Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Rite of Passage

 A Quiet Road
Farmersburg, Indiana
April 2010

John 14:6 NIV
"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Although life in the 1960s wasn't perfect, it was certainly different than how my children have grown up.

We lived in a suburb of a major city, Cincinnati, Ohio, yet we left the front door open and often unlocked at night, especially in summer, so the cool night breeze could enter the house through the screen door.

Our parents let us freely roam the neighborhood without worrying about our safety. However, we weren't to cross over the major road behind our house until we were old enough.

This rite of passage for my friends and me happened when I was about eight years old and our parents allowed us to walk to Scotty's, a small corner store (we called them "pony kegs") about a mile away from home.

The route involved crossing one busy road. Otherwise, we sauntered on sleepy residential roads, laughing the whole way there and back.

We had change jingling in our pockets and our minds set on the treasures we would buy at Scotty's.  I spent my money on a twelve ounce bottle of Coke for fifteen cents. Ten cents for the Coke and five cents for the bottle deposit.  I spent another dime on a pack of Topps baseball cards hoping to get one of my heroes on the Cincinnati Reds like Pete Rose or Johnny Bench.

This rite of passage looks tame by today's standards. My students get tattoos and tongue rings for their rites of passage.

The doors in my house are always locked, and I wouldn't let my fourteen-year old daughter, Allison, walk outside our neighborhood without my cell phone and a trusted friend to accompany her.

Times change. God hasn't. He is the constant through the ages. Although civilizations devolve or evolve based on social standards of the age, He is the Rock of Ages.

God always watches over me, hopes for the best, and reaches His arms out in love to me.

I am the one who moves away from Him or toward Him. I am the one with Free Will to accept or reject Him.

I am the one old enough to cross the busy roads of life ignoring him, meandering aimlessly down side roads that take me nowhere except to corner stores that burned down years ago and only exist in my memory.

Or--

I could look to the high road and follow light and love to new experiences. Freeing myself from whatever binds me here on Earth. Guilt, depression, hopelessness, loss, pain.

It's not a toll road. Jesus is the way to a new life. I don't have to spend any change to walk on this path. It's free.

It's a gift from a loving Savior.
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Thank you, Lord, for creating a path to follow you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Humbling Thought

Here's a Parrot that Escaped Jerry's Bird Hunts
Cincinnati Zoo
2007

Luke 15:7 NIV
"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

Jerry had disappeared again. He was usually gone for a couple weeks at a time. My family often laughed about his second family and how he must have a pretty nice home away from home. 

We missed him, and we wished we knew when he would return, but he was not a cat to be fenced in by our love or laws. The world was too large for him, and he had to explore every nook and cranny of it.

His brother, Tom, was the exact opposite. He was a spoiled, orange and white long-haired house cat. He would only go outside to follow me to the bus stop. Once I was on the bus, he turned around and returned home. He didn't want to take any chances of missing a meal at home.

His sleek, short-haired brother, Jerry, would return home with the entrails of some animal he had caught on the way home. He offered the innards to us as a love gift. It was his way to make amends for his long absences. 

Once, he hadn't quite killed the bird he had in his mouth. Our horrified neighborhood friends chased him into our house trying to rescue the bird. They circled through the living room, into the kitchen, around the dining room, and back into the entrance way where he deposited the poor bird, more dead than alive.

As I tried in vain to explain the symbolic act of love Jerry had bestowed upon us by bringing the bird home, my friends condemned him as a cold-blooded murderer.

Oh well.

Tom was gone for two weeks once. We panicked, as he didn't possess his brother's skills for survival in the wild. I had taught him to answer to my whistle, so I spent the better part of that time whistling for Tom as I went to school and came home each day. 

No answer.

We heard rumors he was spotted around the Home Economics room at the high school. (That a boy, Tom! Get some food.) But he was also supposedly by the Anatomy and Physiology room, where they dissected dead cats. (Stay away from there!)

Finally, mom drove the car around the high school, and I whistled as loudly as I could. "Tom! Tom!" I hollered out the open window. This time, we saw an overweight fuzz ball running as fast as his stubby legs could carry him to our car.

I cried, mom cried, he purred. It was a perfect ending to our search for our lost boy.


I know God hunts that hard for me when I have gone off the straight and narrow. I'm sure He has hollered my name to get my attention. Maybe He has even whistled to get me to turn my head.

But I wonder if He has cried in joy over me when I have come back to Him?  I never thought about God crying before. I know He rejoices when I am back in the fold--but wow--does He shed tears of joy when I am found? 

What a humbling thought.
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Lord, thank you for searching for me and looking for me when I was lost.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

God Go With You


Seagulls at East Beach
St. Simons Island, Georgia
26 March 2011



Psalm 122:8 NIV
"For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, "Peace be within you."

One of my former students ships out to sea tomorrow on his first tour of duty with the Navy. He's trained for several months, but this is the real event.

His friends and family are wishing him well on Facebook, knowing they will receive irregular messages from him now that he will be busy at sea. He has prepared for this moment, but now it has arrived, I sense a little nervousness in his voice.

Just a couple years ago he sat in my classroom studying English. I've lost count how many of my former students have entered the military since I have been teaching.

Since the war began after September 11, 2001, I had a student who was a prisoner of war, a student who lost part of his leg to an IED, a student whose father was killed, and various students I didn't teach but who attended the school, who were killed in battle.

I also have family members who serve in the military. My neice and her husband are in the army, and other family members have either retired or taken on other roles with the military.

I admire these young people who are willing to take a stand for their beliefs. I know it's necessary to defend our nation, and these individuals are bravely doing so.

I pray, though, for the quick end to war so our soldiers can come home. I pray world leaders will find a way to end world conflicts without the need for our military intervention. 

God hears my prayers for the end of war every night. I know I sound like a broken record, but I pray the prayer without ceasing.
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Too many bright young people are in harm's way. Please Lord, protect them, let our leaders bring them home, and let there be peace on Earth. As the old song says, let it begin with me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Hello, Are You There?"

Shrimp Boats off the Coast of Cumberland Island
Summer 2005

Joshua 3:9 NIV
"Joshua said to the Israelites, "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God."

I met Sherry and her dad at the boat dock beside the Darien River at 3:30 a.m. Russell and I were going out with them on their shrimp boat for the day. 

I was relieved to see we had clear skies overhead. It was early December, but I was used to Ohio winter weather. I loved this southern warmth.

Sherry was a senior at school, and her family had befriended me when I moved to Darien to teach. They occassionally invited us over for dinner, which included fresh seafood her dad caught in the Atlantic Ocean while shrimping.

Russell and I boarded the boat and sat on the edge of it on the back as we headed out to sea.  We wound through the marshes of the Darien River out toward the open Atlantic waters as the orange sun began to peep over the horizon. 

Sherry's uncle was piloting another boat. Her dad talked to him on the two-way radio in the Pilot's room.

After a few minutes, her dad called to us to bring Russell up to him because someone wanted to talk to Russell on the radio. I had no idea what to expect.

Russell was five years old, and still believed in Santa Claus. Sherry's dad lifted him up onto his lap.  He spoke into the microphone: "Ok, he's here."

A voice from the radio called out: "Ho, Ho, Ho. Russell? Are you there?"

Sherry's dad gave Russell the microphone. Russell looked completely confused. He said, "Yes."

The voice continued, "This is Santa Claus, Russell.  Have you been a good boy this year?"

Russell's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. He looked at me in amazement. "Yes. I have been good," he answered into the radio.

"Okay.  I just wanted to let you know I will be coming to see you soon," said the voice. "Down here, I arrive by shrimp boat. Did you know that?" 

Russell shook his head no. His eyes still wide.

"Bye, Russell."

"Bye, Santa."

Sherry's dad swallowed a laugh as he explained in more detail to Russell how Santa arrived by shrimp boat in South Georgia.  Russell was the most amazed little boy. He had his first boat ride, and he got to talk to Santa over a radio.

I wonder how many different ways God tries to talk to me throughout the day?  I bet there are times when He wants to turn the volume of my "radio" up so I can hear Him call, "Hello, Lori, are you there? Are you being good today?"

I get so distracted by my own thoughts throughout the day that it's easy to miss God's voice.  I need to focus more on listening for God and less on listening to myself.

I need to find a way to get to a quiet place and be with God. Somehow, in the hectic pace of my life, I need to slow down and spend more time with Him.
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Thank you, Lord, for calling out to me each day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Floccinaucinihilipilification

An Ancient Chimney Filled with Dust and Ashes
Wilderness Conservancy
Rye, New York
October 2010
Job 7:16
"I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning."

Yesterday one of my sophomores showed me the longest word in the English language I have ever seen. Since I won't pretend I can pronounce it, I will hyperlink to a page where an expert can. The definition of the rarely used noun is: "the estimation of something as valueless". The word is:  floccinaucinihilipilification.  

Job clearly had a problem with his sense of self worth, especially as he had lost all he possessed and loved in life.

His naked body and anguished spirit lay in dust and ashes crying in despair, begging to know what sin he had committed against the Almighty to receive such treatment from Him.


People make the mistake of assuming God is behind their misfortunes. They believe Divine retribution is the cause for the calamities they face in life.

Yet Matthew 5:45 states the sun rises on the evil and the good alike. In the Book of Job, Satan was the one who took everything away from him, and it was God who restored twice as much to him as he had lost.

However, there is another angle to the story of Job no one has ever discussed with me. Job's friends often get criticized in the story, yet they came to him in his time of need.

I wonder what kind of friendship they shared with Job? I wonder what influence Job had made on them that they would drop their tasks at home, travel to him, and sit in the midst of dust and ashes to analyze the calamities he had just faced.

Job, in the midst of his pity party, had three friends beside him. I wonder how many other friends would have liked to have sat beside him but couldn't get away because they had to tend to their flocks of sheep or their mothers-in-law were visiting for the week or their kids were home with their wives and children.

What influences in the lives of others had Job made that caused people to care about his losses? It's clear he was a righteous man, of whom God was proud, so he must have been a good neighbor, a comfort to those who were sick, poor, and in need.

John Donne wrote in the 16th Century, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." 

This was Job. His life touched all who knew him, yet in the Book of Job, he focused only on himself and his great tragedies. He looked inwardly at his misery and didn't focus outwardly at what he had accomplished for others with God's help.

This is so typical. It's easy to slip into deep, dark depression when calamity after calamity befalls us. And, unfortunately, God is the easy, but misguided target for our wrath, sorrow and confusion.

Instead of slipping into floccinaucinihilipilification, we should focus on Donne's island and realize we never know where the ripples of our lives extend.

All of us have worth, value, and a purpose on Earth.

The Book of Job focused on his tragedy and restoration, but I would also like to know more about his relationships with his friends and neighbors.
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Lord, help me to stay focused on helping others and to leave my own problems in your hands.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mile High Sourdough Biscuits

Not a Sourdough Biscuit, but a Yummy Birthday Cake
19 March 2011


Isaiah 40:31 KJV
"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

I was in trouble at work again. Glenn called me into his office at the Days Inn in Richmond, Kentucky, during a lull between the breakfast and lunch rush. I never looked forward to discussions with Glenn. His point of view was opposite mine.

I was a morning shift cook. I lived about three miles from work and walked there every morning arriving by 5:00 a.m. to heat up the grill, start the oven, and prepare the sourdough for biscuits.

The locals loved my biscuits. In fact, they preferred mine to Cracker Barrel's across the street and made a point to find out when I was on morning shift, so they could come eat at Days Inn for breakfast.

Glenn sat behind his desk studying an egg. He didn't offer me a seat.

"Lori, do you know how much an egg white weighs?"

He had a rather hefty book in front of him lying on his desk opened to a page of fractions and figures. I supposed it contained the answer, but I couldn't read upside down. Also, since Glenn was always so deadpan when he spoke, none of us knew when he was serious or telling a joke. He didn't have much personality and was awkward around people.  I was fairly good at getting along with everyone, but I still hadn't figured him out.

"Uh, no, Glenn.  I haven't really thought about how much an egg white weighs."

"How about the yolk of an egg?"

"Nope"

"Do you know how much one egg white costs?"

"Costs! No, Glenn. I have never thought about that in my entire life."

"What about a cup of flour? Any idea how much it costs? Or a cup of buttermilk?"

Suddenly I saw where he was heading. These were the ingredients for my biscuits. He was critiquing my biscuits! I became defensive. "Glenn, what is this about?"


"Lori, your biscuits are double the size they are supposed to be."

"Glenn- I don't know how that happens. I cut them like I'm supposed to, and they just grow in the oven. Everyone likes them because they are big and fluffy."

"We're losing money on them. I'll need to show you how to make biscuits. Watch me and make them just like I do from now on."


Glenn proceeded to give me a lesson on making biscuits. He made a huge mess, and all the waitresses in the break room watching his lesson laughed, which caused him to turn red and storm out of the kitchen.

I cut back on the size of my biscuits, but the customers complained. They left us for Cracker Barrel.

I'm glad God doesn't hold me up and examine me like an egg, weighing and measuring all my flaws and charging me for each infraction. His Son has already paid the ultimate price for my sins, and I know that gift is priceless.

God is now counting on me to make the most of that gift, and I am counting on God to help me as I try.

God will help me rise like my sourdough biscuits to my full potential as I give to others each day.
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Thank you, Lord, for your belief in my life as I rise to your occasion each day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hot Wax and Glass Bottles

  
Beautiful Wisteria
A Safer Decoration than Wax Covered Glass Bottles
Psalm 18:6 NIV
"In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears."

"Dad, Dad? DAD!!!"  I had tried to get my father's attention for what seemed like hours.

He was on the phone.  Dad did NOT like to be interrupted while he was on the phone. He had a theory that children should be seen and not heard after dinner, and this was definitely after dinner. In fact, it was Saturday night, and mom was at the hospital working.

I'm not sure where Rob and Teri were, probably staying out of dad's way, but I was in the kitchen watching the candle burning wax on the coke bottle slowly drip onto our kitchen counter, causing little flames to appear on the laminated counter top.

Dad had heard about a craft idea, which involved decorating coke bottles with wax candles. The idea was to let melted candles drip over the side of the bottle, and the colorful streaks would decorate the bottle. The bottle could be used as a candle holder, I suppose, in the future.

"DAD!"  He waved me aside and walked into the living room.  "HUSH, Lori!" he hissed.

He wouldn't pay attention to me. My daughter, Allison, often wonders why adults don't listen to children. I'm sure it has been a problem for generations.

"Dad! Dad!---

Dad--there's a fire!"

Finally I used the right word. Apparently adults understand the word "fire".  He looked over where I had been pointing, uttered a few choice words, abruptly hung up the phone, and began to put out the fire.

By the time he finished, our kitchen counter had burned, but we had no other damage to the house. The coke bottle with melted wax was colorful, but I'm not sure we ever used it for anything.

My dad's father drove over from Indiana to repair our counter a few weeks later, and soon, our kitchen was back to normal.

I was still relegated to the edict, "children should be seen and not heard," but dad hugged and kissed me that night for discovering the fire.

One difference between my dad and God is God wants me to talk to him at all hours of the day, and He doesn't put me "on hold" for phone calls. If I have an emergency in my life, He's right there beside me to put out the fire.

All I have to do is call out: "God! I need you! Help me, please."
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Lord, thank you for listening to me and for putting out the fires of my life.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hide-n-Seek

It'd Be Hard to Hide in This Hall

1 Chronicles 16:10 NIV
"Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice."

I held my breath in the dark closet listening for Russell's footsteps. The hardest part was not bursting out into laughter as I pictured him yelling in terror as I jumped out as he walked by me.

I'd been a single mom for a year now, and Russell and I had adjusted to life without a television set. We lived in an old home with wooden floors. The kitchen floor actually inclined about five to ten degrees, so if it ever snowed in the house, we could have skied in the kitchen for entertainment.

Russell was four years old and we found a variety of ways to entertain ourselves.  We listened to books on tape, we read books, we acted out books, we learned Morse Code, we sang songs, we walked around the neighborhood, and we played hide-n-seek. 

Many rooms in the house were empty, and in the room beside the kitchen, which looked like it had once been a dining room, there was a storage closet.  Neither of us had ever hidden in there, but for some reason it crossed my mind to crouch in there this night.

Russell searched for me in my usual hiding places and called for me to come out. I kept quiet. I listened carefully as the wooden floors squeaked as he approached the dining room. Just as his feet were opposite the closet door, I opened it and jumped out.

His face was worth a million dollars to me. He looked like he had seen a ghost.  He screamed and ran as fast as his little legs would carry him. I chased after him until we both ended up in my room together laughing at the joke I played on him.

The next time he was "it," he hid in the closet, and I screamed and ran from him. We played this game for hours.

God also likes me to search for Him, but this is no game. This is serious. He doesn't hide from me in a closet, either.

He is visible if I seek Him.  His hands are outstretched, and He welcomes me to join Him.

All I have to do is move in His direction and not run away and hide. His hands are opened for me.

When I reach Him, we will rejoice together like parent and child in the glory of His love.
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Thank you, Lord, for not hiding, but for actively seeking me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hush, Be Still, and Know

A Silent Marsh View
March 2011

Psalm 46:10 NIV
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Current events in Japan, where they have had one disaster on top of another, have led to some interesting sidebar discussions among my high school students. In addition to the usual gossip about the approaching prom and graduation activities, I overheard my seniors discussing religion and the state of their souls today.

As a means to spark discussions about the world the seniors will soon enter, I have been showing current events news clips to them for the past month before we dive into our lessons. Several of my seniors have already signed with recruiters for military service while others have plans to enter college or the workforce.

So each day, we watch ten minutes of a student news program on a variety of national and international current events and examine the issues discussed on the program.

We have learned about collective bargaining issues in Wisconsin, school closures in Detroit, President Mubark's overthrow in Egypt, the Civil War in Libya, and now, the overwhelming destruction of Japan through earthquake, tsunami, and the threat of nuclear contamination.

However, of all stories we examined the past month, none have impacted them as much as the tragedy in Japan. They were horrified to see images of devastation left in the wake of the tsunami's waves. They were stunned at the sight of the nuclear power plant billowing smoke. 

One panicky class began to quote "end times" to me. I  reminded them we exist on a living, breathing planet. It's natural for earthquakes and tsunamis to occur.

The tragedy is we build too close to shorelines or our buildings can't withstand such powerful quakes as hit Japan.

However, I wish I could say to my worried teens, "Hush. Listen. Do you hear it?"

And in the semi-somnolence of their breaths, I would whisper the verse: "Be still, and know I am God."

He is in control. He is in control. He is in control.
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Amen, Lord, and Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Spring Shower Sublimely Sweet

Sunset
Honeycreek, GA
March 2011

Psalm 33:14-16 NIV
"From his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—
he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do."


Carousel was opening in a couple nights, and we were running out of dress rehearsals. Out of all Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicals, this one contains the most sentimental songs of all, even though the story has a rather tragic plot.

Our high school choir, drama club, and orchestra had practiced for weeks to perfect the musical, and opening night loomed before us. Nerves stretched tight, especially for the directors and the lead performers.

Brenda Dawson portrayed Julie Jordan, who was swept off her feet by the carnival barker, Billy Bigelow. Greg Shulte played the irresistible, wise-to-the-world, Billy opposite Brenda's seemingly fragile Julie.

I was Brenda's make-up "artist" still trying to figure out the right pancake powder and rouges to heighten her delicate complexion. She was milk and cream with dark hair. Petite and beautiful with a voice like a spring shower--sublimely sweet.

Unfortunately, for this rehearsal, I had placed too much dark pancake powder on her face, and she looked terrible. I didn't realize how old she looked until she walked under the stage lights.

The mother who assisted our directors with these minor stage issues exploded.  "Look at you! Just look at you!" she screamed at Brenda.  "You look TERRIBLE!!!!!!.  I can't believe how bad this make-up is. Look at these streaks. That blush is wrong, wrong, wrong!!!! And the foundation is toooooo  daaaarrrrkkk!!!!"

By the time her tirade ended, tears rolled down Brenda's cheek.  I was mortified and humiliated. I wanted to speak out against the adult, but I had been raised not to challenge her.

Brenda rushed off the stage and into the back room to remove her make-up.  I followed her, apologized, and promised I would figure out how to do her make-up better. I pleaded with her not to take this woman's words to heart.

Brenda composed herself and returned to the stage, where she continue rehearsal.  Over the course of the week, we worked together and successfully applied her make-up to the woman's satisfaction. Brenda was a beautiful leading woman throughout the play's run.

Several years later, I watched her perform the lead in our college's production of West Side Story. Her make-up looked impeccable from my seat, and her voice was just as sublimely sweet.

While certain people may worry about appearances, God does not worry about how I look. He sees me with His eyes and not the world's. He accepts me, flaws and all. I am so grateful for this. He loves my spirit and looks at me from a spiritual level.

Jennifer Rothschild writes and speaks about this concept in her ministry. She says I can not look at myself in a mirror and think this is how God sees me. God looks at my soul.

I need to ignore my critical eye when I see myself in the mirror, and remove the voice from the past screaming, "You look Terrribbleeee!  Your make-up is tooooo daaarrrrkkkk!!!" 

Instead, I need to hear God's sweet voice, singing to me softly, like a spring shower, sublimely sweet, telling me over and over how beautiful my spirit is to Him.
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Thank you, Lord, for seeing me with your eyes and not the world's.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

He Sings Joyfully Over Me

 
A Bee Buzzing Joyfully
Brunswick, GA
March 2011
 
Zephaniah 3:17 KJV
"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."
 
Dad strained to pull the Red Flyer wagon up the hill with all three of us kids in it. We were headed to a farmhouse not far from where we lived to buy fresh produce.
 
There weren't many cars traveling on the road that afternoon, so it must have been a weekend. Lucky for us, too, because my dad, ever the practical joker, had plans in mind.
 
As he reached the crest of the hill, he released the handle of the wagon, and down we flew out of control until the wagon came to rest at the bottom of the hill in the weeds on the side of the road. Dad roared in laughter from the top of the hill. 
 
We screamed so hard on our journey down, I suspect it took a few minutes to collect ourselves and start the trip back up dragging the wagon behind us.
 
My dad loved us, but he also loved a good laugh. We kids provided many of his laughs. 
 
I'll always remember when I had a headache at my grandfather's funeral. I asked dad for an aspirin; he didn't have one, so he asked his cousin for one. She proceeded to lay hands on him and pray for his healing--assuming he was the one who had the headache.
 
I was the one who had the laugh on dad that time.
 
It's nice to know that not only is God a mighty God, but He sings in joy over me. I'm sure He doesn't set me up like my dad did to get a cheap laugh, but He does appreciate the good times in my life and rejoices with me.
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Thank you Lord, for having such an intimate concern about my life that you sing joyfully for me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Make Haste, O God!

New Life
March 2011


Psalm 71:12 KJV
"O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help."

I stood beside my borrowed car, which was parked in the back of a bank's empty parking lot, facing a retaining wall as my ex-husband's van blocked me from behind so I couldn't escape.

I yelled at my four-year old son, who was crying hysterically in the locked car, "Russell, do not UNLOCK the doors!" While my ex-husband yelled at him, "Russell, UNLOCK those doors!"

During my darkest moments in life, God is with me. This was the afternoon I was certain I would die, but God gave me wisdom and mercy to avoid the disaster.

My detective had called me in Cincinnati the previous night to report on the psychological profile of my ex-husband. We had just chased him for over two months after he kidnapped my son, and tomorrow, Valentine's Day, I was scheduled to have the divorce and custody hearing in Madison County, Kentucky.

The detective terrified me with his report. He believed my ex was a violent man capable of horrendous acts.

Shortly after I hung up with him, I received a call from my lawyer in Richmond, Kentucky. He revealed he would drop my divorce and custody case tomorrow because he didn't think we could win since I lived in Georgia. He told me to come on down to Kentucky in the morning anyway just in case things changed.

On February 14th,1989, my parents took Russell to a safe place in Richmond while my ex-husband and I sat awkwardly next to each other outside the judge's chambers at the courthouse. By the time it was announced our case was dropped, my ex-husband glared at me and ran out of the room.

I met my parents and picked up Russell. I wanted to visit a friend who worked in a bank in downtown Richmond before I headed back to Cincinnati.

There had been severe storms all day, so few people were out driving. I parked against the retaining wall at the back of the bank without a second thought, took Russell by the hand, and began to cross the parking lot toward the front of the building, where the entrance was located.

As we walked across the deserted lot, my ex-husband drove by and spotted us. He pulled his van into the parking lot aiming it straight toward us.

I didn't have time to run with Russell to the bank. All I could do was run back to the car, throw him in there, and lock the doors.

The detective's terrifying personality profile, plus the knowledge he had guns in his van unnerved me. Another thought haunted me.  My detective had warned me if I lost Russell to him again, he would not help me find him.

I looked for an angel to rescue me. Not a single car drove by for me to flag down for help. 

He was out of the van now screaming at me to let him talk to Russell. He yelled at Russell to open the door. Russell was in tears.

I waited for the man I used to trust to get his guns out of the van, shoot me, and take Russell by force over my dead body.

Tensions finally eased, and I asked what he wanted. He sounded sane as he replied, "I know I can never provide the kind of life for him that you can in Georgia.  I just want the chance to hug and kiss him goodbye before he goes back with you."

Oh, the dilemma before me! Fear washed over me. I had to control many emotions: outrage, anger, the need for revenge.  However, I recalled the pain when Russell was ripped away from me and how much it hurt not to be able to hug and kiss him goodbye.  A part of my heart softened.


The softening was God. It wasn't Lori.  God entered my spirit and gave me help and wisdom to go against all the words of the detective and all the fears inside me. I opened the car doors. I let him hold and kiss Russell.

With that act, we all three calmed down and parted ways. Although no one was physically injured, the emotional scars of the afternoon still come to me in the form of occasional nightmares.

In my darkest places God has the opportunity to work His greatest miracles in my life. I discovered I did have the capability to forgive my ex-husband enough at that moment to let him say good-bye properly to Russell.

Through the years, as I have shared this story with others, many people think I was crazy to let him have a chance to run off again with Russell.

However, I might point out, when God gave him mercy through me, and allowed him to hold and kiss Russell, all the anger and rage in him abated, and the crisis was averted.

I had to trust God. This is an example of when I did let go and let God. I am not saying it was easy. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made as an adult.

"O, God, be not far from me! O, God, make haste for my help!" 

Not a single car passed by us that afternoon while my personal tragedy unfolded in the parking lot. God hurried to my side and helped me make a decision that changed the course of evil for good.

He is faithful, loyal, true, and loving even when He asks us to make a choice that seems impossible at the time.
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Lord, be not far from those and hurry to the side of those who need you right now. Amen

Leaning on the Lord

Leaning on the Mighty Oak Tree
March 2011

Psalms 57:1 NIV
"Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed."

As I watch the horrific images of the disaster in Japan unfold, I am left to wonder, where is God in this story?  I have read and listened to one news report after another focusing on the devastation of  Japan.

However, I have looked at the news coming out of Japan for examples of God's mercy and love in the midst of chaos.

What follows are a few examples of what I have found.

Citizens across Japan received a thirty-second warning before the earthquake struck. While that does not seem long, it was enough of a warning for many workers in buildings to head away from the dangerous clutter of their offices, and into the stairwells to walk to safety outside on the streets.

Forty-eight elementary students were found safe on a research vessel off Japan's north coast and were to be rescued by helicopters. The ship they were on survived the quake but lost its ability to navigate.  

The construction standards in Tokyo kept buildings from collapsing and allowed people underground in the subways to get up to the ground level, even though they were in a panic and stampeding while moving upward.

These are just a few examples I found of God's mercy and love over the people in Japan during the devastation of the nation. I have also looked at photos of the compassion of citizens one for another as the rescue efforts have taken place. Again, these are shining examples of loving your neighbor as yourself.

While the general news coming out of Japan will surely be overwhelming, and the news media will sensationalize the negative, I think it important to look for the good that will come from this situation.

People around the world will reach out to Japan and help them rebuild. People are already praying around the clock for Japan. 

All this will bring glory to God as He helps Japan recover from their tragedy.

The people of Japan will have to lean on God to get through the disaster. The survivors will face the trauma of their experiences for years, but God is with them. 


They have the opportunity to see Him in a personal way and  lean on Him to get through this dark time in their lives.
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Lord, bless the people of Japan. Let them recognize your light, love, faithfulness, and mercy as they rebuild their lives.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

May the Road Rise to Meet You

Spring Arrives in Brunswick, GA
9 March 2011 
Psalm 119:33 NIV
"Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end."

I sat in a white graduation gown clutching a red rose I had just carried as I marched in high heels down the center aisle toward my seat to the steady beat of Pomp and Circumstance in Millet Hall on Miami University's campus in Oxford, Ohio.

We were the class of 1978, and our young faces belied the fear we actually felt about entering the "real" world. We appeared radiant and jubilant on this our high school graduation night; however, truth be told, I imagine several were like me, nervously anticipating their futures.

Since my maiden name was "Butler" I was close to the stage we would float across to receive our diplomas. However, there were ceremonial events which had to occur first.

We listened to an opening prayer and welcome. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance and listened to the National Anthem. We heard an inspirational thought from a student and a speech by the principal, a mysterious man most of us knew only by his nickname, "The Owl," because he only came out of his office at night to go home.

Soon graduation speeches began, and despite my best intentions of listening with both ears, my mind roamed. 

The teachers told us "commencement" meant "the beginning," of our lives and not the "end" of our time at school. We were celebrating the beginning of our new lives and the paths where God would place us.

I gazed at my friends. Several had seats of distinction on the stage. Certainly, I thought, their lives will turn out all right. But I wonder about me. I wonder what God wants me to do?

Just before we received our diplomas, there was one more ritual. I had been a part of this my Freshman through Junior years, and now, I was among the Seniors about to receive the blessing from the concert choir.

I had never been able to get through this moment without tears, and now, as I looked at my dear friends stepping onto the risers preparing to sing to us, my eyes began to fill with water.

The "Old Irish Blessing" by Denes Agay, who died at age 95 in 2007, is a musical arrangement of an Irish blessing.

However, it has become more than this for me throughout my life. It has lifted and inspired me when I was depressed. The words have become an anthem for me in life.

As the concert choir sang, I watched through my tears as my underclassmen friends serenaded me and motioned silently to me. They also had tears in their eyes. A couple of my friends held hands on the riser to help each other get through the song.

I sat in my seat soaking up a moment I never could have prepared for emotionally. It was overpowering to hear the words and music. Not only did I feel the love of my friends, but I also felt God's love and protection.

The mask I was wearing, which hid my fears cracked some, and I began to relax as I knew whatever road God put me on in life would be the right one for me.

Furthermore, He promised to walk the road with me. I would not be alone.
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Lord,  Thank you for preparing my path for me in advance and helping me walk the roads you have led me to.
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Here is the video of the "Old Irish Blessing". Enjoy.

video


For Greg K., my buddy, and one of our great losses from the class of 1978.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Guardian Angels on Overtime

 A Controlled Fire
A Man Cooking Shashlyk over an Open Fire in Abadan, Turkmenistan
2009
Isaiah 40:11 NIV
"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."

The dry grass burned quickly in the heat of the summer, while the fire scorched the light-colored bricks on the side of the house on Hamlet Road. I'm not sure who owned the house, but Casey had picked it because we could lie on the hillside next to the garage and not be noticed by passing cars.

I was old enough to know better, but I trusted Casey when he pulled out his box of matches. He was my friend, and we had adventures everyday. Nothing bad ever happened. However, I think we were too young to figure out how dry the summer had been and how quickly grass will burn when it has not been watered for a long time.

Casey lit the match. At first, nothing. We just saw some smoke in the dirt. But all of a sudden, the grass leapt to life beside the bricks. The fire was about six inches long and seven inches high. That may not seem big, but for me, it was disaster. 

I panicked. For the first time since we started this "game,"  I realized the danger we had put ourselves and others in. I screamed at Casey to "do something" as we jumped up and down on the fire. It seemed like an eternity passed before we put it out.

When the excitement ended, there was a small black mark on the side of the house where the fire had stained the bricks. I have no idea how long the ash mark lasted on the bricks, but in my mind, the stain was always there every time I passed by the house.

Our guardian angels were on overtime that day keeping us and the innocent family safe from harm. Thank God we didn't burn down anyone's house through a careless choice.

They say God sends His angels to watch over "fools" and small children. I can't remember exactly how old I was when I learned it's dangerous to play with fire, but it was a lesson well worth learning to help me throughout life.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------Lord, thank you for the other times in my life where you have helped me after I have made a bad choice.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Soaring Above the Storm


           
              Choppy Night Waters of the Atlantic Due to Threatening Weather Conditions
                                                            April 2010


1 Peter 4:10 NIV
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."


My daughter just finished reading, The Diary of Anne Frank. On the commute home from school, she retold the story and gave me her opinion of it.

This conversation allowed me to reveal that when I was twenty and had studied in Bregenz, Austria, I had a chance to visit Amsterdam and tour Anne Frank's "Hiding Place".

I tried to convey to Allison my shock at the small living space the families had to survive in. The floor squeaked. It seemed like every sound we tourists made could be heard all the way over to the next row of houses, and I think I subconsciously held my breath and walked on tiptoe as I tried not to make noise in the rooms.

Anne's room, with her decorated wall of clippings of famous actors and actresses, left me with a lump in my throat. I could imagine her taping the photos on the wall. It was such a normal teenage girl activity.

I told Allison how emotional it was for me to visit the house after reading Anne's diary and watching the 1959 movie. The movie always makes me cry, especially the last ten minutes of it when the SS is arriving with wailing sirens to arrest the family.

However, Anne's words of hope carry even the darkest ending of a movie. She wrote, "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."

I wonder how she was able to say that considering all she went through? What a powerful insight from one so young.

I watched an interview with Miep Gies, the woman who helped protect the families while they were in hiding for two years. She said for her husband, Jan, and herself, it wasn't an option to help people in need. As soon as Mr. Frank asked for help, she said "Yes" even though it put their lives in danger.

I wonder how many people would help others like this? I wonder how many people, who are being persecuted, could still look at the world and believe in the goodness of those around them?

I wonder how I would and do measure up?

Tuesday, March 8, is International Women's Day. I thought Anne Frank and Miep Gies were two examples of outstanding women role models to consider today.

Both kept their faith and gave of themselves as best they could to others. Anne through her journal and faith in humankind and Miep through her loyal servitude.

Both were ordinary women forced into extraordinary circumstances. Their strong spirits helped them soar above the storms they faced, and, as a result, they are shining examples for all of us.
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Lord, help me to be a positive role model to others around me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Picnic to Remember

Angry Bees after Honey Harvesting
Mountains of Turkmenistan 2009


Job 12:10 NIV
"In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."

The drowning was accidental.

We children had been playing at Winton Woods in a shallow creek chasing tadpoles and skipping rocks across the surface after eating a Sunday picnic lunch. 

My family had met the Eatons after church at a secluded spot in the woods, and now mom and dad were talking to George and Ercel while Bekka, Teri, Rob and I were playing among the wooded tree line and racing through the open hillside.

Our picnic lunch was still spread out on the grass, inviting nature's scavengers to explore its contents. The ants were feasting on the leftovers, but they were not in mortal peril. No. They were safe that afternoon.  The lone casualty was the yellow jacket who balanced precariously along the edge of the two liter bottle of root beer.

I thought bees had a better sense of balance, so it must have been by choice that the yellow jacket made the plunge into the bottle. None of us were there to witness her descent into the sugary sweetness of thick syrup.

I don't know if she had a controlled landing or if she belly-flopped into the mass of dark soda, but she dove into the mess and was stuck on the surface doomed to perish. When she landed in the fluid, she discovered she could no longer fly.

By the time we returned from our play in the water, she was dead. We mourned her as only children can mourn a yellow jacket who has accidentally drowned in a two liter bottle of root beer. We poured our hearts and souls into our grief, and then we tried to remove her carcass so we could drink some more root beer.

However, Bekka was determined to give her a proper burial. My sister, Teri, thought that was a great idea and hunted for something to put her in. Seems like we found a little match box to put her damp, sticky body in.

We dug a hole in the ground, and with our amused parents gathered around us, we spoke words over the yellow jacket as we lay her to rest under the shade of a tree. We marked her little grave with twigs in the shape of a cross.

Children understand on an intuitive level the sanctity of life.  While their displays of that knowledge may be manifested in simple ways, such as burying a bee, there is much to be learned from them and their Innocent understanding of life and death.

Each life is precious in God's eyes. If He cares about the death of a bee, how much more does He care about my life and its problems?

However, He isn't waiting for me to fall into a vat of root beer, nearly drowning, before He rescues me.

He is here now whenever I need Him. He is reaching out to me. All I have to do is ask for His help.
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Lord, thank you for your love, which lifts me.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Come to the Table

A Black Squirrel Feasting at Breakfast
Rye, New York
October 2010
Luke 14:15 NIV
"When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God."

Mom, dad, Teri, Rob and I stood in our backyard on April 3, 1974, looking at the sky. Overhead were rapidly moving storm cells swirling ominously northward toward Dayton, Ohio. One of the cells had already destroyed Sayler Park by the Ohio River. Soon Xenia, Ohio, would be devastated.

Dad had raced home from work as mom prepared our supper. Laid out on the kitchen table were salmon patties, peas, corn and rolls. In the 1970s, fast food was not an option, and families actually sat at the table together to eat home cooked meals.

Mom worked full time during the day, so coming home to prepare dinner took effort on her part.

Dad had rushed up northbound I-75, not necessarily for mom's salmon patties, but because a tornado was chasing him. He could look in the rear view mirror of the car and see the storm cell following him as he headed toward Forest Park. By the time he got into the house, he was a nervous wreck. When he told us what had happened, we all went out back to look to the south.

As we watched the dark sky, we could see the swirling clouds and dangerous entrails searching for a place to land. We were mesmerized. Over 148 tornadoes were reported in several states from April 3-4, 1974. We watched history unfold over our backyard.

Finally, hunger bested our curiosity, and we headed into the house. We knew if we had to run into the basement for protection from a tornado we could be down the steps in seconds. We were relatively calm considering the weather conditions around us.

As we turned into the kitchen where our dinner had been laid out on the table waiting for us, we stopped in shock. What we saw was not what we expected, nor were we delighted.

Muffin, our dog, had decided to seize the moment and eat our dinner all by herself, while we had our backs to her. She ate nearly all of it. She had taken advantage of the feast placed before her.

We chased her out of the kitchen and away from the table, but the damage had been done. We had to scrounge around for dinner on our own that night.

God prepares a feast for me everyday. My attitude is the only part of me that keeps me from partaking in it.

Muffin figured out on April 3, 1974, how to take advantage of the gift set before her. She didn't ask if the dinner belonged to her, she just assumed it was hers for the taking.

I have to do a better job myself feasting on the richness of God and delving into his love and the gifts he bestows on me.
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Lord, thank you for preparing your feast for me to partake of.