Merry Christmas!!!

Good morning, all…

It is just before 6am on Tuesday, December 6. John just left for work and I am prepping for finals.

Working on my degree has caused me to suspend other, less squeaky tasks. This is rationalized by the perennial promise that ‘I will get to them.’ The few Christmas gifts I have purchased are on the dining room table, unwrapped – but I will get to them. I have begged off of some Christmas concerts, knowing that I need the extra study days to turn this master’s degree into a wall hanging – but ‘I will do them later’. To Christmas events I have taken food purchased, not made at home – but ‘I will make up for it’, I repeat, ad nauseum. Sunday visits with my parents have sometimes been with lecture materials in hand – but I will make up for that, too.

Do you see a pattern here?

In the midst of all the stress, I had an epiphany moment…. Three days ago I was studying in my office downstairs. John was on the roof cutting some overhanging tree branches. With my ear half-tuned for any sound from above, I heard a thud. Alarmed, I ran upstairs and onto the porch, calling for him. He made fun of my panic (which was good medicine) and we laughed even while I issued my tired old warning of the danger of ladders.

When I walked back inside, the lesson of the event was glaring, namely, “I am so blessed.” I stood in the kitchen realizing that a man who is smart, handsome, godly, engaging, and trustworthy loves me. Why sweat the small stuff? Then I thought of my parents – some of the richest people I know. Not materially, but rich in spirit and experience and kindness and common sense. They are healthy and well. Why sweat the small stuff? My only sister and I are as close as sisters can be; I attend a great church that her husband pastors and it is filled with wonderfully warm, salt-of-the-earth people. Why sweat the small stuff?

There is more – much more – but this is a lesson that you all probably know already: Spend your holidays doing things that matter with those who matter.

We love you all and hope to see you soon.

Merry Christmas!
Janet

elizabeth_va

We got to sing “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” to Elizabeth in Virginia. What a beautiful lady!

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Captain Of My Soul

Literature, as life, seems to demand that its protagonists travel full circle. Opened doors must be closed, and closed, reopened. Suffering seeks remuneration; matters seek resolution. Noble avenues are pondered; forbidden paths explored, and reparation made.

Nineteenth century poet, William Ernest Henly, was diagnosed with tuberculosis as a child. At seventeen, he lost his left leg to complications from the disease. This traumatic event resulted in a poem of self-sufficiency that has been memorialized in classrooms for decades, written during his recovery, Invictus. The final verse:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

When Timothy McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing, he left behind a handwritten copy of the poem.

Shakespeare’s King Lear demonstrates the inevitable fall of one who dug a deep pit. “The wheel is come full circle,” declared Edmund, when his cunning calculations ultimately failed.

Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory features an unnamed, alcoholic ‘whiskey priest’. After trudging through repentance and forgiveness, he risks his life to administer final rites to a dying man. He was captured and executed. Reparation was complete.

The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterston, explores the world of espionage. Seven men, each assigned the name of a weekday are led by Sunday, whom they come to view as aloof and unsympathetic. They eventually discover that his dispassionate demeanor was part of a larger, intricate plan that would benefit all involved. Unwilling to reveal the reasons for his behavior, the six men ask whether he has ever suffered. He borrows from Jesus the question He asked of James and John, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

Some doors close more slowly than others.

Theodore Dreiser wrote An American Tragedy in 1925, patterned after an actual event in New York. The son of a street preacher, desperately poor, moves to another town to work. He falls for a poor factory worker until he begins to climb the corporate and social ladder. Courted by a rich, beautiful socialite, he agonizes over how to resolve his duplicitous situation. At the end of the book we are told there is another street, another preacher, and another blond haired boy staring up at his father.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s first child was born on her birthday. At 20 months old, he was kidnapped and, ultimately, murdered. Five children and more than twenty years later, she went to Florida’s Captiva Island and penned Gift From the Sea, examining the spectrum of life’s events through that undulating, salty lens.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient,” she wrote. “To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.” No doubt, losing a child empties you like nothing else.

God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He talked with them. He shared directives for living life to the full. In this beginning, God sought to help His children avoid evil. In an ironic twist, following His resurrection, Jesus, too, walked in a garden. He closed a door to disobedience that mankind had opened. He corralled the wickedness we had unleashed. He rewrote our history, taking the keys to death, hell, and the grave and securing our lives to His safekeeping.

Life brings full circle every decision we have made, every seed sown. God, in His infinite mercy, tills the land, making beauty of our ashes.

So, no, William Ernest Henly, we cannot agree. It does matter that we choose the strait gate, the narrow way. It matters that there had to be a reckoning, a punishment for our violations.

Dorothea Day said it best when she responded to Invictus with a poem titled, Conquered, which concludes:

I have no fear though straight the gate:
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate!
Christ is the Captain of my soul!

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Three Requirements of Summer

Hey Everybody,

It’s June, and I find myself asking with some frequency, ‘What year is it?’ My parents always said that time accelerates as we get older. So, so true.

I enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of long walks. For years, I shunned headphones, choosing instead to listen to the sounds of life in real time. This year, however, I’ve been listening to the book of Revelation, as read by Max MacLean. What a difference it makes! It encourages me that God is still working within His long term plan. He still turns the hearts of kings, and He is still the final authority for all time. It reminds me that His plans are so much bigger than our little myopic view that we cannot even fathom how the course of His future will unfold. Read it. Read it again. Then again. It is uplifting and surprisingly comforting. Our lives are in creative, caring, authoritative hands.

We continue to meet wonderful people in the concerts. This year, we’ve spent time with ladies and gentlemen from California to the Carolina coast, and I am still amazed at the disseminate richness of the body of Christ.

I’ve completed my undergrad degree and tiptoed into the Masters program. Scheduled to finish next May. Some days I still shake my head and ask, “I’m doing what?”

Enjoy this time of the year. Summer should require of us three actions of intent:
*Stop and smell the fresh cut grass;
*Spend extra time examining the colors of the
season;
*Stand in a summer rain at least once.
I wonder if we could get a bill sponsored?

We love you all and hope to see you soon.

Love,
Janet

PS… Oops! This picture is a rehearsal from Johannesburg, South Africa – not Paraguay, as I stated last month. I received an email from one of our drivers in Johannesburg correcting me. Sorry!

johannesburg

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A PURE, PERFECT TONE

 In the 1980s, Johannesburg, South Africa was a city of transition. The decade began on the heels of the Soweto uprising, and the world kept watch as the nation took its first steps toward ownership of apartheid. Campaigns were formed petitioning Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. A President’s Council replaced the Senate. Men passed laws vowing a move toward equality. During this painfully slow process, citizens faced neighboring guerillas and terrorists, as well as homeland bombings, kidnappings, boycotts and demonstrations.

In the fall of 1983, I attended my first symphony concert. Wide-eyed and unschooled on all things symphonic, I walked into Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium. The musicians were in early preparation, polishing, tuning, playing scales. Shortly, the director tapped his baton and they sat upright, instruments at the ready. The oboe gave a clear ‘A’ and each musician began to tune to it.

This sound is often referred to as a cacophony. Webster defines it as a ‘harsh, inharmonious collection of sounds; dissonance.’ The process by which the instruments prepared to harmonize was difficult to hear. They sounded aimless, disorderly and unconnected. The oboe continued its pure, unwavering ‘A’ tone. In a few minutes, the broad, diverse instruments were tuned to its sound.
What followed was a collection of harmonies and movements so profound and complex and simplistic that I could barely absorb or describe them. The tempos, melodies, progressions and empty places were executed flawlessly (or so it seemed) and we listened, we experienced, we rose and fell with the emotions of the movements. When it ended, I felt both refreshed and spent.

In the aftermath of World War I and II, music therapy was used for soldiers suffering physical and psychological trauma. A few years ago, researchers agreed that music contained curative powers for a number of illnesses. They reported that it often ‘rewires’ a brain effected by injury, offering a ‘workaround’ for underperforming regions.

Harvard University neurologist, Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, suggests that music may provide an “alternative entry point.” Pitch, harmony, melody, rhythm and emotion engage different regions of the brain, regions that are also occupied by speech, movement and social interaction. Music, he suggests, can penetrate those regions, engaging them, while allowing neurologists to introduce new methods by which the brain may form speech and produce movement. “It works well and it works instantaneously,” Schlaug says, “and it’s hard to think of any medication that has this effect.”

Music as a coping strategy has been shown to reduce stress levels in patients and to lower negative biological agents. In the long term, it repeatedly reduces stress and anxiety symptoms. Is it any wonder that Paul continually admonished the followers of Jesus to “teach one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts”?

Can you hear Moses’ first song, which began as a prayer of gratitude? After the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land, the waters returned to destroy Pharaoh’s chariots and horses and Moses led them in a chorus, “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted…”

Can you hear Hannah’s song turn from a prayer of gratitude for her own situation to the broader picture of what God has done and what He will do? Can you hear her new confidence take root that all who trust in Him (including Samuel) are secure?

Can you hear Mary’s leap from trepidation to confidence as she declares, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ As she ponders her role in His plan, she, too, moves from her promise and her visitation to the declaration of His works and deeds. She realizes that her future is ordered and steadfast.

God’s Word and His Spirit provide for us a pure, perfect tone. We bring harmony to our lives when we tune our thoughts, deeds, prayers, actions and attitudes to that sound. Living in concert with what He desires for us brings prayers of gratitude, which lead to songs of praise, which lead to an incalculable source of joy.

David summed it up more poetically, “For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.”
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For God So Loved That He Gave

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

It is that most wonderful time of the year – a time for family, parties, great food and a real need to shop. How much better can it get?

It has been great to hear from you this year – even better to see many of you. Every year our blessings seem to multiply exponentially; I don’t think our possessions change that much, but our focus changes toward things that matter, like, being with the people we love. We are trying to savor every good conversation, every story that makes us laugh ’til we cry, and every still, small voice that nudges us toward His plan for every tomorrow. Honestly, I don’t quite know how people who do not walk with the Lord survive; I fear making decisions for my own life without His guiding hand.

We pray for you a most wonderful Christmas, and for a special visitation from the One who came so long ago. We love you, and we appreciate you.

Love,
Janet
PS… John and I took a selfie with Santa a couple of nights ago…. See attached.

 

FOR GOD SO LOVED THAT HE GAVE  by Janet Paschal

It is the city where Jacob buried his beloved Rachel; where Samuel anointed David to be Israel’s king. It is the hometown of David and his mighty men; the primary backdrop for the enchanting story of his great-grandmother, Ruth. By the time of Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem, the City of David, had declined into a small, mountainous village. It stood along an ancient caravan route, a melting pot of people and cultures.

The cool Mediterranean winter provided the perfect contrast for the appearance of the radiant angel to the nocturnal shepherds. Imagine their frightful joy as they witnessed a great company of heavenly beings praising God in the open pastureland; their curiosity as they hurried to find the manger, the newborn, the Messiah.

God’s gift to mankind was an offshoot of history’s most distinguished family tree. In the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God promised a kinsman-redeemer from Adam’s lineage.

Satan conspired repeatedly and creatively to eradicate the Messianic line. From the onset, he stirred murderous strife between Cain and Abel. Before the flood, the sons of god took for themselves wives, the daughters of men, and Nephilim giants filled the earth with violence. God’s gift eclipsed hatred.

God described a great, everlasting nation that would be borne of His friend, Abraham. Twenty-five years later, when he was 100 years old and Sarah 90, Isaac was born. God’s gift trumped physiology.

Pharaoh’s order to kill all of the male Hebrew newborns was in place when Moses was born. For three months, his mother hid him, then chose the perfect time and the perfect spot to place the tarred basket among the reeds. When Pharaoh’s daughter found him, his sister offered her brilliant input, and Moses was raised to learn the art of war from the very people he would later engage. God’s gift transcended man’s law.

When Judah failed to give his only surviving son to his daughter-in-law Tamar, she contrived an illegitimate son to continue the family lineage. Hebrew law states that ten generations must pass before an illegitimate child may enter into the assembly of the Lord. Guess how many generations passed between Tamar’s son, Perez, and the future king, David? Not one generation was wasted. God’s gift endured.

Boaz was a wealthy landowner when he noticed Ruth working in the fields. Newly widowed, Ruth abandoned her family to remain loyal to her mother-in-law, Naomi. When pressed, she vowed, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” This unswerving dedication would lead Boaz to seek the hand of this woman of character. Boaz brought home a sandal, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, David’s grandfather. God’s gift outlived death.

Perhaps the most threatening breach to the divine lineage occurred closer to the birth of Christ. Chuck Missler called “dismal’ the succession of kings beginning with the tribe of Judah. Finally, God pronounces a “blood curse” on Jeconiah, declaring him childless, whose seed will not prosper or rule any more in Judah (Jeremiah 22:30).

Oops. The Messiah has to come from the royal line upon which God has pronounced a “blood curse.” Missler said, “I always visualize a celebration in the councils of Satan on that day. But then I imagine God turning to His angels saying, “Watch this one!”

Matthew traces the lineage of Christ beginning with Adam through David, then David through Solomon, finally arriving at Joseph, Jesus’ legal father. However, Luke, the physician, departs from Matthew’s path and traces the family tree of Nathan, Bathsheba’s second son. This takes him to Heli, the father of Mary, mother of Jesus. The precedent had long been established for a daughter to inherit if there were no sons and if the daughter married within her tribe (Numbers 27:8). Thus, Jesus was born to the virgin Mary, who carried legal title to the lineage of David, but without the blood curse of Jeconiah. God’s gift navigated the maze of man’s sin.

Finally, God’s early promise lights up a small, mountainous village. The Lion of Judah, the root of David, the “seed of the woman” culminates into the virgin-born child.

For God so loved that He gave.

 

janet_john

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If I Had My Life To Live Over

When a Dayton, Ohio newspaper editor read her work in the Kettering-Oakwood Times, he offered the new wife and mother a regular column. Erma Bombeck earned $50 a week for her articles that ran under the title, Operation Dustrag. Crafting stories on a typewriter suspended between cinder blocks in a cramped bedroom, she found humor in motherhood, housework, and marriage.

Of housework she wrote, “My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”
Of motherhood: “In general, my children refused to eat anything that hadn’t danced on TV.”
Of romance: “The only reason I would take up jogging is to hear heavy breathing again.”
Of cooking: “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times last twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.
Of holidays: “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”
Of travel: “Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone?”
Of fashion: “Sometimes I can’t figure designers out. It’s as if they flunked human anatomy.”
Of shopping: ” The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billon to one.”
Of dieting: “Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

She famously stated, “Success is outliving your failures,” although one is hard-pressed to find failure at any level in her career. Nine hundred newspapers featured her column, At Wit’s End. Best-selling books like The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, All I Know About Animal Behavior I Learned In Loehmann’s Dressing Room, and I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression garnered million dollar contracts. Top women’s magazines featured her regularly and, for eleven years, Bombeck appeared twice weekly on ABC’s, Good Morning America.

A devout Catholic, she once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.‘ And so, she did.

In 1992, Bombeck was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 1996, a fatal kidney disorder led to a transplant. On April 22nd, she died from complications.

After learning of her impending mortality, she wrote:
Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything?
 
My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.
 
If I had my life to live over again I would have talked less and listened more.
 
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”

A humorist to the end, when asked what she would write on her tombstone, Bombeck did not hesitate. “I told you I was sick.

Erma
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God’s Mass Choir

masschoir

It reads like an afterthought: a casual claim within the grandiose story of creation. Following a narrative on solar and lunar systems comes this five-word sentence: “He also made the stars” (Gen.1: 16 NIV).

Astrophysicists use the Hubble Space Telescope to map His sky. After spending hundreds of hours gathering light, the Telescope allows them to see further into a specific region. They isolate and measure a ‘slice’ of it, then compute its approximate size. According to their estimate, our universe consists of 170 billion galaxies. A recent supercomputer simulation in Germany estimated 500 billion galaxies.

Galaxies are collections of stars. The largest are elliptical. The most common is M87. This galaxy, alone, contains 2.7 trillion stars.

Within the billions of galaxies is our own, the Milky Way. Far more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists use VLBA, a radio telescope, to remap our Milky Way. This barred, spiral galaxy contains 100 – 400 billion stars.

Isaiah wrote, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Ask me about the things to come…. It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.'” (Is. 45:11,12 ESV, NIV)
Within our Milky Way galaxy is the solar system. It is comprised of the Sun, as well as the planets, moons, and other bodies that orbit it. So far, astronomers have found more than 500 solar systems in our galaxy and estimate there may be as many as 100 billion. In our Milky Way, alone, there may be 7 billion stars similar to the Sun.

Our planet Earth is some 93 million miles from the Sun, our nearest star. Despite the scant reference in Genesis, God gave special applications to His stars. Without our Sun, we could not survive. Radiation transfers its heat to our planet seamlessly, its light as well. All of the stars’ positions change except the Pole star, Polaris, which is fixed with the Earth’s axis rotation. This North Star continues to guide navigators with a virtual compass in the sky.

Like everything else in God’s world, there is intent and purpose.

British astronomers used a NASA telescope to capture sounds emitted by stars light years away from Earth. Writing in the journal, Science, the team says the “music” gives a more accurate picture of their size and structure.

The pulsation of the stars makes them ‘sing’. Amazingly, no star makes the same sound. Each is unique, with varied pitch, timbre and rumbling. Professor Ian Roxburgh of Queen Mary College said, “It’s like listening to the sound of a musical instrument and then trying to reconstruct the shape of it.”

There are more than 100 billion galaxies in our observable universe. A typical galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars.

It is God’s mass choir.

God asked of Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …Who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38: 4-7 NASB)

Here it is. A celestial chorus whose proportions we cannot begin to grasp. “How good it is to sing praises to our God,” the Psalmist wrote. “How pleasant and fitting to praise Him! …He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalm 47: 1-4 NIV)

Charles Spurgeon asks, “Did you not conceive that yon stars, that those eyes of God, looking down on you, were also mouths of song – that every star was singing God’s glory, singing, as it shone, its mighty Maker, and his lawful, well-deserved praise?”

After all of man’s research and development, we have identified only a pitiful sliver of the galaxy we live in. The writer’s offhand reference to God’s work on day four becomes a symbol of His magnificence. We gain an otherworldly perspective on the call of the Psalmist to, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.” We join our voices to the song of the stars, “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise… For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” (Ps.96: 1-4 NIV)

He also made the stars.

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Mighty Mouse, Flash Gordon, and That Other Guy

When I was young, I loved mornings (still do!) On Saturdays I’d tiptoe to the kitchen for a stack of crackers then settle onto the floor in front of our 13-inch black and white television. With the volume barely audible, I became completely absorbed in the adventures of Mighty Mouse, Flash Gordon, and the little guy who played guitar and used cat whiskers for strings. (I can’t remember his name, but he stuttered when he sang “C-c-c-combo.”) Oh yeah, I was an intellectual.

All these years later, I still like to see the meek triumph. I still get a lump in my throat when someone displays kindness for that reason alone, and I still root for the underdog. The only thing that has changed is my playing field.

When we were plowing through the second regimen of chemotherapy, I was given a hefty dose of Benadryl prior to each treatment to prevent an allergic reaction. The treatments lasted for about three hours, during which time I worked and reclined in a vegetative state.

At the time, Duke Medical Center was remodeling their Oncology Treatment area, increasing space and giving the entire floor a facelift. On one particularly memorable Thursday I was in a small room in the old area, sandwiched between three other chairs and a makeshift aisle of two nurse’s stations, a variety of utility carts, and John (bless him) sitting contentedly in a straight chair. Against the wall across from me was a row of beds for patients who need to lie down during their treatments, each one with a chair for their guest, and open to the room.

On this particular day the four beds were occupied by three men and one girl, each of whom appeared to be accompanied by their spouses. The girl was young (I’d guess late 20s) and the men older. The wives read or watched television or looked around for friendly faces, and the young husband read and occasionally looked up as if to ask, “What are we doing here?”

It occurred to me that this disease and it’s treatment is much worse on the husbands, wives, moms, dads, siblings, and friends than it is the person who gets the plastic bracelet or the clean, white blanket. The spouses watched as the lethal fluids dripped into the plastic lines feeding directly into the veins of the person they married 40 years ago, or two years ago, knowing only this – that it can have very negative repercussions and that it may not work. They also know they’ll do it again next week because, for now, it is still their best option. (John admitted that it was always hard for him to watch them start the flow of the red stuff during my first chemotherapy regimen, knowing what the consequences would be in the days following.)

I settled into the recliner and thought of how helpless these spouses must be feeling, unable to fully understand a disease that requires two medications simultaneously, because it acclimates itself quickly enough to counter the first. The doctors offer percentages and recommendations, but their information is strewn with educated guesses. The only thing these spouses know for sure is that this is the person with whom they remember their first kiss, their first house, and their days before cancer was in their everyday conversation.

At the end of the day, it was the spouses who checked to make sure all their bags were retrieved before leaving. It was the spouses who dug for their keys in early preparation and called to let everyone know they were on their way. It was the spouses who took the arms of the patients and led them slowly toward the exit, with a look of quiet resolve and supernatural strength.

It occurred to me that these husbands, wives, and friends were discovering reserves of faith and strength they probably never knew existed. They were building a storehouse of depth and tenacity that would last the rest of their lives. Perhaps God fashioned these kinds of remembrances, knowing how much they (and we) would need them.

mightymouse                             flashgordon

So this rambling missive is for the true hero: the helper, the concertmaster. It is for the familial Samaritan who offers everything and expects nothing; for those who discovered that the most expeditious route to finding your life is by losing it.

So if you find yourself in front of the television on an early Saturday morning, tune in to see if Mighty Mouse has come to save the day, or if Flash is embroiled in a futuristic dilemma. And if you happen upon the little guy who plays guitar and stutters when he sings, send me his name. I know where some cats are….

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The Very Best Is Yet to Be

This gallery contains 1 photo.

They were friends with the Jewish population long before the Germans arrived. Casper ten Boom and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, worked, lived and worshipped alongside them in the heart of Haarlem, Amsterdam. They participated in their Sabbath rituals and … Continue reading

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Go Back the Way You Came

Solomon was twelve years old when his father appointed him King over Israel. He reigned for forty years and accomplished much, yet, in disobedience, took some 700 foreign wives who built altars to strange gods. Displeased, God warned that He would raise up an enemy against Israel. In deference to Solomon’s father, David, God vowed to delay judgment until after his death. When judgment came during Rehoboam’s tenure, the nation of Israel was divided. The southern kingdom of Judah retained the seat of government. The remaining tribes chose Jeroboam to lead the northern kingdom, making Samaria its capital.

Sixty years pass, and the people of the northern kingdom continue a steady departure from the Mosaic law. Though they thrive economically, their king pursues a path of domestic security by offering his son, Ahab, to the daughter of the king of Phoenicia. Following the marriage of Ahab and Jezebel, she, a priestess of Baal, invites a large entourage of her fellow priests and prophets to live alongside her in the new country. Into the territory of covenant, the land of promise, a temple is raised for the worship of Baal.

It is in this context that we meet the prophet, Elijah. Listen to his first encounter with Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” Baal was worshiped as the god of dew and rain. In a calculated irony, God has chosen Elijah’s challenge to be bold, direct, and all-inclusive.

feb_blog1God directs Elijah to hide in a ravine east of the Jordan. He promises meals catered by ravens, twice daily, and clear, cool water from the brook.

Two years pass. The drought, which began at Elijah’s departure, spreads to his ravine. God directs him to a widow in Sidon. For a year, her ‘handful of flour’ feeds three.

Meanwhile, Jezebel seeks to please Baal and solicit rain when she commands that all of the prophets of God be killed. Ahab’s palace chief, Obadiah, hides 100 of them in a cave where he feeds and protects them. (Yes, Gloria Gaither. God has always had a people.)

Still bereft of rain, God tells Elijah to revisit Ahab. He asks that the priests and prophets of Jezebel along with the people of Israel assemble on Mount Carmel. It is high noon at the OK Corral. Jezebel’s priests and prophets number 850; on the other side of the showdown, Elijah stands alone. For an entire day, to no avail, the priests implore Baal to send fire and ignite their sacrifice. Early evening, Elijah prays to God, two sentenfeb_blog2ces, and the fire falls. Elijah turns to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink. For there is the sound of abundance of rain.”

Elijah gives the command and all of the priests of Baal are killed. Ahab rides home, through the heavy downpour, and tells Jezebel all that happened on Mount Carmel. When she learns that Elijah has killed her prophets, she sends a message to him: ‘May the gods deal severely with me if, by this time tomorrow, I do not do to you what you did to them.’

Elijah was chosen to turn a kingdom around. He boldly declared God’s messages. He called on God in real time, confident that He would answer. Elijah did not look for alternatives; his faith was resolute – until Jezebel’s message came to him.

In clothes still damp from the driving rain, Elijah went to the desert and prayed to die.

Some experts have suggested that Elijah suffered from a bipolar disorder. How else do we reconcile the prolonged miracles with the instantaneous deflation, they argue?

How did God respond? First, he had an angel refresh Elijah. He was restored physically. His next encounter with God chronicles the familiar when he whimpered, ‘I’ve been very zealous. They have killed the other prophets. I, alone am left, and they are trying to kill me, too.’ After three colossal demonstrations of power, God whispers the remedy for his emotional dilemma, “Go back the way you came.” Revisit what you believe. Recall the ravens and the brook. Ponder the flour that would not diminish, the son who was resurrected. Recollect the speedy fire as the people of Israel looked on. Then God added one stinging rebuttal: “I reserve 7,000 in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal…”

God, in His wisdom, created a gamut of personalities, lending to a delicious variety of encounters. He offered poignant examples of both sides of the pursuit of faith. When Jesus told a father that all things were possible if he believed, the father cried in one breath, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Thankfully, God created a remedy for volatile faith and erratic personalities; an escape for desert days, “Go back the way you came.”

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