Friday, December 30, 2005

Resolutions-Hindering Habits

Man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Luke 12:15

December 31st is looming, the traditional time to make reasonable or rash resolutions. By now, many have toyed with adjustments to improve attitudes or atmosphere. But contemplating change is different from resolving to make a change. To “resolve” to live differently is to make a firm decision to do something.

Over the next few weeks, this column will mention a few hindering habits, roadblocks to the reality of an abundant life in Christ. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). The Greek word rendered “full” or “more abundantly” means “above the common.”

One hindering habit is the love of possessions. Jesus lets followers know that he can shepherd them to the best in life—honoring God and loving fellow earth mates. He tried to help a rich ruler grasp this concept. Here’s their conversation found in Luke 18 and Mark 10.

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The ruler recognized Jesus as an exceptional rabbi, but not as deity. Jesus answered that no one was good except God alone and then recounted some of the old law such as not committing adultery, murder, and theft, and honoring parents. The rich man ignored the invitation to acknowledge Jesus as God and instead focused on the rules he had kept since youth.

The ruler replied that he hadn’t committed any offenses in the ten-commandment- category. Jesus “looked at him and loved him.” He told him to sell all he owned and give the money to the poor. “Then come, follow me.” Upon hearing the answer, “the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

Then Jesus commented about life: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Those who overheard this conversation between Jesus and the rich man wondered aloud, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

The rich man had asked what he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him what he needed to become to inherit eternal life. Like God, he could become a sympathizer and helper to the poor. This ruler had a tight fist around his bank account, for him crunching numbers was fun. He found it easy enough to be pious, to follow religious rules. Eliminating neighborhood poverty at his expense—that was impossible.

Net Aid gives these definitions of poverty: Extreme or absolute poverty is defined as making less than $1 a day, unable to afford the basic necessities to sustain life. Over eight million die each year from extreme poverty. Those in moderate poverty make only $1 to $2 dollars a day, barely enough to sustain life, not enough for health care or education. Relative poverty is defined as those who live below a national income average.

In 2006 I want to change a habit that hinders. I’m asking God to clip heartstrings attached to belongings. My firm decision is to pare down possessions, to aid the poor and scout for abundant life, one rich with possibilities. -- Next hindering-habits column on procrastination.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Celebrating Christmas with American Sign Language
The Good News in ASL

“Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.” Psalm 134:2

On the church stage, “Christmas Journey” was acted out in American Sign Language for the deaf audience. For the hearing audience, the script was voice interpreted.

This December as my husband and I watched the excellent production at Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church, two scriptures came to mind: about lifting holy hands and Isaiah’s prophecy that the deaf would “hear the words of the scroll” (Isaiah 29:18).

Last year, a Woodhaven member invited me to their annual Christmas Drama. In our conversation, the member related how this generation could be the one to more completely fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that the deaf will hear about the Messiah.

Over 100 sign languages exist in the world. American Sign Language is the fourth language of the United States. Some colleges even offer it for foreign language credit, and more than 23 million Americans are deaf. Gaulledet University’s President said, “Deaf people can do anything . . . except hear.” With clarity, Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church demonstrated that in the production of a “Christmas Journey.”

As my husband and I watched the drama unfold, we became enamored with the Deaf World where “sign language is spoken.” Dawn Sign Press says the deaf “listen with their eyes,” and “facial expressions and body language say as much as the human voice.”

That night we listened with our eyes, too. And this is what we saw. On stage, a group of Christians planned a trip to the Holy Land. They packed, met at the airport, flew across an ocean and put their feet down in the land of milk and honey.

There, a Jewish tour guide regaled them with stories of the Christ. Near a large tour bus, he told of Gabriel’s announcement, to Mary, the visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and Joseph’s concern when he found out about Mary’s pregnancy. At stage left, the tour guide’s words came to life.

During Act 2, fatigued tourist Fred took a siesta. He dreamed about Jesus’ birth, baptism, ministry, crucifixion, and triumphant resurrection. With precision and pageantry, the cast of 60 enacted Fred’s dreams and convinced us we were in the Holy Land, too. An additional 20 supported the drama—voice interpreters, costume designers, and lighting experts.

Orchestrated songs accompanied the play, and the hearing audience had the double pleasure of hearing the melodies and watching the praise in American Sign Language. The signing of “Breath of Heaven” and “Come as You Are” were especially poetic.

Long ago, at an inspirational musical concert, I sat behind a mother who interpreted for her deaf teenage daughter. The mother’s precious hands told her daughter of Christ’s love. That night, my understanding of “lifting holy hands” broadened. Again this month, thanksgiving arose for the beautiful hands that year round tell the Christmas Story.

During Jesus’ ministry, he literally opened the ears of the deaf. He healed. Today, the Christian Deaf World continues his mending mission. With passion they accept their heart-healing assignment to share the gospel. They lift holy hands and sign Jesus’ story about a stable, a star, a Savior, and a sacrifice.

“In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll.” Isaiah 29:18

Sunday, December 18, 2005

1534 Carol


In December several years back, way back, when J C. Penny’s catalog store took up one corner of downtown Conroe, I ambled toward my car. As I neared my vehicle I heard carols. Thinking one of the downtown stores piped music outdoors for the shoppers, I twisted my head back and forth to discover the instigator of such joyful noise.

Embarrassment colored my face as I neared my car. A week or so earlier, our radio broke, and for some reason the shade tree mechanic directly wired the radio to the battery. I’d turned off my car, but not the fully powered radio. The windows of the Dodge pulsed with the tinkling notes of a jolly Christmas song. The car seemed a living thing and the volume amplified as I neared. I hopped in and flew away like the down of a thistle.

For the most part, Christmas carols bring tidings of joy. But not all carols are about merry gentlemen resting, midnights clear, or the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay. One carol is particularly haunting.

The Coventry Carol, written in 15 34 by Robert Croo, is a lament. The song honors the Christ Child and the babies killed when King Herod ordered their execution. After the magi saw a defining star in their ever-watched and interpreted sky, they traveled to Judea. They asked King Herod of Jerusalem if he knew where this young child lived, the future King of the Jews.

Seeming solicitous, the deceptive Herod asked for the magi to notify him when this child was found, saying he wanted to worship the baby, too. The wise men eventually found Jesus and worshiped him but didn’t return to Herod with an address. Warned in a dream, they bypassed Jerusalem.

Because of a dream-warning, Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus escaped to Egypt. Herod planned to rule at all costs, and thinking the child Jesus was still in the vicinity of Bethlehem, ordered executions of every male under age two. Foretold in Old Testament prophecy; the horrendous act caused the women to weep for their “children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15). Estimates of deaths range from 20-60.

The Coventry Carol’s words “Lullay, Thou little tiny Child, by, by, lully, lullay” sound like a lullaby, but chronicle Herod’s massacre. Recently, my husband and I attended a concert by Kemper Crabb and band, featuring carols from their Medieval Christmas album/CD.

Crabb remarked before singing the Coventry Carol words similar to these: History tells of the atrocities of Herod and later one period is called by some the Dark Ages. In a thousand years, will our generation be considered the real Dark Age because of all the unborn we have slaughtered? These are some statistics I found when writing this article: Russian abortions surpassed live births in 2005. Americans aborted over a million babies per year for years.

The group then sang the Coventry Carol, “Herod the King, in his raging, Charged he hath this day, His men of might, in his own sight, All children young to slay.” The moment pierced my mother-heart.

When you kiss your babies, your grandchildren and your adult children this Christmas, lift a prayer of thanks to God. Celebrate. Laugh. Enjoy Christmas carols. But through the season, listen for the Coventry Carol. Remember the innocents then and now. “For Thy parting, nor say nor sing, By, by lully, lullay.”

Friday, December 09, 2005

Los Posadas

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

Running on our last ounces of energy we needed to rest, we needed to find our motel room.

Late one December evening, my brother, sister and I drove to Arkansas for a family funeral. Because of work schedules, we left about 10 PM and had a five and one half hour drive to reach our destination. We siblings rarely get that much time to visit, and before we knew it we crossed the state line.

Over an hour later, the digital dashboard clock showed 3:30 AM, and we drove into the parking area of a motel where our reserved double room awaited. All talked out, we were ready for slumber and rest.

Los Posadas, meaning the inn, is a traditional festival of Mexico that reenacts the searching-scenario of Joseph. In Bethlehem of Judea over 2,000 years ago, Joseph and the full term Mary hunted for a place of rest. The timing or mission was not of their choosing. The Roman government required each person to return to the town of their ancestry to be taxed.

Bethlehem, packed with the obligated, didn’t have room for one more citizen, not even a woman in labor. Innkeepers shook their heads. But Joseph, bent on finding a place to nest, kept inquiring about lodging. Finally, someone pitied the burdened man and woman and pointed toward an animal shelter.

Los Posadas is remembered in Mexico and now in the states through a house-to-house search for a dwelling place. At night between December 16 and 24th , by candlelight a group of adults and children carry figurines of Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child. They walk a community street, and at pre-selected homes, they knock and inquire if they can find lodging. As they reach a house, the group led by Joseph, sings in Spanish “En nombre de cielo. In the name of heaven, I ask you for posada, for my beloved wife can walk no more.”

The homeowners turn the pilgrims away and sing in answer, “This is not an inn, keep walking. I will not open, you might be a thief.” Each night the travelers are refused refuge until the final house is reached. On that night, the innkeeper sings, “Posada I give to you, Holy Pilgrims, and I beg your pardon, I had not recognized you.”

At this last home, the seekers are welcomed for a feast and a candy-filled piñata for the children. The first Los Posadas took place in Mexico in 1538 when missionaries came to the new continent.

On the starry night in Bethlehem, someone gave shelter to the weary Joseph and Mary, and Jesus was born that night. Thirty years later, lodging for the tired and sin sick became central to Jesus’ message. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Like my siblings and I, most have experienced physical exhaustion from journeying. Another kind of weariness comes about from complications brought on by sin in our own lives or loved ones.

Jesus gives long term respite for souls. Jesus is posadas, an inn, a place of rest. He stands ready to lift the baggage from our hearts. The Christ taps on the door and seeks entrance. Welcome Him. He’s the best houseguest you’ll ever have.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Jesus is Jubilee

An invitation arrives in the mail. It’s a thick envelope, carefully addressed. The return address simply reads, “Jubilee.”

Befuddled about what type of celebration this could be, the envelope is opened. It seems a 50th year is about to commence. The benefits—all credit card debts are cancelled, the indentured will be set free, and family lands revert to original owners. To participants this invitation spells euphoria.

That imaginary scene resembles the plan in Leviticus 25 where God set in motion the blessings of a Jubilee year. God intended relief every 50th year. At half-century marks, God intended debts be forgiven, servants freed, and farmlands to lie fallow.

Jubilee spelled rest. For those living under the Mosaic Law, at least two reasons existed for this 50th year celebration. If a family succumbed to misfortune, the year of Jubilee provided opportunity for restructure, leveling opportunities for success.

Often the indebted became ordinary servants for fellow Hebrews, assuring the poor of at least shelter and food. However, at the beginning of Jubilee, they were released from the work arrangement.

Also in the fiftieth year, land was not farmed and reverted back to original owners. God wanted his people to remember that “the land must not be sold permanently because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (25:23). Occupants only. Not owners.

Isaiah prophesied about a jubilee Savior, a “good news” king to the poor and the brokenhearted. This king would set captives free. The time of these events was proclaimed as the “year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:1-2).

Near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on a Sabbath day of rest, the Christ (Anointed) read from a scroll the words of Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news.”

His message arrived for the bankrupt, those in bondage to sin, and the spiritually blind. Further, Jesus said to them, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21). Jesus is Jubilee.

Matthew Henry writes that “jubilee” or “jobel” signifies a particular sound of the trumpet, “distinguishable from any other.” This sound went forth at the end of the Day of Atonement when God reconciled with man.

In the Savior a continuous jubilee is celebrated. Through Jesus, God spelled out “peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Friday, December 02, 2005

Star of Bethlehem

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“We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

December 23, 2004, my husband and I drove to Rudder Auditorium in College Station, TX for Rick Larsen’s presentation on the Bethlehem Star. Mr. Larsen advises, “Arrive early.” Even two days before Christmas, the 2,500 seat auditorium quickly filled to near capacity.

Through centuries, skeptics, believers and the curious wondered about Matthew’s biblical account of the star. Lawyer and law professor Rick Larson presides over The Star Project, a non-profit organization. Through multimedia and “seen by tens of thousands in the U.S. and Europe, Larson leads you sleuthing through biblical and many other historical clues.”

Larsen pilots “a computer model of the universe across the skies of 2000 years ago.” During the display, participants “see the striking celestial events the ancients saw.”

Key players in Larsen’s conclusions are Johannes Kepler, computers and the gospel of Matthew. Kepler, a brilliant mathematician living 1571-1630, published the Laws of Planetary Motion. The Laws are still in use today by NASA, the European Space Agency and others.

Only after many days spent on calculations could Kepler draw a specific nighttime sky. Today, in mere heartbeats, computer software, using Kepler’s configurations, can chart the 2000-year-old sky over Judea. Pick a date, time and location and turn the computer loose.

Astrology claims celestial bodies exert forces and influence humans. The Bible states God directs the affairs of men, but does place signs in his created heavens, messages from the Almighty.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars,” said Jesus (Luke 21:25). Over 2000 years ago, eastern Magi scholars saw a sign-star, eventually leading them to Bethlehem and Jesus. The gospel writer Matthew outlines nine star-criteria that must match any modern conclusions.

Scripture and science shake hands in Larsen’s findings. Rudder Auditorium shows this year are on December 8th and 22nd at 7:00PM, on the Texas A&M campus.

View the schedule for other December Bethlehem Star presentations at . This month, Larsen will be in Texas, Kansas and Colorado. His conclusions and findings are also posted at the Web site.

Ronald A. Schorn, Ph.D. founder of the Planetary Astronomy Department of NASA says, “About 99.9% of the Star of Bethlehem stuff is nutty, but this isn't . . . it’s well-researched and reasonable."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


A quote from the past that addresses today's concerns about traditional marriage:

Question: "In a world without women what would men become?"

Mark Twain: "Scarce, sir. Mighty scarce."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Golden Bird

A happy heart makes the face cheerful. Proverbs 15:13

One dark and stormy Thanksgiving Day, in my kitchen I wrestled a thawed turkey onto the drain board. The snoozing sun, blanketed by thunderclouds, started to peek from the horizon. Groggy, I set the coffee maker to brewing my wake-up java. Coffee done, I poured a cup and wrapped my hands around the warm mug. I read The Courier, and my eyes made their usual stops along the newsprint pages.

Finally, I could dally no longer, so I poured a second cup of coffee and laid out my turkey tools. Grabbing the kitchen shears, I snipped a hole in the snug plastic wrapper around the turkey, but a shiver of fright ran along my arms when I saw the price tag.

I blinked. I rubbed my eyes. I spewed coffee, and blinked again. What I saw couldn’t be true. The price tag read $39.71, BONELESS, SKINLESS TURKEY BREAST. What? I didn’t want all white meat. I wanted turkey drumsticks, and usually paid nothing for the Thanksgiving turkey. This Tom cost 40 bucks.

Those earlier November ads were clever. Grocers enticed shoppers with an offer of a free turkey. Many gave one away or only charged 39 cents per pound if a shopper bought at least $20.00 of mincemeat, marmalade, and mousse makings.

My mind returned to the plastic encased poultry. Did I really pay $40.00? Maybe he was free after all. I lathered hands, rinsed and dried and went in search of my grocery receipt. Locating it, a quadruple digit leaped out of the number rank. Sure enough, the main course, supposed-to-be-free fowl, had deficited my budget by nearly half a hundred.

It was too late to give “Tom” his freedom. Too late to return him to the grocer. All ready, near Austin, relatives were packing their car, readying to drive to our house. I returned to the kitchen, snipped off his price tag and laid it aside.

Once more, I began to cut the plastic away from the turkey, I consoled myself that at least I’d bought a boneless skinless breast, and we’d have prime turkey. But no. Under the fancy price and phony label was a Pilgrim-plain, bone-in, drumstick-protruding turkey.

Through the rest of dinner preparations, like a neon sign, the $39.71 price tag flashed in my mind. I decided to keep my secret. I corralled my thoughts and shut down the complaint department and ordained “thanksgivings.”

By noon that day, pies were sliced, flaky rolls huddled in an old bun warmer, and a quarter cup of real butter melted on a mound of mashed potatoes. I lifted the browned, “golden,” bird from the oven. He preened on a silver platter.

At our feast table, guests seemed to enjoy cranberries, carrots, and costly turkey. His price tag intruded in my mind once more, and each taste of turkey felt like swallowing half dollars, ca-ching, ca-ching.

I consoled myself. Someday, I’d memorialize this old bird in a story. He could outlive the gravy and the clan. I recalled other renowned fowl—Daffy and Donald Duck, Chicken Little, and Tweety Bird. But I especially remembered the goose that laid the golden eggs.

My Thanksgiving bird might join the ranks of other famous fowl. He might earn his keep after all. Someday, Tom Turkey might even make a name for himself.

The cheerful heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cultivating Thanksgiving

"Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines."
Leroy Satchel Paige

I reached into the linen closet and pulled out a “tradition.” If you read this column in past years, you may recall our family custom. We use a new tight-weave cotton sheet for our Thanksgiving tablecloth, and guests write a note of thanks with permanent Sharpie markers
Reading praises written on the makeshift cloth, I see that they chronicle our family-trek. Matrimony added new family members. A baby’s arrival was announced one year, and by the next November she was five months old. Toddlers’ artwork stands out, and preschooler penmanship progressed from ABCs written backwards to perfect spelled thanksgivings.

Gratitude is more than good manners. Expressing thanks is choosing to see what is good. Even when the sky is falling, I can be thankful for Chicken Little’s warning.

In a wealthy society, people are surrounded by many manmade objects. Many citizens are generations removed from the slower paced farm life where man interacted with God in growing food. We’re better at sniffing Starbuck’s coffee than smelling roses.

To cultivate gratitude, give yourself a thanksgiving-workout. Go outdoors. Don’t have anything plastic in sight. Just go out in the fields with God. Breathe deeply. Look up and absorb the enormity of the heavens. Bend low and peek at tiny blades of browning weeds. Watch while autumn bugs maneuver their grassland forest. And give thanks.

If a trip into the country or backyard isn’t possible, follow the psalmist’s lead and thank God for your life. “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

How often am I grateful for toes that balance or for the bottom of my feet, long lasting and sturdier than tire-tread? For ambidextrous hands, sense of smell, emotions, and muscles -- I forget to give thanks for this physical body that propels me through life. But I tend to complain when an ailment interferes with proper function.

Last year after Thanksgiving, I heard from reader Judy Bowyer in Garland, TX, one of the 4,000 receiving the column by e-mail. She adopted our tradition and wrote: “I have to tell you my success story about the tablecloth. Before Thanksgiving, I went to Linens & Things (because I had a coupon!) to look for a sheet for my ‘memories’ tablecloth.

“But while there, I found they had a sale on quilts and I had a sudden inspiration. My home lends itself to country cozy things. I chose a twin sized quilt that had patchwork square designs, but were in light colors. . . . I placed it on the table and provided the permanent pens for remarks to be written . . . . The signing of the quilt was a huge success and I have no doubt will become one of our many ‘traditions.’"

At the Messecar house in a few days, I’ll spread our keepsake cloth on the dining table. In 2003, my dad’s entry on the tablecloth was Psalm 118:24. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.” Delighting in Jesus, salvation, and another sunrise is good advice. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Veterans Day-God's Storehouse

John Kline, former sergeant and squad leader in WW II, kept a diary of his experiences during the Ardennes Offensive, commonly called the Battle of the Bulge, fought December 16, 1944 -- January 28, 1945. For many years he kept the hand-written 15 pages in a cigar box. Later, he reconstructed the three days he fought and his capture; his diary may be read on the Internet.

More than one million fought in this battle: 500,000 Americans, 55,000 British, and 600,000 Germans. Casualties were some of the highest in WW II, with the official US total reaching 80,987, including wounded, captured and dead. British casualties were 1,400. The Germans suffered 81,834 casualties. The scared and nervous, age 19 Sergeant Kline, heavy machine gun squad leader, said he could “personally confirm that a snow covered tree stump will actually move. That is, if you stare at it long enough.”

After several days of treacherous fighting, Sergeant John Kline was captured and taken as a prisoner of war on December 19th. This began over four months of captivity in which he walked a total of 525 miles. He was “sheltered” for about five weeks of that time, lost 50 pounds, and was not ambulatory when liberated.

For those still engaged in the battle, it raged on into a snowy January, the coldest on record for the Belgium/German border. Sub zero temperatures froze fuel and feet. Tanks and trucks were started every half hour to avoid oil freezing. Many historians believe the bitter weather actually prevented even more casualties. Perhaps their assessments coincide with what God said about himself.

God spoke with Job, revealing the forces he sets aside for perilous times: “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?” (Job 38: 22, 23).

By Friday the 13th in April, an American soldier came into John Kline’s line of view and held out chocolates. The young soldier knew his grueling ordeal had ended. Moved to a field evacuation hospital, he began his journey of gaining weight and strength. Leaving the medical tents, he flew to a General Hospital in Paris, France. He then flew home to the states, where he remained in an Indianapolis hospital for an additional two weeks of observation.

On May the 20th, he returned to his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana. He got off the bus 12 blocks early thinking “I’m home. I’m home.” He walked and ran the rest of the distance to greet his wife, and to see his nine month old son, Teddie, for the first time.

In 1999, John Kline joined a group of 32 WW II veterans who returned to Germany. At a prearranged meeting, they greeted former German soldiers. Warmth and friendliness prevailed, and after exchanging stories, one German said with tears in his eyes, “It is hard to believe that we each stood up in the Ardennes and tried to kill each other."

It is my belief if mothers’ prayers about wars prevailed, there would be no more clashes between rulers. Please God, shorten the times we fight among ourselves. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Reach deep into your storehouses, the ones preserved for days of battle.

To all who served, thank you and Happy Veterans Day.

You may contact Cathy Messecar at

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Teeth Marks in Apples

Shopping in the supermarket earlier this week, I glanced around the apple bins. When I found our favorite variety, I looked for the choicest fruits. The apples were in slanted containers, within easy reach of children. Quite a few Red Delicious and Gala apples had tiny teeth marks.

I’ve witnessed this sneaky sampling by children. When a parent is busy bagging cucumbers or carrots, their hungry preschooler spots a shiny apple. Apples are to eat, right? The child bites into the luscious fruit before dad or mom spies the misconduct. Teeth buried in apple skin, they are told, “Put that back.” The fruit isn’t ruined completely, but no longer is it perfect.

In the beginning, when Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden which meant “paradise,” perfect harmony prevailed. Ideals existed for man and woman, llamas and lions, birds and bees. But, through calculated plans, an evil presence destroyed perfection.

During the creative process, God surveyed his daily handiwork and “saw that it was good.” After gathering the seas into basins, exposing land, fashioning light rays we see and light rays we don’t see, God “saw that it was good.” When man and woman and all the elements of earth were completed, “God saw that it was very good” (Genesis 1).

Faultless, Adam and Eve lived in the garden of God. But a spoiler entered the perfect scene, and deceived the man and woman living in paradise. Satan twisted the truth. The woman and man believed his words rather than God’s, and sin entered the world. Satan said they could eat a forbidden fruit and not be harmed. Said they could sink their teeth in it and not be tainted. Satan lied.

After a few generations, God gave written laws to help people reconnect with truth. God gave moral and civil laws through Abraham’s lineage. He gave standards. He drew lines in the desert sand. The laws were perfect, but people found themselves imperfect. Keeping every law was simply impossible.

From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament books, God left inspired stories of partial successes and failures. A reading of those accounts reveals how much help is needed to live upright. Human strife is constant. Current, evening news discloses that nothing has changed about human nature in thousands of years. The fruit is spoiled. It has teeth marks in it. The word of God tells how fresh fruit is grown.

I realize that not everyone believes the Bible. Some think it is an ancient book with no relevance to today. I’ve heard this question, “How could any book written so long ago, apply to our lives today?” The answer lies in the author. The words weren’t dreamed up by a Neanderthal man. The Creator inspired writers to pen events that would stand the test of time, stand the test of cultures, and stand the test of every philosophy. Creator God who knows us better than our closest relative, left a guidebook.

I am in awe that God told a writer the story of creation. And that writer recorded dialogue between God and the first man and woman. And when Eve had her first baby, her words of love are on a page in black and white. About relevancy of the Bible, Corrie Ten Boon said she marveled that “the ink was dry on the pages.”

The answers to the basics of life are in the Bible. God’s ordained pattern for love, sex, and marriage is in the Bible. By reading the Bible, many of the life style issues of today could be viewed from God’s perspective.

In Jesus Christ, God promises a fruit that is perfect, that has no teeth marks in it. To those who seek and find him he gives the unspoiled fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25).

Cathy Messecar at

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Measure of a Life

This week, Rosa Parks died in her sleep, a courageous woman who brought attention to many inequalities. In 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a white bus driver demanded Ms. Parks vacate her seat on a bus for a white passenger. She refused. To give in, she would have violated her conscience.

Ms. Park’s passing reminded me of Abraham Lincoln’s life and final days. Carl Sandburg author of Abraham Lincoln, the Prairie Years and the War Years, recounts from historical documents the last hours of Lincoln’s life.

On Good Friday 1865, Mr. Lincoln, wife Mary and two friends attended a play at Ford’s Theater. An assassin entered their private box and mortally wounded the President by firing a one-shot brass derringer propelling a lead ball less than a half inch in diameter. Charles A. Leal, a 23-year-old assistant surgeon, gave immediate aid. Through mouth to mouth resuscitation and other measures, Mr. Lincoln breathed.

Unconscious, the President was carried onto 10th street. Across from Ford Theatre, a man standing in a doorway with a lighted candle beckoned the entourage into his home. The President was placed in a rented room upon a plain walnut bed, padded by a “cornhusk mattress resting on rope lacings.”

His condition steadily worsened through the night. Dawn found Mr. Lincoln surrounded by three devoted doctors. As his pulse slowed, breathing became more labored, and the end drew near. Surgeon General Barnes had his finger on Mr. Lincoln’s carotid artery. Dr. Taft’s large palm lay across the President’s chest. The young Charles Leal never seated himself, but stood by the President all night, most often holding his right hand, keeping his index finger on his pulse.

Later, Leal explained that just before departing this earth, recognition and reason sometimes returns to those who have been unconscious for hours. Leal said he determined to “hold his right hand firmly within my grasp to let him know in his blindness that he was in touch with humanity and had a friend.”

Rosa Parks and President Abraham Lincoln lived with adversity before and after they acted for justice and freedom. Ms. Parks was arrested because she defied an unjust law, but in later years was honored for her courage. President Lincoln, a key figure in slavery abolishment, reaped both love and slander.

On September 22, 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed a Proclamation saying that on January 1st of 1863 all slaves would be “forever free.” Godly changes in society rarely come without a price. Solomon said, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT). Passivity is the “act” of doing nothing.

A woodsmen proverb says, “A tree is best measured when down.” When life is gone, these questions are often voiced: “What was wrong?” “How did they die?” The better question, the better measure of a life is “How did they live?”

You may contact Cathy Messecar at

Saturday, October 22, 2005

God's Promises

Bad news or good news, which would you rather receive? Most prefer good news. Because of a government clerical error, my friend Paula received a notice from the Internal Revenue Service saying their business owed $36,000 in back taxes. The misunderstanding was resolved, but Paula’s initial reaction was over-the-top hyperventilation. She did feel faint.

Unlike Paula, the Israelites sometimes got unwelcome news because of their disobedience. Often, news about the future came from one of God’s prophets. God made promises to the obedient and disobedient, but the promises varied in degrees of blessing and meted-out justice.

God’s prophecies often arrived amid similes.

On more than one occasion God sent messages through Jeremiah. For several generations, some clans in Israel worshiped idols, and did detestable things such as sacrificing their morals and children. God described them as having traveling feet that walked away from God. They trusted in their own strength.

God characterized these strays as “stunted shrubs in the desert with no hope for the future” (Jeremiah 17:5 NLT). That’s the dry, crusty land where reptiles grow thick skin to survive.

However, God compared a faithful follower to a tree “planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream” (17:8). This tree is portrayed as green and fruit-bearing even in droughts. The tree is personified as not having fears or worries (17:8 NIV). What a portrait.

For me, crop plenty and crop failure is easy to picture. Years ago, I had a fine garden—organic fertilizer, plenty of rainfall, and the perfect amount of sunny days—that produced hefty tomatoes. So many fruits ripened, we set up saw horses and put a sheet of plywood on top to hold the bounty. A good crop from healthy plants.

But this spring my three spindly tomato plants got a late start due to cold mornings. After too much shade and lack of moisture, nibbling worms also bit into the harvest. In July, we picked half a dozen pitiable runts. A bad crop from shriveled vines.

Throughout Jeremiah’s life he delivered prophecies of horror and hope. Although he delivered plenty of bad news, he was privileged to broadcast the very best news: a Savior for all. God pledged: “I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah . . . I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line” (33: 14. 15).

Most of us, if we’re honest, are a mixture of good and bad, in need of divine nourishment from above. Writer Mary Connealy pens that concept in the words beneath her signature: “Standing on his promises, falling on his grace.”

In her slogan, Mary captures the human drama of deliverance. Brokenness can be healed. Good News has arrived in Jesus. By relying on him, we are “standing on his promises, falling on his grace.”

You may contact Cathy at

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Wars and Rumors of Wars

I firmly believe if God allowed mothers' prayers to rule the world, wars would cease.

Or if the love of God ruled in the world, women wouldn't have to plead for wars to end.

Friday, October 14, 2005

News from India reader about Pakistan

Terrible Scenes (First hand information from the quake hit areas)

I am on the wayback to homeland from the land of devastation. Terrible scenes I have seen. Both my body and mind are so upset. I am unable to describe, but feeling.... Is it the shadow of the hell. There are still having earthquakes.

I brought some bundles of food packets and old clothes. I thought I can distribute them one by one. But I couldn't. Before that, the hungry people jumped over it, took the packets grabbing and ate it like anything. Really I was not feeling well, because of the journey, climate and heavy rain. When I saw the people eating food packets, I forgot my illness and I could not control my tears.

Just two ago relief works started at more than 10 villages. Defence people taking control of it. There are many more villages yet to start relief works. Those areas are at the elevation of 8300 to 9000 feet. The smelling of the dead bodies, no helps for the injured people, rest of the people are attacked by the diseases, starvation, and creatures and insects all around.

In a village there are few believers of Jesus Christ. (99% of the entire area is muslims. They are having so much influence with the terrorist groups. So ours (Salem Voice Ministries: is a hidden ministry for teaching the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. I cannot say the details, because of the security reasons of our believers as well as ministers). By God's grace nobody died from the believers. But most of them injured and lost everything. Our volunteers are doing best sevice as much as they can. It is quiet natural that they face neglection from others, even at the need of relief. Prayer supports from the children of our Lord is badly...... badly....... very badly needed. I cannot express more words. Act as the Holy ! Spirit speaks.

Yours in the love of Messiah Yeshua

Pastor Paul Ciniraj
Salem Voice Ministries.

Friday, October 07, 2005

To complain or not...

Do everything without complaining or arguing. Philippians 2:14

“Ain’t it Awful.” Those were the words printed across the top of the chart my daughter Sheryle brought home from Sunday school when she was 10. That day, her Bible teacher emphasized not complaining.

Sheryle attached the chart to the front of the fridge. Vertically, the grid had each family member’s name, and horizontally, the days of the week. She said she would monitor the family. If anyone complained, she’d say “Ain’t it awful” and place a mark by the name of the offender.

I smiled, thinking how much the children needed this lesson. Later Sunday afternoon, I dropped a bowl of cookie dough. Guess who whined? Me.

My daughter, the self-appointed president of the complaint department, said, “Ain’t it awful,” and I received the first black mark on the chart.

Aggravations may arrive in bunches. They often cluster into a single hour, clamoring for attention. Glitches in paper work, a hangnail, or a flat tire. All can seem monstrous.

When frustrations mount, it’s tempting to tattle to someone and gripe about the latest mishaps. Resist complaining because grumbling is contagious. The story of 12 scouts who explored the land of Canaan is in Numbers chapter 14: when the twelve men returned to their families, ten complained about giant warriors in the land. They in turn “made the whole community grumble“(vs. 36).

Griping focuses on what is wrong, instead of on what is going right, the blessings from God. Charles Hodge says, “The really happy man is one who enjoys the scenery when on a detour.” This past week my can opener disappeared. I literally opened cans with a stout knife and metal meat mallet. Do not try this at home. The good about that situation: I had food. I had tools, and I didn’t even nick a finger.

In that same week while driving in heavy traffic, a fire ant assaulted my sandaled toes. I endured his stinging complaint for nearly a mile before it was safe enough to eliminate the problem. A blessing to focus on: one less fire ant in the world. Sorry, fire ant lovers.

So many times in preaching, teaching and writing, problems are identified, but solutions are not offered. The apostle Paul offered remedies to tetchy problems. When he wrote his letter to the Philippians he was in a Roman prison. Early in his correspondence he said, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Paul was under guard, confined, restricted, incarcerated, but again and again, at least eight times, he encouraged the Philippians to rejoice.

Near the end of Paul’s letter, he gives the antidote to complaining: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (4:8). He also gave credit to God for enabling him to say, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances” (4:11).

I taped another “Ain’t it awful” chart on my refrigerator — a reminder to think about the good in life, even if detour signs go up this week.

You may contact Cathy Messecar at

Friday, September 30, 2005

Storm Surge

Storm Surge

The boat rocked. Waves slapped its wooden hull. The men on board lunged with the craft, stances unsteady. Streaks of electricity split the charcoal skies, bringing the prospect of even more danger. One direct hit to the mast and they were going down.

The stormy night, beyond their control, spewed water into the hull of their boat. If a massive wave came along, no human strength could stop the boat from capsizing. Fishing nets they could mend and manage, but the roiling lake grabbed the fishermen’s imaginations and took them on a spin of terror.

The men clung to the boat’s rigging, hoping for the storm to abate. But the storm didn’t go away. Instead, their reasons for alarm increased when what seemed to be a ghost appeared above the water surface. They wanted the approaching phantom to disappear. Blinking water from their eyes, shaking their heads, they tried to banish the ghost from their vision.

The supposed apparition didn’t go away, but spoke to them with a familiar voice — the voice of Jesus. His soothing voice offered hope to his fishermen followers, “Take courage.”

His presence and words seemed to say, “I’m here now. Cheer up. I’ve got enough courage to go around, and besides all that, I control the fury of storms.” After identifying himself to his disciples, Jesus again urged them “Don’t be afraid. Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed” (Mark 6:50-51).

When the disciples thought they saw a ghost, they despaired, because false spirits create doubts and fear. Fear tends to over-cloud hope. Charles Hodge says, “Fear is the darkroom where negativity is developed.”

On the Gulf Coastline of Texas where we live, the term “storm surge” is in the news again. It means a productive landmass is temporarily overcome by seawater and robbed of normalcy. Storm surges or bad news can arrive at any time, due to weather, a bad health report, or a rumor of war.

The psalmist declared that when he called, God made him “bold and stouthearted” (138:3). He can and will do the same for today, no matter what is in the near future. Take a deep breath and exhale it in prayer, then take courage from the Savior. One of his specialties is climbing into rocking boats and calming storms.

You may contact Cathy Messecar at

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Never again

We're experiencing rolling black-outs due to Hurricane Rita, and as common, God has pulled me to the blackboard. There are lessons I'm still learning. One of the lessons involves a question I will ask my closest Christian friends, the other is an exaggeration I will try not to use anymore.

The media has done a fine job of portraying the suffering. These last few days in Texas have been some of the hottest we experienced this summer--but it's fall all ready. The killer heat is slaying people, literally. The extremely frail, the ill, young, and old, cannot live through this heavy heat without air conditioning and some way to cool down.

Last evening at our church facilities, we readied a meal before Wednesday night classes. The food was cooked by moving it to four consecutive places, because of the black-outs. Just when the food was prepared and hot (from the fourth ovens), off went the power, so nearly 60 Christians and guests ate hot and steamy chicken spaghetti, veggies and homemade bread in the hot and steamy dark.

Good cheer prevailed, and time after time I heard one person ask another, "How are you? Do you have power?"

This is a question I plan to adopt. It's a question Christian's could ask each other throughout the year. A few Sundays ago, Beverly G. said in Sunday school, "I don't care for that phrase 'plug into God'. Christians are plugged in. The problem arises when we turn off the appliance."

So, in my adopted question, "Do you have power?" I'll really be asking myself and others are you "walking in the light?" are you "recharging through Jesus?"

Now, for the statement I will not be saying anymore. I've seen the devastation caused by hurricanes to homes and businesses. Strewn over miles and marshes are treasures renamed debris. We southern coastal women repeat a cliche about cluttered houses, homes that are structurally sound, but homes that we haven't tidied up in a few days. I've witnessed the suffering of my sisters and seen their sanctuaries spread over treetops and blacktop. I'll steer away from the overkill cliche from now on. When my house isn't as clean as I like, I'll avoid saying, "My house looks like a hurricane hit it."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

We made it

We're safe and all our family is well. At 2:00 PM Saturday, the sun has peeked out. We're only getting local coverage, so we don't know how much damage was done to the folks in the direct path of the storm.

One family member is a police officer and expects to be on duty for several days. Officials want Southeast Texans to stagger their returns. Most Houston schools are closed until Wednesday.

Thank you for your prayers. We're in good shape here, a few limbs down, but all is good.

We had family strewn through the house in odd roosts. At 2:45 AM this morning my birthday-son was in the recliner next to me; I was stretched out on the sofa. The wind and rain Rita-brew were mixing with our hot humid air. Gales began. I reached out and touched my firstborn and reminded him that 35 years ago, I was in a hospital bed and he was in a crib beside me. A nice moment. A genuinely nice son.

When did we flip all those calendar pages? Where did the time go?

Friday, September 23, 2005

10:30-so far all is well

In my home, the TV is rarely on through the day, but of late it's been on almost non-stop because of monitoring Rita.

Of course the reporters cover the human dramas that a storm churns up. Churches, schools, individuals and communities have opened up their facilities and homes to those stranded without gas and with mechanical problems.

"I was a stranger and you took me in." the words of Jesus.

4:08 Central Standard Time

It seems as if Rita is changing her mind, for the moment. One computer model has her going in at Louisana, others still Texas.

My hubby used his straps and chains, for securing 18-wheeler-flatbed loads, and looped them around the rafters in our barns and anchored them to equipment parked inside. He always thinks of inventive ways to help out.

I haven't seen our cows in two days. They know something is coming. There's several creeks on the farm and the farm bridge has three cement culverts tall enough for us to stand up in. Dave's 6'4". We've always thought they'd be a good place to shelter from tornadoes, but their sidekick of rains might prevent using them. We 're surrounded by pine trees and tall oaks, so we don't have the advantage of sighting tornadoes. We have to rely on TV news to let us know one is headed our way.

A tiny lime green tree frog was behind the thermometer on the porch when I was moving everything inside the garage. Sure hated to disturb him.

9:00 PM--Rain started. Gusting winds. Spotted the cows. Had birthday cake with son. With a strong gust of wind, he blew out his candles. My son and I both cried the moment he was born.

Rita is Arriving

Throughout the rest of today and into tomorrow, I 'll be blogging on Hurricane Rita's travel until/if we lose electricity. The forecast at 18 hours before landfall says we'll get 65 winds with gusts to 85. We will be on the clean side of the storm, fewer tornadoes. Already, blue sky is covered by Rita's skirt tails. Where yesterday was a sweltering, no-breeze 102 degrees, the bushes and tall pines are already beginning to sway and Rita has several hundred miles before estimated time of arrival.

All the potted plants, bird houses and such are "hunkering down" in the garage. My larger wind chime I brought indoors and hung it in a double doorway. I thought it might be a good indicator of how much the house is shaking. The house is brick, built in 1960's with a hip roof.

I have a birthday cake in the oven for my 35-year-old son. Today's his big day. He's still moving medical equipment, but is through now and is about 60 miles from our home. He said Interstate 45 is almost deserted.

The other big news is we had pork chops and gravy for lunch today. If worse goes to far worse, at least we had an old southern dish for our final meal.

I'll check in later today...Cathy

Friday, September 16, 2005

Questions Aid Communication

Recently, my dad, Kenneth, told me an amusing story from his childhood, one I’d not heard before. His family roots are tinged with the red clay of Arkansas. But during the Depression, they moved to different work locations in Texas. His summertime story took place in La Mesa.

My grandfather worked on a pipeline, and his young sons made small change by doing odd jobs in the community. Dad’s younger brother Bob often carried drinking water to the oilfield workers. They’d usually tip him when he approached with a jug of cool water.

Rumor mill said a young boy could make 25 cents at the golf course. My dad, about 9 at the time, had never seen a golf ball or a green. The only “tee” he’d heard of was a Model T. “Birdie” simply meant bird. He didn’t know the rules or game, but he’d heard that spotters at the golf course could earn two bits. He decided to give it a try.

At the course, he approached three men readying to play and asked to be their spotter. They hired him. His job description was laid out in simple terms. “Keep your eye on the ball, son.” They swung their clubs, and daddy ran ahead, fanatically watching where each ball fell.

Enjoying the out of doors, the golfers cajoled and ambled toward the fairway. Just over the rise, my dad eagerly awaited. He’d watched the flight and the landing of each ball. He’d picked them up, and in the middle of the fairway, three balls were lined up in a neat row. The golfers threw up their hands and fired the kid on the spot.

Dad’s experience reminded me of the most common dilemma in relationships: misunderstanding. When one person’s response doesn’t meet the expectations of another, problems arise.

Adept at relationships and teaching, Rabbi Jesus’ actions can be trusted to help clarify communications. Jesus asked questions. Questions often cause rumination, pondering. Unless rhetorical, they are usually answered, and understanding between people is enhanced. Sincere questions also reveal the willingness to instruct and to receive feedback.

One example is when Jesus taught his disciples and a crowd. He asked two questions: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his own soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36, 37). With questions, he plumed the depths of their hearts and let them know he had answers.

Jesus, the founder and keeper of souls, followed his questions with instruction. “If any man is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (vs. 38).

A “do you understand” question aids understanding and shows concern. Opposite attitudes smack of indifference, such as “They’ll eventually catch on” or “They’ll live and learn.”

Questions till thoughts. They turn topsoil. They stir imagination. If one of the golfers had asked young Kenneth if he understood their game, he could have spotted golf balls instead of retrieving them like softballs. Dad’s good-natured telling of the golf faux pas reminded me to better communicate with questions.

Questions, anyone?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rearing or Raising

God, Parents and Stained Glass

Parenting children is like living in a desert. Sandstorms and beautiful sunsets come with the real estate. Grit and beauty usually arrive on the same day.

Home’s the place where loving, refereeing parents civilize kids. “Raising” and “rearing” can have different definitions. Our family “raised” chickens, and unlike children, they didn’t require much care. We opened the coop in the mornings, and threw out grain.

No need to baby sit hens. Let them fend for themselves. They won the battles with the beetles. Then at night, we locked up the brood so critters didn’t steal them.

There’s a barnyard of difference in “raising” chickens and “rearing” children. With dedicated, watchful parents, children prosper. Homes need mothers and dads standing guard, making their abodes sanctuaries against unwholesome influences. Families aren’t perfect, but they are one of the God-ordained units where goodness can get a toehold.

The family is a schoolroom where one clan under one roof will provide plenty of teachable moments. Successes open doors for celebrating triumphs. Failures provide opportunities for empathy and correction. Wrongdoings occasion forgiveness.

Radio host Joe White says that through families “God is in the business of building stained-glass windows.” The windows are “made from thousands of broken pieces, skillfully picked up and dusted off and soldered together in magnificent murals.”

Erma Bombeck told about her frolicking young son knocking a bubble gum dispencer over. Glass and colored orbs scattered. Many onlookers overheard her say he’d “never see another cartoon the rest of his life” and that he “was going to be making license plates for the state.”

Embarrassed by the attention and scolding, and “in his helpless quest for comfort,” he turned to the one he most trusted, threw his arms around his mother's knees and “held on for dear life.”

It’s comforting to know that God sees the sparrows and our babies. He is looking at the blueprint for every child’s life, and his influence is supreme. One of the best requests parents can make is for God to be their children’s teacher. Then, offer thanksgiving for the job of lab assistant.

Parents, keep handing God the soldering tool. Gorgeous light shines through assembled pieces of colored glass.

“Love is patient, love is kind . . . It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Heart Beat

Tonight in our women's Bible class, about 23 women circled up to pray and we held hands. A newcomer was with us, Judy*. A victim of hurricane Katrina, she and her husband, and two children, one a teen and one a pre-teen were "adopted" by our congregation. Our congregation, Conroe Church of Christ, is caring for a total of nine families.

My right hand clasped Judy's * and my left hand linked with a longtime member. At different times during the prayer, I felf both of their heart pulses against my palms.

For me, the experience symbolized what Christianity is all about. Humanity is linked in many ways, but the one that counts the most is the sibling factor in Christ. He is my older brother, the firstborn; I have many brothers and sisters, and Christ wants more family members.

Jesus especially wants me to feel the pulse of my neighbor's life.

*name changed to provide anonymity

Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina Eyewitness from LSU's student assistant, Bill Martin

The article below was written by Bill Martin a student assistant of the LSU Sports Information Department and explains whats happening in Baton Rouge. This is the link to the original article at , Mike Scarborough's coverage of LSU's athletics and recruiting or read it below.

Little did I know what I would be doing following Hurricane Katrina's aftermath but as I type right now, there won't be a more gratifying or more surreal experience I went through tonight. We went up to the office today and held a press conference regarding the postponement of the game and it was the right decision. As the PMAC and Field House are being used as shelters we decided as an office to do everything we could to help the situation.

At first, we were just supposed to make copies of this disaster relief form for all of the people. The copiers will never print a document more important than that. It's weird. Nearly 12 hours ago we were running off copies of game notes for a football game that is now meaningless. We printed the copies and carried them over to the Field House at 6:30 p.m. I wouldn't leave the area for another 8 hours.

On the way back to the PMAC in a cart, it looked like the scene in the movie Outbreak. FEMA officials, U.S. Marshalls, National Guard, and of course the survivors. Black Hawks were carrying in victims who were stranded on roofs. Buses rolled in from N.O. with other survivors. As Michael and I rode back to the PMAC, a lady fell out of her wheelchair and we scrambled to help her up.

We met Coach Miles and Coach Moffiit in the PMAC to see all the survivors and it was the view of a hospital. Stretchers rolled in constantly and for the first time in my life I saw someone die right in front of me. A man rolled in from New Orleans and was badly injured on his head. 5 minutes later he was dead. And that was the scene all night. What did we do, we started hauling in supplies. And thousands of boxes of supplies. The CDC from Atlanta arrived directing us what to do.

One of the U.S. Marshalls was on hand so the supplies could not become loot. I asked him what his primary job was. He serves on the committee of counter terrorism, but once he saw of the disaster, he donated his forces to come help. He said the death toll could be nearing 10,000. It was sickening to hear that.

After unloading supplies, I started putting together baby cribs and then IV poles. Several of our fball players and Big Baby and Tasmin Mitchell helped us. At the same time, families and people strolled in. Mothers were giving birth in the locker rooms. The auxiliary gym "Dungeon" was being used as a morgue. I couldn't take myself down there to see it.

I worked from 8 pm until 2:45 am. Before I left three more buses rolled in and they were almost out of room. People were standing outside, the lowest of the low from NO. The smells, the sights were hard to take.

A man lying down on a cot asked me to come see him. He said,"I just need someone to talk to, to tell my story because I have nobody and nothing left. He turned out to be a retired military veteran. His story was what everybody was saying. He thought he survived the worst, woke up this morning and the levees broke. Within minutes water rushed into his house. He climbed to the attic, smashed his way through the roof and sat there for hours. He was completely sunburned and exhausted. Nearly 12 hours later a chopper rescued him and here he was.

We finished the night hauling boxes of body bags and more were on the way. As we left, a man was strolled in on a stretcher and scarily enough he suffered gunshots. The paramedic said he was shot several times because a looter or a convict needed his boat and he wouldn't give it to him. Another man with him said it was "an uncivilized society no better than Iraq down there right now." A few minutes later he was unconcious and later pronounced dead. I then left as they were strolling a 3 year old kid in on a stretcher. I couldn't take it anymore.

That was the scene at the PMAC and it gives me a new perspective on things. For those of you who I haven't been able to get in touch with because of phone service, I pray you are safe. Send me an email to let me know. God bless.

Bill MartinLSU Sports Information

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Notes

Katrina Notes

Two statements coming from media coverage of hurricane Katrina’s aftermath have stayed with me: “We have each other” and “If you know God, pray. . .”

Ann and Vernon’s Gulfport, MS longtime home was leveled. They summed up their losses as significant, but not devastating by saying to NBC’s Lester Holt, “We have each other.” Many now identify with their mantra.

Mansions and mobile homes, bicycles and Chevys, clothing and canned goods are submerged in the toxic soup along the south east Gulf Coast. Louisiana’s governor estimates that at least 500,000 homes were destroyed in her home state. Alabama and Mississippi also carry dismal tallies.

The second statement is from Linda, interviewed by Houston’s channel 2 Phil Archer. On Sunday, Linda’s husband stayed behind to protect their house, and she hasn’t heard from him since. She pled with viewers, “If you know God, pray for my husband.”

In the Bible, Job’s story is one with which sufferers can identify. Job’s disaster-saga included foreign invasion and forces of nature. His sons and daughters, servants and cattle were gone. Finally, he became so ill he was near death.

Job’s life was chronicled for such a time as this. After his immense loss, friends came to commiserate with him. They may not have given him the best theological answers, but at least they had “each other.”

Throughout Job’s misery and his later gaining back more than he lost, he was getting to “know God.” One time, God posed rhetorical questions to Job from a storm. God asked were you there when I “laid the earth’s foundation” (38:4), or if Job had ever “entered the storehouses of the snow (vs. 22).

God further asked, “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion?” (vs. 31). “Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (vs. 41).

After Creator God, itemized his resume, Job said, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5). Throughout Job’s life, God brought him to a better understanding of divine care.

Because of Katrina’s wind and water baptism, Job’s misery is multiplied by tens of thousands in the southern United States. Hurricane victim Linda advised, “If you know God, pray . . .”

Ann and Vernon reiterated what many are saying and reminded the world that family is precious. Grieving the loss of a house is not the same as mourning for friends or family. Pray and cherish, keen reminders that human suffering can improve as long as “we have each other.”

To contact Cathy visit

Sunday, August 28, 2005

God said, I have come down

One of my favorite Bible chapters is Exodus 3 where God makes revealing "I" statements about himself to Moses. God chose Moses to negotiate with Pharaoh, and a contest between the gods of Egypt and I AM was scheduled.

First, God got Moses' attention, then Moses reluctantly enlisted. On that day, God made telling remarks about himself. He even used a visual aid, a flaming bush that remained verdant green. On that day, God appeared on Moses' path, and lit two fires, one in a green plant, one in the 80-year-old novice negotiator, Moses.

God's Resume as presented to Moses (Exodus 3 NIV):

vs 6-- I am the God of your father

vs 7--I have indeed seen the misery of my people

I have heard them crying

I am concerned

vs 8--So, I have come down

vs 9--the cry has reached me...I have seen...I am sending you.

vs 12--I will be with you

vs 14--I am who I am

vs 15--say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me (Moses) to you...I am to be
remembered from generation to generation

vs 16--assemble the elders of Israel and say to them...I have watched over

vs 17--say to the elders, I have promised to bring you up out of your misery

vs 19--I know the king of Egypt

vs 20--I will stretch out my hand and strike...with wonders

I will perform among the Egyptians

vs 21--I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward these people.

The same God still ignites fires in his servants' hearts today.

Monday, August 15, 2005

4,000 Reasons to Wake Up

"My plate's full" has come to mean a person's schedule is overbooked or they have all they can manage in their life. No more can be added. One more green pea on the cardboard Chinete plate and it'll fold up, upsetting the precarious balance.

When I ask friends, "How are you?" The all too common answer is "Busy." And it's the same answer I often give. Exiting the express way is tough. When life is lived in a trot, stepping off the treadmill can be difficult.

Jesus knew busy. I'm convinced he had a tight schedule--many wanted an audience: the chronically ill seeking cures, the dying wanting more of life, and those weighted by wrong-living seeking forgiveness. On one occasion Jesus taught a crowd for two days (Matthew 15:29-39). The men alone numbered 4,000, not counting the women and children. In an outdoor area, they probably camped out, sleeping on patches of grass and cloaks. During that second night, when Jesus heard the arthritic moans of sleeping people shifting their weight, did he think, "They're still out there."

The 4,000 were there when he went to bed, and when he woke up, they were still all around him. I believe when Jesus awoke on the third morning, and the thousands of men, women and children stretched, yawned and grinned at him, that he greeted God, his station in life, and the people with a smile.

I've had long to-do lists, but I've never awakened to 4,000 people waiting to see me. Two lessons about Jesus and this huge crowd helped me. First, Jesus didn't get flustered because the all the people still milled around on the third morning.

And this third sunrise, the impromptu campers were even more needy. Now, their stomach growled. And God supplied their needs. Before, when reading this story, I missed two important lessons. One is gracious-Jesus continuing to do the same teaching, healing, and even providing food on day three. The same Jesus ably assists his children who awaken to routine back breaking or heart taxing tasks for long periods.

For months, even years, some care for a family member with Alzheimers or another may work long hours to pay off debt. Jesus knows what it is like to wake up and be greeted by the same scene. He can and will give endurance and even ignite smiles in his servants.

I'm also impressed with Jesus' time investment. He focused on caring for people. In this modern age, just shuffling all the paper mail, receipts, documents and reading material is a never ending job. Add to the paper mania all the things we fuel, vacuum, wash and dry and one could spend every moment grooming inanimate objects.

Even though Poor Richard's Almanac said that fish and visitors smell after three days, Jesus greeted his 4,000 plus hillside guests with grace. Also, Jesus joyfully invested his time in the Father's business, because the Father's business was and still is people.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Dissipating Millions

King Asa got bad news. An army of one million foot soldiers advanced toward his territory. Did he panic, twist his hands, rally his army, or get depressed? I don't know how he reacted physically or emotionally to the news of invasion, but I do know the decisive action he took. He prayed.

"O LORD, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O LORD, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!" (2 Chronicles 14:11).

Asa's prayer for aid against his enemies, gives me courage to call on God to help me. Millions are not surrounding me, terrorizing, but the chores on my list is numbering around 30. My situation is not life threatening either, but the same God who routed millions, can clear a path for me to have some down time, at home, to work hard and achieve order once again.

But, Lord, may I put a few conditions on my request? I don't want to be laid up with any broken bones or entertain flu bugs. I want my car drivable, just in case I need to go to Wal-mart. Oh, and I don't want any of my family to get sick and need me at home. That'd be awful for them to reap a virus because I prayed for deliverance. This list is getting out of hand. I'd best leave it in your hands.

Please be creative in helping me find more ways to get more done at home, so I can declutter the "million" objects in my home. God, I'm imagining the faces of Asa's army when they saw the enemy sprint toward their homeland. Please find it in your heart and will to help me throw out accumulated, unused stuff.

Then, could you put that same victorious look on my face? Please...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Alone in a Castle

I'm curious about King Uzziah who began his reign when he was 16 years old. Later in life, stricken with leprosy he spent his time alone. The brief account is in 2 Kings 15:1-7 and the longer version of his life is in 2 Chronicles 26. The Holy Spirit's description of him is "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD" (2 Chronicles 26:4).

Uzziah's bio: gained throne at age of 16; when young he was instructed by Zechariah "in the fear of God" (vs 5); became very powerful; defeated enemies; he designed machines that would shoot arrows and hurl stones; loved the soil; "His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became very powerful" (vs 15); title-king for 52 years.

An important fact is left out of that bio. Pride rooted in his heart and one day he decided he would offer incense on the altar. Azariah the priest and eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in . . . and confronted him" (vs). They warned that only the descendants of Aaron had been consecrated to burn incense. Angry, Uzziah raged at the priests.

Immediately, the Lord struck Uzziah with an isolating leprosy or skin disorder on his forehead. The priest hurried him out. "Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him" (26:20).

Until the day he died, he lived alone in a separate house, "excluded from the temple of the LORD" (21). His son Jotham took over the palace and After his death, he was buried in a field near the kings because of his leprosy.

God holds leaders to a high standard. A high standard of respect for Him. The Holy Spirit summed up Uzziah's life and his son's by saying just as his father Uzziah had done, "Jotham did what was right in the eyes of the LORD" (27:2).

The walk-with-God path is the high road. The trail to pride is a downward trail away from God's purposes. God gave the powerful king Uzziah time to think, alone in a house, while his godly son ruled next door. The warrior, inventor, the soil-lover spent his last days in a house by himself.

Did he have servants? Any niceties? Who cared for his needs? Forced hermitism is not a bad thing when the alone time brings ones focus back to the throne of God, under his scepter.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


In life, at the age of 57, I know the direction I'm supposed to travel. Earlier in my 50's, I was sometimes paralyzed, not in the limbs of my body, but my forward motion stopped.

Why did stall-out corrode my days? I think there is a clue in 1 Kings 13:1-7.
King of a portion of Jews, Jeroboam ruled Israel. He failed God, and manufactured ways to keep his subjects allegiance. He invented gods, two golden calves. He manipulated God-ordained feast days, creating alternate celebrations to God's ordained ones. He deliberately misled citizens to maneuver their loyalty to him. He set aside undesirable priests to serve, not from the tribe of Levi as God had commanded. At all these junctures, Jeroboam could have revered God, but instead he chose to finagle false worship for idols.

One day as Jeroboam offered a sacrifice on his altar, a man of God, delivered a message literally to the altar. The prophet predicted that the altar would eventually hold the human bones of Jeroboam's family. Why? Because the king/dad/leader idolized himself.

God split the altar in two pieces, and the ashes of the sacrifice to golden calves spilled onto the ground. A sign of destruction to come. Jeroboam faulted the messenger. He pointed and shouted, "Seize that man!" (4). Immediately, his hand became paralyzed.

Jeroboam's paralization made me think about my days of non-production. They remind me of those new rims on cars, the ones that keep spinning once the car has stopped. God's given me a car load of ways to serve him, but my forward motion is sometimes immobilized by baggage.

I'm not writing about regrets as much as unfinished projects from years ago. Needlepoint half-starts, quilt tops, and boxes of fabric homesteading closet shelves. Jars of artist brushes, tubes of red ochre and burnt umber make silent threats.

Fabric doll bodies, canvas for a floor area rug, old linens waiting to adorn new shirts, they rose like a phoenix and shadowed my days. Their unfinished states clawed at my conscience. For years, I kept them around because I knew how much I'd money I'd spent on each. Sewing kits, each bolt of fabric could be redeemed, if only they finished their intended mission. I couldn't abide putting them out with the garbage.

But then Paul's teaching about moving forward with life, impressed me more than my guilt. God had something better in mind for my future than regrets or whining about un-accomplishments.

First, I told God I was sorry for planning to build large calico barns and then not finishing. Next, I asked God to help me detach from the supplies. I really wanted to paint the canvas rug for the back porch for summer. I envisioned big melon-pink slices with green rind. In reality, the south Texas heat rarely allows us to enjoy our back porch. Our lovable mutt dog usually tracked dirt onto the cool cement and sat there and scratched away his misery.

My sentimental feelings about projects may seem silly to some. But others can relate. I spoke with a woman this week who used to make dresses for her daughters. They're grown now, and she's having guilt feelings about the quilts she wants to make for each out of the dress fabric scraps.

All to God's credit, he helped me focus on the future instead of the wants of the past. I packed up the fabric. The colorful cloth went to the Dorcases in my home congregation. They turn out quilts at the rate of 40 a year. Smaller blankies go to children's homes, flood victims and the homeless. My fabric had "gone on to a better place."

My craft supplies went to the Rainbow of Love ministry, where women fill shoeboxes with several gifts and seven scriptures and deliver them to the ill in our congregation, relatives of members, new mothers, college students and citizens in our community.

With my house more free of clutter and my mind clear of old want-to projects, I could spend more time in study and at the computer keyboard, my destination for this time of my life.

In some ways, my attachment to old projects became my golden calves. Monuments to what I wanted to happen, monuments that would rust, decay and stymie progress.

Guess what God did? He restored Jeroboam's arm movement. I think God gave him another opportunity to get right with God and to make needed changes for walking in God's will.

He did it for me, too.

Monday, June 06, 2005

For First and Final Answers Ask God

"Are you asking yourselves what I meant?" (John 16:19 NLT).

When Jesus met with his disciples near the end of his life here, he revealed new facts about God.

A few of the things he told his disciples went into their ears, but not their understanding. But instead of asking Jesus who was present with them, they wondered among themselves. Wondering with peers alone may cause wandering.

Bible studies, Christian literature, one-on-one conversations, lectures and sermons are all ways to increase our knowledge about God and his plan. The Bible is a God encyclopedia. But sometimes I don't understand or comprehend what I read. The white-space margins in my Bible are littered with question marks.

How do I get answers to the question marks on the pages or the question marks in life? Most often I talk with friends who are on the same path. Even when Jesus was within sight, the disciples were asking themselves what Jesus meant. Me? I'm guilty of that same mindset.

Even though Jesus is not visible for now, he still wants to answer and be the answer to my questions. On that night, a little later in Jesus' conversation he gave instructions for seeking wisdom after his ascension to the Father. "You haven't done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy" (16:24).

On that night, Jesus also talked about The Comforter, the Holy Spirit who would "convince the world of its sin, and of God's righteousness, and of the coming judgment," and he concluded by naming the prominent problem in the world. "The world's sin is unbelief in me" (John 16:; 8,9).

When I need answers to life's perplexing problems or understanding of a commandment or a story in God's word, I want to first whisper in Jesus' name, "Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, please, explain this to me. Help me understand. Give me wisdom so that I can do you will. I don't want to wonder and only ask of others. I want to ask you because I don't want to wander."

Monday, May 23, 2005


Martha couldn't seem to step out of the heaviness of the last few days and nights. Her brother Lazarus was dead. A message was sent to Jesus when Lazarus became seriously ill, but the Lord failed to arrive.

Lazarus didn't make it. The empty house was full of mourners. A weight like wet wool settled on Martha's chest. Food didn't interest her. Neighbor women arrived and took over her kitchen. What did she care? Ever since her brother Lazarus died, all she could think about was him and the Teacher, and neither were in Bethany. She spent the last few days weeping and exchanging glances with her listless sister Mary.

Day and night, guests, community comforters filled their home. Martha accepted food, hugs and prayers. But Martha had no appetite, no warmth left in her body, no more soaring prayers.

Several days after the burial, Martha's thoughts were interrupted by a buzz of conversation from the household guests. Someone saw Jesus. He was on his way to them. Martha's lethargy left. She knew Jesus loved Lazarus, possibly more than she and her sister Mary.

She grabbed a wrap and left to meet him. When she first saw him, she blurted out, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Not an accusation, just intimate knowledge of his power and authority. "But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."

Jesus said, "Your brother will rise again."

Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

"Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

She went to get Mary. When Mary saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said exactly what Martha said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

Moments later, Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, and three siblings may have hopped, skipped and jumped home from the cemetery. I can see them. Arms linked. Mary and Martha tiptoeing up to kiss Lazarus' cheek.

After once more reading this account in the Bible, I was struck by the sister's identical confessions. "If you had been here" each sister had said, "my brother would not have died."

This family had entertained God in their home, and they knew it. God had relaxed, laughed and took nourishment at their table. They had taken bread from his table, too. They had listened. They knew. They anchored their hope in him. He had the words to life eternal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Battle Cry or Quiet Obedience

The giant Goliath taunted the Israelite army for 40 days.

David reached the camp when the army of God was going out to rank-up against Philistine enemies. Israel's soldiers went to the battlefield "shouting the war cry" (1 Samuel 17:20). Young David ran to the battle lines to greet his brothers. He heard the latest war tales, and when Goliath rumbled forth and bellowed his challenge, the Israelite soldiers "all ran from him in great fear" (24).

With his shepherd's staff, slingshot and five smooth stones, David approached the belligerent champion of the Philistines. Compared to armored Philistines who had blacksmiths, David looked vulnerable. Out of all of Israel's soldiers, only Saul and Jonathan had swords.

The winning tools were not in David's hands. The winning force was in his heart. His speech to the giant was not a war cry. He didn't run with blind rage at the tree trunk of a man. He gave a speech in God's name. "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."

David continues describing how the giant was about to lose his head in battle, and concludes with a sweeping news release. "The whole world will know that there is a God in Israel . . . that it is not by sword or spear the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's"(45-47).

Israel shouted war cries, but their retreat from the enemy didn't match their shouts. A quiet trusting lad, his chest clad only in shepherd's clothing led an army by example. Eventually, the army with only two swords, a faith-filled David and God on their side prevailed against their enemies.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Camouflage and Spurs

"Do you think it's OK for Adam to go to church with his spurs on?" One Sunday morning, my daughter Sheryle phoned to ask that question.

Five-year-old Adam chose his outfit for church: cowboy boots with spurs, camouflage pants, a Scooby Doo T-shirt and a button-up Spiderman shirt. Mix and Match clothing on the rack at Sears is cute. But this kid has an eye for the eclectic. For any mother who is delighted her children are dressing themselves, this presents a challenge.

The whole picture is about a child with five years of godly training, who is ready and willing to go to Bible class and worship. His heart was right, even though his sense of fashion lagged behind.

A familiar lesson, one from God to Samuel, comes to mind. When the prophet Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king, he saw seven fine looking sons. In Samuel's eyes, each looked suited to wear the royal robe. But God had the eighth son in mind.

The seven sons who were present in Bethlehem were consecrated, set apart, for a sacrificial ceremony. Clean clothes and baths were often part of the ritual. So they were spiffed up, ready for the big announcement. When the eldest son went by, Samuel thought he must be the chosen one, but God spoke to Samuel.

"Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (16:7). God had the boy David in mind, the one rubbing shoulders with sunshine, sheep and shepherds.

Views about proper attire for worship are wide ranging. Some think we should always wear our best. Others are concerned about overdressing and making visitors who have less feel their dress is inadequate. The tendency is to notice folks who vary from my choice of clothing. Noticing is OK. Judging their character by their dress is not.

Did Jesus see a prostitute and think "unworthy"? Or did Jesus see thieving, gaudy tax collectors and think "He'll never change. He's not like the people I know"? Jesus saw potential in people. Willing hearts that could be loomed by the Lord, woven into servants.

Peter wrote a message to the women of his day, appropriate for all centuries. When he wrote about "fine women's apparel," he laid out a pattern for an inside garment, an echo of God's message to Samuel. (I Peter 3:3). Instead of the latest fashions, Peter encouraged the unfading loveliness that comes from a gentle and quiet spirit. Real beauty fabric.

On that Sunday morning, little Adam walked into Bible class with a slight spur-jingle. He brought smiles to his teachers' faces. I picture a grinning Jesus, too.

For it was Jesus who placed his hands on children and blessed them. Children finding their way to Jesus were rebuked by some adults. But a child's humility became an object lesson for his disciples. "For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Mark 10:14).

Monday, May 16, 2005

Little Boy David

The prophet Samuel is told by God to go to Jesse's household, the reason, the next king would come from that clan. Samuel arrived and because his mission is pivitol for the future of Israel and he plans a sacrifice, he consecrates Jesse and seven sons. A cleansing ritual takes place, often including baths, clean clothes and abstaining from sexual relations.

Jesse and seven sons are set apart, ready to join in the worship sacrifice, Samuel is poised, ready for God to point out the next ruler. Samuel had on his king colored glasses. He saw that the oldest son Eliab was a fine looking man. Sovereign material, or so he thought. Good looking and the oldest. Ready to annoint him, God said, "Not so fast."

Ok, so it wouldn't be the firstborn. Samuel sized up the rest of Jesse's male offspring. Broad shoulders. Tanned. Steady gazes. Personable. Soldier material. The annointed would lead troops into battle. Each was considered eligible.

Again, Samuel had his horn of oil, aloft and ready to annoint. All he needed was a word from the Lord. But none came. He knew he was at the right place. Samuel had listened to the voice of the Lord since he was a young boy. This time, he'd heard God say, "Be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king" (1 Samuel 16:1).

Samuel is blinded by his sight. What is set before him is all he can see, but God's resources reach beyond Samuel's panoramic view. The youngest of Jesse's boys is out to pasture.

When Samuel saw the fine specimens of Jesse-clan genetics, he thought any one of them the next ruler, but that's when God teaches a lesson.

Monday, May 09, 2005

God has left

Today when studying the intertwined lives of Eli the priest and Samuel, Hannah and Elkanah's young son who lived and served at the tabernacle, a shattering phrase uttered by a dying woman caught my attention. The woman was the daughter-in-law of Eli. Her husband's name was Phinehas. He and his brother Hophni were wicked, seducing the young women who served at the Tabernacle. They also took the sacrificial meat offerings, early, before worshipers had time to complete the ceremonies. They skewed the choice pieces of meat from the boiling pots. They often took the meat before the fat was burned on the altar, so they could roast it.

God later accused Eli and his sons of making themselves fat at the expense of his people. Eli is described as "very fat" (NLT). Eli's wicked sons took The Ark of the Covenant into battle with the Philistines, and the Israelites were slaughtered, losing the battle and the Ark was captured. Eli's sons were killed.

When the courier returned to Shiloh with the news of 30,000 dead along with the two priests and the capture of the Ark. The news devastated Eli, 98, who fell back and broke his neck. Phinehas' wife was pregnant and near her delivery date. She heard that her husband and father-in-law were dead and that the Ark was in Philistine hands. She went into labor.

Closing the door on the delivery room for the moment, what happened in this community of believers? How did they get from holy to abominations at the door of God's dwelling. The Tabernacle, a place where God was to meet his people and forget their sins, became a place of vagrant sin. And all seemed to be turning their backs on it. But not God. He will not be mocked.

God sent Eli a message through a prophet one day. God's foretelling of the future did not sound pleasant. Eli's family would not be priests again. The men would die early deaths. Those who lived would be miserable. For God said, "I will honor only those who honor me, and I will despise those who despise me" (1 Samuel 2:30).

Under the old law, their rebellion should have been punished by death from the community, to purge evil acts and perpetrators from their camp. Their father should have carried out the sentence himself, even casting the first stones. Because Eli refused to correct his sons God withdrew his honor from that family.

Back in the delivery room, a son, fated to a short life, is born and his mother names him Ichabod, meaning "Where is the glory?" She said before she died, "The glory has departed form Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured" (1 Samuel 4:22).

A delivery room is a strange place for a prophecy about departing. It seems the proper place for joy, new birth, rejoicing. But on that day, a lot of departures took place. Thirty thousand of Israel's young men died, Eli their priest, his two sons, a woman giving birth, all departed. But the greatest departure was the Ark of God.

Foretold in the naming of Ichabod, Where is the glory? When God withdraws his honor from a family, where is the glory?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I never did before

New to blogging, I lost an interim post, but hope to be here more.

My house is walking out of its old layers. Spring decluttering. Like a snake sheds skin in the spring, my house has to rid itself of collected things. Too bad its not a natural process. I coax it along.

This past week on April 19th, I did something I've never done before. I signed a book contract. The agreement is for ACU Press/Hillcrest Publishing to publish a collection of my newspaper columns, formatted devotional style, into a book. Working title: The Stained Glass Pickup.

I'm most excited about sharing how I learned to pray in the name of Jesus, not tagging his name to the end, but actually praying in his name, in the way he life-supported me through the day. Today, I awakened at 3:30 AM and got up to be productive until drowsiness returned. Through that two hours, Jesus became my model for early Sunday rising, but he had the grandest purpose on Resurrection Sunday. My tasks were mundane, but needed.

Thinking about him, keeping my eyes on him is one of my goals. Watching with his eyes for today's opportunities to make God look good to others. My actions have the power to make God palatable or distasteful to my acquaintances, since they know I'm his child. Of course God doesn't need me to enhance his character. He can ably bring about events to bring him notice or glory.

One scripture stood out in my Bible reading this week. It's been the mull-over one, keeps bleeping back into my thoughts. Before his cross, Jesus tells his disciples to go into the city and untie a colt, and when they are asked why to tell the questioners, "The Savior needs it" (Luke 19:30-35). What things do I need to loosen my grip on before I may be of real use to the Savior? Jesus said, "Untie it and bring it here" (NLT).

A column for newspaper will arise out of that. Any readers may subscribe to the e-mailed version at

Until later.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

New Beginnings

I am a writer who keeps random thoughts about life in margins of my Bibles, on gum wrappers and bazillion scraps of paper. So, here I go. I plan to keep track of my thoughts in this blog. Rein them in so I have fodder for my newspaper column, appearing on Fridays in The Courier, Conroe, Tx.

I also want to jot down new insights about life or God or good wording that I read from other writers who sometimes cast lovely thoughts my way. Refreshing the gray areas. I'll probably post my goals, attainments and failures. Hmm. I'll see which list fills up the fastest.

This evening, I'll try to get this rebellious house under control. If only the dust bunnies would go on strike for a week. Mom and Dad have needed extra help this week due to her surgery, so the scum level here has risen.

For the next few weeks the traditional spring cleaning will take place. I feel quite brave. During this homemaker ritual, my daughter Sheryle talked me into throwing out my wedding gown several years ago. The 37 going on 38 marriage is vitally intact, so feeling rather gutsy the lace and tulle went to Goodwill. We'll see what I can disentangle my emotions from this spring. I want to throw out things in order to have more time to spend with people and writing.