of Tuesday night/Wed. morning, brought tears to my eyes and a deeper understanding of why it pays to fast from everything but Him and His call on your life - as this sweet girl has done.

   The next few weeks [her first weeks of settling into her new home] were full of joy and frustration.  I slowly settled into my room, no bigger than three-by-six feet, in the back of the pastor's house.  His home was on the orphanage compound, where 102 children, ages two to eighteen, lived.
   I can't really explain in words the love I felt for these children or why I felt it.    I think many people would have looked at them and seen only their filthy clothes, the ringworm on their heads, or the mucus that ended up in a crust around their nostrils.  They would have looked around at the dormitories of the orphanage with its smooth, hard  cement floor where rats and cockroaches made themselves at home and been a bit disgusted.  By the grace of God, though, I didn't see those things.
  The truth is, I saw myself in those little faces.  I looked at them and felt this love that was unimaginable and knew that this is the way God sees me.  The children would run to me with gifts of stones or dirt and I saw myself, filthy and broken, offering my life to the God of the universe and begging Him to make it into something beautiful. I sit here in a broken world, small and dirty at His feet, and He who sits so high chooses to commune with me, to love me anyway.  He blinds Himself to my sin and my filth so that He can forge a relationship with me. And this is what He did for me with those precious children. He blinded me to the filth and disease, and I saw only children hungry for love that I was eager to share with them. I adored them, not because of who I was, but because of who He is.  I just sat right down on that cold, hard floor and snuggled my nose into their dirty necks and kissed their fungus-covered heads and didn't even see it. I was in love.  (P. 7).

And she was. Still is, judging by the joy that emanates from her book and from her face in the pictures.  As she lives the ultimate fast no less.

As I look at my bowl of no-frills tomato soup for lunch, I realize that everything is relative and that until I've lived in a third world country, I really don't know what a fast is.  And maybe, perhaps, I really don't know what complete joy is either.

Just thinking out loud...

By the way, her blog is and her ministry is called Amazima. And the book is truly awesome.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Someone worth listening to....

       To be a blogger, you have to probably be a little strange:)  My only comfort is that if this hobby of mine means I'm a bit weird, I am in good company!  There must be 40 billion bloggers out there and that being the case, I'm truly grateful if anyone reads mine.
    I realize that to ask anyone to read what I write is asking a lot in this day and time because A) I'm not succinct like other bloggers and B) everyone is so busy.  So one of my goals for 2012 is to respect the limitations of my own abilities and the time constraints of others.  Translate that to: I nearly killed myself trying to blog every day in Nov. and Dec. and it ain't going to happen agin... :)
    The only reason I'm writing so soon  again is to put the word out that there is a testimony on You tube worth hearing, or maybe I should say, there is a lady out there who is definitely worth knowing - someone I wish I could meet personally, someone I wish I could introduce to every loved one and friend I have.
   Her name is Vera Schlamm and she's with the Lord now, has been since 2008.  She grew up under the Nazis and she was Jewish so that probably says a lot about her formative years.  Her education ended about the ninth grade thanks to anti-Semitism  and her family eventually escaped to Holland. But, like Anne Frank, they still ended up in a concentration camp.  Miraculously they all survived Bergen Belsen, became part of a prisoner exchange, and then got  shuffled from Switzerland to Africa and back to Holland before the war truly ended for them. Eventually, they  made it to the States. When they arrived, although Vera had had no high school and it had been years since she'd been in a classroom, she read and understood 5 languages (some of which were self-taught) and she was accepted into a college.  From there, her professors suggested she go to med school, which she did.  And eventually she became a successful pediatrician in Glendale, California.

   Her testimony tells not only the main points of her life story but also delineates her search for truth and peace.  If you listen to her story, you will find that she is soft-spoken with a trace of an accent and more than a trace of serenity, even though she lived with health problems throughout her life due to various times of near-starvation when she was young. (For one thing, her growth was severely stunted; I  think she was only about 4 feet 9 inches tall.  For another, she had chronic edema throughout her adult life.).   A week or so ago, I found that her autobiography, Pursued, could be ordered through Amazon.  I was thrilled when I got it, not only because I could re-read her story (the first time I got it was through the inter-library loan system and they had to go out of state to find one copy) but because it was signed by her. Underneath her signature, she wrote, Isaiah 12:2.
    It takes 45 minutes to listen to her story which I know is a lot to work into overcrowded schedules.  And maybe you have to listen a little closer because of her accent although Phil and I had no trouble understanding her.  But I don't think you could find a better person to spend some time with on a long winter evening.  So if you would consider listening to the link below or bookmarking it for another day, I can't imagine that you would regret it.  Certainly, it won't be a waste of your time.  Hopefully, it will touch your heart the way it did ours.


Friday, January 13, 2012


     Life can seem  - and be -so complicated that at times, even as a retiree, I wish I could "streamline" things a bit more.  At the advanced age of 57, I've decided that if you want a life where all "your ducks are in a row", you need to A) never have a job  B) never get married   C) never have kids  D) never own a home  E) never remodel said home  F) never align yourself in any way, shape, form or fashion with utilities and/or tax people. Oh, and don't buy a car... Or groceries even for that matter...
   Basically life is messy, ducks waddle all over the place, and frogs don't have wings...
   Yet, the heart - or at least my heart - often longs for simplicity, for everything to be "right", all deadlines met, nothing hanging over my head or nagging at my subconscious, everybody happy, everybody well, etc.  But that isn't the way it is here.  Two days ago I went to the grocery store and on the soup aisle no less, this total stranger, a well-dressed woman who looked to be about my age, went off on a tirade about how the soup cans were smaller but the price had increased.  From there she leap-frogged  to the proposed pipeline from Canada and assured me, with a few expletives thrown in here and there, that more people died from the Alaskan pipeline than we'll ever know because the authorities are keeping it all a big secret.
  Ummm.... I just went in there for some cans of soup...
  And being a people-person, I hated to leave the poor woman ranting and raving at thin air so I stood there, tomato soup can in one hand and chicken with rice in the other and tried to commiserate with her even though I don't believe in national conspiracies that are first brought to light in the canned-goods aisle of Edwards Food Giant...  As she went on about how wealthy politicians are stiffing the ordinary people and how Obama will sort it all out if he gets re-elected, I'm trying to look sympathetic on the outside but on the inside I'm thinking, "Get a grip, lady!  Europe has been going belly-up financially these past few months, Syria is about to go into civil war, Iran is trying to get nukes and threatening to shut off the strait of Hormuz, Haiti is still trying to recover from a devastating earthquake that happened two years ago and you think  A) we've got it bad here???  And B) one man,  be he democrat or republican, is going to straighten all this out??
   Finally, I said something that I hoped was friendly, grabbed my grocery cart and fled, looking over my shoulder after I got in the check-out line to make sure she wasn't behind me.
   Life is complicated.
  Today on the way home from running errands, I put in a CD by Rich Mullins and found myself smiling, even laughing as one of his songs cut through the complexity of life and "put the world right" again for me.  In fact, several of the songs gave me much needed perspective but I wanted to share one in particular from the album, called "Songs".  Sometimes when I think everything is said and done, it all boils down to this:
  There's been sorrow and trouble
 In the world ever since
 But there's hope for us still 
In the Word God says 
If we just be smart enough to just say yes
Smart enough to say yes to Him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ten on the Tenth....

     We finally all succumbed to the requisite cold bug for wintertime in Arkansas.  David is almost over it; Phil and I are in the throes of it.  So this blog comes to you by way of Stopped-Up-Heads and Tissues-R-Us in the capital city of the great state of Woo Pig Sooie.. .Razorbacks... (And, no, I don't have any cold medicine in me as I write....Ha!)

     Things the cold bug has made me appreciate...
     1. First on the list would  be my sister-in-law and niece who brought us OTC cold medicine tonight and chocolate cake.  This may not sound like much. But neither Phil nor I feel like hunting for cold meds right now and we're running low.  Plus, my sweet sister-in-law can be within a 5 mile vicinity of a sinus germ and get sick.  So she went above and beyond the call of duty and we are grateful.  We never doubt her love for us.

     2.  I actually appreciate being able to breathe - something I take for granted every day. Now that we are all walking around with our mouths open, looking like Nemo underwater, I appreciate the effortlessness of daily breathing and feel for those who are permanently dependent on oxygen and other devices to help them breathe.

     3.  I am grateful that when I snap my husband's head off, he doesn't snap back.  (He says there is a reason why he doesn't but I don't think I'll go into that...)

   4.  I'm grateful that none of us had to go to work today. Work is a blessing but being able to lay in bed guilt-free when you could work but really don't feel like it - that is also a blessing.

   5.  I'm grateful for the rainy day we had.  Almost like mother nature is in sympathy with our blowey noses and our watery eyes... almost like the weather is cavalierly saying, "Take the day off!!  There's nothing you can do out here anyway in all this mud and such."  So.... we did!

  6.  I'm grateful for a warm house and electricity, blankets and also for  little dogs who curl up by your feet when you feel like heck.  Also for the two bird feeders in our front yard and the ability to watch the little guys come out in the rain to feast - a Cardinal against a grey sky, a small black-and-white Woodpecker hanging on to the small feeder.  Blessings...

  7.  I'm grateful for all the days when we don't feel like heck and for the fact that this is our first really bad cold of the 11-12 winter.

  8.  I'm grateful for the internet and the fact that I can listen to neat stories through Dr. Dobson's Family Talk Radio - people like Ravi Zacharias, people that I would never be able to meet or hear without electronic devices.  Being sick gives me the desire and the time  to sit still and listen.

  9.  I am grateful for the way the Lord meets me every morning when I open my Bible and prayerfully start reading.   This afternoon I was thinking that I didn't really have any friends to talk to and even if I did, they couldn't understand me since my head is clogged and I'm not exactly speaking English right now...:)  Then I remembered how He meets me every day and has lifted my heart every time over the past week or so and I felt joy, knowing my best friend is ready to visit  with me at the drop of a hat and I don't have to worry about Him getting my germs or understanding my words...

10.  I am thankful for all the blessings that God gives, both in this life and in the next.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Prayer for Every Day of 2012...???

   You never know what you will find on the net.  I've just spent an hour probably, looking at pictures posted by a girl I've never met, had no clue she even existed.  Her name is Jessica Joy Rees and she just graduated to Heaven two days ago at the age of 12.   The info. at her website and the pictures on her Facebook page pretty much tell it all, although I think maybe I learned more from her FB photos than the webpage.  (  And I think it's because under each FB picture, Jessie posted comments that spoke volumes about her family, her faith, her mission, and her joy in life.  Usually she just wrote a sentence or two, sometimes just a phrase but each entry gave a day by day snapshot of who she really was (and is).
   Perhaps the thing that amazed me most were the pics she posted of other children with cancer.  Underneath each pic, she had words of encouragement and/or a request for prayer for each child.  Clearly, she struggled with her own cancer at times and went through things most of us hope we never ever have to endure.  But her motto was Never Ever Give Up (NEGU) and she not only  lived that motto but, even as ill as she was, spent her time encouraging other children to live the same way.
   Romans 8   says:  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
   Jessie had hope that she would be totally healed and that hope is now realized in ways she could not have imagined.
   Her parents had hopes that she would be restored to health here on earth. Their hopes were not realized and now they have a hard road ahead of them to walk as do her siblings.  
   As I read about her (and thought about other children/young people who  have also gone to Heaven way before their time due to this illness), this is what I felt:

   1. If we are blessed with life, we need to use it.  The quality of Jessie's life as she fought an inoperable brain tumor was diminished  but she appreciated the life she had, however limited,  and used what little energy she had  to pour life into others.  If she could do that, surely I can get up off my arthritic knees and do something as well.  Bottom line: it's not the quality of life that we have, it's life itself that is the gift.  And it's not how much energy we have, it's how much motivation we have that drives us.  

  2.  Her father is a pastor and I'm guessing he's a good one. Certainly the entire family pulled together in love and faith, rallied behind Jessie and reached out to thousands of kids right along with her.  I'm sure they prayed in faith for her healing and did everything right.  But God chose to heal her in Heaven.  Sometimes His ways are past finding out here on earth and to think that faith always protects us from hard times is a lie that does much damage.  When my mom had cancer, someone sent her a quote from a missionary's talk. The quote said, "We know that God delivers us from trouble .. but not always.  We know that God delivers us out of trouble... but not always.  We know that God sustains us in trouble... always."  Jesus Himself said in John 16:33   “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Or as Beth Moore put it:  God may deliver you from the fire, or He may deliver you out of the fire, or He may deliver you by the fire to His place in Heaven.  He always delivers but not always in the way we want and if He delivers one child of cancer here on earth and not another, it has nothing to do with the children, their parents, or their faith - it has everything to do with His sovereign plan which we simply aren't able to grasp at this time - never having seen the other side of the curtain.

3.  One thing I need to do - and I hope others will do also - is to commit to pray regularly, faithfully (daily, I hope) that childhood cancer will be eradicated.   When it's gone, when there is a reliable cure, there will be one less evil in our sin-cursed environment.   I hope others will join me in this. I know there's a ton of things to pray for every day but my plan is to put this plea on my daily list. 

4.  Another thing I need to do is to support kids here in my area who have cancer. And, if I can figure out how to do it, I think the best option right now would be to purchase a Joy Jar so that a child here would be able to get the gift of joy that Jessie herself would give if she were here to do  it.  And then pray that all the cancer kids in this area get their own jars in the near future.  What a neat thing that would be to have happen - if it hasn't happened already.  Honestly, that would be something to blog about!

Amazing how a random headline on Yahoo can change my thoughts entirely. And this time, for the good!

Now how else can I end this blog but with the motto of her own heart?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Random moment...

     Okay. I think this is probably very un-cool...  But I filched a little bit here and there from a book I did not buy in the Christian book store - but I will... I promise!!!  I didn't rip the pages out of it or anything... Just read snatches of it here and there and then thought, since I'd already gone over budget on books in Dec., that I'd wait until later to get it.   The book is called The God Pocket by Bruce Wilkinson and I can't recommend it one way or the other... 'cause I clearly haven't read the whole thing.  But I grasped that the idea is to take one pocket (or compartment in a purse?) and  carry money (I'm thinking) in it and then consider that "God's pocket".  The next thing is to ask God to lead you to someone  He wants to bless and then when you feel Him urging you to do that, you give whatever is in God's pocket to that person and make it clear that gift came from Him.
    Honestly, I wasn't thinking about the book today when I went out to run errands. I did have a good quiet time this morning and  at the same time figured out one reason why I needed to retire.  I'm finding  that it takes a bit longer than 15 or 20 minutes to get my head straight, my heart quieted, and my will yielded to His.  So now, after running most of my life on low-grade spiritual octane (with a lot of secular ethanol thrown in there I'm sure), I'm finally, on some days, spending enough time with the Lord to actually look (and sound) like I've been hanging out with  Him instead of chilling with Maxine.
   At any rate, today I headed to one of my favorite places in the whole world - Chick Fil A - and when I got there, it was lunch time which meant the line for the drive through  was gi-normous!!!  So I had time to think and as I did, I remembered that one morning when my husband was going through McDonald's to get his breakfast,  (yes! I know I need to cook more...) he got to the window to pay only to find that the person ahead of him had already paid for him.  He was puzzled  but also happy that someone would do a random act of kindness like that; it really got his day off to a good start.
   So here I am with a gazillion cars in line in front of me, trying to remember how sweet the Lord was to me this morning in my quiet time instead of becoming impatient and berating someone (anyone!) for the fact that I was having to, of all things, wait for my fast food, when I suddenly remembered how Phil was blessed months ago by a total stranger.
   I felt a spiritual nudge, which I thought/hope was from the Holy Spirit, to do the same to the people in the car behind me.  Only their vehicle was a lot more expensive than mine and so I wasn't sure I had heard right!  The feeling, however, persisted.  So I began to think about how a person would go about doing this.  I mean, when I got to the window, what would I say?  I'd like to pay for my order and also for the order behind me as well?
   I mean would that cause the young worker to get confused?  Or look to see if I was acting like I had an "invisible" friend, like Harvey the Pooka, in the back seat of my car?  Would he or she then turn to another co-worker and roll their eyes around while making circles near their head with their index finger?
   Or would they simply have trouble understanding what I was saying and ask me to repeat it several times, clogging up the line and causing the people behind me, whom I want to bless, to get ticked and honk their horn at me???
   Really, I guess the big question behind all this was: am I crazy?  (Never got an answer to that one...)
   When I got to the window, the young man told me the total due  and I handed him my card. (Love how things don't cost real money anymore.. ha!)  Then before he turned away, I said, "And I'd like to pay for the car behind me as well."  He did a double take, raised his eyebrows momentarily, and then almost instantly regained his composure, simply saying, "Alright."  He ran my ticket and handed it to me and then ran the other and handed it to me, along with the card. As he did, he told me the second  total. (Thank goodness the people behind me weren't big eaters!  That was one relief!  For a minute or two, it had crossed my mind - what if they are picking up an order for 10 people in their office or something?)
   As I was starting to drive off, the young man  quietly said, "That was nice." which was another relief!  He didn't think I was crazy!  We wished each other a Happy New Year at that point and honestly, it felt great.  The only thing was,I realized later that  I forgot to say something about having a blessed day or whatever to clue him in as to why I was doing it.   But at least it went off smoothly, without any real hitch and I was very happy.
  However,  in the few minutes it took me to cross the freeway to get to  Wal Mart, I was thinking, "Cathie, that was stupid!!!  Those people probably have a lot more money than you do and you don't even know them.  For all you know, they could be total boors who would just take the free food and laugh at how the world is full of suckers...  You can't be sure God impressed  you to do that!!"
   As I was walking across the lot to Wally World, the Jimmy Stewart part of me started coming up with answers to silence the Maxine part of me... :)  And as I was mentally batting the pros and cons of what I'd just done back and forth, it suddenly hit me:  yes, the people behind me could have been louts even though they looked very decent to me; they could have been ax murderers for all I know, although I doubt it seriously.  But by the same token, they could be the salt of the earth, people of the highest caliber, good people who were having a down day and needed a little lift, a blessing out of the blue. And since I don't know them, I can choose to think the best of them!
   Bottom line: I realized sometimes it's easier to give to people you don't know than it is to people you do know, oddly enough.  Sometimes when I buy gifts for people I know, I think, "Why am I doing this? I think they just re-gift the stuff I give them! " or "I'm pretty sure they made Santa's bad list this year but... if I don't give them something, the fat will hit the fire and I don't want that, etc..."
    And then my thoughts went a step further.  I thought of all that God has given me, knowing every crevice and crack in my heart, every selfish deed and every nasty remark I've ever made or ever will make as well as all my unspoken judgmental attitudes, fears, and whiny thoughts.    He knows me.  He knows us. And yet He generously lavishes gift upon gift, pours out grace upon grace knowing full-well who I am, what I am, and how I'll act in any given situation.
   He knows me.
   And yet,
                    He gives.....
                         That's pretty awesome!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Living and learning...


 This morning as I was trying to have a quiet time, our rat terriers were not so cooperative.  And I had bribed them already!!!  Each dog had already  had his/her moment in the sun: they'd been outside for a short time so that they could take care of business, bark at the neighbors (maybe not such a good idea since one is bi-polar and likes to smoke weed.. but... I digress...), and chase an elusive something-or-other that apparently lives in the bushes next to our porch.  I say elusive because they sniff around the hydrangea bush every day and every evening and have for the last two years or so... without ever catching anything.
    Then I let them back in the house where each has his/her own pillow beside my chair and each dog has a leather chewie.  So now that they are settled, I can have a little peace and quiet, right?
    Ummm.  No.
    Lilly doesn't really like chewies.  Buddie is addicted to them. So she tries to keep her treat solely in order to prevent Buddie from having it. Which means that she spends minute after eternal minute, digging at her pillow  in an infuriating fashion, trying to "bury" her treat  in plain sight.  (She could be a poster-dog for the word "futility".)  After Buddie finishes most of his treat, he sidles over next to her pillow, where she hunkers down and begins to growl at him.   All this for a treat she doesn't even really want.
    Eventually, she decides that there is something she wants and so she abandons her post to stand in front of me and whine.  I try to ignore her but she continues.  So, eventually she wins.
   I get up and let her out only to see her sniff around the Hydrangea bushes and the Ivy  for the billionth time  and even though I know she speaks no English, I advise her to give it up. (I'm sure there is a lesson here somewhere... ha!)   I mean, two years of sniffing around the same foliage??? Come on!  Give it a break already!!
    When I let her back in, lo and behold, Buddie has snitched Lilly's chewie and is back on his pillow tearing it to pieces, his own half-eaten beside him.  What a pig!  (I mean, dog...)   So I take his left-over chewie and put it on Lilly's pillow where... she proceeds to try to - you guessed it - bury it!
    Meanwhile, the lizard or whatever (pretty sure it's not an anaconda - think we would have seen that by now) is still meandering around the bushes and it's only a matter of time before Lilly remembers her nemesis still lives and abandons her post to go after it, leaving yet another prized possession vulnerable to the high thievery that goes on around here.
    As I was sitting here feeling superior to my dogs, which is not too hard to do, by the way, I tried to persevere with my prayer time.  There are names on the list that are easy to pray for; others not so easy.  (Lord.. (whine, whine)... they stole my chewie.. Ooops, where did that come from???   I mean, they stole something that was rightfully mine...)
    Or as Ann Voskamp puts it in her book, One Thousand Gifts, "Though I can hardly whisper it, I live as though He stole what I consider rightfully mine: happiest children, marriage of unending bliss, long, content, death-defying days.  I look in the mirror, and if I'm fearlessly blunt - what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I've got - this simply isn't enough.  That forked tongue darts and daily I live the doubt, look at my reflection, and ask:  does God really love me?"  p. 14
   Wait a minute!  She's not talking about someone on her prayer list who has what she feels is rightfully hers; she's talking about God as the someone who has withheld what is rightfully hers. God described as someone who... owes her. In her heart, that is what she believes.
   Wish I could say I've never been there  but.. I can't.  I frequently,  earnestly  petition God to give me what I feel deep inside is mine by right.   Happy, healthy, productive kids; the perfect marriage; long life with no joints that ache or vision that blurs. And if I feel He isn't giving it to me or won't promise to keep on giving it to  me, I can get angry, upset, depressed.
    Today I started a second list for 2012 (in addition to my 1,000 Things to Be Thankful For).  This list is just snippets of things that I learn about God - who He is - as I read through the Bible.  Among the things I wrote down today are:
    Who is God?

  •      He is the One who makes ungodly people righteous.... Romans 4:5. (That's great when He does it for me; not so sure when He does it for obvious reptiles-skulking-in-the-bush or for the ones-who-growl-at-me-and-steal-my treasured possessions.  Or even for the ones who honestly come by treasures that I honestly, although secretly,  believe should really be mine!).
  •      He is the One who used His unmatched power and wisdom... to  predetermine, plan and carry out the crucifixion of His only, beloved Son.  For me.   Acts. 4:28
  •      He is the One who took Am-ha'aretz*  (men like rough, uncouth fishermen such as  Peter) and transformed them into persons of stature, men of power who caused the educated not just to glance at them, but to turn and stare at them, impressed.  Acts 4:13  
  •      He is the one whose glory will someday cover Mount Zion like a wedding canopy, a chuppah; once again showing Himself by smoking cloud during the day and as a shining, flaming fire by night. Isaiah 4:5
Sooo... on second thought, maybe I should quit beating around the same ol bushes, quit thinking in terms of what He (and others) owe me, and get on with living in the light of His glory.

Hoping I'm someone who can learn.. even from a couple of Rat Terriers...  But... just in case I can't, keep your paws off my Cheetos, my Kindle, and whatever you do, don't come callin' on Sunday afternoon 'cause that's my nap time...Ha!

*(Am-ha'aretz, according to The Complete Jewish Bible means people of the land. But in the time of Christ, it carried a bad connotation, basically meaning boors back then).