Friday, December 29, 2006

Revisit, Rethink, Revise

During Abraham Lincoln’s terms of office, he and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln held regular receptions at the White House on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Also on January 1st, the President and Mrs. Lincoln received guests, both old friends and new faces. People were a priority.

This is their typical New Year’s Day schedule: Near 11:00 A.M., officials and diplomats arrived and went through a reception line, greeting the President and Mrs. Lincoln. About 2:00 P. M., the public streamed in, some had prepared short speeches. By the time Lincoln’s gloved hand found theirs, they had time only to shake his hand and utter a few words.

Mr. Lincoln usually wore a black broadcloth suit, called a “clawhammer” suit. He wore white kid gloves in the reception line, and shook so many hands that his own hand swelled afterwards. Eyewitnesses reported his glove “always looked like it had been dragged through the dust-bin.”

Abraham Lincoln, not only invested time at these orchestrated events, but in everyday life he identified with the oppressed and tried to relieve their distresses.

On December 31 at the strike of midnight, the year 2006 will be history. New Year’s Day is a good time to shake hands with the old year, revisit, rethink, and if needed, revise plans.

Carl Sandburg’s book “Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years and The War Years” is one of my favorite biographies. In it are many stories of personal encounters between Mr. Lincoln and many races. Although he rose to one of the most powerful positions in the world, he didn’t forget his roots or that his best investments were in the welfare of others.

An old Chinese proverb states: If your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for ten years, plant trees. If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.

God’s clarion call is for people to love Him with all their hearts and then to love each other. The Ten Commandments outlined respect for God and fellowman. When asked what commandments were most important, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). He also said when we do something for others it’s like doing it for the Son of God.

In 2007 plant wheat to feed your neighbors, plant trees to shade your neighbors, and grimy your gloves from working with people. Because, when you lend a hand to people, you touch the face of God.

You may reach Cathy at

Friday, December 22, 2006

Leftovers or a Feast

Hope is Born

Recently, two grandson-sayings blessed and enriched my understanding about God-instilled hope.

The first grandson-comment occurred on Thanksgiving Day. Our dining table creaked, weighted by luscious food, but it wasn’t a dream feast for six-year-old grandson Adam. Cranberries and cornbread dressing don’t have the same appeal as Ronald McDonalds’ menu.

An hour after our 20 family members feasted on bountiful Pilgrim food, Adam opened the refrigerator door. With a voice steeped in doubt, he asked, “Grandma, do you have anything to eat in here?” He’d bypassed a feast and ended up searching for leftovers.

The second insight came from eight-year-old grandson Jack. My grandchildren know that I’m a soft touch when we’re running errands and they’re hungry. I’ll fly through the fast food lane at Long John Silvers quicker than the down of a thistle.

Jack accompanied me to Wednesday night Bible classes, and afterwards, Jack said, “Grandma, I’m really hungry.”

Teasing I said, “Well, if you’re that desperate, we’ll drive through and get you something on the way home.”

After a thoughtful pause, Jack asked, “Why did you say I’m desperate? Doesn’t desperate mean without hope?” And then we had a nice conversation about expectation of better things, and the One who supplies us with hope.

After these encounters with grandsons, I was reminded of the daily feast of opportunities to over-indulge in God’s hope. A Bible proverb states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (13:12). Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrased that proverb in “The Message”: “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.”

Life is often described as mountains and valleys, but I recently read (can’t remember where) that life is more like railway tracks. Parallel of sad things are such good things as the next breath, food, friendships, income- producing-work, and family.

Life consists of dual moments of sunshine and rain. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the time they were without hope, without God in their lives, and reminded them that hope entered when they embraced Jesus Christ.

Grandsons Jack and Adam often refresh our lives with antics, unusual wisdom, and little boy embraces. This Christmas reflect on another little boy -- the one born in Bethlehem, the Son of God destined to bring personal peace.

Don’t settle for leftovers because Jesus sets a banquet table before the world, laden with individual servings of hope.

Merry Christmas.
You may reach Cathy at

Friday, December 15, 2006


The World is a Cathedral

The guys fished all night without success, not for fun. This fishing mattered because it put bread on the table. Their work included casting cumbersome nets and moving their boats by hoisting sails and straining at oars.

Throughout the night, again and again they cast bulky nets over the inky lake. Each cast brought the same disappointing results. Empty. Empty. Empty. Their shift ended without profit. Or, so they thought.

Dawn found them anchored on shore. Weary. They washed their nets, searching for tears and snarls from lake debris. Also at lakeside that morning, Jesus drew the usual crowd to hear his teachings. Finally, Jesus asked the fishermen Simon Peter to launch his boat into the surf as a pulpit.

Peter moved the boat just offshore where Jesus sat down and taught from a watery platform. When Jesus finished he said, “Put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Peter answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” On the lake, Peter felt the familiar drag of a catch, a huge catch. Checking the nets, he saw teeming fish and the weight of them causing tears in the sturdy rope lacings.

He motioned to partners on shore to join them, and James and John oared out and hauled in fish after fish. The weight of the fish soon leveled the boat railings with the water surface. One more fish wiggle and water might spill into the crafts.

But water didn’t flood in, and fishermen, scaly catch, and The Teacher came ashore. That’s when Simon Peter recognized God’s divine hand and fell at Jesus’ feet saying, “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!” But Jesus didn’t leave.

Instead, Jesus consoled Simon Peter and said, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch men. Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Luke 5).

On this day, the lakeside became a cathedral. Once more, God used the earth, his footstool, as a setting to showcase the Son of God, to show his overflowing compassion for Simon Peter and all men.

Chapels, cathedrals, church buildings are formal places of worship where body and mind can be stilled, but God dwells in everyday happenings, too.

Fish, boats, a starry host, stables, shepherds, sheep -- all are stage props for the Savior. Today, as in times past, a car, a rented room, wooded acreage or a mall can be a cathedral if Jesus is there.

You may contact Cathy at
Need a gift for the holidays? Cathy’s devotional book The Stained Glass Pickup is a thoughtful gift that will continue to encourage throughout the year. Read reviews at and

Autographed copies available at Cathy will discount purchases of two or more – for details contact Cathy Messecar at

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Maria's Christmas Eve

Maria's Christmas Eve

With permission, I share Maria Skinner’s reflections of a Christmas Eve:

I watched flurries of white flakes settle on the mountaintop. The small house for our missionary assignment in a high mountain village in Mexico had no heat. Wind stabbed through gaps around the windows and door, chilling the indoor air. It would be necessary for my husband, Dave, and me to keep our children, Shannon and David, fully clothed throughout the night.

“This is our first Christmas on the mission field,” I thought to myself. “No one in this village knows us. No one will visit or call. The children's grandparents live more than a thousand miles away. They will not be dropping by with surprise gifts.”

My daughter Shannon looked out the window, “Look Mommy, the children run so fast, even without shoes. And they aren't even wearing sweaters!” I tried to smile as I wiped tears from my face.

"Tomorrow is Christmas," I offered an explanation for my weeping. Shannon knew we had no money to buy a Christmas meal, not even a single gift. “It doesn't matter to me, Mommy," Shannon said. "We can mother the children."

Her words took residence in my heart. "Mother the children?" I repeated. "What do you mean?"

"Those poor children have no shoes. They need some gifts for Christmas."

"Oh, but how are we going to give them gifts?"

"I want to give them my things! They can have my shoes and dresses." Now she was very excited! "It is better to give than to receive. Remember what Jesus said!"

"Oh, yes, Shannon, He did say that!" I gave her a hug. My daughter ran to the cold, damp room she shared with her brother, and I helped her neatly fold her clothes. We wanted each item to look as much like a gift as possible. That night, we trudged through the snow, going house to house, giving what we could.

At village homes, children peered from behind the doors. They jumped up and down with eagerness. "Let me see, let me see!" At each home the parents reacted in disbelief and shock. Finally, they said, "Gracias, gracias! God bless you!"

That night we slept with smiles on our faces. We received far more than we had given. On Christmas morn, still excited from our Christmas Eve visits in the village, Shannon jumped from bed and ran to the door to look outside. We saw the snowy landscape sprinkled with the darting colors of village children squealing and laughing, wearing their "new" Christmas clothes.

“Thank you, Lord,” I thought. "You sent little angels to dance for us at Christmas!" That Christmas Jesus showed our young daughter how to bring joy to her family and an entire village on a high mountain in Mexico.”

You may contact Maria at or Cathy at

Friday, December 01, 2006

Daniel Diet

Need a gift for the holidays? Cathy’s devotional book The Stained Glass Pickup is a thoughtful gift that will continue to encourage throughout the year. Read reviews at and Autographed copies available at Cathy will discount purchases of two or more – for details contact Cathy Messecar at

This is a terrible time to tackle the subject of being overweight. First, because I am several pounds over my desired weight, and second, in the USA, Thanksgiving just passed and some of us didn’t pass on second helpings. We’re drowning in gravy guilt.

Recently, The World Health Organization labeled the world’s obesity problem as pandemic. No pun intended, but that means widespread. For the first time ever, statistics show that the number of overweight people outnumber the undernourished.

Approximately 1.6 billion adults age 15 and up are overweight and 600 million are undernourished. By the year 2015 the number of overweight people is expected to rise to 2.3 billion. This preventable pandemic is threatening to overwhelm every medical system in the world as cases of diabetes and heart disease increase.

Affluent countries are no longer the only ones facing this problem. Middle and lower income populations are gaining weight at an alarming rate. In any public setting, it’s plain to see that many struggle with regulating their intake of food.

Many of us avoid exercise or changing eating habits and follow J. Loveland’s idea: “An alternative to losing weight, I use when all else fails; Tho’ I’m unable to stay on a diet, I can stay off the scales.”

Daniel is a Bible hero who instills hope and gives helpful dietary guidelines. Captured in Jerusalem, he and many others marched to foreign Babylon. There, young men of Israel, who showed intelligence in “every branch of wisdom” (Daniel 1:4), were chosen to serve the king. As part of the royal wining and dining, they were given the king’s choice food (literally the fat of flesh) and wine.

However, Daniel and his three friends wanted to follow the dietary laws of the Hebrews. To remain faithful to God and for consciences’ sake, Daniel requested water and vegetables for himself and friends. At the end of ten days their countenances reflected vitality and health, more so than the others who ate the king’s buffet.

Daniel’s faith, wisdom, food choices, and his regular prayers illustrate how one can be under extreme stress and maintain a clear conscience before God. His good choices still inspire today.

Several years ago to get on a better eating regimen, I followed Daniel’s lead and limited my intake to fruits, veggies and water for a couple of months. This December, I’ll do the same, because the weight of the world is bothering me in a personal way, and with God’s help, I’ll do something about it. I’m off to peel an orange for breakfast and scrounge for a celery stick . . . how about you?

You may contact Cathy at