SWEET PEACE

 

My Mama, Maggie Lou, was married in a quiet ceremony, in her parent’s home, on Christmas Eve, 1917.

The war that raged on the Western Front, in Europe—“The Great War”—The War to End All Wars,” seemed a million miles away on that joyous occasion.

Mama went to live with her beloved Ed and his bootlegging father, on a dry land farm in eastern Oklahoma.

By her eighteenth birthday, in March of 1918, Mama was already pregnant with her first child.  Suddenly life, for this laughing girl, became serious.  She was now responsible for another life, and she awoke each morning wondering if this was the day her young husband would be called up to serve his country and perhaps die in a faraway place.

America, under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, had remained neutral the first two and one-half years of the war.  However, neutrality finally became impossible considering the increased aggression of the Nation of Germany, and our close bond with Great Britain.  So America entered the fray on April 6, 1917 sending 2,000,000 American boys to the front where 50,000 of them died.

In Paris, France, on November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m. an Armistice was signed, and the war came to an end.  The world was at peace!

Just after midnight, in the wee hours of November 12, while bells were still ringing, horns still blowing, and people still celebrating, Maggie gave birth to a baby boy.  Beautiful Levi!

The baby that she had carried in her womb for nine months was now safe in her arms, and there was no longer any danger that Ed would have to go to war.  Sweet peace brought healing to her troubled heart.

Peace is a rare and longed for commodity.  It is said that there are those who would give a “King’s ransom” for one hour of genuine peace.  The “War to End All Wars” was a hope never realized, for war rages somewhere in this world continually.

Many people and entities have tried to bring peace to our world.  The military can’t do it.  Diplomats have failed.  Governments are ineffective, and The United Nations is laughable for the most part.

War does not have to be nation against nation.  It is sometimes corporation against corporation or family against family, and mostly individual against individual.

Truth is, strife and discord begin at the grassroots.  I’m reminded of The Hatfield and The McCoy feud—a feud that lasted almost thirty years and has had repercussions for decades.

No one is sure, but it is said that the whole thing started over the theft of a hog.  However it started, it escalated to murder and mayhem, and the absence of any measure of peace.

I know individuals who hate to go home for the holidays, because of family infighting—so much for “Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men!”

There are times when outside interference lays siege to my personal peace.  Last spring when I was rewarded guardianship of my sister, I heaved a sigh of relief believing that, aside from the annual reports I must file, I needed only to take good care of her.  However, last week, without warning, my sister’s attorney requested that I be removed as guardian.

I am devastated.  I am praying. I am crying, and just like you, I am wringing my hands, and losing sleep.   Sunday evening I was with a group of friends, who prayed with me.  Monday morning just as I was awakening, I saw the words, as on a plaque, “sweet peace the gift of God’s love.  Opening my eyes, I thought, “That’s a song.  I haven’t heard it in a hundred years, but I know that song, and the words came singing back.

When Jesus as Lord I have crowned,

My heart with His peace will abound;

In Him, the rich blessing I found,

Sweet peace the gift of God’s love.

 

Peace, peace, sweet peace,

Wonderful gift from above.

Wonderful, wonderful peace,

Sweet peace the Gift of God’s love.

 Later in the day, I read these words from Jeremiah 20:11.  “But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One.  Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail.”

 This promise is certainly a recipe for peace.

Finally, I believe, “THE WAR TO END ALL WARS” is the war that I wage within—the war that I fight against Christ and His authority in my life.  When I refuse to give Him control, I am filled with turmoil, hopelessness, and fear.  When I lay down my arms and lift my hands in surrender, the Prince of Peace comes in, and His peace remains.

The world is in fighting mode—in hearts, in homes, in our streets, in legislatures, courts, and palaces.  From north to south, east to west, we are at war, but in the middle of all this chaos, you can live in peace.

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You.”

God’s peace is a gift.  Give up your weapons, sign the Armistice, and fix your heart and mind on Him in exchange for perfect peace.

Your prayers are appreciated.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD

I was going to jail.  I had never been in close proximity even to a city jail.  Now I was on my way to the State Penitentiary in Soledad, California.

The Penitentiary Chaplain, who was a friend of mine, had invited me to come preach to his inmates.  I said, “YES,” because I don’t know how to say, “NO.”

Soledad was a large prison with three cell blocks and hundreds, perhaps thousands of inmates.

Now driving down US Route 101 early on Sunday morning, my mind was full of questions.   Oh, my sermon was prepared.  My heart was ready, but my mind was in turmoil.  Why in the world did I do this?  How will I behave toward these men?  Will I smile at them?  Will I look them in the eye?  Will I pretend we are not locked up?  Will I be nervous or afraid?  Of course I had prayed and was still praying.

If I really thought about it, I knew I would be preaching to murderers, rapists, thieves, and every other kind of law breaker imaginable.  One lone woman!

I stopped at the Kiosk just outside the first chain link fence, proffered my ID, and walked through the gate that opened for me.  I was greeted by the chaplain at the second gate.  As though reading my mind, he smiled at me and said, “Just be yourself, they’ll love you.”

We entered a small chapel where prisoners were getting ready for service.  They came in their blue prison garb laughing and joking with each other.  They were friendly, shaking my hand and welcoming me.

These men were “short timers.”  They would soon be on their way home.

The chaplain sat at the piano, and worship began.  I discovered immediately that these men, who were locked behind bars most of the day, were free in spirit, for they sang exuberantly raising their hands and shouting the praises of God.  They were not required to come to service.  They came, because God had changed their lives, and set them free.

I found myself preaching to them honestly, as I would to any congregation, and, as the chaplain had advised, I was just myself.  I didn’t know how to be anyone else.

The second service was in the main cell block, in a real sanctuary built for that purpose.  When we arrived the three hundred or more seats were filled and men stood around the walls.  The orchestra was tuning up and the choir was taking its place.  An inmate stood at the pulpit ready to officiate.  I was amazed.  This church was fully organized with a board and ushers and musicians, all of them inmates.

When I stood to preach, I said, “I know why I am here.  Do you know why you are here?” I don’t know where that came from.  It wasn’t something I had prepared, but it set the tone for the morning.  The men laughed heartily and everyone relaxed.  I talked about “Walking with God” using the story of Enoch found in Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11.

At the close of the message, I asked those, who needed God’s help, to come forward for prayer.  They came eagerly filling the front of the sanctuary.  Without hesitation, I walked down the steps and moved through the crowd to encourage and pray with them.  What a blessed time!

At lunch, Chaplain asked me, “Well, what do you think?”

“I would rather preach to those men any day of the week than to a bunch of bored church members,” I answered.

“You know,” he said, “One-third of those men are lifers.  They will never leave this place.”

Then he told me the story of the man who led the service that morning.  “John” had been a pastor.   He knew the joy of serving God.  Then he fell into an adulterous relationship.  When his wife found him out, he killed her.  Now he is a lifer with no hope of freedom.  Thank God, he has found his way home.

He had EVERYTHING going for him, and he gave it all up for a moment of selfish pleasure.

I wept when I heard that story. In fact, I squalled all the way home, 186 miles.  Actually, I cried the whole week.  I didn’t cry because these men were being punished for their lawlessness.   I cried because John had given up EVERYTHING for NOTHING.  I cried because I realized, “but for the grace of God,” I could be in the same situation.  “That could be me!  That could be you!”  Don’t fool yourself.  None of us is immune.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Again, in James 4:6, “…God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”

The undeserved grace of God is a gift like no other.  No pleasure, great or small, is worth the forfeiture of God’s grace.

“…‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.”

AMAZING GRACE!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

           

What A Waste

It was early morning, and I was bouncing around in the back of a huge truck on my way to the city dump, in Calcutta, India. (The city is now called Kolkata)  I have sent tons of garbage to the city dump in my hometown, but I have never been there.  So, why in the world—why would I get up before sunrise to visit a dump?

Actually, this site, where 4,000 tons of new waste is dumped each day, is known as Calcutta’s Garbage Mountain, and it has become, for some twisted reason, a tourist site.  No wonder!  The dump covers sixty acres and is ten stories high.  It is permanently on fire from the combustible waste deposited there, and no one tries to put it out.  A fetid, unbearable stench hangs heavily in the air.

Amazingly, in 2016, Calcutta received an award for impressive waste management.  I dare say that the 30,000 miserable souls that live permanently on or around the garbage heap are not impressed.

Many of these garbage residents are rag pickers or waste pickers.  One can find almost anything there including dead babies, smuggled chocolates and medicine, money and even gold.  These souls spend their days sorting through the “yuck” picking out recyclable stuff and burning rotting bodies.

When Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971, the population of Calcutta grew from one million to eight million overnight.  (Current population is fourteen million.)  The city had no provision for such an influx.

When engineers were asked for a solution, they replied, “Raze the place and start over!”

I was in Calcutta for the first time in 1980.  The sights I saw and the experiences I had sear the mind and make faint the heart.  Never before had I seen such abject poverty, such suffering.  Multitudes lived on the sidewalks sheltered only by a cardboard lean-to.  They drank from the gutters, and at dusk, they lit their charcoal burners to heat tea and prepare what meager food they had.  All over the city black smoke filled the atmosphere and settled on everything in sight.  Beggars were everywhere.  A trip to the market drew a throng of little black-eyed boys begging to be hired to carry parcels.

I was there for ministry, but I ashamedly admit that there were days I was reluctant to leave the house.  However, on that early morning, in 1980, we were on our way to “Garbage Mountain” not as tourists or to see the sites—we were there to feed the hungry.

The line had already begun to form before our truck came to a halt at the designated site.  It was all very orderly.  In single file, the line of women and children snaked through the wasteland as far as the eye could see waiting politely for the one nutritious meal they would have that day.  They came with their tin cups and other containers.

Each one was given a cup of milk and two substantial whole grain pancakes.  I don’t know how long we were there or how many people we fed, but after awhile they were gone.  I imagined they had found a quiet place among the rubbish to enjoy, perhaps, the only meal they would have that day.

I asked why there were no men in the line.  I was told that, if the men were fed, there would be no motivation to find work.

Our faithful, longtime, missionaries worked tirelessly.  They had established a thriving church, an elementary school, a feeding program and a hospital in Calcutta, and in every place, in every way, they preached the good news of Jesus Christ.  Yet, from a distance, stacked up against eight million “waste” people it seemed so little—too little.

The trip to the dump hung over me like an albatross.  I thought about those emaciated children gladdened by a cup of milk, and I wondered whether or not I had made any difference at all while I was there.

In reflection, I thought of the widow in Mark 12: 42 (The Message) “One poor widow…put in two small coins—a measly two cents.  Jesus…said…this poor widow gave more than all the others…she gave extravagantly what she could not afford—she gave her all.”

The “garbage dump” people around us are seldom lovely and appealing.  Sometimes they are utterly repulsive.  But in Matthew 10:31, Jesus, who cares when a sparrow falls, declared that the least person is worth more to Him then many sparrows.

Jesus asks us to look at the need around us.  He asks to give extravagantly, even what we cannot afford—to give our all.  In fact, Luke 38 (The Message) says, “Give away your life…giving, not getting, is the way.  Generosity begets generosity.”

You may feel that “your all” is not very much, but just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, He will multiply your “gift” and make it more than enough.

Giving “all” brings bonus and blessing.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

IN THE SHADOW OF HIS HAND

The country of India is a giant kaleidoscope of varying sites and experiences as conflicting as that of the Taj Mahal and Calcutta’s putrid city dump.

Having spent a month in ministry in various locations, I was actually on my way back to Belgium with a stop-off in New Delhi, when I experienced one of the most memorable of days.  I was accompanied by three gals, whom I had met in Calcutta—a missionary wife, the pastor’s Indian secretary, and a well-known gospel singer from California.  The four of us put our heads together agreeing that we had worked hard and needed some fun before I left the country.  Thus was born the plan to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra three and one-half hours south of Delhi.

Due to the generosity of our gospel singer, we were treated to two nights in a lovely, even luxurious hotel.  Our little Indian secretary had never seen the inside of such a place.  Just sharing her “wonder” and enjoyment of a hot shower was worth the whole episode.

We hired a taxi for our trip to Agra paying the equivalent of $12.00 for the round-trip.  We had hoped to leave early in the morning, but our singer, who was a bit of a “Prima Dona,” just couldn’t get her act together, so we didn’t leave until close to noon.

Our outbound trip down a narrow, two-lane, road, through barren, sparsely inhabited countryside, was uneventful.  We had been warned, however, that highway robbery was a very real danger after dark, so we must return to the city before nightfall.

Having arrived in Agra after 3:30 p.m. and being desperate to see the sights, we sort of ignored the warning.  After all, here we were, four pretty girls.  Who would want to harm us?  I don’t think we actually thought that, but the attitude was there.  Our driver was nervous.  He urged us to leave, but our “Diva” wasn’t ready yet.   Finally, when the sun was already dipping in the west, we agreed to go, but we needed a refreshing drink before setting out on this grueling trip.  Our henchwoman insisted that we stop at a hotel just outside the city.  The driver had no choice.

When, sometime later, we exited the hotel, wouldn’t you know, there before us, in the courtyard, stood a gigantic elephant bedecked in all his finery?  He wore a beautiful “jhools” or saddle cloth, a bright head plate adorned his forehead, and on his back was an ornate “howdah”-a seat for passengers.  How could we resist?  Would I ever have another opportunity to ride an elephant?  It was a blast.  In fact, riding that elephant and later, a camel, were two of the funnest things I ever did.

It was just bordering on dark when we resumed our trip, but the delays were not over.  Thirty minutes out, we had a blowout.  After the driver changed the tire, he insisted we return to Agra, because he had no other spare, but we were tired and hungry and vetoed that idea.  I am sure this kind man had never before faced a phalanx of determined American women.

Darkness had fallen in earnest.  This was no broad, brightly illuminated freeway.  Only occasionally did we see a pinprick of light from a distant dwelling.  It was eerie.  I became increasingly worried as I thought of robbers.  All of a sudden, up ahead, blinding lights appeared.  We were sure the jig was up.  Our California gal hid her expensive camera under the seat and stuffed her jewelry in her bra.

Instead of robbers, we encountered a military roadblock.  We were not allowed to continue our trip until other foolish drivers, traveling the same road, arrived behind us.  After some time, and a long line of vehicles, we had the safety of military escort back to the city. Arriving well after midnight, we were relieved, tired and hungry.

The warning we had ignored was real.  The danger was imminent enough to engage the Indian military, yet I doubt we lost any sleep over it.  Somehow, subconsciously, we felt immune to such threat.  It couldn’t happen to ME!  Could it?

We sometimes treat God’s warnings or counsel in the same manner.  We sort through scripture obeying what we want and ignoring the ones that do not apply to “ME.”

We live in a dangerous world, both seen and unseen.  At times we face danger because of our own foolishness thinking we will never suffer the consequences.  However, our only surety is in obedience, for when our steps “are ordered by the Lord,” we have the promise that He will uphold us with His own hand.

According to the Isaiah,  Jesus is our Counselor.  He instructs us, teaches, guides, and warns us.  If I love Him, I will obey Him happily knowing that it is for His honor and for my good.

Psalm 19:8-11 tells us, “The statutes of the Lord are right …Moreover by them Your servant is warned and in keeping them there is great reward.”

In Psalm 32:7, David itemizes the reward. “You are my hiding place.  You shall preserve me from trouble.  You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.”

This is a dangerous world.  Stay safe “in the shadow of His hand.”

 

WHEN LIFE IS NOT FAIR

“Life isn’t fair,” my friend exclaimed, as we walked toward the sanctuary.  She had been telling me about her sister, who was trying to decide whether or not she would undergo Chemo-therapy.

“No,” I thought.  “Life certainly is not fair!”

I sat in the morning service trying to worship and keep my mind on the sermon, but this thought troubled me.

I remembered my childhood, when we wailed at each other, because “You got a bigger piece than I did,” or “I’m going to tell Mama you won’t let me…  That’s not fair!”

As adults our sense of fairness is offended when we see the way powerful people get away with things, and why should some people be born into money and others be born into poverty?  The simple answer is, “The world has never been fair.”

However, by regulating, adjudicating or legislating, we have tried to do away with unfairness.  We give money to people, many of whom don’t even want to work.  Schools have done away with “Winners” and “Losers.”  Everybody gets a ribbon whether or not he ranked first or fifty-seventh.  But mandates don’t create fairness.

Many years ago, when I was a public school teacher, a father sat across the desk from me.  It was parent-teacher conference week.  His daughter was one of my fourth-grade students.

She was a pretty little thing, well behaved for the most part, and she did try.  But she was, on the best of days, a “C” student.

Her father, a psychologist in his own right, imagining that he had the upper hand in this conference, didn’t like what he saw on his daughter’s report card and was determined to change it.

“Look,” he demanded.  “You can change some of these grades.  Just put some more “A’s” on this card.  After-all, she’s a pretty girl.  She will grow up and marry well.  What difference will it make then?” He wanted to level the pathway for his daughter.  He wanted life to be fair.

Reality is that life isn’t based in fairness.  Some things happen that we don’t bring on ourselves.

After waiting seventy-six years, sweet Cecil came along, and we were married.  Five months and eleven days later, God chose to take him home.  That doesn’t make any sense.  All of my friends have enjoyed fifty years or more of marriage.  That’s certainly not fair.

I have envied my brother and his family.  They were always together for holidays.  On Christmas, when I called, I could hear the happy ruckus in the background, and I longed to be with them.

Now my brother, who is the best man in this world, is virtually alone.  His wife is gone.  His oldest daughter died last fall, and his younger daughter has moved away.  That’s not fair.  He deserves better.  I am sad for him.

And the list goes on!

I know that you can add your own story to my catalog of unfairness.

Ninety-nine percent of people think they are treated unfairly at one time or another, and the other one percent think they are not treated fairly enough.  We can spend our time complaining and never extricate ourselves from this quagmire of self-pity, or we can realize that whether we were born with a silver spoon, plastic spoon or no spoon at all, it’s not the circumstances, but what we make of them.  We always have choices about how we respond.  The greatest adversity life can throw at you affords another opportunity to look to Jesus for His “more excellent way.”

And—by the way, you are permitted to question God.  Jesus did.  He cried, “Why have you forsaken me?”  God understands you.  He knows your struggle.  He knows your need.  You can complain to Him.  He will not hold it against you, but while you are complaining, do a little listening.

This world often judges us unfairly, because we are judged by what we can do and the number of people we impress.  I am grateful this world is not my ultimate judge.

One day, after I have navigated the rocky shoals of this life, I will stand before my maker, God Himself, the one who said, “WHOSOEVER WILL MAY COME,” the one who said He would make no difference between “JEW or non-JEW, SLAVE and FREE, MALE and FEMALE.  He will be my judge, and His judgment will be absolutely fair.  He won’t care about how much money I have accumulated or how many people I have impressed.  I will be judged by three things only.

  1. Has the blood of Jesus Christ been applied to my life—is my name written in His book?
  2. Have I been faithful to Him?
  3. Have I obeyed His Word?

On that day, I expect to hear the words from Matthew 25:23.  “…Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord.”

In spite of this world’s unfairness, just be faithful to God.  Through His compassion, kindness, and love, you will receive more than you deserve, more than you can ever earn and more than you can ever hope for.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

A DIFFERENT KIND OF FREEDOM

I sat in my living room floor, in Brussels, packing and repacking.  I was scheduled to leave the next morning for a teaching assignment in the country of Poland.  That was 1979, and the “Iron Curtain,” which divided the east from the west was a looming reality.

It would be eight years before President Reagan would stand in front of that dividing wall and demand, “Mr. Gorbachev, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!”

Those under communist rule suffered cruel restrictions and limited resources.  I had heard frightening stories about attempts to smuggle Bibles and other religious materials into communist-controlled countries.  Materials were confiscated, the culprits jailed and keys thrown away.

Yet, there I sat surrounded by mountains of religious materials that were absolutely essential for the training of Sunday school teachers and other children’s workers.  In a brief moment of fear, I thought to cancel the trip, but, resolutely, I put everything back in the cases, and made the trip as planned.

Much to my relief, my luggage was not opened in Warsaw (that’s a whole other story), and after a short flight to Krakow, I was met by a friendly pastor and Peter, the young man who would be my translator.  We drove through the dark, snowy night to the town of Cieszyn on the border of Poland and Czechoslovakia.  Barriers, border crossings and armed guards were strange sights to this gal from “America, the land of the free.”

It had been arranged that I stay with the pastor and his family in their tiny, cramped apartment.  I was thrilled to be in a Polish home.  It didn’t matter that it was not luxurious.  However, I was puzzled by a conversation overheard between the pastor and Peter.  They were concerned because there was no room available for me in the hotel.

“What would the authorities say?”

“Can’t I just say I am staying with you,” I asked?

“No, that would be very unwise,” the pastor replied.

By the next day, a hotel room was available, so I went to the hotel, registered, picked up my key and returned to the pastor’s home.  On my last day there, I went back to the hotel, paid my bill, turned in my key and left without ever having seen the room in which I had “stayed.”  I did, however, have that essential piece of paper in my hot little fist—the paper that proved I had paid for a hotel room.  Such intrigue was beyond me, but it was part of the fabric of life for these people who lived it every day.

How can I tell you about these simple, warm-hearted folks, who opened their hearts and arms to me?  I believe they actually liked me—this strange American woman who went bareheaded on the coldest day, who insisted on drinking cold water in the dead of winter and devoured their delectable potato dumplings with delight.  They opened their hearts and minds to receive the simple teaching and materials.  They laughed at my silly jokes, and with tears expressed their gratitude for such help.  Then on the last day, they brought lovely gifts that I  cherish still.

On Sunday, after learning that demonstrations in Warsaw had canceled flights and stopped most trains, we rushed through the bleak countryside eighty miles to Katowice, the city made famous by Lech Walensa, to the railhead, where a train to Warsaw might originate.

The scene on the platform was one of bedlam.  It was almost impossible to get through the crowd.  Finally, the pastor and our driver picked up Peter and put him through the window handing my luggage in after him.  Then they hustled me up the steps and said their goodbyes.

The corridor and every compartment were jammed with travelers.  There was standing room only.

“I thought we had first class tickets,” I said.

“This is first class,” Peter replied.

After some time, we found a jump seat in the aisle, and Peter graciously offered it to me, while he stood for the entire five-hour trip.

Monday was a delightful day spent touring the beautiful old city of Warsaw.  Early in the evening, without incident, I boarded my flight to Brussels.  As I flew home, my heart and mind were filled with the people, whom I had just left.  These people lived in bondage and deprivation, yet they enjoyed a kind of freedom that many never know.

Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free…”

Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free…”

2 Corinthians 3:17, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

These dear, fellow believers had found their freedom and hope in Jesus Christ.  They touched my life only briefly, and somehow I was changed forever.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

Growing up poor, in humble surroundings among good, Godly, simple people, you would think that my expectations and ambitions would not rise far above the common.  However, I have learned that it is impossible to know and understand the longings of a human heart.

Regardless of my background, from early years, I longed to be part of the “beautiful people.”  O, I’m not thinking at all of the glitz and glamour of this world, for my life totally revolved around the church, where I spent many of my waking hours.

To me, the “beautiful people,” in the church, were those who sang, and preached, and taught—the ones who were in charge of events, who were elected to office, whose names were well known—those on the platform.

I wanted to be on the platform.  I must admit, my assessment of those “beautiful people” was only skin deep.  I knew nothing of the way they lived life.  I just wanted the same attention they enjoyed.

I am happy to tell you that this longing was tempered through the years, as I learned to be obedient to God, and follow His plan for my life.  It was during those early years of ministry, that I met and fell in love with some of God’s truly “beautiful people.”

I was on temporary assignment to our Bible College in Spain, when I met Trella Hall.  Trella was a spinster—a maiden lady, (I hate that term) in her mid-sixties.  She was a veteran missionary with years of experience in Latin countries.

Though her appearance was pleasant enough, I doubt she would have been considered beautiful.  She certainly would not have passed as fashionable.  She wore cotton house dresses and laced up brogan shoes.  He white hair was pulled back into a knot on the nape of her neck, and the front of it was tortured into narrow finger waves.

Trella was not the president of the college, in fact, I don’t know what her portfolio was, but to my way of thinking, she was the glue that held that school together.

She knew and loved every student aware of his particular situation.  The students knew, and loved, and respected her.   In fact, they “feared” her more than they feared God Himself.  When Trella said “jump,” they jumped.  She lived on the grounds and was readily available in times of need.  Students knew they would always receive a truthful, appropriate response from this dear woman—comforting arms or a stern voice.

I was alone in Spain, and I was lonely.  The missionaries, who were responsible for my being there, were extremely busy and had no time for the fellowship I had anticipated.  What would I have done without Trella?

She opened her arms and her home to a young, inexperienced, “green horn” missionary.  The cups of tea, the conversations, the council, and the comfort are tucked away in my collection of wonderful memories to be unwrapped at odd moments and remembered with pleasure and thankfulness.

During those months in Spain, I began to understand true beauty.  As the truth dawned, I found myself praying, “O, God, I want to be a missionary just like Trella Hall.  I want your love and compassion, and wisdom to flow from me as it flows from her.

In Trella, I met one of God’s genuinely “Beautiful People.”

I learned that I don’t have to be on the platform with people groveling at my feet to be beautiful.   I just have to be genuine—genuinely in love with Jesus—genuinely in love with His ways—genuinely in love with people.  When I am genuine, I open the door for His beauty to shine in and out of my life.  When the beauty of Jesus can be seen in me, then I’m one of the “beautiful people.”  It is not my beauty.  It is His beauty.

In Matthew 23:27, Jesus said, to the Pharisees of His day, “People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.” 

I don’t want to be a fraud!  I want to be beautiful.

The words of this song keep singing over and over in my spirit.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity.

O, thou spirit divine, all my nature refine,

‘Till the beauty of Jesus is seen in me.” 

This is my daily prayer.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO

Yesterday, when I opened the mail, I found another bill from my attorney—the attorney I never planned on, and the attorney I never wanted.  I feel like I am caught in a sticky spider’s web with no way to extricate myself.  To say that I am upset puts it mildly.  In fact, I am at my wit’s end.

Last winter, when I finally made the heart-rending decision to request legal guardianship and conservatorship for my younger sister, I had no idea what I was getting into.  I had agonized for months over what to do, while my sister’s illness became progressively and noticeably worse.

She absolutely refused to surrender power of attorney to anyone.  The stack of legal forms glared at me from my desk every time I entered the room.  Finally, I gave up.  I had prayed diligently about the situation until it seemed that the court was the only solution to our dilemma.  So I filed the papers and this weary process began.

The court appointed an attorney for my sister.  Her interests must be protected.  I understood that.  However, I didn’t hire an attorney.  I didn’t need one.  She’s my sister.  I just wanted to take care of her.  Her doctor had attested to her illness, and it would be obvious to any investigator.  Wouldn’t it?

I received a letter from my sister’s attorney stating that his fee was $375.00 per hour.  What?  I foolishly thought that had to do with working hours.  I didn’t know it included every second in the car, waiting for red lights and stopping for gas, every moment on the phone, every e-mail written and read, every stamp licked, and waiting for tardy judges.

Then he called me.  Being the nitwit that I am, laughing, I asked if I could fire him.  He immediately took offense.  We were enemies from the get-go.

“No,” he said.  “I am Mary’s attorney. I am here to protect her.” HA!

Armed with the investigator’s report and the doctor’s letter attesting to my sister’s illness, I went confidently to court assured that my request would be granted.  How naïve!

The attorney told the judge that I wanted to fire him because I didn’t want to spend any money on the case.  My sister told the judge that she did not want me to be her guardian.  The judge continued the case for another month and appointed a Guardian ad Litem.  He only charges $325.00 per hour.  The legal fees began to mount.

I was in over my head.  I had to hire myself an attorney.  Through my church, I found a good and kind man.  He only charges $350.00 per hour, and his paralegal $160.00.  I think I’m in the wrong business.

Mary’s attorney insisted that her house be put in reserve.  I couldn’t sell it without court approval.  One more complication!  More hours to bill!

My attorney was a likable man, easy to talk to.  When we met together, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t there to chitchat.  The clock was ticking and the fee was mounting.

The court was so overscheduled that it was never on time.  If our fifteen-minute session was set for 9:30, we waited at least an hour or more.  I was paying for that wasted time.

On March 10, I finally became my sister’s legal guardian, but this thing was far from over.  Though I had a good cash offer on the house, everything had to be approved by the attorneys.  One final, fifteen minute, court hearing, the end of August, brought the judge’s approval.  I paid my attorney over $900.00 for that hearing.  The judge was late again.

Yesterday, I received, what I hope is, the final bill from my lawyer.  In the last nine months, my sister and I have paid in excess of $25,000.00 in legal fees.  I have decided that judges and lawyers are not really interested in the welfare of their clients as much as they are interested in red tape and a fat wallet.  When I first met my attorney, he warned me that probate lawyers are known to put their clients in the poor house, before they are finished.  I believe him.

This afternoon I e-mailed my paralegal, and said, “Please don’t do anymore work for me unless or until I ask you.

During this process, I have discovered that hundreds of thousands of families face this same heartbreaking situation.

You cannot believe T.V. commercials that portray all Alzheimer’s or Dementia victims as sweet, docile, vague little people.  I have read hundreds of stories on the internet from families who are struggling with the same problems I have faced this year.  That loved one is uncooperative and at times combative.

“We don’t know what to do,” is the common refrain.

Let me tell you, “As much as I have hated it—as hard and as expensive as it has been, I believe I did the best and only thing I could do.”  As reluctant as you may be, going to court may be your only alternative.   For the good of your loved one, prop up your courage and make the move.  It won’t be easy, but it will insure his safety and well being.

It is a comfort to know that I have not been alone during this arduous journey.  I have taken King Solomon’s advice recorded in Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear…”  WHAT MARVELOUS ASSURANCE!

 

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

WHAT AUDACITY!

I thought I knew the meaning of the word, but just to be sure, I turned to the dictionary.  “AUDACIOUS” means to be daring, adventurous and bold—full of energy and verve.  It is just the opposite of “CIRCUMSPECTION OR PRUDENCE,” which means to be careful or cautious.

In the early days of my ministry, there were those who thought me “audacious,” because I just did what I needed to do—what I believed God wanted me to do.

On a cold, snowy, January day in the early 1980’s, I loaded my little Honda Coupe with dishes, pots and pans, kitchen linens, blankets, and grocery staples and headed south from Brussels toward the country of Spain.  I had been invited to teach the spring semester at our Bible College, in Guadalajara.  I would teach Christian Education and direct the choir.

If you take a look at the map, you will understand why my colleges thought me imprudent.  In fact, they just thought I was “NUTS!”  I must admit that it looked like a long arduous journey.

I poured over the map planning the route I would take.  I was fascinated by the possibility of driving through the tiny Principality of Andorra, a sovereign state in Southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains, nestled between France and Spain.

It was not necessary to take that route through high, snow-covered mountain passes.  I could have avoided it all together.  But when would I ever have another opportunity to visit the sixth smallest nation, in the world—181 square miles, population 85,000.

I’m glad I did it.   Never will I forget the sight of rugged mountains frosted with shimmering snow, infested with hundreds—thousands of skiers, like wingless angels, swooping down the never-ending slopes.  It was mesmerizing!

At the end of the day, I arrived in Andorra la Villa, the highest capital in Europe, found a hotel for the night, and settled in.  Well, not quite!  How could I go to bed, when there were things and places and people out there that I would never see again?  So, in the dark of early evening, I left my room and mingled with some of the 7,000,000 other tourists that visit Andorra each year.  I found a place to eat and shopped in the duty-free stores, and went to bed satisfied I had made the right decision.

On Saturday morning, I tucked Andorra into my memory trove and resumed my journey driving on to my final destination to begin another glorious adventure in places I had never seen with people I did not know, and events that were yet to be realized.

Now sitting at my computer, writing this blog, I think of all the memorable adventures I have experienced in my nearly fifty years of ministry, and I wonder.  Considering the fact that I was a single woman alone, was I too bold?  Was I careless?  Did I take needless risks?  I am sure there are those who would say “YES!”  However, my answer must be “NO,” for I was just doing what I needed to do, and I loved every minute of it.

Someone has said that the only alternative to risk is to “do nothing.”

Even as a youngster, I couldn’t abide the thought of a nine-five job chained to a desk or bent over a production line doing the same task day after day with only the prospect of a gold watch at the end of the journey.  I can’t imagine having played it safe all these years.

I would have missed the elephant ride at the Taj Mahal, the awesome Treasury building in Petra, a tour of infamous Auschwitz, sleeping in a castle in Toledo, Spain, observing the apes in Gibraltar, and visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.  But those are just the side benefits, for I have shared the excitement of black-eyed children in Calcutta as they heard the story of Jesus.  I have counseled former Muslim women in Tajikistan and seen their joy in a new-found savior.  I have ministered to lively Dutch children and laughed with military kids in Germany.  I have preached to “Lifers” in prison.  I have worshiped with bush people in South Africa.  I have trained young people, in Belgium and Spain, for the ministry, and the list goes on.

Proverbs 26:13 (The Message) “Loafers say, “It’s dangerous out there!  Tigers are prowling the streets!  And then pull the covers back over their heads.”

Ecclesiastes 11:4, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

I’m glad I didn’t wait for perfect conditions.  I’m glad I didn’t pull the covers back over my head.  I’m glad I did just what I did.  God has been my refuge.  When I decided to follow Him, He gave His angels charge over me to keep me in all my ways.

“Jesus led me all the way, led me step by step each day.

I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burdens down.

Jesus led me all the way.”

 

I am still here, hale and hearty, with incredible memories that punctuate every day of my life, and I can’t wait to make more memories.

 

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

SOUL TERMITES

On March 10, 2017, I became my sister’s court appointed guardian and conservator.  With that appointment came the privilege of finding her a suitable place to live, cleaning out her house, disposing of her lifelong possessions, and selling her home of forty-four years.

There was nothing happy about this physically taxing and emotionally devastating responsibility.  I just closed my eyes, refused to be sentimental about anything, and got on with it.  I even learned to navigate Craig’s List succeeding in selling my sister’s appliances.  You don’t know what an accomplishment that was for this old gal.  But I was sad, because, essentially, this was the end of any life as my sister had known it.

Selling the house was the most difficult.  I would sell it “as is,” for I did not have the stamina required for a renovation project.  Almost immediately, I had a cash offer from a lovely neighbor around the corner.  That was great, but I couldn’t sell without court approval.  I warn you, never, never get involved with the court.  Someone will be looking over your shoulder until you draw your last breath.

After five months, much red tape, and staggering legal fees, the sale was approved.  My buyer had seven days to inspect things, before closing.  Her seven days expired on Wednesday.  On Thursday I received “THE CALL!” The buyer had been back in the house for some reason, and, wouldn’t you know it, she had found evidence of termites—one day too late.

Those little white buggers, one of the most successful groups of insects on earth, and a close kin to the nasty cockroach had infested the main beam across the living room ceiling.

In spite of the fact that they are a dietary delicacy in some human cultures and are used in traditional medications, these detestable little creatures can cause serious and costly damage to wooden structures.

Now, one day before closing, my buyer wants me to take care of the termites.  Would I, at least, be willing to pay one-half the cost for extermination?

What to do!  I had been holding my breath waiting for the moment the sale would be final and the money deposited.  At last, six months of unending stress would be over, and I could breathe easily, and maybe even get a good night’s sleep.

I reminded her that she had bought the house “as is,” and that her time for inspection had expired.  However, she is a lovely, kind and patient woman.  She had stuck with me all those months never threatening to pull out of the deal.  I was upset, but I couldn’t refuse her.

“I will pay half,” I said, “But, I don’t think I owe it.”

I knew my attitude was wrong, and that I was upset beyond reason, but I just couldn’t lay it aside.  Every time I thought the end was in sight something else cropped up.  I slept hardly a wink that night.  There was something inside me just gnawing away.

“It wasn’t fair.”  “She signed a contract.” “She was too late.”  “She was getting the house for a steal.”

The next morning, knowing that my attitude needed adjusting, I asked God’s forgiveness and emailed an apology for the way I had behaved.  You know what?  Suddenly, it was no longer an issue, and the stress drained away.

Honestly, I am prone to this kind of thing.  I am not too great in stressful situations.  I let little things eat at me upsetting my equilibrium, and blocking out the sunshine.

Thinking about termites in my sister’s house, I realize that one tiny bug can do very little harm, but a colony can devour a whole house, and they do it from the inside out.  They can consume a 2X4 from the inside, leaving only the outer shell, before they are discovered.

So these “little” things that eat at me—you know what they are—take your pick—rob me of my peace.  They steal my joy.  They sap my energy.  They make me useless and unlovely.  They do to my soul what termites do to a 2X4. I have given these worrisome things a new name.  They are “SOUL TERMITES,” and they must be exterminated.

The Apostle Paul gave the Phillipians the formula for the extermination of “Soul Termites.”

Phillipians 4:6-8, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers.  If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will keep your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus…Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others.  Think of all you can praise God for and be glad about.”  (Living Bible.)

The formula in a nutshell:  Pray instead worrying.  Meditate on things that are true, and good, right, pure, and lovely.  Think of all the things you can praise God for and be glad about, and don’t forget to thank Him.  When you follow this formula, His peace will fill your heart and envelop your life, and strike a death blow to those distructive little termites.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!