Thursday, March 31, 2011


This week our church hosted its annual time of promoting missions. Missionaries come home from their posts all over the world and interact with the people in different ways with meals and lectures. Money is raised for a variety of projects. This year the funds will be given to Haiti to build a school there. The kids' program is very popular and every year I take my daughters for at least a couple of days. They begged to go EVERY day this time, so how can I say no? This week Arielle was a helper and Liana an attendee. Liana gets to see her friends, do a craft, eat food from another country and learn about its culture (this year Taiwan). Even though the kids' program is four days straight, adults do not have something every night. So what do we do? Monday I stayed to help out. Tuesday Fred and I had a date night! We spent the time drinking coffee and reading books in our local bookstore.

Last night was a special program for women. No men allowed. It was a mystery as to what we would do, but I decided to check it out. I am so glad I did. Two hundred and twenty women and teen girls arrived for the event. Six women missionaries from various parts of the world were seated up front and very candidly shared some of their struggles. The point was that we all have issues and that they shouldn't prevent us from serving somewhere, doing something. One woman has challenging health issues. One has difficulty living in a different culture that has no sense of time or urgency. One is single and extremely lonely. One has small children and feels her life is on hold because she is not useful to others. One is overwhelmed with all the work she has to do. One has issues with self-image. One is just plain tired and irritable. (That's more than six, so some women have more than one issue!) Just as we all do. And all their "issues" are common to all women, except I guess most of us don't have to deal with living in another culture.

We also had time to interact with other women who attended. I ran into many of the young women I taught years ago in Bible studies. Precious, beautiful young women, their children I knew as babies growing up. It was like a family reunion seeing them again. The openness and vulnerability of the speakers seemed to give us the freedom to share our own issues with others. Women are struggling with marriage problems, death of parents, kid problems, illness. We connected on a deeper level and encouraged each other. I came home renewed and refreshed. Women need other women. I've missed that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Needed: More Prayer

There are many reasons why we should be praying. The needs of the world are great, and we will never be at a shortage of things to pray for. We pray because God answers prayer. For many years I have kept journals of my prayer requests for myself and others and have checked them off as they were answered. God hears us when we pray. We draw close to him and are encouraged not to give up. We enter into his work when we add our prayers to those of others and his will is accomplished on this earth. We enter into his presence when we are quiet and listening. Jesus prayed-- a lot! If he needed to pray, we certainly do. But the number one reason to pray is that scripture tells us to do it. God doesn't need our help to get things done, surely. But we are told to pray.

Luke 18:1 says Jesus told them a parable to show that they "ought always to pray and not lose heart." I Timothy 2:8 says "I desire then that in every place the people should pray." I Thessalonians 5:17 says to "pray without ceasing." James 5:16 says, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power." I Timothy 2:1 says, "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people." Pray all kinds of prayers for all kinds of people.

Charles Spurgeon has some advice on serious prayer, the kind Jesus prayed in the garden before his death. The all-alone-with-God, on-your-knees kind of prayer:

"Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God's. Jesus' prayer was humble prayer. He fell on his face to the ground. Humility gives us a good foothold in prayer. There is no hope of prevalence with God unless we abase ourselves that He may exalt us in due time. Jesus prayed, 'Abba, Father.' You will find it a stronghold in the day of trial to plead your adoption. Nothing can forfeit a child's right to a father's protection. Don't be afraid to say, 'My Father, hear my cry.' Observe that it was persevering prayer. He prayed three times. Cease not until you prevail. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

"Lastly, it was the prayer of resignation. 'Not as I will, but as you will.' Yield, and God yields. Let it be as God wills, and God will determine for the best. Be content to leave your prayer in his hands, who knows when to give, and how to give, and what to give, and what to withhold. So pleading, earnestly, importunately, yet with humility and resignation, you will surely prevail."

A message for us all: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6, 7.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good Old Cat

Nineteen years ago when our family was going through a hard time, I brought home two orange kittens with blue eyes. We laughed at their antics during a time of tears. One son took one of the cats, the other became Damien's and mine.

I am not a cat-person. I think cats have some very annoying traits. For example, my cat Squiggy wasn't big on the litter box, so he quickly became an outdoor cat. He loved being outside though, catching mice and birds and wandering the woods behind our apartment complex. Later, he moved to Atlanta with us, riding on the seat next to me in the big Ryder truck for 14 hours. Squiggy did not like Atlanta. He couldn't go outside and, once again, did not like the litter box either. We began a love-hate relationship.

We moved back to the same apartment complex. Here is the story often told about Squiggy: He must have been disoriented after arriving because he wandered off. No one could find him. Damien would walk through the woods and call to him, day after day, but we had no idea what happened to him. Lost, we decided. Poor Squiggy.

Another day, and once more Damien was combing the heavily wooded forest, calling out, "Squiggy!" as he walked. Then, "Meow." A small cat voice off in the distance. Damien continued to call and Squiggy kept answering. Damien followed the meows and there the cat was, hiding in a field of grasses.

We moved again and Squiggy became King of His Domain. He had more woods to explore and territory to claim. Vicious battles with other cats were fought over his land. He almost lost an eye once. But I'd hate to see what his opponent looked like.

We worried about him. He often trotted down to the busy road near our house. We would stop our car when we saw him and yell at him to go back home, and he would. On Sundays he visited the church across the street and hung out in its parking lot, relishing all the petting he received from the church-goers. Since he lived outside, he would join us in whatever we happened to be doing. He watched us garden and he would lie down near the kids when they were on the swingset. If we took a walk, he would follow us like a an obedient dog. I grew to love him.

About two years ago Squiggy had some sort of accident. Fred found him in the bushes near death. We brought him inside and he began his retirement in the basement. Remarkably, he recovered. He never gained his ability to jump again, but he lived in comfort in our warm laundry room.

This week we noticed Squiggy failing. He could barely stand; his cry was weak. He would still greet us and rub on our legs and purr if he was petted. He got worse. He was breathing heavily with his mouth open. I called Damien to let him know Squiggy might not have much time, so Damien came by after work last night. We both agreed Squiggy was suffering. We called the vet and we were told to bring him right in.

Squiggy did not go gentle into that good night. He fought with a strength I hadn't seen in years. On the drive over he bit me (something he's never done in his life) and he bit Damien when Damien carried him inside. We were told he would be sedated and then we could visit with him a little before the IV was started. But that didn't happen. I guess the stress of driving and moving him caused his poor old heart to quit.

I came home to find Liana on her bed, tears streaming down her face. She had drawn a beautiful picture of Squiggy and wrote this poem. Her way of dealing with her emotions, and mine too, I guess, since I am writing today. Squiggy was a good old cat. He was ours, a part of the family.


April 2, 1992 to March 23, 2011

Squiggy loved the outdoors
Where he could be wild and free,
He was strong, so no other cat
Dared to mess with Squiggy,
So strong, yet so kind to children
Who passed by,
There was a wild gleam in his
Beautiful eyes,
Which showed people how loyal he was,
His owners gave him so much love,
Till that day when his heart stopped,
19 good years to remember,
Now, then and forever.

History of the World

I am reading through the book of Acts and came across Paul's address to the people of Athens.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being... Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed.
Well, that about sums it up. Creation to Adam to the nations of mankind to Jesus to the end of the world. God has allotted our time on earth and where we would live, and our purpose is to seek him and find him.
Back then people responded the same as they do now. Some mock, some question but desire to know more, and some believe.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Under Fire

One of Fred's co-workers said to him, "You know a true Christian by how he responds under fire." My patient, people-loving, trusting husband has been sorely tested by his real estate clients. They have really pushed him to the limits of his goodness and kindness. In his frustration, he was sounding off on what he would like to say to them when the whole transaction is over.

A friend of mine works under difficult conditions and has an office manager who is rude to her. I can't understand that because Diane is such a lovable, affable kind of person. But I do know how office politics can work. In order not to respond in a negative way when this manager attacks her, Diane writes scripture on index cards and takes them to work. When Diane feels she is ready to blow, she pulls out a card and reads it over. She says it calms her and she can better let things go rather than retaliate. Scripture reminds her of her identity in Christ.

Serving in the Alpha ministry at church has been a real test for me, a test I think I failed some weeks. Fred and I are nearing the end of six years of cooking for about 50 people every week. I could list many grievances I've had working in the kitchen, but there is no use re-hashing it all. If you think because you work at church, conditions are different than they are in the "world," you would be wrong. People are people, the same the world over, the same throughout time. I have always been accused of over-reacting to situations. So I have complained; I have gossiped. I have not always been kind to those who wronged me.

Take this to a more serious level. As we watch in horror what is happening in Japan, I think about the individual people there. Moms, dads, and children suffering cold, hunger, thirst, and fear, in addition to grief. Evacuated from their homes, if they even have a home left. Living in shelters in crowded conditions interacting with others who are also suffering. I can't imagine. And we think we have problems?

It makes me wonder how I would react in a crisis. Would my true nature rear its ugly head (the one I keep hidden from the public) or would I respond in love and compassion, in the way God has always responded to me? "Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love as Christ loved us." (Ephesians 5:1) Would I complain bitterly or console others? If I look at my past experiences, I would have to say I wouldn't fare so well. A sobering thought.

Jesus said you can't hide your true self for long. It will erupt in your words. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) An instinctive response to an unexpected situation reveals the condition of a person's heart.

But back to what Fred's co-worker said. I have to somewhat disagree. If you respond badly under fire, it does not necessarily mean you are not a Christian. It just shows you need to rely more on God, like my friend Diane. We need to thank God for our blessings, and ask him for help. Our words and actions under stress reveal our need.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Afternoon Movie

Fred and I rarely watch movies unless we plan a special family night with the girls. Adult-themed movies are not at all appropriate for them, and Fred and I don't have much time apart from the girls. PG-13 movies are still off-limits for them, and it's slim pickings for any quality PG or G movies.

We were returning home from a marriage seminar at our church and stopped to get books from the library. I asked Fred if he wanted to get a movie to watch with the girls that night. He said yes and came inside to choose one. Immediately he picked up The Book of Eli, rated R. Of course the girls couldn't watch that, and I didn't know when he'd find time to see it, but he got it anyway.

It turned out Liana went off to a friend's house and Arielle was curled up with a book, so Fred and I had a free afternoon together. I had sewing I wanted to do, but since we just came from a marriage seminar, I decided the right thing to do was spend time with my husband. So we put the movie on. It looked to me like just a "guy movie" with guns and violence and lots of things blowing up. Boring...doesn't interest me at all. This movie takes place in some post-apocalyptic time so the landscape is dull and barren. Yawn... But the movie grabbed my attention soon. Denzel Washington, Eli, is on a mission from God to deliver a special book to some people "out west." That's all you know in the beginning. There is a lot of violence that accounts for the R rating, but this was an excellent movie! The plot is so good that I explained it to both the girls later. The movie presents the power and the value of the Word of God--used by people for good or evil purposes--in a time when people have no Bible. The ending was very satisfying and a great surprise. It makes you want to cheer.

At the very of his life, Eli quotes II Timothy 4:7. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Isn't that what we all would want to say at our end?

I recently found a video clip filmed in some remote place in Indonesia. Hundreds of people are singing and dancing and obviously celebrating some special event. Soon a plane lands, and people excitedly clap and shout. They are receiving their first Bibles in their own language. The Bibles are unloaded from the plane and many people begin to weep. Then the packages are carefully and tenderly carried off to the village as if they hold the most precious treasure on the face of the earth. An older man quotes John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." They believe it is God himself coming to them through his Word.

Do we believe that? We Americans so much take the scriptures for granted. We have always had them. Maybe we won't really know their value until we have them no more.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

An Ordinary Morning

This day...this moment in time...

The sun has risen, filling the room with light. Spring is ready to make an entrance, but winter insists on staying a little longer. From the window, I can see the pussy willow's fuzzy buds bursting open, yet strong winds still bend the trees. It's silent in this cozy place, except for the creaky sounds of the iron stove as it expands. No, not silent. The guinea pigs nibble hay with their tiny teeth, waking for a new day. And birds call, though no windows are open. They announce they are ready for a new season. Not me.

My dear husband keeps us warm with the fire he starts at dawn each day. He is at work, finally doing what he loves best and what he was created to do--puttering and fixing. He is using the talents he's acquired over a lifetime. My daughters are still in their beds, soon to be moaning when I arouse them to get ready for school. I'm doing exactly what I should be doing in this season of life. I know it. Giving my girls a good education, protecting them as long as possible.

March--the transition month between the long winter and a new spring. Our family is also in a transition time. Our babies nearly grown, but not yet women. Fred and me--our lives mostly lived, but that place called "old age" still seems far off in the distance. We're healthy and strong.
(If we slow down, will it take longer to get there?)

Don't leave, month of March. We want to stay here and live in this moment. The sky is clear and blue and I don't see any storms on the horizon today. Not today anyway. I put another log on the fire to keep it burning a little longer.


See? I captured one moment in time. I held it in my hands and examined it and saw its beauty and took pleasure in it. But now I have to set it down and move on. Time for school.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Missing the Boat

"Do not miss the boat that's here, while mourning the boat that's sailed." Andree Seu.

I'm often thinking about all those boats that sailed, never to come again. My baby girls are growing up. We're in a new phase of life and time is flying by. But, "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24.

Liana had to learn "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" on the violin. That led to us searching youtube and we got sidetracked listening to old Peter, Paul and Mary songs. Liana was amazed I knew all the words to "Puff the Magic Dragon." What a trip down memory lane! But do any of us really want to go back to those days? Not me. Looking back brings regret. Looking forward can scare you. Today is just fine. I just wish I could hold on to it. Another day has slipped away.