Monday, December 31, 2007

Free Book Drawing

Post a comment at any of the December posts and your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a free, autographed copy of The Stained Glass Pickup. If you win, I'll contact you by email after December 31. Contest starts over and runs each month Jan-Dec 2008.

Thanks readers.....Cathy

Friday, December 28, 2007

On My Plate

For those who live in the continental USA, I’m offering a contest. Leave a post or a simple "Howdy" before the new year and your name will be entered to win an autographed copy of The Stained Glass Pickup. The contest will run each month in 2008, too. I look forward to hearing from you and giving away 13 copies in the next twelve months.
“My plate is full.” How many times did you hear that this year? It’s a modern cliché that means a person has a full load. For many in 2007, life delivered a divided lunch tray with every compartment full. I find it ironic that the USA faces a major obesity problem along with our obese schedules. Personal and family agendas are popping at the seams.

Some seasons in life require more energy than others. Illnesses, weddings, location moves, job changes, a new baby in a household, all can crunch routines until accommodations are made for the new demands. Lately, I’ve heard several people say of their normal lives, “I’m overwhelmed.”

They are admitting to being snowed under, beleaguered, and weighed down. That means they sigh more than produce results—that no matter how much gets done, they feel as though they’re only treading water with no landfall in sight.

To set some boundaries and rest from the pushy world, try some of these ideas. Only read and answer E-mails at a certain time of day. You can even create a permanent signature that lets mail-ees know that you answer mail 8-10 in the morning. Stick to your plan.

How many requests are received for volunteer help by mail and phone? Have you ever gotten a plea to help a cause for which you had absolutely no passion? The Lady Bug Counting Committee needed one extra tallier for their spring outing, and you just couldn’t say no even though it was your only day off in a month.

Learn to say, “No.” Practice. Say it out loud. For best results, say it over and over until it will roll off your tongue without guilt. Sure the lane-mate at the red-light may find you odd, seeing you practice the short word that can usher in some peace of mind. You’ll never see them again. Keep on practicing until you can say a kind, but confident, “Sorry, no.”

Don’t always allow the outside world to intrude on family time. Why not designate a quiet hour each day in your home, a time when no outside influence is allowed through any cable or wireless receivers. That can mean turning off the TV, radio, computer, electronic games, landlines and cell phones. Silence turns to gold only when experienced.

In Jesus’ day his disciples became weary, too. They had a foot-traffic problem: “So many people were coming and going that they didn’t even have a chance to eat.” Jesus knew that every person they encountered couldn’t be hosted, healed, or helped. The human body runs on fuel and rest and the disciples needed some.

Jesus’ solution and words are some of my favorite. He said, “Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:30-31).

A friend with a broken foot said her injury was the best thing that happened to her. She rested and had an excuse to do so. For you, readers, I’m praying for backbones not broken feet. With His help, take the load off in 2008.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Foggy Cross

On a journey from New Mexico, my husband and I watched for Christmas décor at homes and businesses. Most of our travel took place during the day, and 400 miles of the trip we were surrounded by fog, a mix thick as clouds or at other times thin as tea kettle steam.

When night fell, one display glowed high above the interstate. As we neared a radio tower the hazy outline of a cross appeared. Even parallel with the lighted cross, it did not emerge “midnight-clear.” The cross remained shrouded by fog.

The fogged in cross made me think of the mystery that often accompanied The Christ on his earth-journey. Wonder surrounded Jesus’ birth. Born of a virgin, who conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus came into the world through God’s plan, not man’s desire.

Luke told how Mary treasured the events of Jesus’ birth and “pondered them in her heart” (2:19). Prophet Simon said to Mary that Jesus would cause the “thoughts of many hearts to be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too” (Luke 2:35)? Was she ever unsure, uncertain?

Choreographed by God, Jesus’ birth announcement filled a nighttime sky. The Bethlehem welcoming committee hurried to town from a pasture not a palace. God’s Son didn’t have a silver rattle. Instead, he rested in a hay-manger.

The forecast didn’t clear much when Jesus began his ministry. A corrupt government had caused Jewish citizens to long for a political deliverer. Office holders didn’t want a newbie-leader in government or synagogue. Jesus cleared the air a little when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

By the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, a small group began to comprehend, to see in Jesus, a soul-savior. He didn’t want a signet ring and purple robe. He stepped into everyday life to assist the neediest.

This king of hearts touched foul flesh, sat in fishing boats, rebuked the haughty and cradled children on his lap. He washed feet, forgave murderous sins, and healed bad reputations. For believers, the fog began to lift.

Jesus was not what we expected.

Jesus was what we needed.

Christmas-signs say “Believe.” I’m pretty sure the red glittery messages refer to Santa, a figment of imaginations, but the word can remind of an ultimate belief.

When Nicodemus sought to understand Jesus better, Jesus told about a key ingredient for clearer understanding, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

From heaven’s porch, God’s plan for salvation could be seen with clarity. From earth’s footstool, things looked a bit foggy as to the outcome. But, through the biblical account, this blessed generation has a more complete picture of prophecy and promises fulfilled. On the trail—from manger to cross—belief that Jesus is the Son of God has caused the fog to lift.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

copies of The Stained Glass Pickup available

Amazon is getting low on SGP, but Leafwood Publishers has the second printing in--click on devotionals. SGP is on second page. I have copies, too. Click here to order ASAP to receive by Christmas...CM

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Squash Mystery-December 14

On a forgiveness scale, with minor infractions at the bottom and world wars at the major end, this story about squash casseroles ranks . . . well, you decide.

Several times a year Carolyn, a friend, is in charge of the mid-week meals that her church hosts for their members. Women who participate prepare the menus and cook the food for one month of Wednesdays. I’ve replicated some of Carolyn’s recipes and she ranks up there with Emeril. She knows the exact spice to make a chicken pot pie tasty, the little flare to make it eye-appealing.

Have you cooked for a crowd? It’s not a small task. Much vegetable scrubbing, cutting, grinding, measuring, pan washing, frying and love combine to turn out culinary masterpieces.

Ordinary recipes for small families are increased to feed 150-200. The recipes are tested because good cooks know when multiplying servings, quality can be lost. Seasoning strengths vary between a 16 ounce can of legumes and a mountain of beans.

The coordinator also considers the diners: two-year-old toddlers to gramps on walkers. Middle un-spicy ground is preferred for all palettes. Carolyn is also a do-ahead person. She knows emergencies can come up Wednesdays.

Once when her turn was near, she bought pounds of yellow squash and zucchini. After cleaning, chopping, cooking, mashing, adding butter, eggs and all the other good stuff, she ladled them into seven large aluminum pans wrapped them in foil. This took a big chunk of time and work.

Satisfied and relieved to have part of the meal ready, Carolyn delivered them to the church kitchen freezer. Now, church kitchens belong to all members, and a few days later, another good hearted woman decided to scrub down the kitchen. Really freshen it good—Spic and Span the floors, toss leftovers out of refrigerators and freezers.

When Mrs. Clean saw the overcrowded freezer and lifted the foil on a few items dried as the Sinai desert, she began tossing food into the mammoth trash can.

Dum-de-dum, dum, dum. Later in the week, Carolyn arrived to prepare the rest of the Wednesday night meal and found the kitchen sparkling clean—the fridge remarkably empty. She went into panic mode. She phoned around.

The phone calls set off a search worthy of a mystery dinner theatre. In her heart she felt they were gone, but she hoped another committee cook was baking them at home.

The missing zucchini was the buzz for several weeks. Then at Sunday worship, a couple of weeks later, a teary eyed woman approached Carolyn. Weeping, she confessed to being the squash bandit.

Carolyn said, “I could tell she felt terrible.” And Carolyn knew it had been difficult for Mrs. Clean to come forward. But two women who follow Jesus did the right thing. One confessed. One forgave.

In this season of Advent, of waiting and remembering the One who came to save his people from their sins, search around in your heart for grievances. If you find one . . . or two, speak confessions. Speak forgiveness.

Renewed, you can earnestly pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.”

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Star Giver

The stars are out. Light-bearing look-alikes are fastened to street lamps and balanced on tree tops. Foil covered cardboard stars stand in pageants while bedecked five-year-olds sing, “O Holy Night.”

My friend Brenda Nixon, author of Parenting in the Early Years, is a creative shopper and pays a company to name stars after friends and family. The company presents recipients with a certificate, the naming symbolic.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) alone has the right to name stars. Due to the vast array, most are given numbers, very few are named. The numbering system helps astronomers find star-addresses because the estimated number of galaxies seen by Hubble telescope is 100 billion, including the faint dwarf galaxies on the edge. Beyond telescope range, billions more (

Imagine the task of naming the galaxies and the indefinite number of stars within—but someone did it. The Star Giver did. "He determines the number of the stars and gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalms 147:4-5).
Because he created the stars, God knows the exact makeup of each, giving them “pet names,” says one writer. We glimpse God’s magnitude when he compares himself to measurements we understand. Prophet Isaiah told how God measured earth waters in the hollow of his hand. Have you ever picked up a few tablespoons of the ocean in the well of your hand? Imagine God holding all oceanic, river and deep-spring waters in his palm.

Isaiah also told how God marked off the heavens by a span. In Bible language, a span is the breadth of a hand—thumb to pinkie. With his hand-measure, God marked off the heavens we see and heavens we don’t see. The nations of this earth are compared to a drop in a bucket, and the islands, God weighs them like they were fine dust. (40:11-15).

Feel small enough, yet? Jesus reiterated the vast knowledge of God when he said the hairs on all our heads are numbered. A daily accounting of gray, brunette, red, black and blond, and, yes, those dyed purple, too.

Over the course of many nights, a star guided the astronomers from the east to Jesus, their journey canopied by a starry host. When at last the wise men gazed upon the young Jesus, they worshiped him, a holy light, greater than all celestials.

The old priest Zechariah had seen many atrocities on earth, and prior to The Messiah’s birth he sang these truths about the Jesus-light: “Because of the tender mercy of our God . . . the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

As frequent as toy commercials, reinvented stars show up in December, The Star Giver flung stars in the sky, but sent The Light of the World to us. It’s December. The stars are out. They can remind us.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Painted House

If you read about the end of her life—at age 67 buried in a child’s coffin, lowered into a pauper’s grave—you might think how tragic. Maud Lewis lived with many physical defects, including crippled hands and hunched shoulders that caused her chin to rest against her chest. But her bold, happy spirit could have filled an art gallery—eventually it did.

Maud Lewis, born in rural Nova Scotia in 1903 lived a simple childhood, and by all accounts had a sweet disposition. As an adult, although awash in poverty and a bitter marriage, joy surfaced and found a stage in her folk art.

As a child, Maud’s mother taught her to hand-paint Christmas cards, which were sold to neighbors. She played the piano until her fingers grew too arthritic. Even though she quit school after the fifth grade, perhaps due to the taunting of classmates, she had a fairly normal life with her parents.

When her parent’s died in the late ‘30s, her life took a dismal turn. Her brother took the inheritance and left her penniless. A miserly fish peddler, Everett Lewis, hired Maud to be his housekeeper and married her. Their cottage had 272 square feet (16 sq. meters) of space with a sleeping loft. She lived in the one-room hut without electricity or plumbing until she died. A single window lighted the objects she decorated with her art.

Soon after marrying, she painted tulips, birds, animals, and flowers on nearly every surface of the house inside and out. Her miserly husband scrounged and furnished leftover boat paint. Her later paintings, he sold and often hid the money from her.

Maud painted tea tins, dust pans, wallpaper, window panes, and the cottage door. The tiny residence looked like a queen’s garden had bloomed. Fanciful birds, bees and butterflies had flocked to it. Even her wood burning cook stove boasted art work. Her art is in high demand today, and she has become the Grandma Moses of Canada.

After Maud and Everett Lewis were both gone, their small house remained empty for five years and fell into deterioration. An art gallery acquired the cottage and restored it. “The Painted House” now sits in a nook of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Hallifax. To date, it is the most beloved exhibit warehoused there.

With severely crippled hands, sardine tins for her palette and card board for canvases, Maud Lewis’ zest for life flowed through the tips of crude bristle brushes. The tiny frail woman refused to kowtow to a dingy existence.

Maud chose to brush stroke joy onto everyday life.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Golden Drumsticks

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

Golden Drumsticks

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 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 tallies. 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. Already, Austin, TX relatives were packing their cars, 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 with each bite of turkey I swallowed half dollars—caching, 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, Tweety Bird, the goose that laid the golden eggs.

If I keep retelling the story of pricey Tom Turkey, he might join the ranks of other famous fowl. He might make a name for himself, after all.

Wat fun holiday memories do you recall?

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

Gift Tags

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 Amazon and

Purchase autographed copies here . Or contact for prices on two or more autographed copies.

Visit Leafwood Publishers / ACU Press for other gift book ideas.

Leigh McLeroy, author of The Beautiful Ache: Finding the God Who Satisfies When Life Does Not, wrote about the tags that God leaves on his gifts to us. Ms. McLeroy and the Thanksgiving holiday led me to think about 2007 blessings.

Heard any Canadian geese flying south this fall? In their flight pattern, an inked signature from God wasn’t sky-written, but his one-of-a-kind mark was in their V-formation.

Last month, when presenting at a women’s renewal in a forested setting, I saw my first Johnny jump-up plant with delicate violet flowers and purple seed pods, and there in the wooded glen—God’s name tag.

Last year at this time, I mentioned the Thousand Gifts List by Ann Voskamp. She said, “I am daily jotting down items on my ‘Thousand Gifts List.’" The discipline of writing down gifts opened her eyes to things unseen before.

She is “working, one-by-one, up to a thousand gifts. Not of gifts I want. But of gifts I have.” Assisted by my “Thousand Gifts List,” I took a short journey back to January of 2007. A few of my favorites:

The smile that spread across three-year-old granddaughter Jolie’s face when she first picked up a harmonica and “played” it. My son married, bringing his wife, Pam, and her five-year-old daughter into our family. Natalie became an instant grandchild, who immediately called me “Grandma Cathy.”

Other gifts were the funny words of Adam, six-year-old grandson. One hour after last year’s Thanksgiving feast that fed 21, he opened my refrigerator and asked, “Grandma, do you have ANYTHING to eat in here?” My conversations with Grandson Jack, nearly ten, deepened. We still talk trivia, but we also talk about social and political issues.

Other gifts came from our customers. We rarely have trouble collecting monies but have occasionally. As many businesses do, if illness or hard times caused delayed payments, we wrote off the debts.

Two customers who owed money contacted us this year and paid in full. One owed us money for three years, the other for 11 years! Their integrity refreshed my faith.

Among other blessings, my husband and I still have four living parents, each couple celebrating over 60 years of marriage. I especially treasure my husband, who still holds my hand.

Author Leigh McLeroy said God’s gifts with nametags are gratifying, but “it's the Giver who really makes my heart sing. Any gift divorced from its giver is a lifeless thing.”

Preparations for guests, pie baking and turkey stuffing might crowd next week, but carve out a bit of one-to-one quiet time and give thanks to the Giver.

What is the number one thing on your "thanksgiving" list?

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Cost Per Mile

Travel cost per mile is on the rise.

If you live in Texas, those costs may happen on numbered roads. When I tell folks from out of state that we live on “FM 2854,” some have asked if Texans aren’t clever enough to come up with names for roads.

“FM” means “farm to market.” A few ranchers didn’t like the term “farmer,” so some roads are officially noted as “RM” for ranch to market. And when the cities finally crowd pig, goat, and oat farmers off the land, a road can be changed to “UR,” urban road.

Paul Burka gives stats about these numeric roads in Texas Monthly. FM 168 is the longest farm road—140 “straight-arrow miles,” running through cotton and grain fields west of Lubbock, not even touching a town of more than 2,500. Least traveled is FM 2167 in Briscoe County, maxed out at 10 cars per day near Silverton leading to a Boy Scout camp.

Busier than an ant trail, FM 1093 in Houston is the most traveled farm-to-market. An average of 61,000 vehicles a day travels 1093 in front of the Galleria Mall, also known as Westheimer Road. I vote to change the prefix of FM 1093 to UR, urban road.

The cost for traveling these roads is on the rise. Trust me. The price of beans is going up—again. Close to everything we consume is trucked. When I whine about the cost of diesel, most folk don’t realize that eighteen wheelers only get five miles per gallon of fuel. Tugging 80,000 pounds of freight is costly.

When diesel hit the $3.20 mark this week, our company cost was $6.40 for every 10 miles each truck traveled. Those costs didn’t include insurance, equipment cost or maintenance. Have you priced a new Peterbilt lately?

I’m really not complaining, just stating facts. My husband and I breathe prayers of thanks for each safe day on the roads and for each moment our business is in the profit margin. Our pocket book is not hurting nearly so much as those who pay premium prices to drive to minimum wage jobs.

Roads and driving expenses have me thinking about costs in life—especially about the costs of walking with Jesus. Jesus told his disciples to make up a price-list, and he gave the example of house building. A dream home is one thing, the actual pricing of lumber and porcelains is quite another. Before homebuilding, a thoughtful planner lists all the materials and prices. Who wants to lay a foundation, frame up interior rooms and then find that insulation and drying-in materials are too expensive.

For any who follow Jesus’ path, the disciple-cost price-list could be a helpful exercise, for novice Christians and those on church rolls since the printing press. Why not write out a personal price list. What will the next ten years cost to follow Jesus? To follow the same road Jesus traveled, things may need giving up, handed out or reined in.

Some of Jesus’ disciples gave up professions. Others learned the freedom of giving rather than receiving. Some were rejected by family. One woman poured out repentant tears and received forgiveness. Mahatma Gandhi observed, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians, for they are so unlike your Christ.” Then to Gandhi’s India, Mother Teresa came along and gave a better witness to the Christ.

When you travel on the roads near your home—FM, RM, UR—and you think about the cost of fuel these days, also think about your Jesus price-list. What is the cost per mile to follow him?

For the holidays: Purchase copies of The Stained Glass Pickup at or Order autographed copies at

Friday, November 02, 2007

Word Palette

Jolie, my three-year-old granddaughter, is learning to speak English. From toddler gibberish she progressed to complex sentences and words. A few weeks ago, we took her north to Huntsville, Texas. She had recently heard the word “hospital.” When we left to travel north, she told her Pop, “We’re going to Huntspital.”

When our son Russell was acquiring his language skills, he combined “eyelashes” and “eyebrows” into one common word, “eyebrashes.” He also had cemetery and cafeteria confused. In his world, people were buried in cafeterias and had meals in cemeteries.

Where would we be without words, written or spoken? We would no doubt be reduced to animal like communications where we trumpeted, woofed, and cackled. But, thank God, he blessed humans with not only the ability to communicate necessary information, but we can transcend commercial language and express deeper thoughts through verbal expressions of concern, poetry and love notes.

In greeting cards, if you care enough to send the very best a Hallmark card is chosen. Their adept marketing touts their merit through ad campaigns. Hallmark hires trend experts so when we belly up to their card rack, we’ll find the exact words to express our sentiments.

In 2006, their trend experts identified prevalent needs in American society, things they’ve noticed for nearly a decade, that’s when they are categorized as trends. “An emerging and strengthening trend is the search for meaning in a technological, rapidly moving, pressure-filled society – and the sense of dissonance that results.”

Marita Wesely-Clough, a Hallmark trends expert, wrote that “attitudes, perceptions and behavior continually evolve into trends and as individuals, the nation and the world adjust to change, some trends become cultural characteristics.”

God knew that the search for meaning is a life-long trend. To assist us, he created language—the language we use in the market place and the vulnerable language we use to strengthen relationships with family and to pour out woes and praise to God.

Jesus, the embodiment of heaven’s language, behaved, loved, noticed, forgave, extended mercy and righted injustices. In his life, we read good language, God-language.

Just as little children learn language skills, adults are still learning, too. A proverb says, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (25:11). Families need artists. From a palette of effective words, we can create masterpieces that inspire members to a higher calling.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The “Witch House” earned its name. Constructed in the mid 16th century and painted black, it’s the only structure to remain that is connected with the infamous witch trials. We toured the house in Salem, Massachusetts and the $20.00 spent on the guided tour was well worth the fee.

The house belonged to Magistrate Jonathan Corwin at the time charges of witchcraft were brought against Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba as accused tormentors of two young girls, Betty Parris, age 9, and Abigail Williams, age 11.

Through centuries, the witch trials brought about much speculation as to the original events that eventually caused the hangings and deaths in prison of 24 people.

The Peabody Essex Museum houses 552 original, preserved documents pertaining to the witchcraft trials. On display are eerie memorabilia such as “Witch Pins,” used in the examination of withes. A small bottle containing the supposed finger bone of victim George Jacobs remains at the Courthouse in Salem.

While Magistrate Jonathan Corwin never wrote anything about the witch trials, he did later offer an apology for his part in the proceedings. The imaginative minds of children and the dynamics of Puritanism obviously played a key role in the deplorable accusations.

“The Crucible,” first a play, early 1900’s, and then later revived in movies, portrays the witch trials of Salem. If you want closer-to-the-truth facts rely on historical documents because liberties were taken in the latest movie, 1996, and known facts were changed to enhance story lines.

Most historians agree that the Old Testament ninth commandment was broken during the accusations and trials: “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16). Bearing false witness means that one whispers, bears tales or slanders a person. Of course bearing false witness is as common today as it was at the villainous witch trials in Salem.

When I was a child and first read about the Salem trials, I remember the feeling of horror that young girls could wreak such havoc and cost lives. Not long after, a tale I’d started landed me in trouble, but my parents found out and nipped my insult before anyone went to the gallows.

When someone behaves badly we tend to measure their words, intents, and actions, with an ugly stick. As a listener we have choices to make with what we see and hear. We can think the worst or we can pause and wonder what might have caused their irritability. Reputations, businesses, and lives can be lost because of misconceptions or deliberate slander.

George Bernard Shaw said, “The only person who acts sensibly is my tailor. He takes my measure anew every time he sees me. Everyone else goes by their old measurements.”

A proverb says, “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (17:9). If you lived in Salem in the 16th Century, tittle-tattle could have separated the neck bone from the backbone. Gossip and slander sever. Follow the tailor’s actions and take new measurements when you meet folks.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Honing Instincts

It flitted by and surprised us. While 13 miles out to sea from the Gloucester, MA harbor, a Monarch butterfly flew close to the deck railing of the whale watching boat. My husband said to a nearby man, “He’s a long way from home.”

That same day, aboard the Hurricane II (115 foot) boat, we saw five juvenile humpback whales. The rich krill feeding grounds of the cold Maine Gulf served ample meals to the youngsters. They filtered gallons of water through baleen plates, and with teenage appetites, fed around the clock, doing their part to reach adult size, up to 50 foot long.

From my vantage point at the rail, the humpbacks looked about the length of their granddaddies. Like us, the juveniles were on a round trip journey. Soon, they would migrate to the warmer waters near the Dominican Republic, the humpback delivery and breeding grounds.

After we returned home, we watched a television special about migrating Monarchs. University and nature programs monitor the Monarch flights. A tagging system, a whisper-light sticker for a wing, allows researchers to track distances and destinations.

School children can get involved in the tagging process at, a comprehensive site with interesting facts and statistics. Monarchs need to store plenty of fat in their abdomens to fly 1,000-3,000 miles to warmer climates. The Monarchs maiden-fly to exact locations and often to the same tree as their late grandparents and great grandparents roosted in the previous year.

Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains fly to trees along the California coast. Those east of the Rocky Mountains fly to forests in the high mounts of Mexico. In South Texas, you may have seen a lot of Monarchs earlier this week because it was peak time for their travels through our neck of the woods.

“Another unsolved mystery is how Monarchs find the overwintering sites each year,” states, in cooperation with the University of Kansas. “No one knows how their honing system works; it is another of the many unanswered questions in the butterfly world.”

During migrating season, if a Monarch is caught and then released hundreds of miles away, it will seem confused for about five days. And then a remarkable thing happens, it somehow gets new flight bearings and joins up with its kin.

People stray, too. Some walked godly paths before, and some have never believed in God. But, I’ve noticed that many will return to belief or find God for the first time, late in life. Solomon said God “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Eccl.3:11).

God excels in creating honing devices in animals and men. His implanted human-heart compasses are capable of pointing folks to him. Seeking the meaning to life is an earth-old quest. The deep seated hope of something eternal is from God.

If you are floundering outside your flight pattern, take hope, this old world is not all there is to life. There is still the God-friendly climate of eternity to return to and explore.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Need Wisdom, Just Ask

Early morning sun filters into the king’s throne room. Loyal servants hover about, but the peace is shattered by frantic women’s voices from the outer court pleading for an audience with King Solomon.

When King Solomon’s reign began, God offered to help, and Solomon literally asked for a “listening heart” to govern his people. An example of Solomon’s inspired wisdom is found in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Here’s how I imagine the scene.

The women’s arguing made Solomon chuckle to himself, he didn’t like to get involved in women’s quarrels, after all he’s gaining a reputation as a wise king. However, his heart is drawn into the unfolding drama because of another sound--the cries of an infant mixed into the fray.

He motions and two disheveled women walk toward his dais. A bawling newborn is swaddled in a sling in front of one, and the woman makes no effort towards comfort. King Solomon signals for a burly bodyguard to take the infant.

Massive-soldier Hiram does as the king asks, but a frown creases his brow as he awkwardly lifts the tiny babe to his shoulder.

Intent, Solomon listens as the women argue their plights, each claiming to be the birth mother. These facts emerge through their accusations. They live in the same house and both delivered sons the previous week. However, one of the sons died in the night, and now both women swear the tiny babe is theirs.

Solomon wonders which woman is telling the truth. He knows two facts: last night, one woman had a son die and one had a son stolen. Even a fool knew that information added up to two inconsolable women. A swift move of his hand signals for their bickering to stop.

Like a refreshing breath from above, a solution descends upon him. He looks toward Hiram who cradles the mewing infant and wonders how the giant guard has managed to calm the babe? He calls him forward and commands he unsheathe his sword.

Solomon reads his trusted guard’s eyes. Doubt briefly flickered, but he obeys. Hiram stretches out huge palms, in one the babe, in the other the haft of his razor-edged sword. A hush falls over the room.

Solomon steadies his gaze on both women and gives a command to half the child between them. Immediately one woman’s face registers smug pride, but the other woman’s eyes reflect indescribable pain, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” Solomon has his answer. Only a real mother would be willing to give her son to another to spare his life.

When Solomon became king, God offered him gifts. Instead of wealth, power, or fame he asked for good judgment. All of us could benefit from wisdom that descends from the King of Kings, the kind Solomon received.

James encourages, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

That’s a wise request king or not.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friendly Award

A man who has friends must himself be friendly~ Proverbs18:24

In the past when someone labeled Texans as unfriendly, I bristled, like the spine-fur on a dog’s neck when its territory is threatened. Even in our huge-hearted state, the unfriendly-label-blanket can be thrown over an entire community when visitors encounter town grouches.

My husband David and I would like to give out a “friendly” award to the Northeast town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Last week in Gloucester, David and his army buddy (Vietnam) Chris Larsen reunited for the first time in nearly four decades. Over the years, phone calls and mail kept them in touch, and we finally met his lovely wife Joan and family.

Of Finnish descent, Chris Larsen comes from a long line of stout-hearted commercial fishermen. Lost at sea, his grandfather’s and uncle’s names are at a cenotaph, a memorial to those whose remains are elsewhere.

One memorial features a fisherman’s wife and two children gazing toward the Atlantic horizon, searching the seascape for the husband and father they kissed goodbye. Some 10,000 Gloucester fishermen have lost their lives since the 1600s. Over 5,000 known names are honored at the memorials.

Chris owns Larsen’s Shoes on Main Street, a much safer occupation. On a touristy Saturday, he didn’t open his store. Instead, he guided us around Cape Ann. We visited granite rock quarries, wharfs, filming locations for the movie “The Perfect Storm” (about the fishing vessel, “Andrea Gail,” lost at sea 1991). I dipped my toes in the Atlantic, just because I could.

At Stage Fort Park, we walked Half Moon Beach, home to a 1600’s settlement. And, moored on towering rocks we photographed an arsenal of antique cannons, jutting toward the Atlantic. There, we climbed atop 50 foot granite boulders.

Driving in any new area can be challenging. In Gloucester, some streets allow for parking on both sides, narrowing the lane for moving vehicles. Traffic rotaries are abundant, road-hubs where—three, four or five—side roads converge onto the paved circle. Rotary vehicles have the right of way, but on other roads, Chris said, “Everyone has the right-of-way.”

When Dave and I drove in town, friendly folk often let us cut in line. We’d be waiting to turn out of a parking lot onto a busy street, and a charitable driver would stop, honk-honk, and wave us into the traffic. Innumerable times.

Soon, we too had our windows down, waving cars into the bumper-to-bumper parade ahead of us. Like a communicable disease, Massachusetts friendliness went around, and we caught some.

While there, we discussed wild turkeys. Massachusetts still has plenty. To our surprise in downtown Boston a few days later from a trolley window, we saw a lone wild turkey foraging with pigeons on a grassy area. The easygoing pigeons seemed to accept him as one of their own.

To glimpse God’s extravagant handiwork and experience pleasant people, visit Gloucester. And I imagine our friend Chris could outfit you with a nice pair of walking shoes, too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Drought Blooming-Sept 28

Everywhere in South Texas morning glories are showing off. The trumpet-shaped purple flowers climb fence posts and stretch tendrils along barbed wires. They run up flag poles, twist around mail boxes, and climb on anything above ground level.

Near the coastline, because of our unusual moist summer, morning glories dot the countryside. They are known as September bloomers, and they have launched their autumn showy parade. Besides their beauty, I admire that they bloom even after a severe drought. Often, July and August gang up against fall flowers, but the morning glory’s heart shaped leaves keep unfurling and earning their “glory” name.

“[G]lory in the Koine Greek is doxa; it means to give the correct opinion of,” Kay Arthur says in “Lord I Want to Know You.” Speaker and author Doris Black says we bring glory to God when we “make him look good” by wearing his name combined with right-living.

Doctor Luke describes a scene at a home in Capernaum where glorifying happened. Friends carried a disabled friend to Jesus for healing. On that day, a lot of sick people had the same idea. Get to Jesus.

Every corner and niche in the host home was filled with folk. Each window and door of this makeshift clinic had sick folk or rubber-neckers pressed against them. All wanted to get a healing or see the healer. No one wanted to give up their advantage.

The mercy-minded friends climbed to the roof and lowered their friend through the tiles and down to Jesus’ level. Impressed by the group’s faith, Jesus forgave the man’s sins and awoke his paralyzed limbs.

Jesus told the healed man to roll up his bed and go home. Luke says, “At once he rose up . . . took up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God.” The people witnessing this and other miracles were amazed and “also began glorifying God,” saying, “We have seen remarkable things today” (5:17-26). They saw remarkable things because God is good, all good, no evil.

Often, after evil has had a nip at us, that's when God does his marvelous work and we have opportunity to praise him, making him look good, calling attention the One who keeps giving good gifts even when we fail to live right.

My mother is suffering the final stages of a disease and is bedridden at home. Dad’s been helping her for a long time, 24/7 help for the past year. Recently, she said to me, “God promised to do us good, not evil, all the days of our lives.” The essence of her statement is found throughout Bible stories.

Even in her pain, from her much less-than-perfect situation, she is my morning glory. Blooming during a drought, she gives correct praises for God, and she points me to him.

She still makes him look good.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What we may be

“We know what we are, but not what we may be,” said Shakespeare. Tutors in life have a great impact on what we’ll become, and teachers take many forms.
Media, text books, experts, parents, pop stars, Hollywood —- all shapers and molders.

Not all information received is helpful. Destructive models abound, but there is one trustworthy teacher who can lead each person to a higher standard.

Not too long ago, a Muslim clerk asked me if I wanted to buy a lottery ticket. When I responded that I don’t gamble my dollars in the Texas lottery, he asked me if I was a Christian. He told me Allah didn’t like gambling either.

Then he said to me, “This Jesus of yours, I admire him.” Many non-Christians admire Jesus, his justice, his connection with the common man and his hands-on-compassion, and he is recognized as someone to emulate.

What if each person who thinks highly of Jesus decided to become a student and imitate the ways Jesus loved his neighbors. Throughout his ministry, he conversed, helped, and touched those who are often shunned —- those with too many problems.

We sometimes avoid communicating with folks who are drowning in difficulties. It’s easier to not let them into our lives than to embrace them and their plethora of setbacks.

But those with seemingly unsolvable problems, Jesus readily drew into his life. He ate with the hated tax collectors and allowed a prostitute to wash his feet with her tears. He chose Judas, taught and loved him even knowing that he would betray him.

Jesus spoke about his life mission in simple statements: he came to seek and save the lost, and he came to do the will and goodness of God. Good teachers and role models -- there’s always room for more. Far too many lemons are getting into the limelight with lewd lyrics and gyrations that would make Elvis roll over in his grave.

The Lord spoke these words to and through Jeremiah, “If you extract the precious from the worthless, you will be my spokesman” (Jeremiah 15:19). The world needs extractors, workers who are taught by the Master to esteem the precious and recognize the empty activities of life.

Shakespeare said we don’t know “what we may be.” Jesus said if you follow me, you’ll be my hands in this world. He encourages sorting, sorting through the world’s junkyard and mining the worthwhile.
If you are sick of ungodly role models, follow Jesus, become more like him. Read his story. Live out his character. Purpose what you “may be.” He will even come along side of your everyday life and help you mine the world for human treasures.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Life's Amens

Jolie, our barely three-year-old granddaughter, asked me to read to her. She chose a book about a whimsical farm tractor. While I read, she held the book and turned the shiny cardboard pages. The tractor carried on quite a monologue about his “nine–to-five” field work. She skipped some of the pages, not showing interest in mechanical issues. After six pages, the tractor said, “And my dependable motor….”

We didn’t get any further. Jolie closed the book and said, “Amen.” I guess she mixed her closing remarks because she hears us say “Amen” when concluding a prayer and “the end” when finishing a book.

Later that day, she brought me the Little Golden book “Sleeping Beauty.” As I read to her, she tolerated the story line a bit better about a princess, an evil rival and a handsome prince.
Again, when she closed the book, she said, “Amen.” Since then, I’ve contemplated prayer over the “trivial” and larger issues.

In last week’s column I told the true story about a woman who had a pie in the oven and had to leave home to get a sick child from school. The mom had several delays and so she prayed for help to get home before the pie burned.

When small children are learning to pray, they pray about what they know, the intimate details of their family: dad, mom, siblings and pets. When younger, both of my grandsons prayed for their dog Willie long after his demise. At mealtimes, children express fresh faith when they give thanks for rice, water, ketchup, salt, pepper and the dinner plates.

As children-trained-in-prayer grows older, the world encroaches and their knowledge of good and evil grows. As concerns deepen, we’ve witnessed them begin to pray for victims of tragedies. Some adults have told me that they’ve come full circle in their prayer life. While their eyes are open to the rips and tears in the world’s character, they are back in tune with God who also cares about salt, pepper, and rice.

From the Bible, they’ve seen God in the minor details of life. God names stars and numbers hairs on heads. He sees sparrows fall from their nests. He rescues ax heads from deep waters. When he rid Egypt of flies, not a single one remained (Exodus 8:31). When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he asked “give us this day our daily bread.” Far too often, I take the daily crust of bread for granted.

Selfish prayers are described in James 4:3. God is the only true judge of whether a prayer is motivated by selfishness. James says, that type of prayer is not answered “because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

If all aspects of life were governed by good-motivation prayer, this old world might tilt its axis back toward living out the charity of God. What I’m trying to say is that every situation, every moment of every day could use a prayer. If we pray without ceasing and keep our eyes on the Father as he befriends us, we’ll naturally turn to him for big and small praises and requests.

“THE END” would come to many worries if we covered all moments, big and small, with an “Amen.”

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Mysterious Ways-Sept. 7

She put a pie in the oven and heard her phone ring. The school nurse said her son had a fever—could she pick him up?

Mental calculations began. The pie needed 45 minutes to bake. Satisfied, she zoomed out of her driveway to make the ten minute trip to school, run by the pharmacy, purchase over-the-counter medicines, get home and take the yummy pie out of the oven.

When I first read the story in Ronald Dunn’s Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something, I thought, “Don’t do it. Something will go wrong.”

The mother-baker-nursemaid caught all green traffic lights, picked up her son, and drove to the pharmacy. Perhaps the on-schedule mom left the drugstore feeling smug until her hands fumbled inside her purse for car keys. A little sinking spell hit when she didn’t hear the familiar clank of metal.

At the car, Marie peeked in. Her son leaned his feverish forehead against the cool window saying, “Mom, they’re on the seat.”

Her mind conjured an overcooked pie and worse, yet, a charred house. But, she whispered a quick prayer, “Help me, Lord.” To her amazement she saw a clothes hanger on the ground. She unwound the corkscrew neck and set to work.

We’ve been the main character in similar scenes or watched a desperate soul try to lasso a latch. After futile attempts and more silent prayers, a young man walked up, “Ma’am, may I help you?”

Grateful, she handed off the spindly tool. He worked at worming the wire around, and in under a minute her car door unlocked. She beamed a compliment. “What a nice young man you are. You must be a really good boy.”

“No ma’am, I’m not a good boy.” He shuffled his feet, looked down in obvious embarrassment, “I just got out of prison.”

She said, “Praise God, he sent a professional!”

William Cowper (1731-1800), poet and hymnist wrote “God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.” If only the lessons from this mom’s story could sink in and settle.

Whenever God is invited to assist, we can expect the unexpected.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

God's Stars

On any clear night, glance at the stars and you’ll see tiny glimmers in dark navy sky. From Earth’s position, all the flickers of light look about the same, but magnified by the Hubbel Space Telescope, they reveal swirling colors and even new stars.

God keeps up with his stars. He numbers them and calls each by name (Psalms 147:4) Galaxies are delivery rooms, and God is still naming his newborn stars. Paul mentions that “even the stars differ from each other in their beauty and brightness” (1 Corinthians 15:41).

All the differing celestials, here-a-sparkle there-a-sparkle, remind me of the believers God places in different locations around the world. Jesus instructed his followers to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Hospital volunteers, soup kitchen workers, stay-at-home moms, law enforcement, college students, or patient dads, these are just a few of the roles God uses to pierce darkness with light.

Peoria Journal Star in Illinois encourages readers to post about random acts of kindness at their Web site, PJStar. Pam wrote about an experience at Longhorn Steakhouse.

A husband took his wife Pam to Longhorn Steakhouse, to eat her last meal before chemo treatments began. The restaurant staff got wind of Pam’s future battle, and offered a dessert on the house. When the sweet arrived, a message encircled the luscious chocolate concoction: “GET WELL SOON.” The shining-star-staff left the light on for Pam.

I’m writing about kindness because I stood behind a rude person in a grocery line the other day. A customer ignored the clerk and talked to a friend who had walked up. When the small purchase ended, the customer talked down to the clerk for a simple bagging oversight.

The clerk remained friendly and cheerful and made the correction, despite receiving the cold shoulder and rude disgust. When Jesus pitched his tent among us, he remained sinless. Rude behavior, words or voice tone were not in his life. His true self expressed compassion, mercy, justice, and encouragement even to those in error.

Kindness is habit forming and counteracts rudeness. Adopt kindness as your standard because you reflect God’s light. This area is teeming with people. Crowded roadways and longer lines at checkouts leave ample room for kindness.

A galaxy of earthbound stars can be the backdrop for God’s work in any area.

Shine on.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Psalms Calm

Twenty-four-hour news—do you want to turn the world off sometimes, retreat from news inundation? By clicking a remote, turning a dial, or logging on to the Internet, you can receive news—good and bad—from daybreak to daybreak. If you find yourself bloated by news and anxious, where do you go for comfort?

Anthony Ash wrote, "It has been said that somewhere in the Psalms can be found a reflection of virtually every religious experience known to man, and the person familiar with the Psalter can find balm for every wound." Mr. Ash admits that this statement may not be strictly true. However, it does reflect high regard for Bible psalms from those who experience kinship with the authors’ woes.

The Book of Psalms is a blend of theology, worship and daily living. One of my favorite psalms is the 46th and begins with these words, "God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble."

In the stanzas, this psalm recognizes three trouble-areas: natural disasters, political upheaval and battle fatigue. The third stanza identifies war and battle fatigue as wearisome, and a good word from the Lord is embedded there, "Be still, and know that I am God."

At first, quieting self in turmoil may seem a daunting request. But, it’s doable because God is the master of lightening in a storm and the calm that follows. He can scrub striving and straining out of hearts and replace them with serenity and trust.

If you need a refreshing break from news overload, take a long drink from the Psalms. Choose from over 150 or read them all. They motivate. In 1529, the 46th psalm inspired Martin Luther to write the words and music to a well known hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

When technology brings repetitious disasters to our doorsteps, it’s easy to lose sight of God-in-control. Like a spring loaded clock, the world ticks to God’s timetable. He remembers yesterday, he is present in the moment you are breathing in, and he will be in tomorrow. He knows what is happening and the psalmists praise his generous involvement.

Does news rankle and irk and un-tuck your feathers? "Be still, and know that I am God" isn't a take-it-or-leave-it suggestion. If God’s instructions are followed, he uncorks calm and pours peace into lives.

Some folks read one Psalm a day, and go through the Psalter several times a year. To experience God, read and heed. Read about the human experience, and heed God’s care in Psalms.

If you have a favorite psalm it may be in your memory. It's a good place to tuck away words from the Lord, words that can help one be still and remember that God is God.

What is your favorite psalm?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bibles and Backpacks

This weekend in Texas, if you buy blue jeans for school, you will not pay sales tax. What a deal. Would you like to purchase something else without sales tax? Year round, you can buy tax-free Bibles in Texas, also tax exempt in Florida, Massachusetts, and Missouri.

A leader in Bible distribution is The American Bible Society: “to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so that all people may experience its life-changing message.”

The ABS formed in 1816, in New York City and early presidents included a Supreme Court chief justice and a New York City mayor. By 1817, the society gifted Bibles to the military crew of the USS John Adams. To this day, getting Bibles on battlefields is primary work. During Civil War years 1861—1865, Bibles were sent to the North and South armies.

Between 1940-1945, World War II, ABS provided more than 7.4 million scriptures to those serving in the U.S. armed forces. In 1991, they presented camouflage covered, compact Bibles to 300,000 serving in the Persian Gulf.

Early on, the society placed Bibles in hotels, and by the 1850s on steamships and railcars. Throughout the years, the society added Bibles to time capsule projects at World’s Fairs.

One of their major functions is translating the Bible into native languages. Within two years of formation, in 1818, the three letters of John were printed in Delaware Indian with English parallels.

For decades, the society has kept abreast of current technology, using slides, motion pictures, and radio and television broadcasting. Today, ABS at offers Bibles and even downloads to cell phones.

Who will most influence your children this school term? The Weekly Reader poll, a leader in surveying teens, questioned 1,100 teens between the ages of 12-18 about influencers in their lives. Many, 67.7 percent, believe their parents to be the most significant role models. After parents were teachers, coaches, siblings and religious leaders.

Many school book purchases will be made in the next few weeks. Parents, each student could also use “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). A Bible in a backpack is a good idea. Traditional book or text on a cell phone screen, your children can have God, the best influencer of all, at their fingertips.

Do you have a favorite Bible? If so, how long have you had it?

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Short Prayers

Centuries ago, Christians retreated into the hot, barren Egyptian desert to escape persecution. Later, in 311 A.D., when Christianity became a recognized religion, some chose to stay in the desert, embracing an austere life. They attempted through disciplines to remember God is near every moment of every day. In ministry to others and in private prayers, they devoted themselves to God and became known as the Desert Fathers.

Out of their tradition, arose “breath prayers.” They based their short prayers (could be said in one breath) on the pattern of Jesus Christ. Even on the cross, Jesus said a brief prayer, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” When I’m in pain, my prayers are very short, too.

Also, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, the succinct prayer included short phrases. The cited reasons these desert dwellers’ prayed repetitiously was to stay in constant contact with God. Also, they wanted to follow the apostle Paul’s urging to the Thessalonians, “pray continually.”

Out of their tradition arose short prayers, repeated in a breathe-in and breathe-out pattern, consequently the name breath prayers. By far, their favorite prayer was from a parable of Jesus when a repentant tax collector pled, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Eventually, some even shortened the plea, “Lord [breathe in] . . . mercy [breathe out].”

With my many flaws, I could certainly pray that prayer each day, and even each hour. Before I ever heard of the monks known as the Desert Fathers, I saw many short prayers in the Bible. I admit, I’m not a chanter, saying them repeatedly throughout a day. I also don’t breathe a certain way when praying. Usually the quick prayer that springs to mind and on to God bypasses earthly regulations.

I’ll share a favorite. One praise prayer that can be imitated comes from Eve, the mother of all living. Part of women’s fates after the fall was childbearing plus – plus pain. And after Eve delivered Cain, her first son, she said, “With the help of the LORD, I have brought forth a man.”

I like to imitate her praise and tell God thank you for help. Usually, my accomplishment is not as labor intensive as childbearing: “With the help of the Lord, I finished the income tax” or “With the help of the Lord, I told my hurting friend about Jesus.”

Praying short phrases from the Bible is not new, and many find this natural and satisfactory. This summer, a young mother told me that when rowdiness reigns in her home she repeats this Bible praise back to God, “Children ARE a blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3).

When you next read your Bible, watch for short phrases that describe where you are in life, and say them back to God. They may be the gentle whispers that keep you in God’s presence that day.
Dear Readers: Some of you have asked where you can purchase copies of The Stained Glass Pickup. They are available at online bookstores—you can Google and find the best deals—or you can order autographed copies through Pay Pal at

Thanks for asking, and if you purchase, double thanks.
For those of you who have a copy, would you do me the favor of asking your local Christian bookstore to carry them? Also, several America’s Country Stores (Purina feed dealers) stock this book, and they are having great success, too. The Stained Glass Pickup sells well when it gets shelf space in gift areas and bookstores. I’m happy to talk with store owners about sales statistics.
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

31 Day Plan

Solomon spoke three thousand proverbs. 1 Kings 4:32

How would you like to go on a 31 day treasure hunt? If so, during August, plan to read the 31 chapters of Proverbs in the Bible, authored for the most part by King Solomon. Summer temperatures will sizzle near 100, and you’ll want to retreat into the air conditioning. Why not plan to turn off the television and visit ancient wisdom, still practical in 2007.

Not everything in the Bible is about heaven and salvation even though the Bible is God’s story about interaction with man. In the wisdom literature, God spells out ways to live ordinary lives on earth with integrity, right thinking.

In the prayer, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prayed that the Father’s will be carried out “on earth as it is in heaven.” By reading Proverbs in 31 days, one can get a crash course of very good advice for living out God’s will on earth. The first chapters teach reverence for God, a good starting place for all.

The book of Proverbs also tackles topics such as morals, honesty, humility, eating habits, friendships, laying traps, fools, laziness, gossip, lessons from nature, taking advice, knowledge, money management, honoring parents, how drunkards learn lessons, and marriage. Following are favorite Proverb truisms:

“Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house” (24:27). Build up your nest egg, before you build the nest.

“Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly” (17:12). An angry bear is recognizable, a fool, whoa, some of them look just like an average Joe.

“Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house—too much of you, and he will hate you” (25:17). Situation comedy writers, are they reading Proverbs for screenplay ideas? How many times has the intrusive neighbor been a storyline?

“Let another praise you, not your own mouth, someone else, and not your own lips” (27:2). Bern Williams said, “The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a pirate.”

One more proverb to whet your appetite: “A generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will be refreshed” (11:25). You might not get a check in the mail, but heaven’s reward program is better than frequent flyer miles.

This August, I’ll pray a proverb over you—that you’re not waylaid by a she-bear with stray cubs or a fool with stray morals.

As you read 31 chapters in 31 days, watch for gems. You’ll absorb plenty of wisdom-guidelines, helping you to respect God and others for the other 334 days in a year.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

A Bird Named Promise

For five weeks, a misguided little bird has pecked on four of our home windows. She’s some type of grayish bird with a tuft of feathers on top. It’s obvious we’re not ornithologists.

A snippy little thing, she pecks and taps, and then flutters her wingspread against the shiny glass barriers. She’s becoming bolder and doesn’t zoom off as often. Perched on a small twig, looking into our home, her head twists this way and that when I tell her she’s wasting her life. But, maybe her life is not so barren because she inspired this column and reminded me of a song.

In 1905, Dr. and Mrs. Martin (Civilla) visited in Elmira, New York. While there, they formed a deep friendship with the Doolittles. The wife had been bedridden for nearly 20 years, and her husband, an incurable cripple, propelled himself to work in a wheelchair.

The Martins took note of the Doolittle’s happy Christian lives, how they inspired others with their cheerful outlooks. When asked for their secret, Mrs. Doolittle answered, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

Cavilla Martin said, “The beau­ty of this sim­ple ex­press­ion of bound­less faith gripped the hearts and fired the imag­in­a­tion of Dr. Mar­tin and me.” The very next day, Cavilla mailed her poem/lyrics to composer Charles Gab­ri­el, who set the words to music. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Spar­row” was the out­come.

Today, I named my miscued bird Promise. I call her that because she reminds me of a security from God, one that involves his care of birds and us. When Jesus taught his followers about trust in God, he told how a common sparrow will not fall to the ground apart from God’s will. “So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).

Jesus also threw in the fact that the hairs of our heads are numbered, and with shedding, that’s a daily tallying, intimate knowledge of our bodies. Isn’t that comforting? That’s one reason to sing, that God knows everything about each person, from “irrelevant” information to the more pertinent things.

Poor little Promise is off her flight pattern. On a daily collision course, she’s out of step with her winged sisters. She gets up early, catches worms, and then worries at my windows. Maybe this is her destiny, but I wish she could supplement it with more soaring and singing.

We are God’s chorus of songbirds. We are in God’s line of vision, and despite barricades, we can croon the Doolittle inspired refrain: “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Book of Hours

Book of Hours

The Book of Hours was the most popular book of the Middle Ages. Primarily belonging to the wealthy, written by hand and illuminated by noted artists, only nobility and the rich could afford them. Around the text, artists filled in with elaborate borders, colored miniatures and exquisite decorations. The Frick Fine Arts Library at the University of Pittsburgh contains a 15th century Book of Hours. There are many fine photos of this book at their website.

On July 8, 1999, Christie’s Auction House in London sold a Book of Hours dating from the early 1500’s. Confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and recently recovered, the book included 67 full-page illustrations. Nothing of that magnitude had been offered on the open market. The sale price was over fourteen million dollars, a record for an illuminated book.
The small handbooks were called Book of Hours because they encouraged hourly meditation and prayer and some sections are titled the Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Holy Spirit. They were produced in Europe, but were especially popular in France and Flanders.

Ages ago, town bells or church bells were used as signals within a community. If a need arose, the church bells could sound an alarm, or one tradition was to ring the bells on the hour reminding Christians to pray. Psalm 119:164 says, “Seven times a day, I praise you for your righteous laws.”

Daniel prayed daily: “He went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God” (6:10).

No one but God is truly aware of how often individuals speak with him. One of my favorite older books about prayer is Don’t Just Stand There: Pray Something by Ronald J. Dunn. Any prayer, no matter how inept in expression is better than no prayer. Occasionally an actor in a drama will say something like “Lord, I’m not used to talking to you, but if you’re listening. . ....” A one on one visit with God is a good prayer-start, a very good start.

Perhaps you began praying many years ago, or you may be a beginner. Today, when you notice the hour is about to change, be reminded that the Creator of time and prayer is longing to hear from you. You don’t need fancy printed prayers on decorated paper to get started. Just pray.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Funny Bone

In Melvin Helitzer’s Comedy Writing Secrets, he said nearly all humor is based upon feelings of superiority from the one who is laughing. Having never studied comedy writing before, the superiority reaction surprised me.

From chortles to guffaws, humor is an emotional response that is extremely subjective. If a comic pokes fun at something we revere, we tend to not laugh. However, when watching reruns of comedian Lucille Ball stomping grapes or stuffing candy in her mouth, most get tickled because we feel superior to her antics, knowing we would never fall prey in similar situations.

Humor aimed at fears allows release. Tell a joke about low wages, poor crops, or life-fumbles, and moods can ratchet up from wretched to barely miserable. Steve Allen said that good mental and physical health often depends on the ability to laugh at self.

Helitzer says, “Humor is criticism, cloaked as entertainment, directed at a specific target.” Bill Mauldin, wrote, “Humor is really laughing off a hurt, grinning at misery.” Both of these men echo a common saying, “It’s better to laugh than cry.”

To warm up an audience, speakers often begin presentations with a bit of self-deprecating humor, allowing the audience the chance to feel a wee bit superior. After an audience hears a speaker’s story about land-sliding mountainous oranges at Wal-Mart, they are more likely to sense that the speaker is just a normal person like them. They are more open to listen, friend to friend.

Wholesome, quick wit is also fun and engaging. Newsweek said Ronald Reagan sealed his election with a clever comeback. Reagan debated the younger Mondale and the subject of age came up. Seventy-six year old Reagan said: “I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

God created very capable hearts, ones that can even experience humor in the middle of misery. Wise King Solomon said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength” (Proverbs 17:22 NLT). Our supreme God’s gift of wholesome humor is a blessed outlet from the grim side of life.

Go ahead, giggle, snigger, snort, chuckle a bunch this week. Who knows, a few belly laughs might lower your medical bills.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Stamp Out Starter Marriages

So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. ~ Genesis 29:20

We attended two weddings in June. One of those couples, Amy and Morgan Hughes, have four living sets of grandparents, all past their 50th wedding anniversaries, one couple at 60 years.

The grandparents’ names and years of marriage were listed in the wedding programs. As grandparents exited the ceremony, a country song “Long Line of Love” played. Arm in arm, the mature couples strolled out to the words, “My granddad’s still in love with my grandma.”

At Jean and Jamie’s wedding, their parents and guests pledged to assist him and her achieve their vows. The promises of help from wedding guests placed a catalog of mellow marriages, of know-how in the hands of the newlyweds.

A Conroe, TX couple, Kay and Bart Massey, met January 1956 on a blind date. Kay, a freshman at Texas Tech, and Bart, just out of the Army had one year of eligibility on his football scholarship. The blind date took, and they married November 17, 1957.

Bart retired as executive principal at Conroe High School, and then spent five years part time in building operations at central office. Kay retired as area superintendent at Aldine ISD. Last fall, their 50th anniversary finally arrived, but it didn’t bring about the usual fête.

Bart, otherwise in good health, needed hip replacement. The best surgery date encompassed their anniversary. Then, Kay needed emergency surgery.

They spent November 17th in hospital beds in different facilities. That day they celebrated by phone, and after healing, they cruised with four other couples having “fun the whole time.”

Starter homes I’ve heard of, but who dreamed up “starter marriages”? The descriptive is sad commentary on the high divorce rate among newly married couples.

To help wipe out “starter marriages,” here’s sage advice. One couple observes each marriage anniversary with a “growing” ceremony by planting a tree on their farm, a grove nearing 40.

Bailey McBride, married 51 years, says we grow and change. Husband and wife will need “commitment to understanding the heart and mind of the other.”

Kay Massey says “Keep God first in your life, love and respect each other, have patience, keep a positive attitude and a good sense of humor.” Our “humorous times began on our blind date and have continued.”

If you spot the Masseys, watch for the glow. A final word of advice for marriages from Bart:

“Be nice, and don’t hit.”

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Prayer and Citizen-Siblings

The Fourth of July, Independence Day for The United States, will arrive and fanfare will commence. A 231st birthday celebration is next week. Most will agree that citizenship involves more than just showing up at the birthday party each year.

What makes a country great? The laws of the land? Have perfect societies ever existed? Only in fiction. Look under “M” and read about Sir Thomas More’s island of Utopia.

Do we expect faultless legislation from men and women, imperfect beings like the rest of us? They eat their cornflakes one spoonful at a time. They do great some days and stumble before noon on others.

The good news is that we can do more than hope for better living conditions. First, pray for the rulers of countries. Paul wrote to Timothy: “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,” and he called for Christians to pray for “kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2).

Also, Paul said praying for rulers opens avenues for folks to know about God. Prayer is the locomotive that precedes the arrival of truth.

The second thing is citizen-to-citizen respect, reflecting familial love. A sham-question in Genesis chapter 4 and Ruth Bell Graham’s rebuttal lead to understanding about respect for one another. After Cain killed his brother Abel, God came to Cain with a question:

“Where is your brother Abel?”

Cain lied, “I don’t know,” and then he asked this sham-question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Ruth Bell Graham wrote these words in reply to Cain’s travesty:

“'AM I my brother’s keeper?'
No. He was his brother’s brother.
Zoos have keepers.
Bees have keepers.
Prisons have keepers.
Only families have brothers."

What makes countries exceptional? Better birthdays, more confetti, more fireworks? Two things will help: prayer and a sense of family from sea to shining sea.

Most likely we’ll never rule a country or county, but each day we can bring about change by praying for our leaders, and choosing to respect our “siblings.”

Here’s to a Happy Fourth of July and year full of prayer and brotherly love.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Holy Hill Living

Looking for creative ways to teach your children? Leonard Pitts, journalist for the Miami Herald, taught his child a lesson when his son watched a banned television show. Pitts described it as “a sleazy talk show.”

If you walked into his kitchen right after the offense, you would have seen his son standing over the kitchen garbage, head bent, watching “moldy leftovers and empty cans.”

Mr. Pitts told his son, “If you are determined to look at trash, then here it is.” His teaching method was better than a tongue lashing, better than chalk on blackboard.

A common problem in homes is that outside forces come in through media. We wouldn’t think of literally opening our front doors and welcoming in active murderers, the profane, tattlers, or persons who displayed improprieties, those who conducted themselves in ways not considered moral or appropriate. However, the same sinister characters are sneaking in through the media backdoor.

Perhaps it’s a good time to revisit Psalm 15 where David gave a list for holy living. In verse 1, he asks a question of the Lord, “[W]ho may live on your holy hill?” I think he’s asking: what does it take to sit right up next to you and not feel dirty? What has to happen so I am not tainted when I talk to you?

David must have meditated and talked to God about this question because he reveals answers in the next four verses: First, he calls for a blameless walk and a righteous life. A blameless life doesn’t mean a perfect life, but it does mean one relies on the help of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We all sin, but the blameless seek forgiveness from God and man when offenses occur. Those who remain clean – they keep making corrections listening to God’s correction as life unfolds.

David’s second bit of advice is to “speak the truth” from the heart and to not slander (not all news and talk shows slander, but many do). Third, do no wrong to your neighbor and don’t cast slurs on your fellow man.

Fourth and fifth, despise the wicked and honor those who love and obey God. Do we really despise the wicked? Or, are we entertained by programming, nonfiction and novels that glorify the wicked?

Sixth, keep oaths even when it’s painful. Seventh, lend money to your neighbors without interest, and never accept bribes against the innocent.

We can’t produce a tasty picnic from the contents of a garbage can. The old adage is true, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Looking to move your morals to a better neighborhood? Try “holy hill” living. David says we can be God’s neighbor and a better friend to our in-the-flesh neighbors when we incorporate these seven strategies for better living.

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References: Making Life Work by Paul Faulkner page 275

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dads and Roads

Daddies aren’t perfect. None are. But sometimes there are perfect moments with dads. The favorite memories my children share of their dad are not about manufactured moments of fun or expensive gifts.

Over the years, two recollections get retold at family gatherings. One involves a parfait, and another is about a spitting contest. On both occasions, the children thought they might get scolded, but you can read the outcomes.

When we treated our young children to ice cream, they usually ordered something gooey. Once, our daughter had a peanut butter and chocolate parfait. It arrived in a tall, very thin plastic container. Seated in the booth — her parfait half finished half melted — she squeezed the fragile goblet, shattering it like an egg shell.

Parfait launched. Most went the direction of her dad’s face. We froze. Creamy goodness frosted his brows. After a quick swipe with a Dairy Queen napkin, he unveiled a smile. How do you spell relief? S-M-I-L-E.

The other memory is from our son, who proposed a reckless spitting contest on a summer day. The kids, now young teens, had worked alongside us building our hay barn. We waited for my husband, about ten feet away with his back to us, to put away his tools.

Our son said to his younger sister. “I bet you can’t spit to where daddy is.” Dry-mouthed she came up short. Then, practiced, husky son made his attempt, but at the perfect-wrong-moment, his dad turned to face him and was hit square in the chest. I saw the horrified looks on both the kids’ faces, and so did their dad. Their looks so comical, he had to laugh.

Kids of every age will mess up, and many problems can’t be swiped away by a Dairy Queen napkin. I believe that’s why Jesus told the story about the young man who left home and family, the prodigal son and the waiting father. Vacationing from family values, the son spiraled into life-threatening sin.

But God granted repentance to him, and he trekked toward home. He planned to ask his father to hire him as a laborer. Ashamed, he knew he didn’t deserve to sleep in the guest room or to be welcomed back into the family.

But it seems the dad’s eyes had never wandered far from the last place he’d seen his son, the road that took him away. One day, there was no mistaking the silhouette on the road. The father knew his unique son. He ran to meet him, wrapped his arms around his boy. Initiating a celebration, he said, “[T]his son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24).

Family misdemeanors and felonies will happen. Rifts or healing can follow. Many thanks to fathers who let children know that the road near your house is not a single lane but a two way street, one that leads home.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

God's Command

The lack of rain, the visible withdrawal of God’s favor, had not caused repentance in Israel’s King Ahab, who “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD” than any kings before him. Everyone suffered from animals to men.

The thick-as-dust air caused prophet Elijah’s tongue to stick to the roof of his mouth. Each journey-step sent a flurry of dirt to the hem of his garment.

Nerves taut. Food supplies short. Leaves of trees and limbs of men longed for cleansing rain. At least twice during this three and one half year drought, the prophet Elijah heard from God.

On two occasions, the Lord used similar language, command language. God told Elijah to live by the Kerith Ravine, “I have commanded the ravens to feed you.”

For quite awhile, Elijah’s needs were met by birds and God’s flight plan. Elijah watched the glossy sheen of black wings fly toward him mornings and evenings—their payload meat and bread. How did ravens bring edible food? Those answers aren’t in 1 Kings 17.

Ravens were birds of prey, unclean, ate carrion, and sometimes neglected to feed their young. While we might have chosen a delivery dove, God commanded ravens to bring food to Elijah, perhaps sending a subtle message that good can come from any source. God has authority over all.

When the brook dried, God gave Elijah another itinerary using familiar words: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon . . .. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”

How did the command arrive to the widow? Again, that information is not supplied, but it came during her very dire personal circumstances. At the city gates, she gathered sticks to make a fire and cook her last meal for herself and her son. Tired, Elijah arrived and asked for a little water, when she turned to get some, he added, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

That’s when she outlined her poverty. All she had left was a handful of flour and a little oil in a jug. Elijah’s next words rained God’s favor. He told her not to be afraid, prepare a small piece of bread for Elijah, then herself and her son. “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD brings rain on the land.”

The widow trusted and obeyed, and because of God’s mercy the threesome made it through the drought.

I like knowing that the world is under God’s “command.” He directed ravens, a widow, a flour bin and oil jug. His multiplication powers are always above human efforts, and his arithmetic is above the calculations of men.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Red-Letter Lives

General Omar N. Bradley, a veteran of World War I and II, said, “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”

This week, I wrote the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount on a card to carry in my purse. The beatitudes will give me something more worthy to read than billboards.

“Beatitude” means happiness of the highest kind. One day when Jesus’ disciples came to him, a mountainside became his pulpit. Because Jesus had God-resources, he shared truths that could stamp out selfish will — truths that caused self to melt, leaving a hollowed out place for God to live. These are his blessings:

· Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
· Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
· Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
· Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
· Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
· Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
· Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
· Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:1-10).

As a child, I remember seeing red letter words in my parent’s Bibles and asking them why some sentences were written in red ink. They told me the text singled out by red noted words spoken by Jesus, and I later learned the method eliminated the use of so many quotations marks.

Tony Morgan, minister, meditating on the red letter portion of the New Testament, noticed 16 significant action words, words of instruction to followers: believe, turn, follow, thirst, give, forgive, ask, agree, serve, love, pray, worship, obey, seek, trust, and go. These are written on the other side of my index card (in red ink).

The beatitudes and action words of Jesus written in this column are not in red ink, but perhaps you’ll be inclined to meditate on these today and allow God to scoop out a place in your life, a place where he can grow happiness of the highest kind.

Nuclear giants still abound. Ethical infants have clones. However, practiced beatitudes and commanded actions of Jesus can become remedies. They are words to live by.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Who Would Hide Me?

During danger he will keep me safe in his shelter. He will hide me in his Holy Tent, or he will keep me safe on a high mountain. Psalm 27:5 (New Century Version)

In Joseph Heller’s novel, Good as Gold, two men discuss friendship. One recalls the story of a Jewish man, who lived in Germany during his childhood. He and his family escaped the terror of Hitler because of courageous folks who hid them. During the conversation, one man asks the other longtime coworker, “Would you hide me?”

Ask a friend this question and you cut through shallow skin and into heart muscle. While researching for this article, I dialed my longtime friend Doris Allen and told her the story I just wrote for you. I didn’t phone to ask her the question. I called to thank her. I knew the answer.

Heller’s fiction grew out of real, horrific happenings. The Hebrew word “olah” means “burnt sacrifice.” Later, Greek words “holo” (whole) and “caustos” (burned) combined to form holocaust, a term used to describe the systematic murder of Jews by Nazi Germany.

Survivor David Katz wrote about his family and the Holocaust. After being separated from his parents, David, age 13, walked a five month journey to occupied France, mostly by moonlight. In hiding and disguise for several years, he found his first real bed and good night’s rest in the home of a Catholic priest. When the Gestapo prowled, the priest hid David inside an attic wall.

Other Jews left through underground networks. Some were shielded in outhouses, forests, behind false walls, and haylofts. During this time, plenty of folk turned their neighbors in for harboring Jews. Indoctrinated German children even turned in their own parents.

Julian Bilecki, a skinny teenager in Poland, and his family hid up to 23 refugees for several years in an underground bunker. In the winter, members of the rescue family jumped from tree to tree bringing food to the bunker to avoid leaving a trail of footprints in the snow.

Later from the United States, many of the bunker survivors sent gifts to the Bileckis, who remained poor. Eventually, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous flew Julian Bilecki and his son to the United States to reunite with some of the people the Belecki family had helped.

Mrs. Grau Schnitzer, who was 9 when sheltered, met him at the airport and spoke to him in Russian and Ukranian, “God should be praised for this moment, and thanks for all your goodness.”

Pettiness and possessions pale, moving into the background, when deep inquiries about life surface. What are your answers to these questions?

Who would I hide?

Who would hide me?

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PS Thanks to Mike Cope (blog and article in Christian Standard) and Darryl Tippens (book: Pilgrim Heart) where I first read the question: Who would hide me?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Chatter Not the Truth

A country preacher complained to one of his members who missed church the previous Sunday. The farmer explained, "I had haying to do. It was over in the back field where no one could see me working on a Sunday.”

"But God saw you," the preacher protested. "I know that, but He's not a gossip like the folks around here."

Gossip has been on my mind. In the laundry room while folding dish towels and sheets, I contemplated gossip. Not behind-the-back talk that I planned to do, but I thought about one more reason not to gossip.

When one says too much about a person or tells information not needed, the listener, especially if they’ve never met the person being talked about, may use the information to make a wrong judgment.

If the person being spoken about is unknown to the hearer, they can be influenced by the verbal portrayal. Praise or slander can sway the listener.

Bible proverbs have quite a bit to “say” about word exchanges, but here is my favorite: “Those who guard their mouths and tongues keep themselves from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23). James says learning to tame the tongue is an aim at perfection.

Some defend tittle-tattle saying, “If it’s true, it’s not gossip.” Pardon me, but I don’t want all the true things about my life bantered about. At times, even if something is true, prudence calls one to “chatter not the truth” (I don’t remember where I read that, but I like it.)

C. S. Lewis in “God in the Dock” said it’s best when we can “[a]bstain from all thinking about others unless your duties as a teacher or parent make it necessary to think about them.”

He suggests that when we’re our thoughts are tempted to stagnate on others’ faults that we “simply shove them away.” Instead of character assassinations, Lewis encourages considering our own bungles: “Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much.”

Some days I feel just like a Kindergartner, a beginning learner. My husband is fond of saying, “Get out your Big Chief Tablet.” Oh, the truth of it.

Jesus said to remove the timber protruding from my eye before trying to finger-pinch the speck of sawdust out of a friend’s eye.

The farmer was right. God doesn’t like gossip. He likes to cure it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Mother's Hand-Me-Downs

Mother’s Day contests abound. The Internet, television, radio, newspapers, and magazines call for entrants and offer prizes if contestants can tell why their Mom is a “Super Mom.” Or one contest queries, “What is your favorite memory about your mother?”

Another contest asked mothers to send in photos of their favorite family moments. Perhaps the contest judges received candid shots of families at home or posed with pets.

But, cameras don’t always capture the moments we remember. For many adult children, favorite moments about mothers are stored in our lofts. Moms hand off a lot of stuff that is never captured on film such as values, caresses, cooking lessons, recipes, genes, likes and dislikes.

Stored in my memory bank are three favorite movie-shorts of my mom. When I was about nine, I heard Mother talking in our tiny bathroom. I knew spying was wrong but peeked through the keyhole anyway and saw her kneeling and praying. I received a gift that day, a hand-me-down, a prayer of faith.

I suspect it might have been a prayer of desperation poured out one summer day when we’d spilled enough KOOL-AID to drown the cat and slammed the door the gazillionth time.

The second image is Mother’s antics. I especially remember the times she conned the kitchen broom into a waltz. From those memory flashes, she hands down humor.

The third image is of her bent over the sewing machine, guiding yards of fabric under the pressure foot while the needle click-clacked. Out came Sunday clothes, costumes, and curtains. Corduroys, brocades, piqué, gingham checks — all became clothing rivaling any garment bought off of a retail rack. The hand-me-down was selflessness.

Selflessness may be the most outstanding characteristic of moms. Mothers are sturdy, surviving for years on crusts, the last lick of peanut butter, and cat naps.

Tenneva Jordan said, “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people promptly announces she never did care for pie.”

God said through the prophet Micah that mothers in pleasant homes were intended blessings for children (2:9). If you are a mother, learn the lesson of hand-me-downs. Pass along some good stuff.

If your mom is alive, tell her about the snapshots stored in your heart -- the ones only you can see.

Care to comment or share a memory about your mom?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Pig Trails and Highways

Recently, a surveyor told us that his field crew often machetes their way onto dense undergrowth properties. Have you ever walked into the woods when you had to push limbs out of the way and step through brush cover? With no path visible did it look as though your feet were the first to tread that section of earth?

Years ago, in pasture lands, the cows might have been the first to make tracks as they walked to watering holes. Cow trails snake all over our farm. In most of those areas, the cows have hoofed the grass and wild rose bushes down to a bare dirt lane.

I prefer a path that’s been walked before.

The book of Esther reminded me how God sees around bends in the road. While I have no foreknowledge of exactly what will happen in the days ahead, God does. Again and again in the Bible, I see God walking two steps, ten years, and centuries ahead to arrange future events to meet his children’s needs.

Esther’s early placement in the palace to intercede for the Jews doomed for annihilation; Daniel the dream interpreter placed in the court of King Darius: the deceiver Jacob allowed to escape Esau’s wrath — all walked down a specific road because God directed their futures.

When teaching his followers how to pray, Jesus told them, “[Y]our Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). In my own life, I’ve found this to be true. And another Houston family did, too.

Preacher Ron Hill had kidney failure and needed a kidney transplant. The usual testing of family members began, and his 36-year-old son was found to be a perfect match. You might ask, what’s so unusual about that? His son Tony was adopted 36 years earlier. God walked ahead of this godly family and prepared for an advance need.

When you turn the next calendar page, know that God extends his hand, take hold and follow him. Brambles and briars or a smooth cement walkway may wait around the corner of tomorrow.

Give thanks because God lives in today and tomorrow. He knows your needs. He is watching.

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