A Tale Of Two U.S. Cities

Charleston

Violent protest from violent people

Violent counter-protests

Violence begetting violenceImage result for charleston sc violence August 2017

Houston

Hurricane Harvey

Violent weather from the hand of God

Rapid local and national response

Violence begetting extraordinary compassion Image result for houston flooding cajun navy

Two sides of violence

Two sides of the U.S.

Which one is the real picture?

Are both?

America is like a family.

Her people fight among themselves like cats and dogs.

 But when something from the outside threatens,

her people pull together to fight it together as one.

 

 

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Competition

Are you competitive? Do you play cut-throat Scrabble, or Monopoly, or cards? Do you have a killer instinct on the softball field, the hockey rink or touch football field? Or do you race ahead even if it’s just in traffic?

I will confess to being extremely competitive. Whether I am driving, playing Yahtzee or softball, I want to get ahead, to win. I grew up in a highly competitive family. Cut-throat games of Monopoly were how my siblings and I would spend long evenings on winter vacations when our parents didn’t want us watching television. Card games and competitions to see who could toast the best marshmallows marked evenings on family camping trips, after racing one another in the lake or on hikes.

I think competition is built into us and is part of what makes us human. The drive to compete, to excel, causes people to go beyond the efforts they think they can otherwise do, to find levels of performance in themselves and inspire it in others. Competition causes people to look for new ways of doing old things, and to invent new things entirely.

I started thinking about the role of competition in our lives when a friend posted what turned out to be a humorous hoax article on FaceBook. It was from a Canadian radio program, This Is That. At the time he shared it, my friend didn’t know it was a hoax, and took it seriously, as did the rest of us. It was about a Canadian youth soccer league, who supposedly removed the ball from competitions, to ensure every child would be a winner. Here it is: This is That – Youth Soccer

Reading this story, before I knew it was a hoax, I began thinking about competition in the light of my grandchildren. The older ones are almost 8, almost 6 and just turned 4. They are even more competitive than my siblings and I were. These kids compete about everything! Living with them on a daily basis as I do, I see them compete for who can clean their rooms, who can eat dinner the fastest, who can hug their parents first and anything else they can think of at the moment! Competition is in their DNA.

When we attend a football or soccer or basketball game, the first thing we look for is the score most of the time. A game without a score would be missing a significant part of what makes it a game. When someone we love is competing, we want them to do well, to win. But without a score, there is no winning, and the competition is pointless.

In the past couple of years, there has been a movement in youth sports for children to play, but for no score to be kept officially. The reasoning behind it is all kids get a chance to have fun, and no one “feels bad” when their team loses. But short-sighted organizers failed to realize the children, lacking an official scoring system, time and again come up with an unofficial one of their own. While the wins and losses may not be publicized, the knowledge is still known to everyone. 

Competition can also teach us lessons. Not just the obvious ones of what you learn in how to win at whatever you are trying to do, but less obvious ones, too. Lessons like good sportsmanship, fair play, honorability and even the inevitable lesson of being gracious in a loss are all learned when we compete if we are careful to pay attention to them. There is a mindset to winning, and another one in losing. Consistent winners develop positive attitudes, endurance, self-discipline, and perseverance. Many learn teamwork and  the value of putting shared goals over individual ones.

Baseball great Derek Jeter once said,

If you’re going to play at all, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing Jeopardy, I hate to lose.

Derek Jeter’s comments sum up what I’ve been saying. I don’t think it’s just him, though. Deep down, if we truly examine ourselves, we all hate to lose. Don’t we?

The Importance of a Small Thing

Have you ever broken a bone? I have a colorfully checkered orthopedic history, according to my doctors.

It started in middle school, breaking my left big toe when I was helping to set up a trampoline in gym class, and someone didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, as it were. It continued in high school, as I broke each ankle in its turn, finding woodchuck holes on cross country courses in the region. In college, I broke my tailbone ice skating and later one of my wrists on roller skates. As a young mother, I blew first one knee skiing, and the other one a few years later when my heel broke when I was dancing. I broke my other wrist tripping over my husband’s cat when he was flopped in my path and I didn’t see him in the dark. I thought I was done, but 4 years ago, I broke my hand tripping over a curb at a rest stop in the early hours of the first morning of a road trip. (By the way, that’s just the list of what I’ve broken. I’ve also sprained both ankles and both wrists as well, in other, separate accidents.)

When I saw the orthopedic surgeon after I broke my wrist tripping over the cat, he was shocked at my history. “What have you been trying to do, girl? Kill yourself??” he demanded. “No,” I chuckled. “I was trying to find out what I could do, by finding out what I couldn’t.

I say all that to sheepishly tell you I did it again. I have more broken bones to add to the list, another misadventure ending in injury. We were in Ottawa, Canada recently for the Life Leadership Masters of Leadership Convention. It was the final morning of our trip. The conference was fantastic. The time with our partners was delightful. The hotel was gorgeous and had a great hot tub. The time away from our routine was a welcome break. The Poutine (a Canadian food, made from French Fries, gravy, cheese curds and whatever add-in’s you select) was incredible. All things added together, we were having a marvelous time.

And then the phone rang with the wake up call the final morning. It was on my side of the bed. To his credit, Bob had gotten up with it every other time it rang, because of the difficulty he knew I would have with it. This time, he didn’t. Oops. I woke up and tried to reach for it, past my C-pap machine (for breathing when I sleep), past my ever-present water bottle and realized it was too far away. I tried to angle further in my sleepy state, partially unable to see due to my room darkening mask still mostly covering my eyes, and the absence of my glasses (I’m almost blind without them!). My momentum caused me to fall off the high bed. I landed mostly on my right foot, which was turned under me, and my left leg, which hit the partly open lower drawer of the night stand. In a state of intense pain, I grabbed the phone, silencing the ringing, hollering variations of, “OW!!!” I’d badly bruised my leg, and broke my right little toe and the outside edge of my right foot in the fall, both hairline fractures.

Naturally, being the stubborn and determined person I am, I didn’t go see the doctor when I got home. In fact, I didn’t go for another 10 days! It was only when the pain started waking me up at night (after I stubbed it against Bob’s cat, who was laying on the floor in the dark where I didn’t see him), that I went and got the official verdict. However, in the meantime, I started to learn some painful lessons about the importance of our little toes,  our littlest and seemingly least insignificant body parts.

For such a small part of the body, the little toe is incredibly important! When we stand or walk, it is a crucial part of us being in balance. When we drive or use a bicycle, our little toes add strength and stability to our efforts. In short, it adds its efforts to the other toes and combines to make a mighty force in our lives we almost never notice, until something like this happens.

Breaking my little toe meant I limped, which threw me off balance, causing my hips to be out of alignment, creating discomfort in my lower back. Limping also caused strain on my other leg and knee, which had to bear more weight than normal. Finding a comfortable place to put my foot so my sandal wouldn’t rub on it caused discomfort to that knee, too. In other words, breaking my little toe negatively impacted orthopedic issues from my waist down, which had not been in any discomfort prior to my injury. It also impacted my lifestyle, and what I could and could not do, and altered plans I’d had for 5 weeks of my summer. I couldn’t swim, ride my bike or play softball, as I’d planned. It meant I had to rely on others more, something I immensely dislike doing (I did mention I’m stubborn and determined, right?). In short, it messed up major sections of my life for a bit.

Human relationships can be a lot like a person with a broken toe sometimes. The Bible talks about the Christians being in relationship like a body. Paul says in Romans 12: 4 – 5 (ESV – emphasis mine):

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individual members one of another.

He also says in I Corinthians 12:12 – 27 (ESV – emphasis mine) :

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
In the past, when I have been around as these concepts were taught, I have heard people say, “I must be a little toe, then, or something else equally insignificant. I cannot see where I am making a difference.” They are operating under the belief that if they are not out on the front lines of public ministry, if no one can see their service, it must be insignificant. Or worse, they leave “ministry” up to paid pastors and church employees and perhaps elders and other leaders, thinking if it doesn’t come with a title, it must not be a ministry. Their attitude is kind of like this:
When we think like these saints, we are living under a lie! We have been cruelly deceived, sidelined in what we can do, and a vital part of the ministry of the Body is lost in our failure to serve. We are also forgetting God sees everything we do, whether public or private. He knows our service, whether we see it as small or great. He knows it all.
Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song about changing this mindset, called “Do Everything.” He challenges us as Christians to live out our daily lives, performing our many tasks, as if God was watching over our shoulders at every minute of the day. And really, when you think about it (not to freak you out, or anything), He is! If we truly believe He knows and sees all, then He really does see and know every small act of service, no matter how unimportant we think it is.
There is also the matter of something called “The Butterfly Effect.” In short, it’s the impact of a small thing on larger consequences, the theory of how the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in a rain forest could ultimately cause a hurricane and billions of dollars of damage somewhere else. Well, doing small things has a lasting impact we might never know about until we see God face to face! An example in my life is the choir director who saw talent in me when I was a quiet and shy kid who had joined only on a dare, who brought out in me a love of sharing my gift of song and taught me I love performing. Another was the youth leader who had compassion on me when I was a suicidal, abused teenager, who loved and counseled me back from the edge of disaster. Another is the mentor and leader who discovered my love to write and share from God’s truths hidden away in me and challenged me until I started this blog. For the most part, they don’t know the lasting impact of what their service rendered in my life, and really, neither do I.
I could go on and on! Who has impacted your life, dear reader? Who has done something, or said something, that they might have considered small or insignificant, that made a huge impact on you? Where have you impacted someone else? Please feel free to share a story and continue the discussion in the comments. Let’s thank them here, if nowhere else.
Dear Readers, be the little toe in the Body of Christ if that is what God is calling you to be. But please, dear saint, if you are the little toe or whatever body part you are, understand you are not insignificant. You are not unimportant. You are vital, you are needed and you are very much required and loved.  The pain in my life from one broken little toe has been proof enough of that!

When Life Turns Upside Down

What do you do when your life upends on itself? How do you handle a major shift (or even multiple ones), for which you likely hadn’t planned?

Much as my life is open on Twitter, Facebook and the like, there are certain things about which I am deeply private. Upheavals in my life, stresses I am enduring and tough things I am going through are things I do not share as I go through them, except with those closest to me. These are not for public consumption. If I do share them, I do so after, as a testimony.

However, Dear Readers, I’ve been grappling a lot with the questions I started this post with lately. I cannot say I have every definite answer on them. So why share such stuff now? Because as is my usual way on this blog, all I can do is share my journey and where I am in it, and hope it helps you in yours.

It all started on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the end of April. The weather was cool and the sky was cloudless. It was the kind of day that, when you woke up and looked outside and saw how gorgeous an early spring day it was, it made you happy to be alive in it. To make things better, we were attending a gathering that day with a group of our Life Leadership partners in Syracuse, NY, about a 3-hour drive from our home. It was a fun event, a reward for hard work and a time to spend relaxing with some of our favorite people.

On the interstate on the trip home, I was dozing in the front passenger seat of our minivan. I was tired from an exhausting week at work, and grateful I didn’t have to drive. My husband Bob was driving. Daughter Beth was in the middle seat, playing a game on her phone. Son-in-law Tom was in the back seat, sprawled asleep.

I woke to the rumble strip under us and saw the van speeding into the median strip on the left side of the road, heading toward scraping the guardrail. In a moment of panic, Bob yanked the wheel right, abruptly swerving us back onto the highway. Temporarily. The force of his yank caused the van to continue to careen to the right, swerving and tipping the van to the right, toward my side. I covered my face with my hands, and began to breathe the only prayer I could think of in such a moment, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!

I stopped praying when the noise and movement stopped. I moved my hands from my face, shocked to be alive, and not in the Eternal presence of the One on Whom I’d called in my moments of greatest danger and need. I was upside down, pinned in place between the remains of the van’s roof, dashboard, and my seat, held firmly in place by my seatbelt, but I was alive!

I heard Bob asking everyone else if they were okay as he helped them out. I heard another voice, who I later learned was a woman who lived nearby, asking the same questions. I saw blood all over me, but quickly realized not much of it was mine. As far as I could see or feel, I just wasn’t cut that badly. I was, however, still pinned, and having a panic attack over it. The woman (who I learned was a nurse practitioner in her professional life) told everyone to let the paramedics and firefighters get me out. But I moved my arms and legs, hands and feet, and determined my spine was not damaged. I was just stuck!

Overriding her protests, Tom crawled in and released my seat belt’s buckle, freeing me and assisting me out. The woman insisted I go to one side away from the van and sit down on the grass there while we waited for the police and paramedics. Happy at being freed from my prison, I was grateful to comply.

I looked around and realized the van, which we’d just paid off a few short months before, was a total wreck. But we were all walking, talking and none of us appeared to be seriously injured! The paramedics looked at the scene, checked the cuts and road rash on Bob’s arm, and told him it was a miracle it hadn’t been torn off as we skidded upside down across the pavement and grass. My hands were cut where the smashing glass from my window and the windshield on my side cut them, but because I had put them up to pray, they took the damage, and my face did not. Beth’s shoulder was sprained where Tom had grabbed her by it and her hair as we started to flip and she was about to fly out the shattered windows and be crushed by the skidding van, saving her life. Tom’s bad back and Beth’s and my bad knees were made worse by the crash, but we walked away.

God protected us all that afternoon in so very many ways that are miraculous. In that 20-mile stretch of road, there was only one place where such an accident could have happened, and we could have skidded across 2 lanes into the grass on the roof. Everywhere else, there are guardrails, embankments, steep slopes ending in ravines and/or trees, hillsides and all the other things traveling on an interstate through hilly country involves. There was no traffic around us to hit us. The road behind us was empty when we skidded across it.

When Bob and I went to where they’d towed the van the next day to gather the remains of our belongings that hadn’t been lost or destroyed, we realized the back 1/3 of the vehicle was completely undamaged. The roof above my seat, my door and the passenger door on my side had taken the worst of the damage and had held just enough in place to save our lives, particularly mine.

God protected us even to our clothes and belongings. The only items of permanently damaged clothing were Bob’s shirt and Beth’s jacket, his with its asphalt stains and small rips, showing the force of the scraping along the pavement, and God’s protection of his left arm, and hers with its multiple rips from broken glass. And the shirt was easy to replace! Even the blood stains came out of all our clothes, including to my white turtleneck. The only items (aside from the van) lost forever were a plastic cup I’d been using and a small stuffed Tiger Beenie Baby named Stripes on the dashboard.

God protected our grandchildren. We could have brought them with us that day. Other people had, and the option was open to us. But we’d decided to leave them home with a sitter. So other than some emotional trauma because the sitter had the phone on speaker when Tom called to say we’d be late arriving and why our oldest granddaughter heard it. It took almost a week to reassure her that we’d be okay every time one of the adults walked out the door! (We now have a rule that no one answers the phone on speaker anymore!)

The paramedics and police arrived, and things moved rather quickly after that. They bandaged Bob and mopped up the rest of us. Tom initially objected to being transported to the hospital, but relented when our friends (who were following some miles after and would bring us home later) informed him they were not stopping to pick him up! (It was a good thing they did. His concussion needed further treatment the next day.) They brought us to the hospital, and we went through an evening of the usual Emergency Room “hurry up and wait” that non-life-threatening injuries have to endure. We didn’t mind. After rounds of tests, multiple bandages both large (Bob’s arm) and small (my hands), volumes of paperwork and what seemed like a million questions from marveling hospital employees, we were finally allowed to leave. We went to the nearest fast food drive-through, got food for all of us and our dear friends who’d waited so patiently for us and who we’d scared so badly (and who were bringing us home!), and went home.

We had minor concussions (everyone), several large cuts (Bob), multiple smaller cuts (mostly mine), 1 strained knee (Beth), 2 bruised knees (mine), 1 road rash (Bob), 2 bad backs made worse by the crash (mine and Tom’s, his being the worst) and multiple bruises (everyone, but mostly me because of hanging in the seat belt). In the hours and days to come, we also discovered a bit of post-traumatic stress as well among all of us. And we are alive.

Yes, I know, I keep repeating that. It’s the first lesson I learned from this. When your whole world turns (literally, in my case) upside down, find something or some things large or small to be grateful about. In a near-death episode, alive is a good place to start! We are also grateful for the other miracles, saving Bob’s arm and my face, the preservation of our belongings, the timing and location of the crash. We are grateful for our friends who came to us at the hospital, and who called our Life Leadership leaders and let them know, so they could pray. We are grateful for the prayers of our church family when they found out. We are grateful so little was injured, and that most are already healed and restored. We are even grateful for our insurance company, who was so quick with settlements and whose paperwork processes were so simple to navigate.

I took the next day off from work, to deal with the remnants of my concussion, get the stuff from the van and recover somewhat. We spent a lot of time over the next week with one another and our grandchildren, reassuring the children we were okay, and that we return home again whenever we left the house. Family time was more important to us than it ever had been over those days. When your whole world turns upside down, you get a chance to assess and perhaps even reassess your priorities. The traditional North American priorities of money and stuff can seem rather pointless when your paradigms get shifted so radically. We got a chance to affirm our faith and our family, from our immediate to our extended members, are some of the highest priorities in our lives.

Our lives have changed since the accident. Because Bob’s inattention (which caused us to go off the road to the left in the first place) was likely caused by a medical issue that had been previously unknown, Bob went the following week to his cardiologist, who is now doing tests and may send him to a neurologist for more tests. Until he gets a firm diagnosis and treatment, Bob is not allowed to drive. That leaves all the driving to Tom, Beth and me, and we’re now down one car. It makes life more inconvenient for everyone. In the inconvenience is the second lesson I’ve learned from this. When your whole world turns upside down, tolerance, patience and striving for excellence is required of those of us who live a life in service to others. You don’t have to fall into the trap of perfectionism when more weight falls on your shoulders than you are used to carrying. Perfect isn’t demanded. Your best is required.

There’s another lesson in Bob’s medical tests and current inability to drive.  These add uncertainty we didn’t have along with their inconvenience, creating a “new normal.” I grieved for our old “normal,” expressing my fears to my best friend (the same one who came for us that night). She reminded me fear is not from God, Who promises differently:

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3

When your whole world turns upside down, living with uncertainty is almost always a sure thing. Being uncertain is normal. Having a transition to a “new normal” and understanding grieving for what used to be “normal” is acceptable. Dwelling in it is fruitless. I tried that for a few days. It got me nowhere. It was only when I accepted the uncertainty as being part of the “new normal” and accepted it as “normal now” that I began to find peace in my situation.

We also grieved. When Bob and I went to get our stuff from the van the next day, as we left, I looked at it and silently said, “You were good to us. You did not deserve the death we gave you, but I thank you for it, that in your death our lives were saved.” Yes, it was just a thing. But saying goodbye to a vehicle in a culture that depends on and almost worships transportation can be emotional in such circumstances.   We remembered what was, and thought a lot about what could have been. In the end, with counsel from friends, we chose to set the event as a time of what did happen, instead of what didn’t. In Joshua 4:6 – 7, God commanded the people crossing the Jordan River to take up stones from the bottom and set them as a memorial to His power for stopping the river in flood so they could cross it on the far side. This was counsel I got from our friends: When your whole world turns upside down, the hardships of yesterday and today become the memorial stones of tomorrow. We pass that site going back and forth at least a couple of times monthly in our travels for Life Leadership. The first time was incredibly difficult for me, and I had a panic attack. On the way home, I decided to ignore it. It was on that trip we got the counsel, though I did not receive it well at the time. The second time, I took that counsel from our friends and made a memorial stone in my mind there of God’s grace and protection. On the way home, the memorial stone was there. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The memorial stones of our lives are proof to us of it.

So, where are things now? We still face the uncertainty of Bob’s tests. The insurance settlement sits in savings, awaiting the day he will (hopefully) be allowed to drive again, so we can replace the van. If the tests never allow him to drive again, we’ll eventually replace my car with it. We are living a life of uncertainty, and just grateful to God to be living it. Because when your whole world turns upside down, remembering Who is in ultimately in charge is essential. As we are learning now, He Who saved us is also He Who continues to sustain us. And when the One who sustains you has saved you from something like what we went through, trusting Him to sustains you becomes a whole lot easier to do . . . 

The Still Place in the Storm

The world turns and spins around me

But You are steadfast and strong.

Events uproar and crash at my feet

And You remain calm and restful.

Nations rage and peoples bluster

While You peacefully continue Your intended purpose.

In a world of whirlwind

You are the still place in the center.

In a universe of noise

You are the Peace in the midst.

In a society of discord and division

You are the harmony and unity at its heart.

In a life of constant change

You are the only constant never-changing Same.

I seek You in the quiet

I find You in the center

I rest in You in the midst

Like a tiny bird in the cleft of a rock

in the midst of a storm

You hold me and comfort me.

You were

You are

You ever remain

the still place, the quiet rest,

the peaceful center of the storm,

in an ever-changing world.

 

Fighting Terrorism

Who fights terrorism in our world today? Is it the military? Is it undercover operatives and spies, gathering information to prevent attacks? Is it police and other organizations on the home front? Or does the battle belong to all of us??

I recently was thinking about this after listening to a CD by LIFE Leadership founder Claude Hamilton. He said the attitude he takes when dealing with challenges he faces in his life is, “Well, at least we’re not fighting terrorism here!” It’s his way of reducing the size of his challenges, and putting them into proper perspective. It’s a good attitude for dealing with the things life throws at us on a daily basis.

As I thought deeper on Claude’s words, I remembered something I learned in school. I studied World War II, and how the ordinary citizens of the free world responded to the war efforts. Let’s investigate that a bit.

The men went off to fight. Some men who tried to go to fight were denied because of age (either too young or too old) or infirmity. Others stayed behind because they were needed at home, or in critical industries or positions, and governments refused their service. And if brothers joined and all but 1 died, the military sent the remaining one home, as was portrayed so vividly in the movie Saving Private Ryan. Those who didn’t go to fight served at home, in civil defense and in other crucial roles.

The women supported the men. Some went to work in factories to make the arms and munitions required. Some joined the Red Cross to help the wounded. Some joined the USO to help morale. Others knitted socks or sweaters or scarves to keep servicemen warm. Some rolled bandages. They took care of children and took on all the roles their absent men would normally have done, all in the effort to support the men.

Even children and young people got into the act. They collected metal for recycling into munitions and arms. They participated in civil defense activities. They helped out neighbors who were participating in war efforts and who were caught short for workers on the home front. They learned about the principles of freedom, the philosophies the free world was fighting against and about the places where they were fighting.

In some way, from oldest to youngest, everyone in the free world helped out in World War II. They all saw it as “doing their part for the cause of freedom.” In fact, this was a common thread in the newsreels and advertisements of the day. War Bonds were purchased by the thousands by ordinary folks, just so they could do their part. It was considered abnormal not to support the war, and people were shunned in society for it. People from all walks of life rationed luxury goods, and even things they’d previously considered necessities, all to support the efforts to win the war. And win they did.

Terrorism is the war that we are fighting today. Our news media, politicians and political candidates remind us of this on a daily basis. So, in light of what we’ve just discussed about World War II and the free world’s war efforts, I want to bring us back to the questions with which I started this post: Who fights terrorism in our world today? Is it the military? Is it undercover operatives and spies, gathering information to prevent attacks? Is it police and other organizations on the home front? Or does the battle belong to all of us??

I believe the war for freedom, against terrorism, is the same as those who we now call “The Greatest Generation” fought in World War II. While the military, the undercover operatives and spies, the police and so on are our active fighters today, we all have a part to play!

What is our part? Allow me to ask a series of questions, to define some possibilities for you:

  • Do you know the principles of liberty and freedom on which Western civilization, and most particularly your country, was founded? Have you read and can you understand your country’s founding and most essential documents?
  • Are you financially sound? Are you out of debt? Do you have a plan to get out of debt, and are you working actively on that plan? Do you understand and practice the principles of sound financial management, as taught by Warren Buffet and Benjamin Franklin (get out of debt, stay out of debt and invest in self-education)?
  • Are you stable relationally? How’s your marriage and family life? Do you communicate and work well together? Are you committed for life? Do you have friends on whom you know you can count for life?
  • How are you spiritually? I’ve written about my relationship with God a lot on this blog. Do you know Him? Do you read what He says in the Bible and follow it?

I could ask other questions, but I think you get my point. For every person who understands freedom better, for everyone who leaves the bondage of debt slavery, for every better marriage and stable family, that’s that many fewer people who have the potential to be terrorists. That’s families standing up in a trickle, flow, then flood for freedom, for liberty, for marriage and family and for the values they hold dear. This is fighting at the grass roots, folks! We are fighting for the hearts and minds of individuals and families, which is where the only true changes take place.

I use the information from LIFE Leadership as my weapons in this fight.

  • I understand liberty and freedom better, thanks to the Freedom series.
  • My husband and I have crawled out from under almost $100,000 of consumer and other debt, and just paid off our last credit card and car loan, thanks to the Financial Fitness series and Wealth series information. (We’re not debt free yet, but we’re a whole lot closer to it!)
  • The books I’ve mentioned in other posts and the Marriage Pack of CD’s have made our good marriage into a great one, that improves all the time. The Parenting Pack has helped us be better grandparents, even better than we were as parents. The books and CD’s of the LIFE series have helped us to make new friends, and be better friends to the ones we already had.
  • The books and CD’s of the AGO series, along with the coaching of our mentors, have helped our spiritual lives.

Consider what might be your part in our current war. Terrorism doesn’t just impact us at home when a sleeper cell is activated, or someone sneaks over a border to do something. It has already impacted the way we live, the way we travel and the way we view the world. It has impacted our children. What we need to do now is decide the impact stops here, it stops now and push back against it. We all need to fight against it together. No one is exempt this time, either. Because, as Benjamin Franklin said,

We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.

 

Preserving The Magic

Have you ever looked at a child and thought to yourself, “Never grow up! Never lose the innocence and belief I see in your eyes!”

Dear Readers, as you know, I have 4 grandchildren. What you might not know is as of the first weekend of July 2015, they and their parents (our daughter Beth and son-in-law Tom) all live with us. They moved in with their cats for at least a year. So overnight, my interactions with my grandchildren went from an occasional event to a daily normality.

Allow me to indulge myself for a moment and refresh your memory of them, as I do some Nana-bragging on them. (“Nana” is what they call me. “Papa” is my husband.) Keyna is 7, a talkative 2nd-grade drama queen. She loves playing video games and reading. Ariel is 5, and in preschool due to being born 12 days past the deadline to be in kindergarten for our school district this year. She is stubborn and often unintentionally very funny, and loves to take risks and try new things. Tommy is 3 1/2, and in the same preschool as Ariel. He is opinionated and loves all things with wheels, from cars and trucks to trains. Samantha is 1 1/2 and not in school. She likes to be tickled and to have people make faces at her, as well as her “blankie.”

Something happened recently between myself and Keyna that prompted this post. As a 7-year-old, Keyna has begun the process of losing her baby teeth in favor of her permanent ones. Currently, she is losing one about every two weeks or so, and the pediatrician told Tom and Beth this process will continue until she is about 10.

When Beth and her brother David were small, we kept the tradition of the Tooth Fairy alive and well for both of them, rewarding them for every lost tooth. To our pleasure, Tom and Beth continue actively in the tradition. To our complete delight, they have also chosen to involve us whenever possible.

Recently, it was my turn to help out. Keyna’s attention was diverted with breakfast before church. I was heading upstairs to our bedroom to finish dressing. Tom pulled me aside and gave me the tiny envelope they use for the Tooth Fairy’s work. He asked me to put it under Keyna’s pillow and call her upstairs. I did as requested, and called her.

However, when I called Keyna, I decided to dramatize the event for our tiny drama queen. I called her up the stairs telling her I’d heard noises and needed her to come and investigate. I described the noises as, “twinkles and sparkles.” I asked her, “Keyna! Do you know what makes the sound of twinkles and sparkles?!?!?” Keyna replied in all seriousness that stars do.

Smothering back a chuckle, I said, “Well, stars do make those noises, but they’re so far away we can’t hear them. Do you know what else makes the noises of twinkles and sparkles??” Keyna looked puzzled and said she didn’t. I told her it was Faries! I said, “I bet the Tooth Fairy heard you lost a tooth recently, and came to take it! I bet the Tooth Fairy thought we were all downstairs and it would be safe, and I caught it! Go check under your pillow and see if I’m right!”

It was an ecstatically excited 7-year-old who went next racing for her bedroom to find the envelope from her father I’d placed under her pillow. She squealed with excitement and happiness and flew downstairs to show off what she’d found, hollering the story the whole way. Keyna couldn’t stop talking about how Nana caught the Tooth Fairy in the act.

In this day and age when middle schools have to have rules for cell phone use, when clothes in the children’s’ section make little girls look like mature sexy women, when political correctness and fear of sexual harassment run amok, it’s always good to preserve the innocence in a child just a little bit longer. I believe it is the job of parents and grandparents (and other caring adults) to be the adults and to let children be children. We are adults far longer than we are children. This hurry to make them grow up is incomprehensible to me.

So my little adventure with Keyna and the Tooth Fairy is about me striking back at this pervasive attitude in our culture. As I said in the title of this post, it’s about preserving the magic, encouraging the wonder that is Keyna’s childhood, just a little bit longer. 

And you know what? Maybe we adults need a bit of that wonder, mystery, and joy ourselves. Maybe that’s why our culture is so cynical and jaded because we’ve lost so much of it in our headlong rush to be adults. May we all find and enjoy wonder and joy like a child on our journey together.

Loving Respect

I was recently reading a Fox News Editorial online about spouses disrespecting one another.  Some of the comments just flabbergasted me!!

Some folks tore down marriage in general, saying the institution is messed up and needs to be abolished. Others said they do things differently in their relationships, and are “honest” with one another, even to the point of disrespect. Others spoke of marriage being a contract of mutual ego gratification. Yet another said if a spouse will say, “Yes, Dear,” to everything, all will be well.

The comments reflected a staggering ignorance regarding what a loving Biblical marriage is really like. There were only a refreshing few who started to scratch the surface and address these things.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it any more. I will admit, I likely made my mistake by being there at all, but I was there. Since I’ve learned my life’s purpose is to speak the truth in love whenever and wherever I see untruths perpetuated, I spoke up. I said the following in a couple of different comments, which I’ve combined to make the point of this post:

Part of the problem is our culture is so caught up the the “Love is a Feeling” trap. Well, folks, if love was really a feeling, I wouldn’t be sitting here still married after 35 1/2 years! We would have divorced long ago!

Love is NOT a feeling. Love is a daily decision to ACT, to DO loving things, to SAY loving things and BE a loving person to the one to whom you have committed yourself.

Gratifying your own ego has no place in love. Self-sacrifice does. Being a doormat has no place in love. An equally-yoked partnership, where each brings what they can uniquely offer in gifts and talents, does. Independence has no place in love. Love is interdependent, causing each to become as much a part of the other as one side of a coin is to another.

Why would I treat him with disrespect if I expect him to treat me with respect? And why would he treat me with disrespect if he expects me to treat him with respect? Why would we WANT to treat with disrespect the person we vowed in front of all our families and friends to love, honor and respect??? It makes no sense!!!

The emotions behind our words are expressed. The things that displease or hurt us are voiced, as well as why these things displease or hurt us.

Disrespect comes from the “Love is a Feeling” crowd. It’s easy to disrespect someone when you don’t “feel” loving toward them. But if you are committed to the daily decisions of acting out love, respecting your spouse gets a whole lot simpler. it just becomes part of the package at the point, gang. I won’t tell you it’s easy. But after 35 1/2 years, it’s worth it.

Our Family Portrait, 2008

Our Family Portrait, 2008

All I can add is some recommendations as to how to get your marriage toward that goal. It’s how we did it. Love and Respect by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs is a book that helped our marriage out during a tough spot. We learned men and women have different needs in marriage, that neither is more valid than the other and both need to be met. The DNA Of Relationships by Gary Smalley was another book that helped us through some very tough places. It showed us what each of our needs and hot buttons are, how we can avoid our spouse’s hot buttons and meet their needs when we interact with one another.

Books like His Needs, Her Needs by William F. Harley, Jr., The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, both by Gary Chapman were great resources for helping us in communicating. Through them, we learned we each communicate our needs to be loved and say we’re sorry after we’ve messed up differently, and we have to communicate in ways so our spouse understands the way they hear best, instead of our own.

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer  (or a similar book, Positive Personality Profiles by Dr. Robert Rohm) was invaluable to figure out how each one of us was wired at heart, and how to communicate to our spouse. And believe it or not, Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People helped us both to learn people skills we lacked, to be able to practice on each other. Leadership And Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace, both by The Arbinger Institute, taught us volumes on communication and conflict resolution.

All of these resources are available from LIFE Leadership, as is The Marriage Pack of CD’s from LIFE Leadership, another great help for learning communication and how to have a happy marriage.

LIFE Leadership Logo

On Being Married 35 Years (And Counting)

I originally posted this 3 years ago, for our 32nd anniversary. Well, a few things have changed since then, and I thought it was time for an update and repost. Enjoy!

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How do couples who have been married a long time stay together?  What are the secrets to a happy marriage, and where can we learn them??

Marriage Day

June 7, 2015, is our 35th anniversary.  Here’re a few things we’ve learned about one another along the way:

He can sleep anywhere, under almost any conditions.
I need darkness and quiet.

He makes the bed.
I pull up the covers.

He thinks tools should be kept where he last used them.
I think they belong in the toolbox.

We both agree dirt + mud + hardwood = NO-NO.

He thinks dinner consists of lots of meat. And hot.  Vegetables and Carbohydrates are optional.
I think dinner has all food groups, with meat as a side dish. Salad dinners in the summer are acceptable. Menus should read, “Take it or leave it.” “Silly Suppers” (pancakes/waffles or omelets) are acceptable at the chef’s discretion. Picnics are acceptable. (Update: I think bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other high carbohydrate items are a no-no. I began a low carbohydrate and high-fat eating program just after Christmas 2014 to get better control of my diabetes and weight. I am having good success with it, and these changes are a big reason why.)

He thinks cooking measurements are done with the spoons one eats with, and the glasses one drinks with.
I think we own multiple sets of measuring spoons and cups for very good reasons.

He thinks ice cream is a food group, and chocolate is a dessert.

It's the picture of Italian ice-cream in a sho...

I think chocolate is a food group, and ice cream is a dessert. (Update: Needless to say, with the new eating plan, I’m not eating a lot of these!)

He thinks cheese is optional.
I think cheese is a necessity, even mandatory.

He thinks toys for our 4 grandchildren belong in the living room, where they play with them when they visit.
I think toys belong in the room where they sleep when they visit, and can be brought down.

He thinks any towel hanging from the stove is acceptable to use on hands, dishes, cookware, or whatever.
I think hand towels are for hands and dish towels are for dishes, and that’s why we have both kinds.

He thinks dirty socks go on floors and the guest bed is an acceptable closet/bureau when unoccupied.
I think all dirty clothes go in the laundry basket, and clean ones should go on my closet door.  (We both have issues with putting stuff away!)

We both agree physical mail is for greeting cards and packages. Whatever can be done online, should be done online.

He thinks ice cream is eaten from the box, in the living room.
I think ice cream is eaten from a bowl, at the table or a soft serve stand. (Update: Needless to say, with the new eating plan, I’m not eating a lot of these!)

We both think strawberries are the world’s best fruit.  We both love asparagus. (Update: I have also become incredibly partial to low carbohydrate blackberries!)

He thinks our backyard needs a cover for our pool filter and a shed for our garden/lawn supplies to be perfect.
I think it also needs a gazebo down to be perfect.

He thinks our 3 cats are enough pets.
I think we need to look for a small-ish dog. And set back up the fish tank.

New Living Room(Not our living room!)

He thinks leather, velvet and modern are best for decorating our house.
I think English Country is best for every area of the house except his office.  He can do what he wants in there.

He thinks a painting with fake water and motion in it would look great in our living room.
I think they make me seasick.  If he wants one, he can keep it in his office.

He has a talent that is a total genius for packing large spaces. Need to move or going on a trip? He’s your guy to pack the moving van or car.
I have a talent for packing small spaces. Need to put away leftovers? Don’t call him. Call me. I know exactly what size container will work for what leftover every time.

We laugh at a lot of it, talk over some, agree to disagree on some, don’t make major decisions until we have come to a conclusion we can both live with and don’t go to bed mad. We understand if we agreed on everything in our marriage, one of us would be unnecessary.  We know compromise is an essential part of living happily together.

We don’t talk over potentially stressful stuff when we’re tired, hungry or distracted. We try to talk to our spouse’s personality and say and do things that show them we love them in their love language.

We both think shouting just makes noise and more upset. No one can talk to someone else if they are busy shouting at them. We both think communication is essential to the survival of any healthy relationship, and most particularly to a healthy marriage. It’s something we’ve been working hard on lately.

We tolerate each other’s families and sympathize when they drive each other nuts. We back each other’s decisions about our kids/grandkids, and we try to talk those decisions over first. If one of us is away, we talk several times daily.

We tolerate each other’s foibles, faults, and failings.  We remember why we fell in love and what we still love about each other and finding new stuff to love about each other at every available opportunity. We look for humor in every disaster, knowing a funny story makes suffering worthwhile in the long run. (Tragedy + Time = Humor, and you get to pick how long the Time part lasts!) We cherish our friendships and accept each other’s friends. We begin and end every day thanking God for each other.

Sometimes, it’s been work. Sometimes, it’s not. It’s always been worth it.  And we’ve learned all of this. How? Ask me about LIFE.  All comments asking for information will be kept confidential.

Oh, and one more thing:

He thinks “Happy wife, happy life.”
I think, “Happy spouse, happy house.”

PS — He not only content-approved this post, he encouraged it!

PPS — Happy 35th Anniversary to Bob Kilpatrick, my loving husband, my Editor in Chief, my business partner, the one who makes me the most nuts, and the one I make the most nuts! Through all the laughter, tears and everything in between, I would do it all again only if I could do it with you! Here’s to another 35 together!!

A World Without You (For Mom) — Repost

I originally posted this on the day of my mother’s funeral, which was also the only day it’s been read aloud. I’m publishing it again today because it’s the first anniversary of Mom’s death, and I want to honor her memory and influence in my life with it.

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I wanted to call you today

       to tell you about something

                      but I could not.

Because I remembered that now

        I live in a world without you.

I got in my car

       to go and visit you

                   but I remembered I could not.

Because I realized now

                    that I live in a world without you.

No more seeing your name on my caller ID.

             No more hearing your ring tone on my cell.

                         No more jokes, laughter, stories, tears or memories.

Because I grieve now

             to live in a world without you.

God’s hand is strong.

       God’s plans are perfect.

                  God’s ways are just.

                           God’s heart is loving.

You walk in a world I imagine

             but cannot see.

You rejoice

             and I grieve and mourn.

You dance in the fulfillment

             of God’s promises.

I live in the light of their hope.

           As I live in a world without you.

Obituary photo of Barbara L. French, Albany, NY