Thursday, October 16, 2014

Take a Bite Out of Evil...

Sitting in my favorite armchair this morning, reading my devotional and praying, when Phil came in with the newspaper and offhandedly said, "Well, it looks like the devil is winning..."
Indeed it does.
Terrorists butchering people overseas and kidnapping innocent young people. 
War and rumors of war.
Tales of terrorists trying to infiltrate our own country.
Ebola spreading like wildfire in Africa and now within our own borders.
Political accusations amid questions about how competent our experts are.
So many things going on that, yes, it seems like evil is having a field day.
And then there is the human heart...
In fact, doesn't much of this spring from the heart of man? Not ebola but maybe the way we've handled it? Like it's not serious when it's in a third world countries overseas but now that it's in Dallas, it is. Like politicians and experts pointing fingers at each other instead of stepping up to the plate and saying, "We dropped the ball and now we're changing things asap."
And then there is my heart...
Wow. I can pray and fast one day and then nurse a grudge for three days... I can sit with a neighbor and talk about the goodness of God and then fly off the handle a few hours later when someone hurts my pride. I can be super critical of someone who annoys me and totally ignore the fact that I have habits that annoy them. I can recognize that we need to "cut back" financially and then go out and buy something on impulse because "I'm having a bad day" or "because it was such a good buy." And I can even look up into the face of God, who loves me, and tell Him I'm tired of having to forgive, and love, and pray for those who have despitefully used me.
And then be totally surprised when He lovingly responds, "But, Cathy, I love you even though you have despitefully used Me..."
Evil stems from the human heart.
Mine and yours and theirs. It's just a matter of degree.
And the only answer is to get a new one.
Ezekiel 36:26 has a free give away on heart transplants.
John 15:4, John 8:31-32, John 10:4, and I John 1:9 contain instructions on how to maintain your new heart.
With every new heart, evil takes a hit and goodness wins. 

Friday, October 10, 2014


     Random thoughts from my first week as a sixty something  geezer:

1.  God's presence lived in a tent (an elaborate one, for sure, but still a portable house), surrounded by whiny, frequently disobedient people.  I need to quit complaining about living in a fifty-year-old Jim Walter home in the 'hood.

2.  The older I get, the scarier it gets. Unless I remember to keep my eyes on the goal. The goal is Heaven and being with Jesus.

3.  Being busy is not necessarily a good thing.  I sort of "mapped out" my retirement days, semester by semester.  For a year and a half I home schooled my niece. When she graduated, I asked God what He wanted me to sign up for next, thinking I needed to stay busy.  I felt He responded with: keep some mornings during the week open for Me, don't sign up for a lot of things, and just concentrate on ministering in the neighborhood.  So I've gone from teaching Hamlet and Macbeth, apologetics, and global issues to sitting in my recliner most mornings, reading scripture, journaling, and trying to discern His will for the unscheduled hours in my day.  This has led me to visits with neighbors of various ages and backgrounds, helping friends and family from time to time, some prayer walking, and basically filling in the calender each week as impromptu things crop up.  I am finding that I love this.    But I also find myself wondering,  seriously, what my life would have been like had my days been ordered this way when I was younger.  Maybe we have retirement all backwards.  Not sure about that...

4.  I am sure about this.  Lack of forgiveness can forge a bond that is insidious, hard to recognize,  and even  harder to break.  Learning to forgive is the same as learning to trust.  If I trust God to handle my affairs, including wrongs that have been done to me or my loved ones, I can forgive.  Maybe not immediately when the hurt is fresh but soon enough that it doesn't become an inverse sort of shackle that was never meant to be.  From my vantage point of sixty years, I feel I can look back and see a little better (ironically) regarding some spiritual issues that caught me by surprise in my younger years - like spiritual quagmires  that were on me before I knew what was happening.

Sooo... basically the things I now value are:  having "radar" tuned (hopefully) to waiting on God day by day, having a  sin detector that is fine tuned to sniffing out pockets of bitterness and eradicating them via forgiveness, and, last but not least, having  a travel map always before me with my destination clearly marked: Heaven.  Oh, and not being whiny or discontent as I live (temporarily) in the 'hood while I remember that Almighty God was willing to live in a tent in the desert with malcontents.  Basically don't want to have to have a brass serpent hanging on a pole in my neighborhood b/c I've been grumbling, complaining, and whining...  

And, yes, I've been reading in the Tanakh lately... Does it show??

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Yes, I Was REally Surprised... :)


      I thought the biggest surprise I ever got was when I insisted I was having gas pains or at best Braxton-Hicks contractions and instead. turned out to be on the verge of the real thing -  our son was born after a hotly contested trip to the hospital during which my husband insisted that gas pains didn't come every three minutes...
      However, it turns out that  was NOT the biggest surprise I've ever had...
     This past Saturday I had absolutely no clue that I was about to become the focal point of  a surprise birthday party.  In retrospect I can see things that should have tipped me off but didn't.  Times when my husband started to say something and then... just didn't.  The fact that I recognized one car on the parking lot where the party was to be held and walked right by another car, which I should have recognized, but didn't. The fact that after we were seated at Santa Coyote my husband worried out loud three times, saying, "I didn't time this right; we got to the restaurant too early."  Which seemed odd to me because we were just meeting a another couple  at a restaurant - people we've known for years and who are very  laid back about things like that.  Still, I didn't clue in on what was happening.
     Not even when one of the friends we were meeting asked me to walk out to her car to get my birthday present and then proceeded to look first in the trunk and then in the back seat before exclaiming something like:
     "I must be losing my mind! I was sure I put your gift in here!"
     No... she wasn't losing her mind; somehow I had misplaced mine...
     Not even when we walked back into the restaurant and instead of returning to the table where I had been sitting - to the right of the restaurant -  we were directed to the left of the restaurant, to which my friend said, "We're sitting on the right side.  Did you move our table or something?"
     The answer was:  or something...
      I cannot express how much that party meant to me, to see friends from various walks of life gathered at one table, laughing and visiting and getting to know one another.  When I think of all the work that my friend, Susan, put into it in order to make it happen or the time that others contributed, including my niece, Charity, I just don't have the right words to convey what I felt at that moment and how grateful I still am, several days later.
      Seeing everyone together, as I've said, was a highlight.  Partly because it made me realize just how blessed I am to have friends who love God, who are so different, yet who are united in their testimony of His faithfulness along their separate journeys. I've learned from each of them.
      Another highlight was having a friend there who is in a wheel chair and oxygen dependent and just happy to be there.  If anyone enjoys life and loves God, she does.  When I saw her I was amazed because I know that going somewhere is not a simple matter for her.  And yet she came.
     Another humbling thing was to see one of my friends there whose father was in the hospital, yet she took the time to come and her father urged her to do so. Another friend has the busiest schedule of anyone I know, plus a grown child at home who is visiting from overseas, yet she also came.
    But the thing I think I cherish the most is the scrap book album that my closest confederate in crime :) and the one behind the whole party idea, made for me. (Susan, I seriously owe you... forever!)   Over what must have been weeks literally she gathered pictures and written tributes from various friends and scrapbooked them in ways that I would never have envisioned.
    I think the Scrabble page is my favorite but I love them all.  (And, yes, I have gotten out of bed since then when I couldn't sleep, have grabbed the over sized scrapbook, and carried it back to bed with me so I could look at everything yet again. I love, love, love it!)
    Sooo I managed to download some of my friends pics from FB and have (finally) gotten them to load onto my blog.  (Won't even begin to mention how much I've eaten while waiting for these pics to download and then download onto the blog site and then finally download onto my blog page.  But I will say the Russell Stover dark chocolate with cranberry filling was the best... ha!)


Just One Little Verse...

    I have gone back to a Bible reading plan that is less than impressive.  I got it from someone else and it's this:  read through the Bible.  Each day read until God impresses something on your heart and then stop.  Meditate on that point and try to apply it.  If you read three chapters in one day, fine. If you read one verse, fine.  If you read the same verse for three days in a row, fine.  When you feel God is impressing you to move on,  begin reading where you left off.  Read until God impresses the next verse or phrase on your heart, stop, meditate, and  apply.  Repeat every morning.
    This morning the very  first verse I read seemed to jump up and grab my attention.  Actually the first half of the verse:   Then David the king went in and sat before the Lord...
     I wondered how I could do that -how could I, here in an eclectic, down-on-its-luck, older neighborhood in a small Jim Walter home built in the sixties -how could I emulate the king of Israel and go and sit before the Lord?  No palace.  No privacy fence surrounding our rock garden and flowering shrubs.  (No rock garden or flowering shrubs either).  Not even, as my grandmother would say, enough room to swing a cat  here in my little home.   Plus, how do I know when I'm actually sitting before the Lord?  I mean, I can't exactly see Him...
     It was a puzzlement.  So, still pondering that, I decided to finish the verse and this is what I saw:
the king of Israel, David who had slain his ten thousands in battle and who was God's anointed, said, "Who am I, O Lord God ... that Thou hast brought me this far?"   II Samuel 7:18
     And that was as far as I got in my devotional reading today. 
     Just one verse which made me question, "Who am I that God has brought me this far in my life?"
      Then I thought about the phrase that has repeatedly "jumped out" at me over the last few days, also from chapter 7:  "...and the Lord God had given him rest on every side from his enemies."  (7:1  Similar thought in verse 9 and verse 11).
     As these verses filtered through my mind, I thought about the "enemies" God has given me rest from, protected me from.
    One was my own father, who seemed to cherish me as a child but not as a pre-teen and teen.
    Another was the person and sometimes persons who ran a meth lab off and on next door over a 9 year period. 
    Another was an aggressive alcoholic who also, at one time, lived down our street, and who vandalized our property because we had reported his vicious   behavior to the police. The damage he did was minimal and within three months he was gone and we didn't lift a finger to make that happen - all we did was pray that God's will would be done in this neighborhood as it is done in Heaven.
    Another was a hunter, also an alcoholic, who lived next door and who was angry with us for a few weeks because we had taken his son in to live with us temporarily.  (We didn't know why he was so angry until he apologized later and admitted he had been abusing his son's Ritalin and was afraid we'd report him to the police).
    In each of these instances, the people who posed a threat to us never harmed us personally and their property has either been torn down and/or has been purchased by  neighbors who wanted peace and quiet on our street.
    We also had a personal enemy, someone who was slightly paranoid and who plotted and schemed against people when there was no reason for it.  But that also, over time, became a non-issue.
    Then there was my 31 years of teaching high school.  During that time I had probably 7 to 10 parent-teacher conferences that I really dreaded.  Irate parents who made an appointment presumably for the purpose of chewing me up and spitting me out, some threatening law suits and/or insisting on going higher up the administrative ladder to lodge complaints against me.
    Two involved cases where  I caught their child cheating. Their response was to come after me instead of the child. One of those parents was highly emotional to the point of being ballistic, so much so that an administrator called up to my room and asked me not to come downstairs until the parent had left the premises. No weapon but plenty of vitriol which they spewed liberally over administrators and counselors.
    Two were parents who had major emotional issues and were on the verge of suing the school because their outrageous demands weren't being met. One brought two legal advocates and a tape recorder to our conference.
     One was a mom and her new boyfriend, who was clearly a bully.  He wanted to take me to the mat for giving his girlfriend's son classroom DH for repeatedly coming to class without pencil or paper.  They charged me with stifling the students' natural urge to be generous and helpful to each other by not allowing the kids to share materials and insisted that the son be transferred out of my class. Which didn't happen because it was late May and we only had three more days left in the school year... 
     Another was a socially prominent parent whom, I had been warned, had the personality of a steam roller and who tried to bully me into changing their child's grade.  Although the conference went on for an hour amid tears and accusations, the grade remained intact and the only lasting result from it was the knowledge of how many teachers popped by my room before and after the conference to tell me they were praying for me or to ask me how it went. I was blessed.
    Who am I, O Lord, that You brought me so far, through 31 years of teaching - and yet my worst fears never  - never - materialized?   Truly You gave me rest from all my enemies, domestic and career-wise.
    I thought some more about the part, who am I?
    Who am I... really?
    When I was little I was a spoiled brat, being partially raised by my grandparents.
    As a preteen and teen I  was a skinny, introverted kid with a sarcastic mouth, glasses, and over-sized feet who came from a broken home, split asunder by incest.
    I was never beautiful, graceful, or particularly talented, popular or one who belonged.  
    And then I hit college where, in retrospect, for the first time ever, I felt I did fit in and it went to my head. I was the  "smart one" who could figure everyone else out.  I must have been pretty obnoxious and I can clearly recall times when I opened my mouth and inserted not one foot but both feet and never really knew it until much later.
    As I meditated on the question, "Who am I?" it hit me for the first time that to some I probably fell under the category of " trailer trash".  I was only one of two kids in my high school French class who had divorced parents and lived in a mobile home.  Thankfully no one knew we were on food stamps at that time...  Or that we couldn't afford to pay for garbage pick up and so we carried our sacks of trash off to public parks and put them in trash containers.  
     As I recalled those days, I was first stunned by the idea that, after all these years, I could have been considered trailer trash and then immediately overwhelmed by the sure knowledge that I was never considered to be that in the eyes of God.  That instantaneous, almost tangible assurance from God Almighty  brought tears to my eyes and gave me a new perspective on some of the people who live near us who exist on or below the poverty line (because of poor choices, as I remind myself frequently...  My former poverty was different from theirs.... Seriously???)
     And then I thought about other ways God protected me.  I thought of guys I had dated and hoped to marry, who would have turned out to be really unsuitable  husbands.
     I thought of the long periods in my twenties when I had no one to date and often dealt with loneliness and a sense that the world was passing me by, never knowing that God was preparing someone for me and that I would be married when I was 32 and he was 33.
     And I just had to ask, "Who am I, O Lord, that You have brought me so far and that You have given me rest from not only enemies/specters that I feared but also from my own wrong choices?  That You have taken me from a spectacularly broken home with tons of drama and planted me in a quiet, twenty-eight year marriage with a steady Christian man who would lay his life on the line for me?  That You have taken a candidate for the term "trailer trash" and given me, not a mansion but a real home, one planted on terra firma, one that I entered in as a bride, one where we raised our child to adulthood, and one where I am now entering my twilight years.  All this for someone who lived in seven different places between birth and the age of 15.  
       Who am I, Lord, to have always had a good career,  more than enough money,  and to have never had to repeat the shame of going  on food stamps?
      As I thought back over all the way He has brought me and protected me, tears of gratitude began to roll down my face and then I realized:  you don't need a palace or a rock garden in order to sit before the Lord. You just need Scripture - even a single verse will do;  a little quiet; and a humbled heart.  He can do the rest.
      This morning I sat before the Lord and He showed me who I am, Who He is, how great His love is, and how far He has brought me.
       I am thankful.