Monday, March 25, 2013

A Little Good News

"Bad news on the doorstep"... it was a line in a song but now it was my reality. I can't remember the exact wording of the headline, but it's timing and irony were unsettling. Reaching down to pick up the paper, I heard my mother in a worried voice asking me to fetch her jacket from the canoe. She had forgotten the word "closet" and had substituted another. Yet another "c" word had invaded her brain. My dad, in desperation, had planned this trip and began loading suitcases into the trunk of the car. Laetrile was a controversial treatment for cancer and had been banned in the US. Dad was willing to go all the way to Jamaica to save his beloved, so now we prepared to drive them to the airport.

The doctor had said there was no treatment available here for Mom's form of cancer and that she likely had two months to live. A diagnosis like that hits you in the gut with a feeling of utter hopelessness. My dad, the eternal optimist, firmly believed if all the doors close, you open a window. He began to search for alternative treatments and found this hospital in Jamaica that specialized in natural cures for cancer.

Did he know, like I knew, that the headline was a message... a harbinger? The newspaper told the story of a local family whose son was battling cancer. The parents had been the objects of criticism as they fled to Mexico seeking laetrile as a cure for their boy. We had followed the story for months and it came to a conclusion on the day my parents were flying to Jamaica. The young boy had lost the battle and it was plastered across the front page. Who are we to blame them for trying to save their son? Who could blame my dad for wanting to save his wife?

Mom called me several times while they were on the trip. Some days she sounded like her old self again - as if the fresh air and sunshine were lifting her spirits above the pain that racked her body. Hearing her voice gave me hope, but those hopes were dashed when we picked them up at the airport. In my head I can still see the paleness of her face as her wheelchair came through the corridor from the plane. She was getting weaker and thinner and losing the will to fight. I remember telling my husband, Bob, that I needed to prepare myself to let her go. As Dad wheeled Mom out to the car, my two-year-old, Darcy, sat on her lap getting reacquainted with Grandma and asking questions about where they had been.

Somehow I had celebrated a lifetime worth of experiences with my mother in just twenty-two years. She was my friend, my teacher and a dependable listener. Most of what I knew and understood about God and the Bible came from my mom who had led me to the Lord at the age of five. She had lived to see me get married and was there at the hospital when we our first child arrived. Now as I was about to celebrate my twenty-third birthday, I was expecting our second baby. Sadly, mom passed on to glory a month before our second little girl was born.

The grieving was eased by knowing Mom's great faith was a testimony of her relationship with Jesus. It was sometime after her death that the Lord brought to mind something that had happened years earlier... another headline that read: "Quake Jolts Indiana, 19 Other States." I was a mere twelve years old when that headline landed on the doorstep. The day before the headline, I was at my mother's bedside and she was dying... and I was praying - when, suddenly, the room began to shake like God had grabbed our house and grabbed my attention. My prayer was a simple one: "Please let my mom live long enough to see my first child." Ultimately, my mom rose up from that death bed and recovered completely from her illness. God granted her another eleven years with us, and for that news, I'm very grateful.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Contrasts in Contentment

Every day on my way to work, I pass Fall Creek Baptist Church. In January the sign in front of their church posed a thought-provoking question, "Are you too content?" It made me ponder two types of contentment. There is a time when it’s good to be content such as Paul writes about in 1 Timothy 6:6, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain." and Philippians 4:11 "...I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."

Maybe the contrasting question is, "Are you content enough?" To be content with our current circumstances, as far as wealth or position, is beneficial. If we can say, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." we have learned an important lesson in contentment. The "American Dream" has long influenced our society to believe the more we own, the happier we’ll be. Time and experience have proven otherwise. Some of the most miserable people in the world are the rich and famous. No wonder Jesus asked, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). We also see people at the opposite end of the financial spectrum who have adopted an entitlement mindset and believe the government should provide everything we need. Whether we find ourselves with abundance or in need, as followers of Christ we should observe what Paul said "I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:12). This is a worthy example - to trust in God for our needs and to thank Him for His provision. We grow in our faith when we learn to serve and to give in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

But, back to the question on the church sign... I’m sure it was referring to a different kind of contentment - the kind that bids us rest on our laurels and say, "I used to..." We as Christians need to press on to greater things than our past has afforded us. God’s mercies are new every morning and He is mapping out a fresh course for each of us. Remember Paul’s mission statement in Philippians 3:12-14, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Pressing on through trial and through blessing, we have the opportunity to see God’s kingdom grow in our church, community, nation and world. Are you content? I hope your answer is yes and no.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Settling Dream

The man’s face was gaunt with sunken eyes and a short, barely-there beard. He didn’t smile much and I soon learned he had little to count as joy. I had been sitting in a large open area of the mall watching my granddaughter climbing on a toy in the play area when the man approached and sat down. He was the first to speak, as though he needed a confessor. Listening has always come more easily than speaking for me, so I sat and listened to his story. He fumbled through words to express the weight of what the doctor delivered. Not much time left – a terminal diagnosis for a man who looked older than me but in reality was ten years younger. The urgency of his situation shook me out of my silence and I spoke out of compassion.
“Do you know where you’re going when you leave here?”
He knew I was referring to eternity, not the mall. For the first time in our conversation, he appeared agitated… annoyed. “How are things at the Baptist church?” He asked.
I was puzzled that he knew I was Baptist. I had barely introduced myself, let alone revealed my denomination. Are we so well known for our eagerness to talk about Heaven and Jesus? Is that really a flaw? Why was he so snide in the way he said it? What was it about Baptists that seized his mind and snatched away his civility?
Then I looked down at his lap and realized he was carrying a Bible. My expression most certainly betrayed my thoughts. Here is this stranger, a dying man who is offended at my concern for his destiny, carrying the very words of hope I count so dear. What wounds has he suffered that cause him to lash out like a dying beast.
Looking into his eyes, I realized he was no stranger. We were friends once, before he left like a thief, stealing the wind from our sails, forsaking everything sacred. For the first time now, I felt true pity on him that he can never return to former glory, choosing rather to be a vessel of dishonor. Was he ever truly one of us?
 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Screen Addiction

You would think that after 8 hours of staring at a screen in my office I would go home and find something different to do. But no, I find myself watching TV, checking Facebook, playing Words with Friends and looking for fun stuff on Pinterest.

My husband's addiction is even worse. I tried to get him to turn off the TV last night but he said, "I like to have it on in the background." (He was playing golf on his computer.)

There are good and bad things about these flickering screens in our lives.

Good things:
  • I can keep up with my children who are across the country and friends who are halfway around the world. (I love Skype.)
  • Last week I friended a woman on Facebook who found me by accident on Words with Friends. We may even meet face to face when I go on vacation in May.
  • My daughter has started a writer's group on Facebook and that has inspired me to revive my blog and post something today.
Bad things:
  • Men are the worst offenders at this one: interacting with a smart phone, ipad, computer or TV rather than having face to face conversation. Seriously, look around in a restaurant and you're bound to see people who are out to dinner with their families but staring at their phones.
  • Wasting time.
  • Negative images and talk on any screen.
Do you have a screen addiction? Feel free to share the good, bad and the ugly of how you deal with it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It was 35 years ago today... 5:30 AM to be exact, when I jumped from bed with a jolt and a splat. I was 5 weeks shy of my due date and as a young, first-time mom, I wondered if this meant delivery was imminent. "My water broke" I said to my husband, who along with me had been up until 3 AM with our friends from church. (He immediately began to shake with fear.)

Every Sunday night was an after-church party for our young married group. I remember sitting on the couch holding our friend's little girl, April, who was only 10 days old. I had remarked to another young woman from our class, "If I had this baby tomorrow..." I said as I patted my belly "I would not be ready at all." I was looking forward to Tuesday evening when the ladies from church were planning to have a baby shower for our little one.

Now I'm wondering what is about to happen. I called my mom. She assured me I would be having my baby today. She and Dad got in the car and came right over. At the time, Bob and I were borrowing a truck from my brother - a very bouncy truck, so Mom and Dad drove me to the hospital while my nervous, young husband followed close behind.

Our sweet little 5-pound, 13-ounce baby girl arrived just a few hours later. I remember how relieved I felt to hear her cry and to see her face - such a beautiful child! I held her briefly before they whisked her away to the intensive care nursery where she would spend the first week of her life. She arrived on a Monday, fair of face. On Tuesday, the ladies wondered if they should still have the baby shower - they went ahead. On Wednesday, the doctor was ready to let me go home, but our little girl was fighting to breathe. So I went home, and then we went to church - Wednesday night prayer meeting where everyone prayed intently for baby Darcy to survive. She turned the corner that night, praise God!

She was finally released to our care when she was 3 weeks old. She has grown to become a Christian, a missionary, a world-traveler, a musician, writer, songwriter, poet, photographer and so many other amazing things. She is a wife and a mother of two beautiful children of her own. Happy birthday, Darcy. I'm so thankful to be your mom.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Swamp People

Speeding through the Everglades on an airboat was a new experience. We had driven more than an hour from our resort on the gulf coast of Florida to experience the swamps. At last, our family of six piled into the boat and launched into the wild to become spectators of the local flora and fauna. Blue crab caught in a trap, egrets feasting on fish, families of racoons posing for the camera - they were all part of the southern Florida extravaganza. But the greatest spectacle of all was our captain, a born-and-bred, middle-aged local with a peculiar accent. Signage in the boat reminded us that he was part of the entertainment... working only for tips. With his dissheveled clothes and well-worn cap, he could easily have made a home among the homeless without looking misfit.

Off into the wild we went, having sunk $150 into the full-hour tour option. Here we were, halfway into the ride and a half hour from shore, when clouds began to gather and darken. I'm guessing this is a common occurrence because the captain was completely undaunted. Seeing the first few fat drops of precipitation, he pulled a large Visqueen "umbrella" from the rear of the boat and spread it like a blanket over our family. Seeking reassurance, our eldest daughter questioned the captain, "We're in the middle of a lake in a thunderstorm in a metal boat. If we get hit by lightning, will we all be killed?"

He paused to touch his chin, as he stood outside the tarp in the deluge. Without apology he replied simply, "I reckon."

Soon we were headed toward shore in a torrential downpour that we hoped wouldn't flood the boat and plunge us into alligator-infested water. The captain likely knew the way with his eyes closed, which is good because visibility was zero. We made it safely to the dock and he let us walk the tarp to our van. We must have looked like an alien centipede with our twelve legs and a body made of semi-transparent plastic. Piling into our van and slamming the doors, we bid farewell to the Everglades and our captain. About a half hour down the road we realized we didn't give him a tip.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On Blogging

I once heard it said about blogging, "Never has so much been written by so many and read by so few." When I was occasionally posting my thoughts out here for whoever might land on my page, I felt that sentiment. "Who is reading this?" So I stopped writing.

When I was in Junior High, I kept a diary of my inmost thoughts. Having a diary was a popular practice among girls my age. They always came with a key so you could protect your writings from the unwanted perusing by brothers or others. The key, of course, was meaningless. Diaries were easily opened with the flip-out file on nail clippers. (Ironically, such files are useless for filing nails.) It was always sort of a game to hide my diary from my brother, and to always write some tidbit he would find of interest if he ever looked upon its forbidden pages.

How ironic it is that forty years later I, by nature an introvert, write my thoughts for anyone to stumble upon.

Of late I've been hearing the value of blogging and have once again returned to this, my abandoned-and-left-for-dead blog site. My plan is to breathe some new life into it and (hopefully) write some words of wisdom welling up from my growing number of years of life on this planet.

So, welcome! No nail clippers required.