Make It Personal, Make It Real

Like many of you, I’ve been praying for our world, our nation, our state, those in the trenches who are at risk for COVID-19 and my family. But surprisingly, I’ve lost little sleep over this pandemic. My Father in Heaven has given me peace. Why is that?

I know He can eradicate this virus because He is the Almighty Creator. I also know that nothing that brings death originates from God. His intent for us at Creation was life, not death. It still is. So why, in His sovereignty, did He allow this to infiltrate the world?

The answer is LIFE. Not life in the here and now but forever life. Almighty God wants us to live eternally. He doesn’t want us to live only in the finite where idols sneak in to rule our lives. Things and experiences that we covet and enjoy–new cars, vacations, sports, entertainment, food, fitness, etc.

None of the above is inerrantly wrong. But when those activities and items consume our time and energy, we forfeit how God wants us to live.

What’s our next step? God’s prescription is simple yet profound: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

My role: Humble myself; pray and seek His face; turn from my evil ways (thoughts, actions, apathy, critical spirit, self-indulgence, self-pity, self-righteousness, self-absorption. . .)

God’s response: Hear from heaven, forgive my sin, and heal my land.

photo credit: Thank you, my friends, Adam! Broken Wing via photopin (license)

Sunny-side Up

Okay, I confess! I haven’t always been an optimist. Since becoming a Christian and growing in the Holy Spirit, the Lord has trained me to think positively. As a child, I often worried. Now that “what if” process exhausts me.

With my back story now public, what follows will make much more sense. I’ve been telling people I’ve never experienced anything in my almost 66 years of life quite like the COVID-19 quarantine. That’s not entirely true.

My family lived eight miles from the west gate of what was first called Crane Naval Ammunition Depot. In 1948 my parents met on base and were civilian employees for a combined total of over 70 years.

Dad progressed through the organization, retiring as director of their massive railroad system that transported live shells and missiles. Then I didn’t understand the danger of those in-the-middle-of-the-night derailments. The phone rang, he’d throw on clothes and leave.

October 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Dad began stockpiling canned goods and storing them in our one-story home’s 4 ½ foot crawl space. For 12 days, Dad had my mother, my four-year-old sister and me practice getting in and out of this dark, damp underground bunker.

Recently I asked my sister if she remembered those drills. Dad had been an Army sergeant, so yes, they were drills! “All I remember are cans and cans of stacked peaches.” I laughed at the thought of being literally stuck underground with mostly canned peaches. “We would’ve died by ant infestation!” Fortunately, the Soviet Union’s bomb threat ended October 28, 1962. Life continued cautiously but soon normalized.

Lessons learned? Combine hope with common sense. Then expect sunshine.

Spring is coming soon!

In the Rearview Mirror

I blink! Another year passes. And another. In my seventh decade, time has shifted into warp speed. When I realized 2019 closed out a decade, I couldn’t help but reflect on the last ten years.

On January 1, 2010, I would not have known my parents would pass into eternity within the decade’s first three years. Neither would I’ve comprehended that our children would marry the loves of their lives and then grace Al and me with the most beautiful granddaughters in the universe. Too often I said they would never marry. “Al and I will never be grandparents!”

Thankfully I was wrong!

 I’m not going to make any New Year’s predictions for 2020 or for any decade to come. I truly don’t want to know the future this side of Heaven. If I’ve learned one thing in 65 years, it’s this: I don’t know what tomorrow brings so I will live in real time, praising a real Savior.

Jesus cradles my time and circumstances in his hands. How do I know that? From the past. He’s been faithful and I know He cares for me now and forever.

If you don’t have Jesus in your life, consider the fact that He died to give you eternal life. While time in this finite world matters, it’s not the end of your story. Nor is it the end of mine.

Look back but also look ahead. Your final destination is at stake.

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

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

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

Best Yet

Last week my husband Al decided it was time to talk about my upcoming birthday. Thinking this meeting was going to be all about me, I was thrilled.

As we sat together at the kitchen table, a new reality trampled my expectations as he pulled out spreadsheets—never a good sign. Groaning, I immediately thought, “Oh no!  Budget adjustments for 2019.” Welcome to retirement world!

Instead my birthday tête-à-tête with my beloved delved into the amazing world of Medicare, where part and plan are not interchangeable. Supplements are not advantages and donut holes are not edible.

My first question: “Am I really going to be 65 this year?” Surely not!  I remember thinking my folks were old when they were in their mid-sixties. Father Time could not have thrown me into that future so quickly, could he?

In my mind, I’m mid-forties at the most. But I will admit that sometimes my body and mind don’t concur with that calculation—such as when I get out of bed in the morning and wonder how long it will take to straighten up and walk a straight line. Or when I walk into a room, look around, and wonder why I’m there. Or when I spend way too much time chasing down my phone. That little techie rascal plays hide-n-seek.

But wait a minute. I’m not complaining! I praise God that He has given me 65 years of a good life, a blessed life, in fact.  Born into a great family, being married to an amazing man, having healthy children and grandchildren. and a multitude of loving friends—I have no reason to complain. Ever!

The best part is that God sees my being 65 years old as just a blip in time. He made us to live forever.  All we need is to trust in Jesus Christ. After all, the Son of God conquered death on our behalf. Life everlasting is ours through Christ alone.

The best is yet to come.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV

Hang Ten!

Twelve days ago our son, along with our daughter, son-in-law, and their two daughters, enjoyed an iconic SoCal beach. Sunshine and brisk, wake-up wind greeted us as we stair-stepped toward the waves. The tide pushed unusually inland, making it possible to study the surfers.

With the high tide, experienced surfers charged and rode the “bomb”. Most didn’t make the “fade,” the most powerful part of the wave. But as they rode the top of the wave, even for a second, we could tell they were thrilled, ready to paddle back and try again.

Facing another new year, I sense life is reflected in those waves—seasons where we ride the bombs and hang ten to maneuver, accomplishing the fade. Yet other times the waves hold us in place, a gentle escort to shore.

To survive life’s waves, may we grip tightly, “hang ten” as surfers do, and stand firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how high the crest.

In like a lamb, out like a lion! Even if reversed, the March weather proverb describes our year, one that began with my partial knee replacement. That transcribes as lots of rehab and taking it easy. My end goal was to hike Utah’s amazing national parks with no pain in September. That prayer came true!

But what you might not know is that I sent a book manuscript, one that had been in the works for almost a decade, to CrossLink Publishing the day before my surgery. My thought process? I figured if they rejected it, I’d still be on painkillers and wouldn’t care. Strangely enough, the same day I quit taking the meds, the publisher emailed he wanted the book.

During this time, our daughter announced she was pregnant. A few weeks later, our son and daughter-in-law shared their same surprising news. So the lion part of our year began when our second granddaughter was born September 1, the night before we hiked the Delicate Arch in Moab with only four hours sleep. Our son and his wife gave birth to our third granddaughter October 23. Fifty-three days and 1,470 miles apart, the two girls entered this world, raising our grandchild total to 3.

Three is definitely a good number! Trinity: Walk in Love, Forgiveness and Peace was locally released two weeks later, November 9. In a way, it, too, was a birth, a labor of love chronicling how God had revealed Himself to me over the past decade. Through nature, travel, deaths, weddings and births, God, in His magnificent fullness, revealed Himself by ministering to my family and me.

As another year closes, let’s take the time to reflect upon the One who loves us enough to be our Father, our Savior, and our Counselor.

To Listen and Love

Guilty as charged, I am a word junkie. I enjoy looking up words and checking out their nuances and meanings. Today’s word is conviction. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been binge watching the law series Suits on Amazon Prime. Or perhaps I’m curious about how people are convicted of their beliefs about God. Mesmerized I listened this past weekend when Mount Pleasant Christian Church’s senior pastor Chris Philbeck interviewed a panel of nonbelievers as to why they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.

Merriam Webster gives three meanings for conviction. The first one listed—“the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law”—appeals to my strong sense of justice and my love for law and order TV shows.

The second one is more generic: “a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.” People’s convictions drive their actions. This afternoon I finished reading Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard’s book Killing Kennedy. Even though I lived through November 22, 1963, my nine-year-old, fourth-grade self didn’t quite understand what was happening.

When Mrs. Noel came back from lunch, our class couldn’t grasp the gravity of why our President had been shot and why she cried all afternoon. Then I had no idea why someone would do that. After reading this book, I begin to understand Lee Harvey Oswald’s convictions and his assassin Jack Ruby’s contrary beliefs.

My takeaway? Erroneous convictions can cause a great deal of pain, suffering and needless tragedy.

Finally comes the 3a definition of conviction: “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.” Here is where we Christians sometimes dangerously park. Too often we forget that conviction cannot be forced upon someone, even if it’s based on truth.

After hearing the panel explain how Christians come across in their beliefs, I was convicted of not listening and loving enough. God gave us the freedom to either choose or reject him. Our God relationship is not an arranged marriage. It’s a union of choosing to love, with listening and loving being the best pathway in sharing our convictions about God.

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. . .”

2 Timothy 2:24-25, NLT