Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Good Night, Olive Oil!!!


 I love Christmas.  I am un-apologetically in favor of decorations, lights, trees, Christmas carols,  the whole works.
      I  love my Amaryllis plants.  I feel compelled to rescue them from the indignity of the boxes where they start to bloom and then are stunted.  The only place in our house where they can get enough sunlight is on the kitchen counter top and usually by the time they get to our home, they are in sad shape. So my long-suffering husband sets up Amaryllis triage by putting a fluorescent lamp on the counter, providing 24 hour critical light care for our orphan plants.  Although  he occasionally grumbles about how our kitchen is becoming a jungle,  I don't mind!  (He told me tonight he loves the moths that hatch out of them and the little yellow spit that they drop all over everything???? Have no clue...)  At any rate, I know he doesn't mean it when he stands in front of the plants and imitates a Macaw...  Not much, anyway:)  Even more to the point,  I know that when our little "jungle"  suddenly blossoms, he will be as amazed at how fast the plants grew and as awed by their unique beauty as I always am.  (He just hides his unbridled enthusiasm better than I do...;)
Phil and I when it's time to decorate the tree... Guess which one I am...
     Then there is the tree.  Today I got my Hallmark decoration for this year - our tree will never, ever win "Best Tree of the Year" award nor will high fashion magazines ever be beating down our door to take pics of our identity-stricken tree.  But I love it!  Ornaments from my mom, from my college years, and all throughout 26 years of marriage.  Eclectic is good!!  Early attic decorations suit me just fine!!  Whether they all match or not - whether I place them on the tree and then realize belatedly that there are inadvertent issues, like  Tigger appears to be reaching for Olive Oil's posterior (fixed that little snafu...)  I still love my tree. It holds literally 58 years of memories and no designer fake pine can match that:)
     These are just a microcosm of the memories our tree holds:
     Olive Oil, who has safely moved away from the rambunctious Tigger, calls forth a 54 year-old memory of me, lying in bed, waiting for Grandpa to yell, "Good night, Olive Oil!"  Then and only then would I  holler, "Good night, Popeye!" and snuggle in to sleep.  His last words to my mom were, "Tell Olive Oil I love her."  I didn't need to hear the words, I'd already gotten the message loud and clear from the four years of love that he lavished on me.  He was Popeye the Sailor Man, my protector from the things that go bump in the night. I was the Most Beautiful Woman in the World.  (Only I couldn't paint my toe nails in one fell swoop like she could...)  When I get to Heaven, oddly enough, I hope the first thing I hear is "Good Morning, Olive Oil!"
     Thomas the Tank was David's hero when he was four and so the phrase  "You've been a useful engine today!" became a sort of family saying around here and still is... One of those inside jokes that I think he'll remember decades from now just as I remember yelling, "Good night, Popeye!"  When I see that ornament, I remember his little kid face, eyes shining, as we hung Thomas where he could see it without standing on tip-toe.
     The cheap little wooden snowflake, painted white, is always in a prominent place on our tree.  Someone in my Lamaze class painted "David" on it and gave it to me for his first Christmas.  Monetarily, it's probably worth all of 50 cents but how can you put a price on something like that?  When I see it, I remember how he  fit in the crook of my arm that first Christmas and I wonder where the years have gone.
      I'm sure you get the picture...
      If you don't, feel free to come to our house. I'll give a guided tree tour of our family history, complete with hot chocolate and  popcorn.

     I guess I'm saying, it doesn't matter if everything matches or not; enjoy what you have while you have it and for every decoration you hang, for every carol you sing, for every plant you raise (or try to raise...:) slow down and know that a memory is being made, a seed is being planted, a little bit of love is being sown.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gotta dance!!!

     I love old movies and one of my favorites is a Jimmy Stewart film called Shop Around the Corner.  It's set in a small store where the main characters do their best to sell wallets, cigar boxes, belts, handbags, etc. while living out the drama of their lives.  Not lives of quiet desperation but seemingly quiet lives (for the most part) with strong passions underneath!
    I love the movie because the deep issues of life, like the fine imported pigskin wallets they sell, are handled delicately and with humor. At one point in the movie, a salesman tells Clara, the main salesgirl, that he wants to buy the last musical cigar box in the store.  Clara knows that her colleague doesn't like this item at all.  So he explains, "I want to buy it for my brother-in-law for Christmas.  It's a lot of money but it's worth it!  You see, I don't like him - I don't like him at all... So it's worth it to spend a little extra to buy him something that he will hate..."
    I always laugh at that line!
    Yet as I think about giving, I realize it is not such a simple thing. And maybe that line in the movie is more than a line...
     At this time of the year, you may hear things like, "How much should I spend on Aunt Bertha?  She always spends a lot on us so maybe I better go for this higher priced item instead of the sale item... And get it gift-wrapped....  On the other hand, if I spend more on Bertha  than I do on  Nelly, then Nelly will probably get ticked and I'll never hear the end of it... once she starts speaking to me again.  On the other hand, it might be kinda nice not to have Nelly calling us every five minutes to tell us how to live our lives sooo.... maybe I will get the expensive item for Bertha...and the sale item for Nelly... I can always justify it by saying..."
    Tit for tat; this gift for that person... Second guessing what we've bought after we get it home... Wondering how our largess will be received... Maybe also hoping our miserly side won't be discovered...:) Wondering, possibly, what we will get in return - a hug or a frown, a piece of jewelry or a veggie chopper.  (Or as my mom got from her mother-in-law on their first Christmas together - a roll of toilet paper...  Sooooo not good....)
     Definitely, gift-giving can cause  a lot of to-do about something that may well last long after the Christmas tree is back in the box. Maybe we need a social calculator to figure up the ramifications of each gift before we buy it, wrap it up and actually put it under the tree!
     And then there's the Biblical injunctions to give -  not just retail to family and friends -  but also to give of your time, your food, your hospitality, your love.  To people who are total strangers.
     To people who could never pay us back in dollars and cents.  And yet, they can give back in other coin... They can smile, give a hug, offer us something small that holds no monetary value but speaks volumes about the state of their heart.  Just to see a total stranger radiate love and thankfulness or to receive an unexpected hug from a needy child is truly, in my book, the best gift of all. And you don't even have to stand in line to return it because there is no way such gifts "won't fit"!
    But what about when you don't even get that?
    What about when you open your wallet (fine imported pigskin or otherwise:), your cupboard, your home and/or your heart and receive almost nothing in return, except the persistent feeling that you are being used?  What about when you give your best to someone who smiles ingratiatingly before the gift is given and ignores you after it's been received? Or even looks disdainfully at you after they've gotten what they came for?
    What then?
     That, my friend, is the time to rejoice!
     To look up into the face of Jesus and say, "All for You!  Everything I did was for You and I'd do it again a thousand times over just to "see" the smile on Your face, just to feel the joy of Your heart!"
     On those days when you reach out to the needy just because.... Because Jesus said to - pure and simple... And you wonder if the person on the parking lot begging for food is scamming you or not.. And you give them some food and know instantly by their derisive expressions that they were...
      Rejoice! And pop  this Steve Green song into your cd player.
      Then get ready for your heart to burst with more happiness than it can hold as you and Jesus (and Steve)  just lose it all and dance with abandon (if not physically then spiritually.. still got those arthritic knees...) before the throne of God.:)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Great pain... great thanks...

     The giving of thanks...
     How and when do we do it?
     Jesus broke bread and gave thanks on the eve of His death.  He did it while surrounded by friends and disciples; one of whom would betray Him for money, one of whom would temporarily deny Him, and all of whom would abandon Him in His greatest hour of need.
     I don't get the impression that Jesus was panicky as He lifted His eyes to Heaven and thanked His Father for the Passover Matzoh they were about to eat.  Later, in the garden, He would pray through His upcoming ordeal and His agony would be so deep-seated that His sweat glands would burst and produce droplets of blood. So I know He is deeply aware of the ordeal that is coming  but I don't see panic in this passage, just a calm knowing and a giving of thanks.
     Knowing that Judas would betray Him and knowing that Peter would deny Him, He could have done a number of things. He could have tried to pressure Judas into staying his hand, into not going to the authorities to hand Him over. (And what could be more hurtful than to have a "brother", someone who has walked beside you, broken bread with you, and served you - someone who knows you are innocent - to not just lead the authorities to your private place of prayer but to walk up   boldly and give you a brotherly hypocritical kiss?  Wouldn't you just want to slap someone who did that to you? I know I would!)
   He could have, after Judas left the Passover gathering, said nasty things about Judas to the other disciples.  He could have stirred them up to the point that if they didn't stop Judas from betraying Jesus, they would at least have gone out and gotten revenge on Judas afterwards.
   But He basically gave thanks to God and then passed out food to His disciples whom, having loved for the past three years, He continued to love right up until the end. And beyond. And in spite of...
   I've been hurt. We all have.
   Some hurts are so deep that it takes a while to forgive. And even when the pain has subsided to the point where things are bearable, it still takes the supernatural grace of God to wash that bitterness right out of our hearts.  In my experience, if the hurt is deep enough, it's not something we can wish away or work away by our own efforts.  And it's not something we can sing away while burying it in the dungeon of our innermost being. It has to be acknowledged and it has to be forgiven by His power and it has to be washed away completely by His blood.
    Simply put:  great pain requires great cleansing from the Great Physician.
    Without His cleansing, it's hard - maybe impossible - to truly have a thankful heart.  At least, that has been my experience and I am a champion at nursing my wounds and wanting revenge.  Sadly, it is something I excel at.  If you haven't seen that in me, it's because you either don't know me very well or I've done a good job of hiding it.
     So maybe instead of asking how do we give thanks, for me the big question for many years has been how do I extend forgiveness?  Like maybe  forgiveness 101 is a prerequisite for thankfulness 101...?
     I know that God can just flood our hearts with His own love and forgiveness in a moment of time and I've experienced that.  But then round two in an ongoing saga of betrayal and conflict comes along and  with it, not the thankful breaking of bread with those who would harm me, but the nasty thoughts of revenge and the desire to inflame all my friends against my perceived enemies.  Soooo very much unlike Jesus, my Lord.. but there it is.  If I told you anything different, I would be lying.
      So what did God do over time?
      First, He hammered me not once but several times with the injunction to do good to those who have hurt me, to give food to my enemy when he is hungry and drink when he is thirsty. (And maybe also  a place for my enemy to rest his head???:)    By His grace, reluctantly, hesitantly,  I did that. Not because I wanted to but because He kept bringing this to mind until I couldn't wiggle out of it any longer.  I either had to do it or disobey Him.  (Romans 12:17-21)
     And when I did it, although it didn't change the heart of my enemy as far as I could see, it did begin to change mine.
     Still, the progress was slow, often coming at a snail's pace.
     And then there was the injunction to pray for those who hurt you.  Jesus said it so I could hardly ignore it. For some reason, this was harder  for me than giving food.  Maybe because I knew if I prayed, it would bring God into their picture and I felt pretty sure He wouldn't stop at a meal or a gift card to a restaurant.  So,  I tried rationalizing the command away but when that wouldn't work, I prayed somewhat nastily:  God, break them until they are decent people... And then looked up to Heaven like, "Okay, God. I prayed! Is that enough?"
     Ouch!  What a contrast to "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing..."
     So we went to the next level.  Gradually he brought me to the place where I  could grudgingly pray, Father, bless them... and bring justice to them for what they have done to me... =/
     Ummmm... Still not there yet but getting warmer!  The truth  is that during those days, when I would try to ask God to bless them in specific ways, the words would just stick in my craw. However, to my shame, when I wanted to say nasty things about them, the words just flowed and flowed and flowed...
    So we went to the next level:)    The day came when God enabled me to pray that He would bless them in specific ways.. and mean it.  And with those first faltering, un-nasty prayers, came a sense of something different.  I knew He was bringing me out of something dark, like a spiritual compost heap - not to put too fine a point on it -   into something light, like the joy of His presence.  But there is something in me that still sort of  likes the dark.. . especially when I am wounded.
     It was a two-step forward, sometimes 3 step backwards process within.  Basically I was like a yo-yo, first  driven by resentment, then arrested by His love, then empowered by His forgiveness, and then sooner or later, sadly, brought back into the fray of "He-said-and-she-said-and-I-didn't-deserve...".
     And then He did something for which I am truly thankful:  He put a burden on my heart for the ones who had hurt me and prayer just began to flow from my heart for them. Frequently. Daily.  I was amazed. You see, I know my own heart very well but clearly I was just beginning to know His.  And even as I look back,  I wonder.... could it be that if I hadn't been hurt, I might never have crawled up into His heart and begun to know it the way I do now? (Not perfectly but better than before! And by the way, when you want to lick your wounds, there is no better place to crawl to than the center of Abba's heart!)
     At any rate, I knew He was bringing me along but I also knew there was still a holdout in one corner of my mind. You might say after all this:  Come on, Cathie!  You're telling me there's still something left!!! After everything He's done for you???    And I would have to say, "Yep, there still was.  I call it the Psalm 73 game and it was embedded deep within me.  It goes like this:  Please bless so-and-so as long as You don't bless them more than me...   As a child,  I expected  things to be ''even/Stephen" - maybe you know what I mean.
     Spiritually, I was still a child in this grown-up game, asking God,  Okay, whoever tries to do right get's the lion's share of the blessings, right?  That's how it works, God.  Isn't it??? And since I'm obeying You, asking You to bless them, then I can bank on the fact that You'll bless them.. but not more than You bless me, right?
   So, thankfully, He took me to the next level :)
    One morning during a quiet time, I felt like Jesus was standing beside me, acknowledging my hurt - He who bears nail prints in His wrists and His feet, put there for my sins - seemed to be asking me gently but firmly if I was ready to see blessing poured out on the ones I considered my enemies.  He doesn't need my permission for anything but somehow, I sensed that  He was drawing me openly into the process of blessing, asking me point blank if I was willing to be a participant in the blessing and restoration process.  At that moment, I realized that I had never really needed revenge at all; I simply needed to know that He understood. It was an ah ha moment that made me wonder how often I am convinced I need one thing when really I need something totally different, something much deeper.  I was grateful and told Him I was ready to see the ones I considered my enemies to be restored, to be made whole.  That I wanted them to be wrapped in His love and bring joy to His heart.
    But there was more.  A second encounter during a quiet time.  One minute I was  meditating on Scripture and the next I sensed that He was asking me a new question, a follow-up question, "Suppose I only have enough blessing to pour out on one family?  Which would it be - yours or theirs?"  I knew the question was hypothetical, that it wasn't about His capacity to bless - which is unlimited -  but about my deep-seated feeling that everything should be "fair and square", that He was really saying, "Cathy, what if I choose to bless them  but not you?  Would you still love Me then? And would you still allow Me to prayerfully  love them through you? Would you still want to see them restored, no holds barred?"
     He was presenting me with a major game-changer, a breaking-of-all-the-rules-so-I-can-love-with-abandon type of question. A test, if you will.   In my flesh, being a bean counter from infancy, I would never go for this in a million years.  But to my surprise I realized that  He had already plowed up some more of the hard soil of my heart and actually  prepared me for this very  moment.  I felt His grace and then prayer just bubbled  up from deep within me, "Yes, Lord, if You only choose to bless one family financially, let it be theirs and not ours.  Yes, Lord, if you  so choose  to bless just one... let it be them.. and not us..."
     This may sound odd to you as it once did to me. But it shouldn't.
      The Bible says that when I was hostile to Him, He took my sin and my shame and paid for all of it. With His life. On the cross.
     And that was just the first of the many blessings He has poured out on me; I the one who was once His enemy. I, the one, who can still slip back across the demilitarized zone of my heart and become His enemy once again,  temporarily.  I, the one who gladly takes everything His nail-scarred hand gives and yet grudgingly asks Him to withhold from others whom I dislike.

    How do we give thanks?
    It's not a simple question but I think the answer lies within another question:  how do we forgive?
    It seems to me that one can't really come without the other.
    And the answer is: we forgive as He forgave and we give thanks as He gave thanks, not always while sitting around a Norman Rockwell table laden with food and smiling friends, but sometimes  at an upper room table, containing bread and wine and surrounded by people who would deny us, abandon us,and even  betray us.

     On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it... I Corinthians 11:23-24.
     I'm so glad He did.
     Aren't you?

Friday, November 16, 2012

About the Last Post...

     My last entry, done just a whopping 20 minutes or so ago was venting, pure and simple.  I don't really care if my friends are all out at midnight getting Black Friday bargains. The idea of slighting Thanksgiving and turning the Christmas season into the Great Bargain Hunt of the year is unpalatable to me.  But it's part of our culture and I'm guilty too. (Not of the Black-Friday-on-Thanksgiving-night-shopping-thing but of shopping more than worshiping during this time of the year - yes, guilty as charged...)
   I feel I need to be honest with anyone who reads this blog but before that can happen, I have to be honest with myself. And sometimes I can feel bad without allowing myself to really know why... until something breaks down my resistance and the truth I've been hiding from is so prominent that I can no longer ignore it.
   What is really at the bottom of my general malaise today and my irritability tonight?  I don't think it's that I'm coming down with the virus that my husband has right now or even the constant reminder of Black Friday  bargains every time I get on the net.
    I think it's anxiety.  One of my closest friends on earth is sick with cancer, just now  coming off a very difficult chemo treatment and living right in Tel Aviv.  And I can't do anything about it except pray.  Which I do.  But clearly I'm also worrying.
    I know there are all kinds of arguments, pro and con, about the Palestinians versus the Israelis. I pray for both people and wish peace for all of them. And, having taught history for many years as well as having friends on both sides of the issues, I can repeat the pros and cons of this never-ending conflict myself and even delineate right now, from memory, the various wars that have occurred since Israel declared state hood. I can even visualize the various maps I've had my students fill out over the years and recite facts  about each conflict, along with the consequences, etc.
   But this isn't a political debate.
   It's war.
   And right now, all I want is for my friend (and hundreds of others like her, on both sides of the issue) to be able to concentrate on growing older - which G-d knows is difficult enough - without fighting the specter of man's inhumanity to man.
   There have been so many wars in the Middle East over the last 60 years or so and none of them have solved anything, many of them Arab fighting Arab or Persian fighting Arab, not all of  them Arab fighting Jew by any means.
    Tonight,  I think the correct way to diagnose my lethargic state over the past 24 hours or so is to examine my tears.
   They fall every time I see a new headline regarding the Middle East right now.
    I just want my friend (and hundreds.. thousands.. of others like her, both Arab and Jew) to be able to fight the twin enemies of cancer and aging without the specter of incoming missiles.
     And I think tears for  this war-torn land are appropriate right now.
    After all, Someone much greater and wiser than I shed tears over this very same area  hundreds of years ago.

    Someday He's coming back and tonight I can't wait for that to happen.  In the meantime, may the Prince of Peace bring His peace to troubled hearts in a troubled land. And may He keep my friend and her family safe from all harm.

Are You Kidding Me???

      Wal-Mart workers walking off the job on the eve of Black Friday?
      Hostess abandoning the iconic Twinkie?
      Maybe the Mayans are right after all... In which case, we don't need Black Friday at all since the world is slated to end before Christmas...
      So is this holiday going to be  a cross between Apocalypse II and the finale to the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, with everyone standing around a big burned-out crater singing about how Christmas came without all the packages, ribbons and bows?  Without the turkeys, the hams, the stuffing, and yams?  Without even... perish the thought (!) Black Friday bargains to kick off the season of love and good cheer???
      First of all, I applaud the Wal-Mart workers.
      Second of all, I don't like Black Friday.  It starts Thursday evening now, while grandma is still putting the last of the turkey away in tupperware containers.  What I'm saying is: Black Friday is crowding Thanksgiving... big time.  It's only redeeming feature is that it brings out the best in people.  Oh, wait!  Isn't this the event where a hapless shopper or two got literally  trampled to death by some eager bargain hunters...?  Well, scratch that point.
     Still, it's American to sleep on the sidewalk in order to get the best bargains the morning after Thanksgiving, right? Um... not sure...  Don't remember a Norman Rockwell painting on that one...  But anyway, we don't have to sleep on the sidewalk anymore because Black Friday actually starts on Thursday evening.
    Which means that instead of the sun standing still, the moon, um, speeds up a bit?? Or the sun does a fast-forward deal  so that Thanksgiving is actually a 20 or so  hour day instead of a  24 hour day?
     What I'm saying is this:   basically, we can't even set aside one full 24 hour period just for family time and the giving of thanks.  Just  1 measly day out of 365 and we can't even pause for the entire day?  What are we doing?  Tipping our hat to God (or not), gobbling down turkey and dressing, watching t.v., playing games, texting,  and then  bundling up so that we can run full  tilt to the nearest store to get more of what we've already got?
     Does God have anything to say about this?
     If He does, would He find any of us listening?
     Maybe Black Friday is a great way to start off the shopping season that leads to the big  Winter Holiday blow out  where we satiate ourselves with food and material things.  But it's a poor way to end our one day of giving Thanks and to initiate the start of the Christmas season, a time which, I think, is supposed to be about.. um... Christ.
     And not things.
     But I could be wrong.
     But if I am, so are Matthew and Luke.  Not to mention maybe Mark and John. You know.. those guys...

"...Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Luke 18:8
     Or will He find us all shopping...?

    Just sayin'

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Banana Story...


Right now I am praying (and have been praying) for something that from a human standpoint seems impossible.  Even as I lift this request to the throne of God, part of me wants to help my Heavenly Father solve this difficult quandary but every time I try, I come up against a dead end.  What I'm asking for is just not possible.
      These past two weeks, I have re-read Evidence Not Seen and I have listened to Darlene's testimony twice.
Why?  Because it boggles my mind that anyone could survive what she did and still say those were the sweetest years of her life.  In the midst of horror that I can't even imagine, she took every heartache, question, and need directly to the throne room of God and I'm telling you, He always answered her.  And when He answered, she knew it.
      I don't want to suffer like she did (and she didn't want to suffer like that either), but I can't think of anything more awesome than to have such a close walk with the Lord.  Part of it was because she had memorized tons of Scripture starting in childhood.  In times of distress, verse after verse would come back to her heart and when God spoke to her, it was usually through Scripture and/or snatches of hymns, often things that she couldn't even remember having memorized.  When she finally ended up in death row in a Japanese Gestapo-like prison, they took her Bible away from her but she said it was no hardship because she knew so much of the Bible by heart.  His word literally  sustained her.
      Also, when she was ten years old, she attended a worship service aimed at the young people of the church.  Towards the end of the service, the visiting pastor asked the teen-agers to consider coming forward to give their lives to God for His service, wherever that might lead them.
     She wished with all her heart that she was old enough to respond to that call.  And then she felt a hand on her shoulder but when she looked, there was no one standing beside her and she knew God was reaching out to her.  And she felt Him asking her, "Would you be willing to go anywhere for me, regardless of the cost?" She was thrilled to know that He had noticed her, a little girl from a small town with nothing to recommend her to His attention. And she whispered, "Yes, Lord, I would go anywhere for You."
This was the "good" prison...
     At the time, she had no idea that "anywhere" would include four years in various prisons under the Japanese as well as widowhood when she was only 26 years old.  But after those four years of deprivation, she could still say - only this time with deeper understanding - "Yes, Lord, I would go anywhere for You, no matter what it costs."
     Why? Because she was a glutton for punishment?
     No. In her words, those became the sweetest years of her life because she learned by experience that everything she had been taught in Sunday school about God's faithfulness and His love was true.  Absolutely true.
     From the first time I read her book 22 years ago, one story in it has stood out in my mind; I've never forgotten it.  I call it the "banana story" and   I know it so well that I thought I didn't need to read it (or hear it) again.  However this time, as I listened to her testimony,  to my surprise I picked up something new and I want to share that "something new" in this blog.
     At one point in her internment, Darlene was falsely accused of being an American spy and taken to a Gestapo-like prison where she was sentenced to die.  For three months she was starved and routinely beaten.  During those months, she suffered from three diseases - beri-beri, cerebral malaria, and dysentery.  The dysentery bothered her the most and so she asked God to heal her, if He would, and He did.  Later she realized she only asked to be healed of one disease and He healed her of all three.  As she would say, "Beloved, that's God..."
   But that's not what I want to write about today:)
   At one point, Darlene, managed to climb up to a transom window positioned over the door of her cell.  She had studied gymnastics in school and even though she was weak, she could balance with one foot on the doorknob and one foot on the window ledge and see outside into the courtyard.  She needed to get to the window when her fever was high because there was no breeze stirring in her cell.   Also, it helped to see other people, prisoners who were not kept in solitary confinement like her.
   One day she saw a native prisoner, a woman, moving towards a fence that was covered with Honolulu Creeper.  Whenever the Japanese guard would look in the woman's direction, she would stop moving. As soon as he turned away, she would sidle towards the fence once more.  Finally she reached the fence and when she did, a hand came through the flowering vines with some bananas. The woman grabbed them and hid them in the fold of her skirt and then began to slowly move away from the fence.
   Darlene said that when she saw those bananas, she could smell them!  She could almost taste them!  She remembered exactly how they tasted and she wanted one so badly that it was almost a physical hurt within her!
  So she got on her knees and said, "Now, Lord, if You could get me one banana, I would be so grateful."
  And then she began to reason.
  "Now, Lord, I know the two Gestapo-like men who interrogate me - I know neither one of them would ever give me a banana.  And I don't think the man who is on guard duty during the day would either.  But Lord, I think the elderly man who is on duty at night - I think if he knew I wanted a banana, he might get me one.  But I wouldn't ask him because if he was even caught talking to me, he would be shot."
   Then she said, "That's it..  There's nobody else who has any contact with me.  So, Lord, please forgive me for asking for a banana; I know it's just not possible.  And please don't think I'm not grateful for the rice porridge, worms and all, that I'm given. I really am grateful because I know I could be in here with nothing at all to eat. So please forget that I asked for a banana."
   The next day, the commander of her previous prison came to visit her.  This man had a vicious streak in him and probably was the last person she expected to see.  But at one time she had been allowed to witness to him about the love of God and that had affected him deeply. So when he received word that she was dying, he went from office to office to get permission to visit her.  When he was finally granted permission to see her, he could see that she was very ill.  He just looked at her and then went right outside her door and began to chastise the officers who had been torturing her.  She couldn't understand what he said but she could see the officers hanging their heads lower and lower.
   After he left, she realized that she had not made a 90 degree bow before the officers and that always was punished by a beating.  She was distressed and asked God why He hadn't reminded her to bow when the officers came into her cell.    Then  she asked God to give her the strength to go through another beating.
   When the door opened, she stood, expecting to be led to the interrogation room but instead, someone put a stalk of bananas in her room and shut the door. She counted them and found there were 92 of them!
   She had asked for one and He had given 92...
   As she would say, "Beloved, that's God... He delights to give over and abundantly beyond what we ask for."
  The lesson I drew from that is that I will continue to lay my impossible request before Him until He either answers it or leads me to quit asking because my request is simply not in His will for me at this time.
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable   Got any mountains you can't tunnel through?  God specializes in things thought impossible. He does the things that others cannot do.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This was....

     This was a hard fought campaign and I can't say the best man won the office of the presidency.  I don't know that I could have said it regardless of who won.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and this presidential campaign was close, hard-fought and undoubtedly divisive - more so than most of the elections that I remember and I remember quite a few.
      I've never heard a president encourage voters to go out and vote in order to get revenge.  But then, there are a lot of things that presidents have said over the years that I'm sure I missed so this may not be unique to President Obama  - probably isn't.  Still, it's not something to be proud of.
     A ballot is not a weapon or shouldn't be.
     A fetus is not a throw-away rag doll but a living  human being.
     A flawed health care system is not a reason to model ourselves after other systems that are flawed even more than ours.
     And heated comments on FB, either for President Obama or against him, are not a reason to de-friend people in either real or virtual living.  Presidents stick around for, at most, 8 years these days while hopefully friends last a bit longer:)
     I am disappointed in the outcome of the presidential election.
     And I honestly  feel it will not be good for the  nation in the long run - that's why I'm disappointed.
     However, I realize that many good people feel just as strongly that this is a positive thing for the nation.  How can I do anything but hope they are right?
     The  election is over and   Mr. Obama is not just the president, he is my president.
     As such  I have a responsibility to pray for him and to continue to  be the best citizen that I know how to be.   If I'm wrong, and I hope I am, then 4 years from now, our country will be better off than it is now.
    If I'm right, then four years from now, we will have the  opportunity to move in a different direction.  Our system is as fair as any that I know of and fairer than most. I don't think I can ask for more than that.
    As in all elections, time, not the voters or even the politicians,  will have the final say.
    And above presidential elections as well as all of time and space, this fact remains:
    In God we trust.
    That is the basis of our nation's origin and that is the basis of this blog.
    In God I trust.
    This is good because in my life time I've been a Democrat, an Independent, and a Republican..:)  So if my life motto had been:  In Politics I Put My Trust, my North Star would have been shifting around quite a bit over the years!   Presidents are interesting, necessary, and sometimes exasperating while  God is eternal, unchanging, and above the melee of politics.  He's the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow.
    Above all, He is love.
    So go find someone tomorrow, a friend, who aggravated the heck out of you by their political stance, and love them.  Do something non-political, preferably something that will leave both of you laughing with each other instead of snarling at each other.
    Presidents come and go and none of them have made us into a perfect nation yet...:)
    Friends hopefully stay around longer than presidents.
    And God is around for the forever long haul.
    Trust Him.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The film 2016

      Normally I avoid politics.  Why?  Because I lived through Watergate, became passionate about the film, All the President's Men, and read every book that I could find about Watergate.  At one time, I was an expert on that topic and could bore everyone about it in record time.
     I experienced outrage when an older person would comment:  "Well, all politicians are crooked.  Nixon just got caught, that's all."
     I knew that wasn't all.  Nixon did embezzle funds, for sure.  He and his men laundered illegal campaign funds, for sure.  They engaged in political dirty tricks that went beyond the norm, for sure.  And he even arranged to pay black mail money from the oval office, for sure.
    All of these things are "crooked" although I can't believe they are all characteristic of every national politician we've ever had.
    But what raised my ire then  was the fact that Nixon, in addition to these other things, tried to undermine our constitution.  Most people didn't get that.  Our founding fathers put in place a system called checks and balances.  Simply put, this means that each of the three major branches of our government can and should eyeball the other two branches, to make sure that no one person (or group of people) is trying to get above the law and subvert the system.
   Essentially, after that traumatic song and dance with the Watergate scandal, I vowed that I would never get super torqued over politics again. I would watch and I would try to discern and I would vote but I would not waste a lot of emotional energy on it.  I've kept that commitment and still am.  You can say "Obama", "Romney", "deficit", and "taxes" and I will not froth at the mouth. Promise!  (But probably best to avoid "Nixon" and "Watergate"... ha!)

   Four years ago, I told my students - and I meant it - that either way the presidential election went, the American people would be making history. We would either put an African American in the White House or a female and either way, this would be one for the history books.
   I love history. I taught it for almost 30 years.
   Unlike politics, world history was something that I felt a person could "sink his teeth" into; I felt it gave a broad overview and never lacked for fascinating people to either boo and hiss or praise and emulate.  I felt it was never boring (a sentiment my students, I admit, often didn't share :)
   Politics, especially in America, to me was something that often nickled and dimed me to tears... Should we raise taxes, should we lower them?  Do we pay off the deficit, do we not?  In a two-party system, where a strong independent candidate could muddy the waters and throw off the outcome of the election - but never really  win - I felt at times that our choice was between Tweedledum  and Tweedledee.  Traditionally, both candidates during election time try their best to move towards the center in order to appeal to as many people as they can.
   This is something President Obama did not do and I was somewhat shocked when he won.  But not dismayed.  It was time we started breaking barriers to the White House.  The main thing that concerned me was his lack of experience.  But he was clearly an intellectual and someone who could speak well -something not all of our past presidents could do...
   His idealism, I felt, caused him to be naive when dealing with foreign policy at times and that did worry me.
   Some of the things that he did made no sense to me.  Sending the bust of Churchill back to England - why?  It was a gift to the American people from one of our strongest allies.  When I first heard that he had done this, I thought people were making it up in order to malign him.  If I have to substitute in someone's office (and that is basically what the President does - he temporarily fills an office that ultimately belongs to the people) - I can hardly go in there, box up a gift that was given to the company by a business ally of well over a hundred years and send it back to them.  Even if I don't like the ally, that's not my place.
    But why would he want to insult our strongest, long-term ally?
    When I heard during the campaign that the president had a campaign worker who was also his pastor who was also radically insulting towards America, I thought that people were exagerating in order to smear the presidential candidate.  After seeing numerous tapes of this pastor's sermons, I realized they weren't but I still excused the presidential candidate - there must have been some other reason for sitting under such a radical, anti-American pastor.
    But when I learned that he sat under this pastor for 20 years, I had to ask -why?
    As one who loves internationals and also this nation - imperfect though it most certainly is- I can tell you that I wouldn't sit under a pastor who maligned other races for 20 minutes let alone twenty years... I would be out of there.
    So why did President Obama sit under such radical, often hate-filled, preaching for 20 years? And then appoint this pastor to his campaign until he was forced to remove him because of bad press?
    I think the film 2016 answers all of the questions above and many more.
    This election really is not about race - as in if-you-don't-vote-for-President-Obama-you-are-a-racist -any more than the Watergate issue was about embezzlement and illegal campaign funds.  The issues here are much deeper and go to the heart of our history and our constitution.
    I would encourage everyone to watch the 2016 film while it is available on you tube.  President Obama is not a demon or a terrible person. He just has  a different world view -one that he is entitled to but one that should not be calling the shots in the oval office.
   Whether a candidate likes our past or not, he should respect it.  (And I don't know of any historian, myself included, who likes everything our nation has done in the past).  Whether he agrees with our long-term allies or not, he shouldn't snub them. Definitely, he should make new ones if possible but not diss the ones who have proven their loyalty in the past.  And whether he agrees with the political vetting process for advisers (i.e., choosing the members of his cabinet), he shouldn't get around that system by appointing czars who are accountable to him only.
     Again, I would encourage you to watch the film 2016 - it's about an hour in length.  The director clearly had an agenda but it wasn't a racist, hate-filled agenda. He wanted to understand what makes Obama tick and I think he does.  If anything, the film made me feel sympathetic to the president while understanding for the first time: clearly this race is not about taxes, health-care, or the deficit.  It's about ideology and where America will go from here under another four years of President Obama's leadership, should he be re-elected.
     Whether you are for or against President Obama, every voter should watch this film.

Friday, November 2, 2012



    I'm sure this will be about as popular as opening your front door only to find a dead rat on the doormat. (Present cartoon company excluded..)

      But here goes.
      I'm tired of hearing proponents of the medical marijuana bill argue in favor of it by talking about alcohol.  There!  I've said it!
      First,  I've heard "alcohol and marijuana are both drugs" quite a bit recently and  I agree. But they aren't the same.  I've heard people say they like to have a glass of wine with their dinner in order to relax but they stop there.  They will say things like "One  glass in the evening is my limit...  That's about all I can handle. After that I get silly, vacuous,  etc."  I've never heard anyone say, "I smoke one joint in the evening to relax but then I stop; after that I start to get silly..."  I've seen people sip a glass of wine and I've seen people right after they have clearly inhaled (ha!) a bit of weed and there's a big difference between the two.  There's a reason why drinking a glass of white wine with dinner is considered sophisticated while smoking a joint is not.
     Second, yes, alcohol is a drug and it is the most abused drug around.  However, this is NOT an argument in favor of legalizing marijuana.  The reason alcohol is the most abused drug around is because... duhhh.. it is legal and therefore widespread with no stigma attached to its usage and/or penalties for buying it.  When a person says, "Alcohol is the most abused drug in America...!"  they might as well go ahead and complete that thought:  "And if marijuana is legalized the same way alcohol has been, it'll go the same way...!"    If you are going to argue in favor of legalized marijuana, please drop the illogical references to alcohol...  I'm beginning to think that logic, not alcohol, is the most abused thing in America right now.  (Come on, Nov. 6th!  I am sooo ready for all this to end!!)
    Third, if a chemical in marijuana can help cancer patients and there is no other drug available that can, then I'm for its medical usage.  I know it can help increase appetite for those who are on chemo and I think that's a valid argument 
    On the other hand, I've heard from a medical person who has worked in hospice for years and now supervises hospice centers all over her state and she's said  that she's never seen cancer pain that could not be controlled with the current pain meds available.  So I don't know how valid the "marijuana-is-needed-to control-pain" argument is.  I do  know there are quite a few who say it's necessary for pain management.  One of those would be a relative -  only she can't say it because she's deceased. She used marijuana to manage her pain from colon cancer because she didn't want to face surgery. And it did help her manage pain... until she got lung cancer.
    But I digress...  Back to the current marijuana bill.  If a chemical in marijuana is the only medicine that will help some patients,  I can see it being legalized in a very restricted fashion.  However, I do not want my tax dollars going to pay for dispensaries (not pharmacies) to dispense joints nor do I want my tax dollars to go for home-grown marijuana for these dispensaries.  (On the other hand, to be fair, I must admit that at least  four  of my neighbors would actually have had a legal income if the law that is currently on the ballot had been adopted 10 years ago.  (And if they had  legalized prostitution at the same time, voila!  the couple next door would suddenly have become a two-career family... You may think I'm kidding but, sadly, I'm not.)
    I guess I'm saying this:
    If you tell me "I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana because alcohol is the most abused drug in America", I'm going to think that you've smoked one too many joints in your life.
    If clinical research shows that there is a real need for medical marijuana that no other drug can handle and the medical establishment backs this up, then I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.  I'm not interested, however,  in arguments like, "My granny smokes marijuana for her arthritis and I reckon that since she's 102,  it's obvious she ain't interested in getting high..."  If a person is  102 and has chronic joint pain, it's possible they are more interested in getting high than they ever were in their twenties...
    But even if you convince me that marijuana has a niche in health care that no other drug can fill, I still am not in favor of the government dispensing joints so that patients can go home and light up, any more than I would be in favor of the government dispensing morphine so that patients can go home and inject it into their veins.  (And, I might add, without going through a pharmacy even to get the drug).
    Everywhere I go, I see "no-smoking" signs.  Why?  Because smoking is bad for your health - and we don't even allow it in most public places even though it's very clear that some people really  need it to calm their nerves. (Just work beside someone who is trying to kick the nicotine habit and you'll know what I'm talking about.)
    Well... hellloooo... marijuana is harder on the lungs than regular cigarettes and, unlike the marijuana of yesterday, what we have today is highly addicting.  (A neurologist told me this once but I didn't fully believe it until I saw it in living technicolor - our church worked with a mom and a dad who had a lot of financial needs - both had kicked hard drugs but could not quit marijuana.  Which is awkward when mom is enjoying her high in a room that is thick with smoke -oh! Would that be second-hand smoke by any chance? - while four kids are scrounging for food and asking the neighbors to shampoo their lice-ridden hair so the school nurse can admit them back to class.  So they can get breakfast and lunch again Monday through Friday.)
    So if there is some way chemists can extract the main ingredient from marijuana and dispense it through a pharmacy to patients who either take it in pill form or receive an injection from a qualified nurse, I'm fine with it.  Otherwise, no, I can't see paying tax dollars to enable sick people to smoke (and yes,  inhale) a highly addictive substance that will do more damage to the lungs than nicotine will and can be harder to kick than crack.
   At least, that's what our former neighbor told us and I guess he told the truth since he'd been in the pen three times for hard drugs and then when he tested "dirty" after falling out of a bucket crane at work (odd, that... ), the tests just showed some good ol' medicinal Mary Jane in his blood stream... but no crack.
                                            Just sayin'...