Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Homeless Wisdom

Each day I read in my e-mail In Box a devotional by Richard Rohr. Today's was this:

Less than a block from where I used to live in downtown Albuquerque, there is a sidewalk where the homeless often sit against the wall to catch the winter sun. Once I saw fresh graffiti chalked clearly on the pavement in front of the homeless. It said, "I watch how foolishly man guards his nothing–thereby keeping us out. Truly God is hated here." (I returned to copy the quote exactly because it felt both prophetic and poetic at the same time.)

I can only imagine what kind of life experience enabled some person to write in such a cutting but truthful way. I understood anew why Jesus seemed to think that the expelled ones had a head start in understanding his message. Usually they have been expelled from what was unreal anyway–the imperial systems of culture, which always create those who are "in" and those who are "out," victors and victims.

In God's reign "everything belongs," even the broken and poor parts. Until we have admitted this in our own soul, we will usually perpetuate exclusionary systems and dualistic thinking in the outer world of politics and class, and sometimes even in the church.

Adapted from Everything Belongs, p. 16

Interesting thought and something to ponder as the New Year approaches.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Saturday November 20 we traveled to Fort Worth TX to attend and participate in Anabel Gillham's memorial service at Southcliff Baptist Church.

Paul was one of three ministers who spoke. To end the service a video was played of Anabel giving her testimony that I've heard many times of how God used her son Mason to show His love for her. We all then stood and sang Jesus Loves Me. There was not a dry eye in the house.
Very meaningful.

I tried to find that video somewhere online but couldn't. What I did find was the printed testimony. I copied and pasted it here:

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!"

Mace could sing one song with great gusto -- just one: Jesus Loves Me.
Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.

He would throw his head back and hold on to that first "Yes" in the chorus as long as he could, and then he would get tickled and almost fall out of his chair.

Sometimes -- when I think back on those days that seem so long ago -- I can still hear him giggle. How special that memory is to me. . .

I never doubted for a moment that Jesus loved our profoundly retarded little boy. It didn't matter that he would never sit with the kids in the back of the church and, on a certain special night, walk down the aisle, take the pastor by the hand, and invite Jesus into his heart. It was entirely irrelevant that he could not quote a single verse of Scripture, that he would never be able to reason or to comprehend God's love, that he would never be a dad -- I knew that Jesus loved Mason.

What I could not comprehend, what I could not accept, was that Jesus could love Mason's mother, Anabel. I believed that in order for anyone to accept me, to love me, I had to perform for them. My standard for getting love was performance-based, so I performed constantly, perfectly. And I was convinced that if anyone ever really got to know me, he or she wouldn't like me.

Mace could never have performed for anyone's love . . . but oh, how we loved him. His condition eventually deteriorated to such a degree -- and so rapidly -- that we had to institutionalize him when he was very young, so we enrolled him in the Enid State School for Mentally Handicapped Children.

We drove regularly the 120 miles to see him, but on this particular weekend he was at home for a visit. He had been with us since Thursday evening, and it was now Saturday afternoon. As soon as the dinner dishes were done, I would gather his things together and take him back to his house. I had done this many times before, but today God had something in mind that would change my life forever.

As I was washing the dishes, Mason was sitting in his chair watching me, or at least he was looking at me. That's when it began -- spinning emotions, tumbling stomach, the familiar sickening thoughts of separation and defeat: In just a little while, I'm going to start packing Mason's toys and his clothes, and take him away again. I can't do that. I simply cannot do it. I stopped washing dishes and got down on my knees in front of Mace. I took his dirty little hands in mine and tried desperately to reach him.

"Mason, I love you. I love you. If only you could understand how much I love you."

He just stared. He couldn't understand; he didn't comprehend. I stood up and started washing dishes again, but that didn't last long. This sense of urgency, almost panic, came over me, and once more I dried my hands and knelt in front of my precious little boy.

"My dear Mason, if only you could say to me, 'I love you, Mother.' I need that, Mace."

I stood up to the sink again. More dishes, more washing, more crying. But now thoughts, foreign to my way of thinking, began filtering into my conscious awareness.

I believe God spoke to me that day, and this is what He said:
"Anabel, you don't look at your son and turn away in disgust because he's sitting there with saliva drooling out of his mouth; you don't shake your head, repulsed because he has dinner all over his shirt or because he's sitting in a dirty, smelly diaper when he ought to be able to take care of himself. Anabel, you don't reject Mason because all the dreams you had for him have been destroyed. You don't reject him because he doesn't perform for you. You love him, Anabel, just because he is yours. Mason doesn't willfully reject your love, but you willfully reject Mine. I love you, Anabel, not because you're neat or attractive, not because you do things well, not because you perform for Me -- I love you just because you're Mine."

Incredible! Unbelievable!

I had struggled for so many years, hating my performance patterns and yet living to perform, driven to perform, searching out the praise of people and thirsting for the love of God that I thought could come only to those who performed well enough to merit it. Yet God had just shown me that He loved me in spite of anything and everything, and He had shown me in a way that I could understand -- through my dear, sweet Mason.

Do you understand? You don't have to do anything for Him; you don't have to be something for Him. You can know that there is Someone who loves you not because of the way you do or don't look, or because of the talents you do or don't have. All you have to do is accept it: He loves you just because you are His.

* * *

Well, that's not the end of Mason's story. It wasn't long after that Sunday with him that Bill, our son Preston, and I went to visit him in Enid. We held his hand, stroked his hair, and talked to him. And then we prayed. God, by Your grace we've lived victoriously and have used Mace's little life and influence for Your glory . . . but we feel that he has suffered enough and that all the influence for Christ that can be realized from his life has pretty well been exhausted. God, if it be Your will, we ask that you take him to be with You.

We kissed Mason goodbye and headed home. It was the very next morning when the school called to say that Mason had "unexpectedly passed away during the night" -- and we knew that he had slipped away to be with Jesus.

The Far East Broadcasting Company in Cheju, Korea, received a letter from Bill a short time later: " . . . there was some insurance money. It belongs to God. We pass it along to FEBC for use in the China-Cheju Island project. . . ."

Mason's gift helped build a transmitter building for the 250,000-watt radio signal that now beams the gospel of Christ to China, Russia, and Japan. And it is because of Mason that people will continue to learn of Jesus, of His saving grace . . . and of the fact that He loves us just because we are His.

Yes, Jesus loves me . . .
Yes, Jesus loves me . . .

It was great to visit with Pres and Diane, Will and Kelly, and Wade and his wife and three children. We had not seen Will and Wade since our days at Southcliff. We sat at the dinner table with Will and Kelly and Will kept us all entertained and laughing. I told him I see a lot of his Dad in him.

It was pretty sad to see Bill Gillham. He's in a wheel chair and very bent over. He did know Paul and chuckled and responded to him. Bill is in Renaissance, a care facility in FW, and is taken care of and very loved by his family.

It's very sad to see this vibrant couple who affected so many lives through their ministry grow older and lose their health and now Anabel's gone. But there was much appreciation and love shown at the service. I sat with Mazie and Bill and it seems that Mazie was probably Anabel's closest friend. I introduced them years ago. Mazie was on the program to lead in prayer but she had to decline. She was sure she wouldn't be able to get through it.

We saw a lot of friends from long ago as we do every time we go back to Southcliff. It's hard to believe we left there 28 years ago. It was thirty years ago that the Gillham's moved to Fort Worth to be in Southcliff. Lots of memories!

So, Good-by Annabel. See ya later...


Friday, October 22, 2010

Mentoring-Be Who You Are

I read the following in one of my daily devotionals:

As a mentor you can’t really pull or force people forward. In the final analysis, you cannot “grow up" other people. All you can do is reveal the real and keep growing up yourself. Jesus walked the earth as a mature, transformed, and enlightened man; and power went out from him. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear will be attracted and will be pulled on the subconscious level—the soul level—just by being around you. It isn’t something that you can make happen. You simply are who you are; and others must finally do their own work, facing their own shadow, their own prejudices, their own egocentricity, and their own narcissism.

Thought this was good and said a truth succinctly.
I've always thought and taught "who you are is more caught than taught."
Just sharing...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Marriage Reflections – Part 4

This is the last of the four talks I did with Paul when we spoke on marriage the first two Sunday nights at Emmanuel in Enid.

I started with some thoughts on respect. I remember when I began to realize I hadn't a clue about the real meaning of this word. We were traveling some place with our two grown daughters and one asked the question, "How can I teach my kids to respect me?" As the discussion progressed, I came to realize that respect is one of those character traits that is more caught than taught. And that began my search to understand respect and to learn what it really was and what it means in relationships.

Respect is communicating value or worth.

I found this definition and it spoke to me. Further elaborating: respect is recognizing and communicating value and/or unconditional worth to another.

I also came to realize that perhaps the opposite of respect in relationships is shame or shaming someone. Maybe the opposite of the definition of respect could be applied to the definition of shame, communicating no value and or no personal worth or disrespecting a person. Shaming was my modus operandi, it was my way of relating, quite unknown to me. This could be a whole course of study in itself.

The main subject of my talk was triangling in relationships, and I used these thoughts on respect to segue into saying that triangling is a form of disrespect or shaming.

A triangle in a relationship involves three people. An example is shown with this diagram. There's me, you, and another person involved in a triangle. The black arrows show how relationships should be one on one, between two people. The red arrows show an unhealthy triangled relationship. One person (Me) relating to Other and trying to get Other and You to have a good relationship. That's triangling.
Triangles in relationships develop as a self-protective reflex of the emotional system itself.

Let me attempt to explain. Let's take a couple with their son and say that the Dad and the son do not get along. Mom tries to get the two to understand and relate to each other and she explains one to the other and she ends up being the intermediary and the relationship is in a triangular system.

Triangling is a natural effort to preserve the emotional system as it is, to keep it from disintegrating. The triangler (person) is well meaning, but what happens is that triangles in relationships prevent things from getting better and improving, as well as from getting worse.

A good illustration of this is a three-legged stool, which is an unhealthy picture of a relationship. All relationships should be two-way, relating from one person to another based on the two only and not on a third person. The principle: make your relationships two-party, not three-party.

Emotional triangles are common in families, among mothers, fathers, and children. Usually two close people are closely involved and the third person is the outsider.

The underlying cause of triangle relationships developing is when anxiety arises. Often, a person can't face the problems they have with another and to relieve that anxiety, draws in a third person. That way the problems can be talked about and fretted over with another, but not with the person involved. That relieves the anxiety, but does not lead to resolution or healthy relationships. The result is two unhealthy relationships. The solution is to make sure that all your relationships are between you and the other person only and not based on negatives about a third person.

This was a major lesson for me to learn. When I quit triangling in relationships, I found that I had to own each of my relationships and tackle my problems with each person I was in relationship with. I also found I was drawing strength and emotional satisfaction by this two-against-one situation. How bad is that!

Practicing this has revealed me to me. Interesting, huh? I now concentrate on my relationships, one-on-one and leave all other relationships to the two people involved. What a novel idea! And in the process I'm learning to respect myself, respect others, and not to shame or disrepect other people. Healthy, healthy! Getting there...

Oddly, it occurs to me that this is a long way around to coming to the Golden Rule. Who knew!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Marriage Reflections – Part 3

Continuing with the marriage principles that we spoke on at a recent marriage seminar we led...

The third topic I spoke about was on listening.

Years ago I traveled to Ohio and attended an Apples of Gold conference entitled Listening for Heaven's Sake. Prior to attending I had always thought I was an excellent listener and a good counselor. I learned differently.

A very few of the many listening principles I picked up and ones that have changed my entire mode of listening to others are the ones that I am addressing here.

Before I travel down that road, I want to restate a principle of life that has literally changed most of how I try to relate to friends and family. I'm a math person and I love how this principle communicates as an equation.
Exposure + Acceptance = Encouragement

As I practice this principle in life, it's amazing how changing it has been for me and for my relationships. I'm naturally a judging person, it's built into my DNA. So this principle has required major changes in the way I think and the way I relate. Anyway, that's a backdrop for these listening principles.

Two listening principles that I remember and therefore attribute them as the most important are spotlight listening and advice listening.

Whenever I would be talking with someone and had heard their problem or their story, I would sooner or later tell them a similar experience that I had had. I always thought that I was sharing something to show them that I understood, I was relating to and with them. Often I would preface that with "I know how you feel. I remember when..."

At the Listening Conference I learned that style is stealing the spotlight. I in essence was putting the spotlight or the importance on me and taking it from the one I was talking with. I was shocked. That shot down one of my best listening skills. Hmmm... Time to think about this.

After learning this, I began to practice this with family first and then with others. I was amazed at how off I had been previously, even often interrupting to share my experience. That stealing the spotlight principle is so right. Keeping the spotlight on the one who initially shares is important for respect, for acceptance, and for encouragement. I'm still learning, but I so love this. I'm not 100% yet, but I'm certainly better at listening than I used to be.

The second listening principle I had to unlearn and relearn correctly was advice listening. At this week long listening conference, I was really beaten up skill-wise as far as listening was concerned. I also began to learn that I was listening so I could give my all important advice to the one who had come to me. Yikes!

At the seminar I was given a picture of what it is to have someone come to you with a problem or to share a hurting experience. It's like this person is driving along in the car of his/her life and they see you walking along and they pull over and ask you to ride with them for a short distance.

The picture shows you that they are the driver and they are the ones who will continue on in their vehicle of life long after you are gone. You are there to share a short ride with them. They decide where they are going and they really decide how they are going to get there.

A way of listening and of sharing is to realize you are the passenger in their car of life and they will have to make their own decisions and pay their own consequences. Therefore a good listening and sharing strategy is to help them be aware of what choices they do have and what possible consequences might occur along with listening to their story with respect and encouragement. Wow! Was I turned upside down.

Prior to this I had the arrogant attitude that all problems, hurts, and struggles are handled one of two ways. Stop doing the sinful actions that are causing the problem or realize that God is in charge and He will take care of it. Hey, no wonder no one came to me the second time. I think I thought I was great because I helped them see their problem and get fixed. Great counselor!

I learned quite differently, and painful as it was, it was well worth it.

Applying these things to our marriage has helped our relationship and it has helped me personally more than could be possibly measured or expressed. Again, I'm still quite the student and not even in graduate school on this yet, but I am learning and growing and learning new and different ways to apply these skills.

I'm definitely a better person for having learned and trying to practice this. I definitely have a better marriage (at least in my opinion). And life has been so much more enjoyable. Life is an adventure, and a quite enjoyable one.

It has also helped me listen to someone's exposure of hurt, pain, guilt, or sin, and accept their person as I listen and hopefully they are encouraged.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Marriage Reflections - Part 2

In the last blog post I wrote about the first of four marriage principles that I talked about when we spoke the last two Sunday evenings. The first life skill or principle was "growth begins where blaming ends."

I received an e-mail from a person who read that post and then wrote in detail about how that life skill was new to him and it really struck him with the truth of it. That's always encouraging, to know that someone reads and especially that someone is helped.

The second marriage principle that I chose to speak about from the many that we've learned over the years, was "marital collusive games." I first came across this in a book, Intimate Partners-Patterns in Love and Marriage by Maggie Scarf. This book is not written from a Biblical perspective, but it has many truths that when applied are very helpful.

I first explained the word "collusive." The dictionary says: a secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, esp. in order to cheat or deceive others. The origin is
late Middle English: from Latin collusion-, from colludere ‘have a secret agreement’ (see collude.

I like the simple definition given in the origin of the word: to have a secret agreement. When a couple marries, unknown to them, they often make an agreement between them that is worked out between them in their marital life. Perhaps a couple of examples will help explain.

I'll use our experiences. The first involves anger. Looking back we realized that I had "secretly agreed without knowing it" or "colluded" to be the good girl and denounce anger. That agreement meant that Paul had to carry all the anger for both of us.

Here's how it worked: One day I saw a coach cuss our son out for something he did on the baseball field. It was just a summer pickup league and this was our first experience with that coach. I saw the coach angrily yell at Brett, but Paul didn't. He was visiting with some friends he was sitting with.

On the way home, I inquired if he had seen that. When he said no that he hadn't, I relayed the incident to him. He got very angry and went to the coach's home and had a talk with him. When he came home, I condemned him for his anger. He should not have done that, he was a pastor and should set a better example.

That's a collusive marital game. The game being played is that I had to keep my "good girl" image in place, so I transferred all the anger I felt and needed to express to Paul so he would, and then I could condemn him for being angry. But, notice that the anger got expressed.

For years we carried our labels well. Then through various circumstances and events over a period of a few years, we both learned to carry our own anger, own it and express it in non-harmful ways. What a switch!! I lost my good girl label and became real and normal. Paul lost his angry label and became real and normal.

That's just one example. Another example along the same lines is our preference of music. I was the good Christian girl who wanted to listen to and wanted my kids to listen only to Christian music. (Actually I know that no music is "Christian," only people can be Christ-like or Christian, but everyone calls it that, so I'm taking a little license here.) Paul liked Country & Western and 50's music. We kept these pretty separate. When I began to learn C&W music, Paul had a real problem. I was shattering his good-girl image of me. I was stepping out of this collusive marital game that we didn't even know we had set up. Now we both enjoy all types of music, very much suiting our own tastes. I love to two-step to C&W music, I love classical music, I love opera! And I still like most Christian music. Paul didn't have to do much changing on this one, I was the major culprit and game player.

We've had a few other collusive marital games that we've identified and exposed in our relationship. While we were raising children, Paul liked to wear the white hat; i.e., he liked to say "yes" to the kids' requests without thinking through all the ramifications. I wore the black hat. I usually said "no" and then might rethink it, but I was always aware of all the dangers and what-ifs and the responsibilities and schedules that had to be considered. We were a little late learning this one. We didn't recognize and pull out of this collusive game until the kids were almost grown.

We also had a great collusive marital game going about money. I was the saver, the check balancer, the no credit partner. He was the spender, the loaner, the borrower, the credit guy. This was a big one and took many fights, make-ups, learning, and practicing before we finally identified this collusive. It was a slow process coming to reality in this area, but we have been successful!

A sub-title for this post could be "The Games People Play."

Paul and I can visit with a couple for awhile and pretty well identify their collusive marital games. Not that we share with them what we see, but it helps us understand and relate to others.

Identifying your collusive marital games is not a one-discussion, let's figure this out kind of thing. It works well when both partners are committed to loving each other and wanting to give their best individually and get the most out of their partnership. I highly recommend it with this disclaimer, it's tough work and sometimes painful, but so worth it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Marriage Reflections

Paul and I have been invited to speak on marriage recently, and this has caused us to reflect back over our 51 years of marriage and list and share important truths and concepts we've learned and tried to practice.

This last weekend we shared at Emmanuel in Enid, and the two marriage principles I talked about that had literally changed me and my relationship with Paul were these two: Growth begins where blaming ends, and Discovering your collusive marital games.

I learned about the first one while reading the book, Happiness Is an Inside Job by John Powell, and this was several years ago. This literally turned my world upside down. I reassessed my thinking after realizing I was not "owning" my own actions and emotions. I was quite the blamer. I thought because someone else did so-and-so, that made me sad or that made me angry or that made me whatever. Their actions made me feel the way I was feeling.

The little phrase, growth begins where blaming ends, stopped me in my tracks. Some of my phraseology was, "If only..." meaning if only so-and-so had not done that, or if only so-and-so didn't treat me like that. I finally began to hear myself and how I was thinking. If I wanted to grow and mature emotionally, I realized blaming others for my thoughts, feelings, and actions had to stop!!

And it did. And I began to grow emotionally and take ownership of my actions, which is easier, and my emotions, which is much harder. I now know and try to live within this fact that my feelings and emotions are caused by what's already within me; i.e., how I think, what my history is, what my baggage is, etc.

And my growth has involved knowing that what I'm feeling and what's causing my emotions are mine and I have choices and I can more clearly see these when I quit blaming others and realize choices are mine. Granted, what others do and say are stimulants and spark what's already within me, but what I say, do, and feel are mine!

That was a tough life lesson to learn and sometimes it's tough to live by, but it's getting easier. And, it's definitely very freeing. I'm not "owned" by others and I cannot and do not want to "blame" others for what's mine.

This has become and probably will always be one of my favorite life skills: Growth begins where blaming ends.

I'll write about the second one in my next post. And, hopefully that will be sooner than this one was from my last. How time flies!

Life is good!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Being Both Young and Old

Being young

Being old aka mature

Below is one of the daily devotionals I read today. I took a little license and reworded some of the nouns to make it applicable to both male and female. Thought it was pretty good.


Question of the Day:
How can a person befriend both the young person and the old person within?

I believe in every person there are two basic archetypes and they are most simple:  the young boy/girl and the old man/woman.  In many of our lives, one or the other totally dominates, some never grow up and others never grow down. The ideal is when the two become friends and meet somewhere in the middle.  That is the “grand” father/mother that we all love and need.

The young inspires the blossoming of things; the old presides over the harvest.  The young hopes and expects and is naturally optimistic.  I remember feeling that way when I was young: “It is still coming; it’s out there, wherever it is.”  Now in my sixties “it” seems to have already happened, and I have struck the mother lode, the unified field underneath. Now life deserves both tears and laughter, I can be both grounded and free, both young and old at the same time.

Our native peoples said that “the young man who cannot weep is a savage and the old man who cannot laugh is a fool.”

Monday, June 7, 2010

From Despair to Hope

Our friends, Rex and Sherry Holt, pastor Conejo Church in CA. They started this church and they are having a wonderful ministry. Rex and Sherry were our associates back in the seventies when we pastored in Wichita Falls. We've stayed friends all these years.

The Holts have three children, and the story of their coming is a miracle in itself. They were childless for 17 years and looked into adoption. In fact, they were very close one time to receiving a child through adoption but they were already headed for the mission field in Africa and had to decline. It was a heart-breaking time. I remember questioning the whole timing thing. The rest of their story is included below in Rex's e-mail to his church members this weekend. I grabbed two pictures off their church Web site so you could see Rex in the guy-picture (the white hair one) and Sherry in the middle of the church-dinner picture; one of their daughters is the one in the forefront. Great folks! Just wanted to share one of their ministry times.

Here's the e-mail Rex sent to his church members:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Cor. 1:3-5

We arrived home from Haiti this afternoon. It was a wild and wonderful adventure that started last Monday on Memorial Day.

We spent the night in Miami before arriving in Haiti early Tuesday morning. Our team of 8 people settled into our home for the week--small tents pitched in the front yard of a house with no running water. We purchased bottled water, put on a lot of mosquito repellent and began to prepare for a week of ministry.

A part of the team worked at Lamothe in Port-au-Prince to complete a reservoir that will provide water for this village of 600 families.

Curtis Johnson, Executive Pastor at Calvary Community, and I led a 2-day training workshop for 80 pastors in the Port-au-Prince area. "Leadership during a time of crisis" was the subject of the workshops. We looked at leadership principles from Jeremiah 29 and from the book of Nehemiah.

The first of 6 leadership lessons was, "During a time of crisis leaders must face reality." At this point I asked, "What are the realities that you are facing as a result of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti?"

I was not prepared for what happened next.

"I lost my wife," said one pastor. "She was away from the house and just disappeared." "We never found her body."

"My wife was teaching her class with 10 students," another pastor said. "A few minutes after the earthquake I came to the collapsed school building and saw her laying face down," he explained, "but we could not get the cement boulders off of her in time." "My wife and all 10 of the school children died."

One pastor who appeared to be in his thirties lost two children in the earthquake. All of the pastors lost their homes, their church buildings and practically all of their possessions.

Most of these pastors are living in tents with their families in what many of us would call impossible conditions. One man told of his father who had worked hard all his life to build his home and had several rental houses that would provide a living for him in retirement. The earthquake destroyed all the houses and thus his retirement was gone. I asked him if his father had insurance on these houses. He shook his head and said, "We don't have things like that in Haiti." The man is now living with a relative.

But the harshest of all realities is the emotional pain and distress these pastors expressed. They are concerned about the emotional and mental well-being of their wives and children and church members. Life will never return to normal for these pastors.

And yet in the midst of this untold pain, there shined the light of hope. It is the hope that Jesus gives to his people when life tumbles in. Over and over we referred to this great promise for people in captivity and great tribulation.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

During a morning session on Friday I became overwhelmed with the intensity of their pain. I felt I couldn't go on. I had nothing more to give. Nothing more to say. I felt a chilling despair. I turned to Curtis and said, "I've got to stop: I'm done." He came up, spoke a few words and said, "Let's pray." During his prayer I felt an unusual touch from the Holy Spirit. I got my heart and my hope back. Suddenly, I felt refreshed and knew exactly what I was to do.

I shared my story.

I told them how God gave us children when there was no hope of us ever having children. I told them how the Africans prayed and would not give up. I told them about their simple, child-like faith and how God answered their prayers after 17 years of childless marriage. I told them how Abraham who against all hope, in hope believed. I told them how the Africans during those days would say to me, "Pasteur, ayez un coeur d'espoir" - "Pastor, have a heart of hope."

I could see God giving these pastors a heart of hope.

At the end of the workshops the pastors gathered around to thank us for coming, for listening, and for sharing a message of hope. I am convinced that they are now facing the future with a new confidence and hope. I feel they have some tools that will help them lead their churches and communities to rise up and rebuild.

Though I was the only one from our Conejo Church family on Haitian soil last week, I believe we were all there in spirit. I felt your prayers. I felt your support and encouragement. Thank you!

May the quietness, confidence, and joy of our Lord be your strength this week. We have been given much. We have been blessed so that we can be a blessing.

Have a heart of hope. The best is yet to come.

In His grip of grace,


Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day--The Dash

A friend of mine posted a blog entry that talked about when you write about a person's life, one who has died, you usually list the date of birth, a dash, and then the date of death. The point is made that the most important part of this is not the date of birth nor the date of death but the dash in between, which represents how one lives their life.

Here's a great little video that shows this beautifully.

Thought this was pretty appropriate for Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Month of May: Triumphs and Tragedies

The month of May in OK is known as tornado month.

This year it's already lived up to its name. We had an outbreak of tornados on May the 10th that followed six paths across the state: two in the south central section, two in the central section that tracked east following Highway 9 and the other one following I40, and then we had two across the northeastern section of the state. Over two dozen tornados touched down and several caused extensive damage.

That comprises some of the tragedies. We also lost a dear friend of years ago who died last week. Very sad. Today is the birthday of Paul's Mom who died a year and a half ago. These have been some sad things that have happened.

But for us the month of May could be called the month of birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and then there's Mother's Day. We had fun celebrating my Mom's 73rd year to celebrate Mother's Day. We had a family cleaning day (outside porches) and a patio picnic. She was very appreciative.

We have five family birthdays in May and one anniversary. We've already celebrated one of these and have five to go. Keeps me on my toes making sure I remember and prepare for each.

One of our special treats this May was attending a high school graduation of over a thousand graduates and watching one of our grandsons receive his diploma. He also received a full scholarship to the university he will attend next fall. Very exciting and thrilling for us as grandparents.

We also got to attend an awards banquet for graduate nurses in which our daughter-in-law was pinned and received four different awards. We were privileged to be invited and get to sit with our son's family.

My reality check about these things is that life is made up of both sad things and things to celebrate. It's all a mix. We have fun and enjoy the wonderful happenings and we're saddened and feel loss at the bad things that happen. Nothing extraordinarily profound about any of this, just musings.

Still, life is good and it's good to be alive to celebrate and to sympathize and to feel with others. It's a challenge to find meaning in both and a good exercise.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Say What?

If you're reading this, I'm surprised. I go so long between blog posts that I figure I probably lose what few readers I have. Anyway, I'm back. Thanks to those of you who've requested I write and who have questioned where I've been. I appreciate that.

I want to share a story that was shared with me recently.

This young couple who are in the ministry and have a position with a church moved to a new community and proceeded to meet their neighbors. One of their neighbors was a gay couple of men. The ministry couple visited with them and they became friends. They shared meals and visits and enjoyed each other's company.

The subject of their professions didn't come up for a long time.

When it did, the young couple declined revealing what they did for a living. It became a push-and-pull fun discussion. The young man said he couldn't tell them what he did, he just couldn't. They thought that was odd and kept pushing. The young man replied that he was pretty sure they wouldn't like him when they learned what he did, so he preferred not telling them.

Once a promise was extracted that no matter what the young man did, the gay couple would remain the young couple's friends. With that promise sealed, the young man revealed that he was a youth minister in a church.

Shock, shock! Unbelief!! How could such a loving, accepting young couple be ministers in a church? Impossible. But, they were reminded of their promise.

Then extreme shock when the denomination was revealed. This just couldn't be. It was so out of the norm and so not what the gay couple had experienced from anyone with the name Christian, much less in the ministry.

Well, the "rest of the story" is that the four are still very good friends, and even though they've both moved to different locations, they still stay in touch.

I love this story. It's a true story. The ideal would be that this would be the norm. If Christians are to be known by the love they have for each other and for others, it would be.

I'm just sayin'. . .

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Questions and Answers

I've been reading some and thinking a lot about the subject of believers and the gay community. This is an interesting read and thought process.

I've run into some things that are thought provoking.

Let me first write about something else, related but not exactly on topic. I was raised in a very racial prejudiced setting, not only the area of the country but also social and family belief systems. It was very hard for me to even realize I was racially prejudiced, but when I did it was also extremely hard to change my thinking and my actions. Everything had been permeated by my adopted default belief system. But I'm here to say I have been successful and have obliterated, with joy and excitement, any and all racial prejudice.

One of the important experiences that cut the final link was a friendly conversation in a group where one of my very good friends of a different race was present and a joke was told. None of us "whites" thought anything about it, but our friend let us know how it made her feel. Not so good. Lesson learned: You don't joke about prejudices, especially ones that you've been freed from. Hmmm...

I find myself now cringing at "gay" jokes. I'm on my way!

But I have questions, so I've been reading. I came across some good thoughts on this subject. My questions are, do I still think the gay life style is sin? Can you be gay and be a Christian? Plus similar questions that are always asked, not only by people in the traditional Christian church but also by gay people to test someone they're talking to. My thinking is wondering if I really need to find answers to these questions before I can show love to all.

The writer I was reading brought out the fact that Jesus was faced with "test" questions many times during His three-year ministry on earth. He called them closed-ended questions with closed-ended answers. Jesus was asked about twenty-five of this type of question and fifteen of them were by His enemies to trap Him. It seems He only answered one of them, and He switched it from the legalistic setting to an eternal setting. Interesting.

This reminded me of questions I used to get when I was trying to share the gospel. Questions like "Where did Cain get his wife?" "Do you believe in the big bang theory?" "Do you really believe in creation?" and on and on. Anything to get off the personal subject of the here and now.

So, my conclusion? I'm not sure about my answers to the questions about the gay community just like I'm not sure where Cain got his wife. But I do know that the gospel is a life-giving, life-changing message.

My real question is can I show love to people in the gay community and be open, honest, loving, accepting, and transparent with them? That's a hard question for me having been raised in a fundamental, traditional, religious Baptist church. (Whew! That's a mouthful. :)

Grace living and grace loving is the New Testament message from God to me and I want that to be from me to others. What a challenge! What an exciting adventure to experience. To me this is not watering down the true message. It's living the true message in order to be able to share the true gospel.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do I Love in Deed or Just Words?

This question has been bothering me and has caused me to think through some issues and to give my love capacity a heart check.

A current social trend is causing me some concern. That trend is that it is becoming more acceptable for someone to identify oneself as preferring a same-sex partner. We have different labels for both men and women.

My concern is not about someone else's decision and choice; it is my problem with how I think and can I love that person without judgment.

I now know several people who have made this choice. Some are open about it, some hide it, and some fight about it.

In Christian circles, there seems to be an attitude of judgment, shame, and exclusion. I can even say that it seems to be one of hate. Isn't that an oxymoron? Christian people hating and not loving some who have made a choice that disagrees with their belief system.

I have interaction with many who are not in Christian circles. Some of the comments I hear them say are: Who cares? What business is it of mine what another person chooses in that area? That's not for me, but I respect someone who makes that choice. And other comments that don't seem to have a sense of judgment about them.

Someone asked me a few years ago if I still believed the Bible. What prompted that question was that I was not so judgmental any more and not so OCD about my interpretation of certain scriptures. My answer was that of course I do, but I have changed my opinion about what I believe the scriptures are saying. My emphasis now is on the person and showing grace and love while still holding truth in my beliefs.

I'm startled that same-sex preference people say that the group of people who are the most hateful and the least accepting of them are Christians. What an indictment against us! It makes me think of what the Pharisees said of Jesus that he associated with those who were not acceptable to them. The very righteous, judgmental people of Jesus' day were astonished that He would show love and acceptance to the ones who were living contrary to their religious beliefs.

I love the statement, "They will know we are Christians by our love." Isn't that the first thing we should be concerned about? Not a wishy-washy love that has no grace and truth, but a genuine love and acceptance of the person even if that person doesn't believe like I do.

I want to write about this in the next few posts on this blog.
I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Friend in Haiti

Our friends, Rex and Sherry Holt, pastor a church in Southern CA. In past years they were SBC missionaries to Togo West Africa, where they speak French. Rex was asked to go with a medical team to Haiti. The team left last Saturday morning. Yesterday, Tuesday, Rex called Sherry from Haiti and Sherry wrote about it in their daily church letter to members, to which I subscribe. It's an excellent recounting of what Rex is experiencing in Haiti.

January 26, 2010

About 6:30 p.m., I got a call from Rex. Joe Hall was standing in the kitchen with me so I put the phone on speaker. I wish so much that I had a recording of it. He talked fast to try to tell everything he could since he had borrowed the phone from his tent-mate. A Haitian by birth, his tent-mate Julio moved to Florida a number of years ago and has been pastoring a church there. Since this terrible disaster in his homeland, he has returned home to Haiti to stay, leaving behind the church he pastored in Florida and everything that he had accumulated materially. His wife Suzette will join him this weekend and they will begin life again in Haiti.

Rex loves him and said they both agree that the Lord meant for them to spend these days together. Most of the tents are large enough to accommodate 4 or 5 persons, but Rex and Julio got the smallest tent and there is only room for the two of them. They pray together--sometimes in English and sometimes in French or they sing together--sometimes in English, sometimes in French. Rex says that he feels so at home in Haiti, because there are so many similarities to living in West Africa.

He spoke of the devastation being hard to conceive, walking in a city, block after block where buildings are leveled on both sides of the street. As he walks around, he engages practically everyone he passes in conversation and they all speak of having lost loved ones. Their only requests are for water and food. He told of two examples of children asking for food at the orphanage where their tent is set up. The volunteers have been instructed not to give away food or water but to respond that they came with medical supplies. This is a tough thing to do, but necessary to keep a riot from breaking out because so many people are thirsty and hungry.

He told about a young man who came up to him and said, "I am hungry.” So Rex gave the pat response, “We came with medical supplies.” The boy turned away but another boy came up to Rex and asked, “Did you see him, did you really see him?” He assured this second young boy that certainly he had seen the boy and heard his request. But then the young boy challenged him again, “but didn't you see in his eyes…he is starving.”

Hidden in Rex's pocket was a protein bar that he had brought in his week's supply of food and he wanted to give the child food. However, there were many people around and he knew that it would be chaotic. People would stampede toward him to get food, and he only had that one protein bar. Later, he was happy to see the boy alone who had challenged him about seeing the boy who was starving, and he quietly gave him the protein bar and told him to divide it 2 ways and give that boy the other half. The young boy said, “No, I will give him all of it.” Rex was skeptical that would happen, but a short time later the starving boy approached Rex with the entire bar and humbly thanked him.

That wasn't the only time he saw the children act in this unselfish way. There was a young girl standing nearby when he started eating from his meal supply, a package of peanut butter and crackers. He took out one of the crackers and gave to the little girl. As soon as she had taken it, she called the name of a young boy. He came to her and she divided the peanut butter cracker in half and shared with him. At that point, Rex gave the little girl the entire package, knowing that she would share it.

He would interject from time to time that he was so glad that he was there or that it was just great being there, so I finally got a chance to talk and asked if he was even going to come home. To that he started telling a little about how difficult the living situation is. But, he didn't dwell on that long. There was so much to share. For instance, there was a team member in their group who prayed for a blind first he saw a bright light, they prayed again, he saw the shadows of people, they prayed again, he counted fingers of the man who held them up in front of him. Then Rex prayed for a deaf man. After the prayer he walked some distance behind the man so that he could not see him. He instructed the man to clap each time he heard a clap. He responded perfectly because the formerly deaf man HEARD Rex clapping his hands.

Finally he slowed down a little and explained that he had used too many of Julio's phone minutes and had to get off the phone. At that point I got the chance to say, “Happy Birthday Honey, or had you forgotten that it is your birthday?”

Well, he was quiet for a few seconds and he said with astonishment, “Is today the 26th?” And I assured him that it was. He had forgotten that today was his birthday. He closed out his conversation by saying with deep conviction, “We have to come back!!! Others from among us have to come and help.”

I wish everyone of you could have heard him...but you will soon. He won't be back at church on Sunday morning but should arrive back in S. California sometime later in the day on Sunday. Rex kept saying how he could feel so strongly the Lord's presence even amid the devastation and human suffering. Somehow, hearing about hungry children sharing, a blind man seeing, a deaf man hearing...affirmed why Rex feels so strongly the Lord's presence in Port au Prince and why even under such terrible conditions that he could be so joyful..."IN HIS PRESENCE IS FULLNESS OF JOY!!!"


Friday, January 8, 2010

Right or Wrong?

Beginning a new year causes me to reflect a lot. Lately I've been thinking about how much I've changed over the years.

I was raised close to my grandparents. They visited a lot and then lived on our property in a house back of us to help their daughter, my Mom, with raising her eleven children. My Dad traveled, and they apparently thought my Mom needed help. And they helped a lot. They raised chickens, milked cows, raised calves for beef, and pigs for meat. We also had a large garden we all worked in. My grandparents were very much a part of my growing up years.

My grandfather used to tell me that "blacks" did not have souls. That was my upbringing. Do you know how hard it is to change that thinking? I'm glad to report that I have made a total turnaround from that kind of terrible prejudicial old South thinking. Someone's nationality or race is to me now sort of like what color of eyes or hair does someone have. What does it matter? I look back now and shudder at how odd and full of hate that whole prejudice thing is and was. Totally wrong, totally bad.

Something else that's trivial compared to prejudice (which is horrible, especially when passed down) that I've changed about is that my parents taught us that it was wrong to dance. I took a strong "Christian" stand against dancing. I was a cheerleader and even, shock of all shocks, was voted Miss EHS (Edmond HS). It was hard to not dance when your sponsors and teachers would encourage you to at all the mixers and get-togethers. But I was a "good girl"!!

A few years ago I started clogging. I love it! Then as I reflected on things, I got a little angry (funny angry) at being taught that dancing was wrong. I'm not very good at it, but I love it!! Think of all the fun things I've missed over the years by thinking that dancing was wrong. I even tried to shame and guilt my own kids into not dancing. Can you believe it? Hard for me to believe now, but that's what happened.

Another odd no-no was that I should not go to movies. My Dad said to me one time, "What if Jesus returned while you were at the show?" When I started dating and going to drive-in movies, I would often look over my shoulder at the sky and hope that Jesus wouldn't return because I was sure He would be ashamed of my being at the movies. Huh? That is so funny to me now. I'm a "movie" person. I love movies, especially good movies, especially real-story movies. Think of all I missed thinking and being taught that it was "sin" to go to the movies. :-(

As I married and became a pastor's wife in the sixties, it was the teaching in our circles that it was definitely wrong for women to wear pants to church. I could even find some scriptures that seemed to say that. (Notice: seemed to say) Now, I wear pants all the time. It even feels funny to wear a dress, which I rarely do. Hmmm... I've really changed my thinking on this also.

I've been thinking recently about some of these things I've been pretty strong on in my beliefs in the past. Now I'm either changed or definitely questioning. It helps me to go back and realize how much my beliefs and thinking have changed over the years and where I am now.

I always want to be teachable and open and learning. It makes me wonder like the Cox commercial, "Wonder what else I don't know?" What other beliefs and thoughts do I have and hold to that need to be re-thought and considered in my understanding of grace as taught in the scriptures.

I'm on a quest! I want to know!!
I'll keep you posted.