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Shattered

When Al was upstairs in the shower Sunday morning, a crash directly overhead interrupted my routine. Chest tightening while running, I feared my husband might have blacked out and fallen.

“Are you okay?” 

“Yes!” The water kept running.

By that time, I saw that the small antique mirror had fallen, lying within a footstep of drawing blood.

As I hurried to pick up the pieces, the thought came, “This is life. One minute it looks good, secure and well placed, and the next, it’s a mess.”

With Jesus as Lord of our lives, we don’t need to pick up sharp edges alone. Yes, this side of eternity, mirrors crash as rusty exhaust fans rattle and disturb the nearby landscape. Yet the Savior of the world sees the mess and understands our fear.

Jesus has lived among us—the shattered. He knows how to pick up the pieces.

There is one condition. We must trust Him.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”

– Hebrews 12:2-3 NLT

This Mystery

About two weeks ago, this plant started pushing through the soil in my front flowerbed. Dwarfed by the surrounding majestic Hoosier zinnias (Thank you again, Shirley Toney!), it looked like a long green skinny bullet jutting upward. For a few days, I wondered what weed the birds had planted for me.

The day it bloomed I was thrilled and a bit confused as to how it had gotten there since Surprise Lilies start from bulbs not seeds. Yet this mystery is one that I’m enjoying and savoring. Hopefully next year it will somehow multiply so that it doesn’t stand alone.

When reading my monthly World Challenge newsletter this afternoon, Gary Wilkerson quoted a verse that contained the word “mystery:” “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27, English Standard Version

As Christians we may not know how Christ in us works, but we know His presence can counsel, comfort and lead us. Our dependence upon God through prayer ignites the Holy Spirit within us. While difficult to understand, we can depend upon His power.

The indwelling of the Spirit of God is indeed a mystery. But like many mysteries, the Holy Spirit is beautiful, strong, often surprising, and hopefully growing and multiplying.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.  He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’

– Jesus speaking in John 16:13-15, NLT.

Love the G’s

For us, summer officially began May 31 when our youngest granddaughter flew from San Diego with her parents to meet our extended family and several friends. The weather cooperated (Praise God!) and everyone seemed to enjoy our backyard party.

But since then, weather-dependent G’s—gardening and golf—have dominated our lives—a good thing depending upon the humidity and scores.Al and I divide the outdoor work with him mowing and watering the lawn and me planting, weeding, and fiddling with the flowers and vegetables. It works!

Hoosier Zinnias from Shirley Toney’s seeds

New this year I planted miniature and Hoosier zinnias, which for me, is a huge act of faith. Germination when I sow seems to be betting against the odds. But they came up. The butterflies love them, and their bouquets aren’t too shabby either.

Hibiscus from my front landscaping

Bravely I divided one of my front landscaping’s crown jewels, fuchsia hibiscus, to give to my neighbor Mary. She reciprocated, sharing Painters Pallet that is perfect for the small space near our garage. Another gardening guru Jan Ritter gifted me bee balm plants that added to the pollinator’s paradise. I traded her hosta.

Painters Palette from Mary Lasley

Summer indeed is fun! Especially when I can look out my front window and see my transplants thriving in Mary’s yard.

Mary’s new landscaping across the circle

Granddaughters, Gardening, Golf! And most importantly, GOD! I love the G’s in my life.

A Big Deal

Last week I did something while golfing I’ve never done before and probably will never do again. I shot a hole in one. But it wasn’t scored that way. Fetching my go-to club, a seven iron, I took a slow swing that ended with my favorite Volvik ball bouncing into the pond in front of Otte Golf Course’s sixth hole. I hadn’t done that for awhile. Tragically I lost a distinctive, but used ball.

Against PGA rules and protocol, I quickly called a mulligan and hit another ball, a light pink Lady Hagan with the breast cancer ribbon, which is now encased on my desk. This season all of my pink golf balls are salvaged, patiently waiting in tall grass for my husband and his golf buddies when playing longer courses to retrieve for me.

Determined to be better the second time around, I hit it solidly, saw it land near the flag, and then watched as it disappeared. “Did what I think happen, Mary Lou?” She nodded. “I’ve never ridden with anyone who has done that!”

Waltzing over to the other cart with longtime friends and golf buddies Janey and Mary, I began to jump up and down. “Joyce, its score is 3,” Janey said. Still it was worth a photo.

After my heart quit racing and a few hours passed, I began to think about this mountaintop moment. In the big scheme of life, hitting a small ball into a hole 70 yards out isn’t that big a deal. What is a big deal is that we keep trying to become better.

Even though He may not be checking our golf score, God expects us to be people who persevere.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:4, NIV

Eva Kor’s Legacy

Al and Joyce with Eva Kor at CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors–www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org);
1532 South Third Street, Terre Haute, IN

Thursday, July 4, 2019, just a few miles and minutes from the former Nazi concentration camp near Krakow, Poland, Eva Mozes Kor passed away at 85. She had just led a group tour through Auschwitz—an ironic yet fitting last activity for Eva, an American advocate for forgiveness.

I met Eva 20 years ago at Greenwood Middle School where she, along with my army veteran father, explained their World War II experiences to the student body. When teaching the Holocaust in March 1999, I was finishing seven consecutive years of teaching 8th grade language arts with my favorite lesson plan, The Diary of Anne Frank. Can you believe this is no longer offered in the curriculum? Neither can I.

My father and my mother, also named Eva, had forged a close relationship with the woman who had along with her sister Miriam, survived Dr. Mengele’s cruel medical procedures focusing on twins. They encouraged her when she opened CANDLES, a Holocaust Museum and Education Center. I knew a lot about Eva Kor before I ever met her.

When in Poland during spring break 2003, I felt firsthand the evil aura of Auschwitz,  where Dr. Mengele conducted horrific experiments while attempting to develop the perfect Ayran race. There Eva and her sister Miriam, separated from their parents forever, became specimens to be pricked and probed. Only by God’s providence and the girls’ sheer determination were they able to survive.

Display at CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center

For years Eva carried the heaviness of her past. That changed after Miriam Mozes’ death from kidney cancer in 1993. Eva knew she needed to overcome her emotional scars and embrace forgiveness to honor her sister’s memory and release personal bitterness. Two years later, CANDLES was founded.

Through this and her extensive speaking circuit, Eva Mozes Kor left behind an amazing legacy, one that teaches all of us to overcome evil through forgiveness.

Fencing at the Nazi Concentration Camp Auschwitz

*************************************************************************************************************************************You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.  – Jesus, Matthew 5:43-45, NLT

Learning at 65

When Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons first belted out “Oh, What a Night!”, they had no idea the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra would be hosting the Doo Wop Project Encore May 18, 2019, that I would turn 65 the next day, and that I would want to celebrate by enjoying their happy tunes.

Turning 65 has become a Medicare milestone which now forces me to check the last box on any age range. Ouch! That hurts a bit! What doesn’t hurt (well, maybe a little) is how much God is teaching me at this age. So I thought I would share what I’m learning at 65.

#1: Savor the Moment

Most of my life has been structured and planned. But lately I’ve been stopping to smell the roses, watching our backyard squirrels do their acrobatics with Mr. & Mrs. Duck waddling through, and listening to unidentified, unseen birds serenade us. Surprisingly, those moments feel meaningful. I’m finally seeing and appreciating the simpler things in life.

#2: Stretch More

Twenty years ago when our church first introduced Christian yoga, I went once and left unimpressed. But now that my joints seem to tighten with the slightest twist, it not only makes sense, it feels good. To listen to soft music and stretch after a day’s activity not only provides time to praise Jesus but also makes gardening, walking, and balancing much easier. I’m now a fan of intentional relaxation and trying something new even at 65.

#3: Revisit the Past

I tend to live toward the future, but lately it’s been important for me to resume relationships with childhood friends. All of us now being retired opened that door. It’s been fun and enlightening to meet them for lunch all over Central Indiana.  They remember things I’ve long since forgotten. Because of this, I’m motivated to write remembrances of my parents’ childhoods so that our three granddaughters will someday know their great grandparents.

God has blessed my family and me beyond measure. Stepping into this new phase of life is good for the soul, cultivating wisdom and peace that can only prepare me for the days ahead.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. . .Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Proverbs 31: 25, 30

Carried

Lately Al and I have been driving on Fridays. Not sure why, but maybe because three weeks ago, we bought a new car. So on April 5 we decided to take a road trip to our old stomping grounds in southern Indiana. There at Grandview Cemetery we decorated my parents’ grave vases with red roses from Dollar Tree.

Don’t fret! They would’ve approved the cost savings. Then we headed to Elnora’s Fairview Cemetery and blessed Al’s parents’ grave with bright orange and purple Dollar Tree specials. Again, his folks, who also grew up during the Great Depression, would have applauded our frugality.

This past Friday we headed west to Cox Plant Farm near Clayton, this time to spend money on real plants. On the way there, we listened to WGNR Moody Radio, specifically senior pastor Chris Brooks’ 1pm Equipped Radio segment featuring an interview with Dr. Rick Richardson, Professor of Evangelism and Leadership at Wheaton College.

Dr. Richardson said something hopefully I will never forget. Its truth is both radical and simple. “In all other religions, you need to climb a ladder to God. In Christianity, God sent Jesus down the ladder to carry us up.”

During this Holy Week, Christians all over the world will celebrate Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that opened the door for everyone—regardless of nationality, social status, or skin color—to have eternal life with God. To confess that Jesus Christ is who he says he is, the Son of the living God, is to begin a fresh life of freedom, faith, and obedience.

What a blessing it is to know that the grave, even though embellished with Dollar Tree flowers, does not contain us!

 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  John 3:16-17, HCSB

A River Runs Through It

True or False? I have never lived farther than 10 miles from White River. At the risk of your thinking I don’t get out much, my answer is True.

While growing up in Bloomfield, Indiana, our family crossed White River frequently as it edged the town’s western perimeter. My sister and I could bike to one of its creeks where we learned to skip stones and torment frogs with stray branches.

Later I followed the river north. Although I didn’t choose Ball State University based upon its five-mile proximity to White River, I enjoyed knowing it was nearby. The only Muncie river interaction I remember involved an earth science class field trip to study how the city purified its water.

The farthest I’ve ever lived from White River came after Al and I were married and rented our first apartment near Eagle Creek Reservoir. At that location, I was approximately 10 miles from the river. Ironically that was the closest I’ve ever lived to a body of water.

When we built our first home in Decatur Township two years later, we lived five miles west of the river. In 1987, we moved to our current location in Center Grove, five miles east of the river.  When it flooded in 2008, White River and our area erupted into a news flash as homes were damaged beyond repair.

This spring White River became relevant when Al and I were introduced to its scenic four-mile round trip asphalt trail, the White River Greenway Trail, which starts at Waverly’s Old Town Park. There’s no better way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Thank you, White River, for being a continuum this side of Heaven!

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. . .” Revelation 22:1

Time Travel

Since “official” retirement in 2013, what has surprised me is how much I read again. It’s a throwback to growing up in Greene County in the 1960’s glued to the Bobbsey Twins’ escapades, and later, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries.

While working fulltime, I only read books on vacation, preferably on a beach with a cozy mystery. Now I love to read any time, during winter months while lying on the sofa with hot tea in reach, or if the weather is warm, in the patio’s wicker settee with lemon water close by.

According to the Daily Journal’s Free Time weekly listing, book clubs in Johnson County seem to be thriving. Whether we’re reading to escape or to be informed, we’re reading.

Even more surprising in this culture of electronic-everything, our nation still enjoys the printed page. In 2018, 695 million printed books were sold, the highest amount since 2010  (https://www.statista.com/statistics/422595/print-book-sales-usa/). However, I confess to reading some library books on my Kindle app because they’re quick and easy to download.

My book club, Heartland Christian Readers, started and hosted by Becky Horton, is beginning its fifth year. And I LOVE it! I especially enjoy our lively monthly discussions. Even though the eight of us live in this area, our perspectives often differ, making our time together intellectually stimulating and insightful.

We’ve covered monthly nonfiction topics about mental illness, human trafficking, and an array of famous people’s biographies. Since the first of the year, we’ve read USS Indianapolis, Angela’s Ashes, and Upstairs at the White House. I love how books are like time travel, putting us on a sinking naval cruiser during war, or in famine-starved Ireland, or in the White House during the FDR years through the Nixon administration.

As we used to tell our kids, readers are leaders.

Friends, read often!

I’m There!

Last week one of my favorite writers, who doubles as my dentist, shared his experiences from El Salvador.  Not your typical tourist, Doug Harty or Doctor Doug as Haitians call him, travels the world to provide medical and dental expertise in the name of Jesus for some of the poorest, most neglected people walking this planet.

What I most enjoy about Doug’s writing is he puts me in the moment. When I read his emails, I’m there with him. When I visit his office, I see those experiences portrayed in photographs.  

A recent email paints the picture: “I write from under a beautiful, red-blossomed tree in the clinic area.  It is 87, the sun is bright, but it feels amazing and I have had just a wonderful day!  Birds are singing, there is talk from the patients who are leaving and the drone of the students helping us in the air. They laugh, and mess around after a hard day of helping us and patients, and I am enjoying sitting back and taking all of it in.”

I’ve never been to El Salvador but through Doug’s words, I’m there. That is what I’ve always loved about reading. It takes me places I’ve never been and shares experiences I may never have. Good writers do that for their readers.

The power of the written word is just that—powerful! Don’t underestimate the impact a note, a remembrance, or even an email can make.