Posts tagged ‘faith’

Hope Endures

       Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. Corrie Ten Boom

The anguish of watching a loved one stumble into the snare of addiction can test even a parent’s love. I encountered such a mom recently and was amazed at her fortitude as she described leading her daughter out of that entanglement by letting her face the consequences of incarceration.

Inspired, I wrote to a young acquaintance serving a three-year sentence for drug crimes to assure him that there is hope in all circumstances.

Dear Robert,
I think often of how far away you are from your parents and how difficult it must be when they aren’t able to visit. My heart aches for each of you, but I am reminded that God can weave purpose through 
every tribulation.

A few years ago, a dear friend called me in tears. Her husband had been arrested on a charge of first-degree murder. I was stunned. How could this happen to such fine Christian people? My friend’s disabled husband went on to spend a year in jail awaiting the court date because they couldn’t afford both bail and a lawyer.

During his trial it all became clear: In order to access grant money and gain professional recognition, an overzealous prosecutor had re-opened a cold case that had been declared an accident twenty-five-years earlier.

The case crumbled when the “eye witness” broke down. He’d made up his testimony, he said, because he was terrified by the prosecutor’s relentless badgering. Meanwhile, my friends endured twelve months of crushing worry that the truth might never come to light. Yet through it all this couple remained steadfast in prayer, holding onto the belief that God resurrects good from bad.

Your situation is difficult. But I believe that, through it, God can mold you into the person He meant for you to be. It takes courage to endure, but with the Lord’s help, the impossible becomes possible.

Before God led me home to faith in my late-thirties, I sinned in ways that still bring me pain. But He uses my past mistakes to guide me today. There is great comfort in that side of salvation. I can’t explain it, but I can celebrate it. And when difficulties arise, I’ve learned that I can bear all things when I open myself to His offer of strength.

Please know that your church family supports your efforts to make things right in your life. We look forward to the day when we will welcome you back with open arms. Until then, we hold you in our hearts and prayers and entrust you to the Lord’s open arms for comfort when things get tough.

My friend who was falsely accused of murder witnessed to many during his year of imprisonment, planting the seeds for restoration through faith. That’s God making lemonade out of lemons, and He can sweeten your bitter cup as well.

Yours in Christ

 

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February 20, 2018 at 6:05 pm 2 comments

Rainy Day Unblues

sad moonie

I’m pretty sure my dog doesn’t possess as extensive a vocabulary as I credit her with. Still, I could swear Muňeca just rolled dejected, puppy-sad eyes at me in a look that said, What kind of a day is this when a girl can’t even get in one decent walk, between the cold and the rain and the wind?

I shot her back a cocked-eyebrow look of my own that said, “Just be glad we don’t live in Montana. Missoulans are trudging through ten inches of snow about now.”

Funny thing is, this damp and cloudy day didn’t leave me feeling drained and depressed and wanting to crawl back into bed. There was certainly a time in my life when it would have.

This is not because everything is peachy-keen in my little corner of Texas, either. I don’t have close friends nearby. Nice, younger neighbors, but no long-term confidants. I haven’t set aside enough to ensure my future well-being should an economic ripple interrupt the delivery of monthly Social Security checks. And people I love and thought I could trust inexplicably turned on me after my husband passed away last December.

Then, all last week I wasn’t feeling so hot. But I weathered it with prayer, serenely meditating my way through a string of housebound days that I feared might herald a new normal. I am, after all, approaching a birthday that I can hardly believe has snuck up on me, when I actually—usually—feel decades younger than the number would suggest.

So today the sage’s voice that hunkers down in the left half of my brain whispers to its opposing side, she actually has acquired a little wisdom in the autumn of her life. The wisdom to not beat my head against the brick wall of things over which I have no control. The understanding that a satisfactory life requires my greatest efforts, but also my greatest faith in an entity I cannot see or touch. And the knowledge that none of this rests in my ability to conquer the world but in the omnipotence of a Creator God, who hears my plaints but knows better than I how to resolve them.

Patience. Did I mention that older me is more patient, too? It’s not a trait I taught myself. It came from an active relationship with that Creator. Can’t explain how all of this works because I’m hobbled by the limits of human intelligence. But I can guarantee a good result once the practice of daily contact with Him is established.

Another funny thing? For the first twenty years of my adulthood, I wouldn’t have made that claim. Probably would have laughed at it. Did laugh at it. I’m not laughing any longer. But I am smiling. Even on a dreary, cold, rainy, windy day.

 

November 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm 1 comment

I Know It’s Fiction, But Puh-leeze!

8-18-17 fiction books blog pic

It disturbs me that so many contemporary fiction writers—who apparently don’t actually know any Christians, personally—consistently reach into their drawer of hackneyed stereotypes in order to round out their character lists. (This happens with screenplays, too, of course. But today I’m talking about a failure of imagination in the literary arts.)

What they invariably end up with is the standard, tiresome, pursed-lipped hypocrite who “tsks” and lectures her way through the dialogue and is universally despised by the other reasonable, open-minded types who populate the novel’s pages. This is especially apparent when two other ubiquitous characters, the token gay guy and the unmarried young mother, are introduced, only to be shamed by the Christian fusspot and affectionately accepted by those of nobler disposition.

Sure, there are plenty of obnoxious individuals out there—some of them claiming to be believers, some not. But a lot of the people I hang around with nowadays are Christians, and not one of them fits the unflattering typecasting I encounter in my bedtime reading adventures.

The fact is that we all do bad stuff. Some of us have accepted that fact and some of us haven’t; some of us feel remorse and a desire to overcome our baser inclinations, some have no grasp of those concepts. The Christians I know struggle mightily to reconcile their fondness for—and fear of offending—the particular, unrepentant sinner with their grave concern for his or her spiritual welfare.

This concern is an expression of love, not a judgment. After all, mere mortals didn’t write the rule book. The code for moral living comes from a much higher source. And it certainly wasn’t invented by the annoying, small-minded, holier-than-thou, pleasure-thwarting goody-goodies I come across far too often in the realm of cozy mysteries and mainstream story-telling.

This pigeon-holing trend makes me sad. Yet, like Christo-phobic Saul/Paul who was brought into the Light by a God who sought to turn his evil deeds to good, I was once among the stereotypers. I scoffed at anyone, especially people of faith, who dared to define shalts and shalt-nots in black-and-white terms. Ironically, I also condemned them.

Then I fell in love with an earnest Christian man. Met his delightful, fun-loving family. Saw true faith put into action as selflessness and generosity. Developed friendships with devout people who lived by conviction but were nothing like the disapproving Pharisees I had let myself be convinced they would be. These were kind, forgiving souls who accepted me right where I was—on the cusp of unbelief—and gave me plenty of elbow room to find my way home.

That’s my reality-based experience with Christians. Now, I urge the disseminators of the musty old cliché described above to step into the real world to research their next projects. Could be a revelation!

Meanwhile, back to gritting my teeth through the last few chapters of Murder at the Book Group. Is that Karma I feel nibbling at my derriere?

August 18, 2017 at 5:41 pm 2 comments

Vroooom and Zoom – There Goes Summer

Freedom_of_SpeechIt’s been over a month since I last wrote anything here, and by golly if we aren’t practically staring autumn in the face already. By the time I publish my observations on days six and seven of our April trip to Mexico, we’ll probably be ankle-deep in our first snow fall of the season – an event we had hoped to miss out on this year before we stepped into the surreal world of selling our house.

It’s all starting to seem like an endless loop of one thing leading to another, this business of upping the curb appeal, bringing the interior up-to-date, listing the property with a realtor, and finding a warmer location we feel comfortable retiring to before 2014 comes to an end – all while simultaneously sorting and clearing fifty-plus years of habitation out of every nook and cranny of my husband’s family homestead.

But one of the rewards of pawing through other people’s decades’ worth of collected memorabilia (and my in-laws were world champion savers, for sure) is that you stumble upon at least one treasure in every string of “what in the world is this?” discoveries.

Below, the transcription of a P.R. piece published circa 1963, in blue ink, on an ivory-colored 6″ by 3-1/2″ card by Coast Federal Savings and Loan Association’s Free Enterprise Department, located at 9th and Hill, Los Angeles 14, California.

Try picturing a contemporary politician being willing to risk offending the low-information contingent of the electorate with such high expectations. And can you even imagine a bank today having the backbone to share such a message, with ranks of waiting-to-be-insulted professional victims lurking around every corner, visions of a lucrative lawsuit dancing in their heads?
Sadly, neither can I. But here, from a slightly more common sense era, the quoted comments of Representative Richard H. Poff, as originally published in the November 3, 1962, issue of the magazine Human Events.

WHAT IS FREE ENTERPRISE
“Basically, the free enterprise system means freedom of the individual. Under the free enterprise system, the individual is free to make something of himself if he has the enterprise to do it. Too many people put too much emphasis on ‘free’ and too little emphasis on ‘enterprise.’

“The difference between a free nation and a slave nation can be very simply stated. In a free nation, the people accept the responsibility for their own welfare; while in a slave nation that responsibility is turned over to the government. Or, to put it another way, meaning the same thing, in a free nation the state gets its right from the people; while in a slave nation, the people get their rights, if any, from the state.”

But wait, as infomercials are fond of insisting; there’s more. Flip the card over and you find these words of wisdom, reprinted from the January 1961 issue of Manage Magazine, and titled

TIME IS RUNNING OUT
“The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations progressed through this sequence:
From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
From Spiritual Faith to Great Courage
From Courage to Liberty
From Liberty to Abundance
From Abundance to Selfishness
From Selfishness to Complacency
From Complacency to Apathy
From Apathy to Dependency
From Dependency back again into Bondage

“In sixteen years our nation will be 200 years old. This cycle is not inevitable…
IT DEPENDS UPON YOU”

Is it just me being paranoid, or have we indeed become far too comfortable with the idea that our rights derive from the government, and far too accepting of the creeping ideology that we answer to government rather than the other way ’round? Is this the selfish complacency of which we were warned, the apathy and dependency predicted about the same time this sturdy old house of mine was being built?

This Labor Day holiday, I hope to stand with the Founders and reclaim the truth that man’s rights come from God, not from an elitist political class which wields the power of the State like a sledge hammer. May the free and the enterprising lead the way out of this bondage and back again into the spiritual faith from which our true liberty derives.

September 2, 2014 at 4:02 pm 2 comments

Please Do Try This At Home

ducks_207635April 20, 2014, was as close to perfect as a day could be. Having recently read the sad news that some pastors in our sister congregations in India have been viciously attacked at their own doorsteps by militant Hindu activists, we were blessed to gather, unmolested, with our church family to celebrate Christ’s astounding victory over death, and His promise to comfort those persecuted in His name.

Once back at home, the sunny day waxed glorious, reaching upper-70s temperatures we haven’t seen for many cold and gloomy months. A leisurely dog walk; a relaxed late breakfast with my hubby; the luxury of a brief, restorative early afternoon nap.

Post-nap, I bustled to prep my contributions to this year’s Easter dinner. To accompany our niece’s baked ham dinner, I would make the roasted asparagus and sweet peppers sprinkled with feta cheese and chopped pistachios I’ve described here before. (With pine nuts now up to $64.00 a pound, the pistachios were a serendipitous and delicious adaptation to the original dish. I may never do the pignolis version again!)

Next, I had volunteered roasted, glazed carrots. I didn’t want anything too rich or sweet. But this wasn’t a time to skimp on the taste factor, either. There was some good quality, organic, 100% apple juice languishing in the back of my refrigerator. Mixed with a number of on-hand ingredients that grabbed my attention as I trolled through the pantry, it translated to a crowd-pleasing, rave-inducing side which I had actually had the foresight to jot down the recipe for as I was concocting it. Here, I offer this successful experiment for your eating pleasure in your own home kitchen.

Our Easter Sunday wrapped up with a relaxed gathering of dear ones for a great meal at the home of an amazing young woman – wife, mother of two, fulltime senior paralegal, and final-year law school student – who still manages to be one of the most poised and gracious hostesses I’ve ever encountered.

Sitting on a sunny deck, watching “the guys” play their version of backyard baseball, with the family dog tirelessly chasing after the batted wiffle ball and the toddler making frequent passes through left field towing his little red wagon. How perfect is that?

For the family-friendly roasted carrots you’ll need…

For each two-pound bag of peeled carrots, cut into 2″ chunks:

1 TB butter 1/2 C apple juice or cider
1/2 red onion, sliced thin 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice 1/2 tsp dried dill flakes

In a glass measuring cup, combine the apple juice and butter. Microwave just until butter is melted. Stir the garlic powder and spice into the butter/juice mixture. Arrange carrots in a foil-lined sheet cake pan and pour liquid over all, tossing to distribute. Sprinkle with dill flakes. Bake at 400˚ for 30-40 minutes, or until fork tender.

With gray skies and a 48˚ wind-rattled atmosphere, today’s weather has dipped back into yucky territory – a “change for the wetter’ as our local weather pundit puts it. But if I close my eyes, I can recapture the feel of that sun-soaked deck with its view of two ducks landing in the neighbor’s backyard pond. Ah, Minnesota. It’s good for the imagination, if not the arthritis.

April 23, 2014 at 6:18 pm 1 comment

Every Day in Every Way

walker III was all set to sit down and indulge in another clichéd mini-rant about Minnesota, The Land of 10,000 Extremes. A self-indulgent ramble about how, one Wednesday, most of the state is suffering through a 105 degree heat index, and the next Wednesday, record-breaking lows have us all flipping our thermostat switches from “Cool” to “Heat” at night. The Ides of July, I was going to title it.

When I realized how much effort was required to make that topic interesting, again, even as a segue into the more stimulating subject of Minnesota’s weird political climate, I abandoned the idea. My critic’s eye has noted too many published articles that read as if the author were motivated to crank out something, anything, just to get some quick cash coming in for the month. There is no passion or depth to them. Don’t particularly want to join that club, even if there isn’t a paycheck involved.

What then seeped into my mind were thoughts on a very personal undertaking I’ve tackled this week: Operation Saving Mom. Sounds a bit grandiose, I suppose, but I am only ashamed that I didn’t catch on sooner that the lady who lives downstairs, and happens to be my mother-in-law, wasn’t just being her usual “the glass is half-empty,” headstrong little German self about things, she was sinking into depression.

I’ve skidded down that muddy slope in the past myself; it’s the reason I’m so committed to vigorous physical activity to keep my personal supply of endorphins pumped up throughout the day. As soon as Mom K quit watching the news or doing her laundry, I should have recognized the symptoms. But I was too busy being angry with her for rejecting the helpful advice of the savvy, caring geriatrician we finally hooked her up with. For always being back in bed when I went down with the mail or a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies; for not showing any interest in using a prescribed walker to get back on her feet; for nibbling on sweets rather than devouring the juicy turkey meatloaf patty, made just to her tastes.

So she sank, deeper and deeper, into that sickness of spirit that leaves a person not wanting to move and wondering why God is taking so long to call you home. I still can’t believe that I was so blind to the emerging clues. But as I said, I was too busy analyzing the situation, and how I felt about it.

Still, I did invest a lot of prayer in her plight. And as usual, the answer I got was not the one I expected. After a particularly trying day, which had my husband and me racked with frustration over Mom’s surrender to negative thinking, I woke up the next morning to a “duh” moment: She had missed meals and was acting confused. She was probably so weak that she had nothing left to draw on. She needed an intervention, and I had my nose up so close to the window of her life that I couldn’t see it.

You have to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I remember that irrational state of mind very well. It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself, if there’s nothing pulling you into the day ahead, why greet morning? Why eat breakfast? Why get dressed? And the less you move around and the more malnourished you are, the faster the downward spiral.

Starting this week, I go down right about when breakfast should take place, and then again to set up lunch, and with the day’s mail, and with dinner. And her beloved son visits and checks her pill dispenser every evening, after he gets home from work.

She is getting out of bed now, because she knows I’ll be knocking on her door. And she is eating the protein-heavy meals I cook and put on a tray in front of her. Scrambled egg and a whole grain waffle square. Open-faced Tuna melt sandwich with grapes on the side. French toast and extra crisp bacon for brunch one lazy, sleep-in day. Pork loin with roasted potatoes and fresh green beans. And whole-grain fresh peach cobbler with salted caramel ice cream to satisfy that sweet tooth of hers. While I’m there, I read to her, humorous articles or excerpts from recollections written by her peers, and she relates and discusses them with some interest.

She’s feeling a little better after only a few days of this intensive “TLC therapy.” So am I.

Mom had tried a daily mantra of, “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and stronger.” It’s not, we had to tell her, a magical incantation. It doesn’t work of your heart and will aren’t behind it. A few weeks before the flash of enlightenment that got the belated intervention rolling, I had started regular deliveries of affirmations to replace her limp recitations of the old standby chant. She tells me these little blurbs mean a lot to her, and I think it’s the idea that someone takes the time, as much as it is the messages. But I’m also front-loading those affirmations with gentle nudgings to not shrink from the challenge of keeping life meaningful at 90, and beyond.

So, six days a week, a neon orange half-sheet of text goes down with the daily mail, with the heading, “Every day in every way, God has a purpose for my life,” followed by a few lines of encouragement:

“Each day, I bring glory to God through my example of living my faith.”
“I have children who love me and a church family that cares about me. They look to me for hope and inspiration for their own later years.”
“This world is not my home. But it is a temporary assignment that God wants me to take seriously right up to its very last day.”

The next phase of our Saving Mom project? It’s a quirk of human physiology that expending energy generates more energy. It may take a while for the fire to ignite, but a daily walk that first seems wearying eventually becomes the pilot light that keeps your burners firing throughout the day. The more you do, the more you feel like doing. A human body in motion truly wants to stay in motion. This is a hard sell for Mom, who has been sitting in a chair for months, waiting to feel “better” enough to start moving again. But resort to a cane for stability? Never.

Meanwhile, her muscles atrophy and her gate becomes more and more unsteady. My husband’s mission is to convince her that, with his help, she can get up and about – maybe even out of the house – and regain some mobility. So we snuck out and bought her a walker. Please pray for us!

As for my own attitude adjustment strategy, this is my new daily mantra:

Every day, in every way, God has a purpose for my life….
“And it’s not about me. Everything originated in Him and finds its purpose in Him.”

August 2, 2013 at 6:18 pm 3 comments

Now Sings My Soul

Ingram Publishing

Ingram Publishing

I wasn’t planning to publish another post this week, but I just returned from a funeral service for a 52 year old member of my church, a father of two who died of leukemia after a few months of attempted treatments leading to cardiac complications.

I remember with a shudder that I once, in my rebellious younger years, would have sat at such a Christian service with my mind slammed shut, harboring a cold heart and refusing to participate in hymn-singing or prayer recitations.  Turning away, in other words, from the very sustenance that my angry, hungry soul was starved of.  And how I hated weddings back then, with their ritual and scripture readings and rosy expectations.  If I couldn’t avoid one, I would sit in the pew in recoiled posture, like a vampiress confronted with a bouquet of garlic, hawthorne, and wild rose.

When funerals or weddings take place in our humble sanctuary these days, I can’t help but glance around at the faces of the crowd and wonder how many of them are not participating because the words are unfamiliar, and how many are hunched behind a wall of resistance.  My prayer, always, is that the legacy of the departed believer’s faith will soften stony hearts and open narrowed minds to the full peace and comfort to be gained by accepting the balm of God’s Word.

The opening hymn for today’s service says it better than I could ever hope to.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Text: Joseph M. Scriven, 1820-1886
Music: Charles C. Converse, 1832-1918

What a friend we have in Jesus,

all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

all because we do not carry

everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful

who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,

cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

In his arms he’ll take and shield thee;

thou wilt find a solace there.

January 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm 2 comments

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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