Location: New England, United States

Friday, April 12, 2013


In these days of science, instant information, every diversion imaginable and unbridled humanism - does anyone else feel that we have gotten it all wrong?  I grew up in the sixties, believing that we could change the world for the better.  Now that I am in my sixties, I see that our world has changed, but not for the better.

When I voice my concerns, no one wants to listen.  They 'turn me off' or 'tune me out'. Perhaps it's a natural response to the approaching horror to close their eyes - pretend it does not exist.  But, I ask you, "Can you feel the dread?"

I can.  I watch the news like an accident junkie; unwilling to look away, but later - sorry I watched.  I am guilty of slowing my car on the incoming side of the highway to observe the accident on the outgoing side - and the dread increases. I can't help believing that our clock is running out.

It is said that in the last days men will call good - evil and evil - good.  Are we there yet?

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Path With Purpose

It was no small sacrifice that my parents took me and my daughter into their home. They still had six children at home - all of them teenagers. I came with no job, my furniture in storage in Kentucky and emotionally drained from my marriage. There was only one condition outlined by my parents to my living with them. They did not want me to share my faith with my brothers and sisters.

When I converted from Catholicism to Southern Baptist, my parents were convinced that I had joined a cult. Also aware that my sister had converted after her association with me, they were adamant that I was not to share this 'cult' with my other siblings. I promised that I would not share my faith with them - however - if they asked questions, I would answer them.

In a very short time, every one of my sisters and brothers asked me about my faith. It was so surprising, I knew that this interest was the stirring of the Holy Spirit and had nothing to do with me or anything I had done. I was merely the hammer in the hand of God, and he made sure that by coming to Connecticut, I was placed directly over the nails.

Each brother and sister came into God's plan of salvation in their own time. We are not all tomato plants coming into full fruit at the same time. Some of us come into fruit early like peas and some later like squash. Our mission is to broadcast the seed. God will provide the rain and sunshine to help it germinate and grow.

"And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear." Matthew 13:3-9 RSV

Saturday, August 05, 2006

And God Sent His Angels

During the 'year of return' to my marriage, the drinking and violence escalated while I watched a normal, happy life slip away from my family. I realized that my husband was a very unhappy man and that by spreading his unhappiness to others, he was trying, foolishly, to negate the grief inside of him. But, his efforts produced more grief through the ensuing shame. His promises of reform and counseling were ridiculed and my hope was nearly gone.

Leaving now was no longer just a statement, it was a decision of life or death for he told me that if I ever left again - I would die. As in any war, appeasement seldom guaranteed peace. It takes two sides to create a lasting peace, and the enemy hid behind the face of my husband where reason and delusion battled for control.

My first angel lived across the street. Janet's daughter and my daughter were best friends, and as I had previously requested, my daughter was welcomed in Janet's house whenever violence erupted in my home. After one such eruption that ended with a broken window and my husband fleeing just before the police arrived, I went to retrieve my daughter from Janet's house. As she poured a cup of coffee, she told me her story.

"From the time I could remember, my father beat my mother. We would ask her why she stayed with him, and her answer was always that at least he was not harming me and my sister.

The years passed and my sister and I grew into our teens. That is when the nighttime visits started. My sister and I would lie in our beds praying that my father would not prowl the house that night. Still, many nights filled with dread, I would hear my bedroom door open. Worse still was the relief I felt when I heard my sister's bedroom door open instead of mine.

I left home when I was sixteen, and I never went back until my mother called to say that my father had died. My only reason for attending the funeral was to make sure that he was truly dead because then, perhaps, my nightmares would end.

I know you think that you are protecting your daughter, but believe me - their violence cannot be controlled and it will not stop with you." I took her advice and started planning my escape.

My opportunity arrived when my husband was fired from yet another job. He had been the night manager at a distillery and his midnight drinking caused his dismissal when discovered by management. Feeling wrongly abused, he announced that he was taking a trip to Florida to find a new job. He would be gone three to four weeks. Meanwhile, I was to get the house on the market and start packing. It was an opportunity made in heaven.

My second set of angels were my parents. I laid out my plans to them on the phone and within a few days, my daughter was whisked away to Connecticut on a jet. Putting my seven year old daughter on the plane was the hardest thing I have ever done. Anguish gripped me until I received the phone call from my parents that she had arrived safely in Connecticut.

Now that I knew she was safe, I contacted a realtor to list the house. In a short time, we had a viable buyer and with my husband's permission, I accepted the offer. I then went to a lawyer and filed for a divorce. Giving him my power of attorney guaranteed that I would not need to be present at the closing of the house for I intended to be in Connecticut before my husband returned from Florida. I also gave my employer two weeks notice.

Then my third set of angels arrived. My sister and her husband drove from Tennessee to help me pack. Together we packed half of everything - dishes, towels, furniture, books, and appliances. The moving company picked up the packed items for storage, and the rest of the household contents I left for my husband.

During this flurry of activity, my husband called every day from Florida. Thankfully, I could discuss many of my activities with him - selling the house, packing, etc. - as this was what he had instructed me to do before he left. He was moving closer to another job as they had scheduled a second interview.

The problem arose when he asked to talk to our daughter. In the first few days, I could easily manage the lying. "She went to bed early tonight. She is over at Janet's house. She is playing outside." However, as days increased into weeks, my husband became suspicious. I colored pictures and wrote infantile letters in crayon to mail to his hotel as evidence that everything was fine, but still his anxiety increased with each phone call.

I knew when I started this flight, that he may come home before I could get away, and this was the reason I sent my daughter ahead of me to Connecticut. Still, I hoped that I would complete my escape before he returned. I knew his consequences would be deadly.

My last day of work and I was to leave that night. Unfortunately, the check from my closed pension fund was delayed one day, and I needed that money to make the trip to Connecticut. Frantically, I called our home office begging for the check. The most they could promise is that it would arrive with the morning mail. The problem was my husband was due to arrive that day as well.

One more night in that house. I propped boards against the doors in case my husband came home earlier than expected. I woke before dawn, packed the car and drove to a coffee shop close to my office to wait for their morning mail delivery. When the office opened, I quickly took the elevator and, praise God, the check was there. Another elevator ride and I cashed the check at the bank on the main floor. It was December 6th, I was twenty six years old and I was driving from Kentucky to Connecticut; alone. I later learned from Janet that my husband arrived home around ten-thirty that morning.

My plan was to make the thirteen hundred mile trip in two days with an overnight stay in Yorktown, Ohio. Because I had never driven more than an hour at a time, I would make rest stops every two hours to keep myself refreshed. The first day went smoothly. I was on the road by 10:00 a.m., so I stopped for lunch at twelve o'clock and again at two o'clock I took a rest break. I pushed through to Yorktown, arriving at five o'clock; just in time for dinner. I checked into a chain hotel and had dinner in their dining room. The problem arose while watching the local evening news. A major snowstorm was approaching from the west and should arrive in Yorktown overnight.

I called my father in Connecticut and expressed my rising panic over the approaching snowstorm. Calmly, he told me to call him in the morning after breakfast, and then together we would decide if I should continue the trip or stay in Yorktown. Still anxious, I prayed. "Please God, I pray that your angels will protect me on this trip. You know how fearful I am about driving in the snow, so please, let your angels hold back the storm until I reach my parents home."

The next day the fourth set of angels arrived. In the morning, a quick check of the parking lot showed that the snowstorm was still west of Yorktown, so I went downstairs for breakfast. After breakfast, I returned to my room and listened to the local station for weather updates while I packed. The weather man stood before a colored map showing that the storm had slowed over western Ohio, and although still moving, there was no clear ETA for Yorktown. Filled with hope in my prayer of the night before, I called my father and told him I was continuing the trip.

I drove all morning stopping at a little diner in Pennsylvania for lunch. While sipping my coffee, large flakes of snow started to fall. I quickly paid the waitress and returned to the highway with another prayer on my lips. By the time I reached a New Jersey truck stop in late afternoon, the snow was still behind me. But then, I got lost in New York. I must have missed my turn after the Tappenzee Bridge because I never did find the Hutchinson Parkway. I panicked believing that surely the approaching snowstorm would overtake me. Still, two hours later after frantic phone calls to my father and dizzying directions from gas station attendants, I finally pulled into my parents driveway greeted by a downpour of sleet.

The angels had loosed the storm just as I pulled into the driveway, and I had made it to Connecticut safely.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Face In the Mirror

Time passed, and I would like to say that my marriage improved - but it did not. I left my husband, returning to him a few weeks later to flowers and promises. Unfortunately, the promises lasted just a little longer than the flowers.

I remember one particular night - a night of fighting that ended only when I locked myself in the bathroom. I was hurting, so using the toilet as an altar, I kneeled on the ceramic tile and cried out to God. I started with a list of my pain, then a list of my anger and finally a list of petitions.

I prayed that God would save my husband and change him. I prayed that God would protect me and my daughter, and I prayed that we would all be happy again. I felt his Spirit shiver up and down my spine dispelling the heaviness and hopelessness I had felt when I first kneeled before the toilet. I transitioned from distress to calmness and then to peace. Rising from my prayer, I washed the tracks of mascara from my face. While looking at myself in the mirror, I remembered a lady from our church giving her testimony.

This woman explained to our little congregation that she was looking for another job. She had two interviews lined up, and she was concerned that she would not chose wisely. She wanted to make sure that she chose the job that pleased God, so, she asked God to give her a sign.

On one of the interviews, she arrived a little late. Running toward the elevator, she noticed the doors were starting to close, so she called out. As she kept running, the elevator doors opened again and breathless, she entered the elevator. She thanked the other passenger, a woman, for holding the elevator for her and they started their ascent.

Then the other passenger spoke, "May I ask you a question?"


"Are you a Christian?"

"Why yes! How did you know?"

"I could tell by your face." She had her sign from God.

I remember wondering while this woman recounted the story to our congregation whether anyone could read that same 'shining' on my face. Now standing in my bathroom and looking into the mirror, I said aloud to God, "I wonder whether anyone can tell that I have just been in your presence?" I then shut off the bathroom light and opened the door.

My husband was sitting on the couch watching television. I could tell by the arms folded across his chest that although he had calmed down, he was still angry. Gingerly, I sat at the other end of the couch and watched television.

Then he glanced at me. He glanced at me again and again. Finally, I asked him, "What's the matter?"

"Did you do something to your face?"

"Yes, I washed off all my make up."

"You have no make up on? Did you do anything else?"

"No. Why?"

"You look different."

"Different, how?"

"Like shining."

When he used that word, I remembered my question to God at the mirror and I smiled. God can be seen on your face.

"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God." Exodus 34:29RSV

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Marriage

More time passed and my relationship with God grew in fits and spurts surrounded by long periods of repose. Our little family never returned to church, but I would pray when I remembered, and read my Bible occasionally. To me, God was like a light bulb - there when you needed some light. What I didn't know then was that he was patiently waiting. He was waiting for my committment to him.

My family, however, was not doing so well. My husband changed jobs with the changing seasons, and frequently he would spend long periods with no employment. I suspected he had been fired more than once. During these times of unemployment, he would drop our daughter off at his mother's house and disappear for the day on the pretense of looking for a job.

Bill collectors would call or the water would be turned off for past due balances. Once a sheriff, accompanied by one of our creditors, came to repossess my daughter's bedroom furniture. Each time, my husband was absent as though he knew when the creditors would call or come to the house.

We moved annually and there was a restlessness surrounding our life. He drank - mostly beer, but it was included in his daily menu. I learned not to argue with him for I perceived, correctly, that he was a firecracker just waiting for a match.

In contrast, he could also be charming; almost child-like in his abandon, and I swear he never met a stranger. He had an easy going charisma with neighbors and friends, and it was he that people sought out. Still, his dark side was impenetrable and frightening.

The Ohio Valley can become oppressively hot and humid in the summer. It is as though the westward winds just skim the top of the valley leaving the heat and moisture below undisturbed. Such was that Saturday.

I had spent the day cleaning and working in the garden. We had no air conditioning and after I had gotten my daughter down for the night, I took another cooling shower. Finishing, I could hear my husband on the phone in the other room. He quickly came down the hallway dressed in slacks and a dress shirt open at the neck.

"Are you going somewhere?" I questioned with confusion.

"I can't stand it in here. It is so hot. I am going for a drive to cool off."

He left and I had my doubts to keep me company. He did not return until the next morning. This behavior continued the next weekend and the next until I confronted him with evidence. His mistress' name was Linda.

Expecting my confrontation to end the relationship, I was summarily disappointed when he announced that he was glad I knew. Now he would not need to sneak around. We lived in the country with only one car, so he left me Linda's phone number in case there was an emergency during the night. The affair continued; now in the open. Each morning he brought the car home so I could go to work. Then when I returned home in the evening, he showered and dressed to meet Linda.

I was in shock that whole summer. I could not eat or sleep. There was no one to share my misery as my family lived miles away, and all my friends were shared with my husband. Also, I feared the result of a strong confrontation with him, so I walked through the next few weeks with indecision and heavy grief.

One night, I could not sleep. I walked the quiet house with nothing to occupy my mind. Even television could not capture my imagination, and my desire to run away was thwarted by a lack of transportation and a responsibility to my daughter sleeping in her room. I went outside on sat on the porch. It was late and even the traffic noises were silent. A light breeze blew the scent of honeysuckle to me and the stars above seemed to swim through my tears. I cried in earnest, and my release esculated. I wailed out loud for there was no one to hear me.

Emotionally exhausted, I blubbered to those stars. "Nobody loves me. I have never been loved; not really loved. I am loved only when it suits the other person. I am loved only if I am good. That is not the kind of love I want, I want to be loved 'no matter what'! I want a love that will last anything, and I want it to engulf me so I have no doubts. That would be a perfect love."

As I sat there on the porch, I realized the foolishness of that request. For someone to love me perfectly - they would need to be perfect, for only a perfect person could love perfectly. That one thought jolted the pain from me and replaced it with curiousity. Could it be that a perfect love was available?

I ran into the house for my Bible. "OK God, I challenge you. You said that you love me - prove it! I know that you are perfect, so you can love perfectly. Do you love me 'no matter what'? Would you love me if I killed someone? Would you love me no matter what I do and say? Will you love me perfectly?" I let the Bible fall open. It opened to Isaiah 62, and he spoke to me.

" For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: "I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary."
Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." And they shall be called The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought out, a city not forsaken." RSV

I read the passage over and over realizing that this was a love song from God. Just as a woman takes a new name when she marries, God had given me a new name. I now belonged to him. My new name - "My delight is in her"- Hepzibah.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sisters and Forgiveness

Time passed as it sometimes does - quickly and quietly. My father's employer transferred him to Connecticut leaving me in Kentucky with my husband and daughter. My sister, Barbara, had married and moved to Chicago with her husband. A year later she gave birth to a little girl, Beth.

On one visit to Chicago, with encouragement from my husband, Barbara and her husband Walter decided to move to Kentucky. They asked if they could stay with us until Walter found a job and they could buy a home. We agreed.

What sounded like a good idea in Chicago, became a stressful situation in Kentucky. Walter and Barbara stayed with us for many months, far longer than we had anticipated. Four adults and two children living in our tiny house created stressful situations for us all, and I was building a growing ire against my sister.

Barbara did not work, so she stayed home with the two children. At the onset of our arrangement, I had visions of coming home from work to find the house cleaned, the laundry done and dinner cooking on the stove. My visions were seldom realized, and requests went unheeded. As the weeks dragged by, the anger hidden deep within me became heavier and heavier.

One night, unable to sleep, I quietly rose from my bed. The anger I harbored played in my mind like a drama with no resolution, and I needed an answer. I grabbed my Bible and there at my kitchen table, I began to pray. "Please God, please make my sister and her family leave my house. I can't take anymore."

At the time, I was reading the Bible from cover to cover, so I opened to my marker and continued reading. Suddenly, I heard someone coming down the hallway; it was Barbara. "I can't sleep." She said. "What are you reading?"

The peace I had obtained from my little prayer and reading washed away with resentment. I had sought some solitude as an ointment to my suffering, and even that was now stolen from me! "Do you want me to leave?", she asked while she sat down at the table.

"Help me!", I screamed inside my head terrified that if I opened my mouth a dark bile of words would pour forth.

Then, "Tell her how you have been feeling and apologize.", popped into my head amidst the turmoil.

"I can't tell her. What I am feeling is so ugly."

"I want you to tell her, calmly, and then apologize for feeling this way. This is not about you, it is about her."

I knew what God meant. Barbara knew that I had become a Christian and had been baptized, but we had never really discussed why I had done this. All she knew was that I had turned my back on my Catholic heritage. Whether she understood my transformation or felt that I had lost my mind; I had no idea. It was time to tell her.

So, I proceeded to tell her how I was feeling. I told her that when they first came to live with us, I was so excited to have family near me again, but the happiness quickly turned to anger and resentment. I resented not only that she could be a stay at home Mom, but that I was still expected to cook dinner and clean when I got home from work. I can still remember how humiliating and painful it was to express all my black feelings. Pain and anger flickered across her face like a strobe light. Then I asked her to forgive me.

This was not what she had expected. She was probably preparing herself for at least an argument, or perhaps she expected and request for her to leave. Instead I asked her for forgiveness. She started to cry.

We both cried. Then I shared with her what God had told me to do. The next couple of hours were spent talking about God, Jesus and the plan of salvation.

Barbara did not accept Jesus as her Savior that night, but years later in Tennessee, Barbara and her husband were baptized in a small country church. The seed that had been planted that night at my kitchen table - by God - germinated and took root.

"Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field;" Matthew 13:24 RSV

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Ballot Box

I finally did walk down that aisle with tears streaming down my face just as others had done before me. I was not embarrassed to proclaim that "Jesus is Lord", and I was baptised a few weeks later. My husband also joined the little church by moving his membership from his parents' Baptist church.

Afterwards, we became very active in church activities. We attended Sunday night Bible Study, Wednesday night Prayer Service, I taught Sunday School to the preschoolers and Mission Friends. We socialized with our Pastor and his family, and for two years the congregation grew until there was standing room only at Sunday services.

For those who do not know, a Southern Baptist church is a democratic church. All decisions, including the appointment of deacons and board members, are voted on by the members rather than decided by the Pastor. We replaced our Board of Directors with new members, including a new Finance Director who happened to be a CFO with a prominent corporation. Trouble brewed when the new Finance Director reviewed the church budget.

Our pastor, Brother Bob, was young and still working on his Masters in Divinity degree at a local university. Although he had three children and a stay-at-home wife, the little church had enticed him with the meager salary of $5,500 a year. They also provided a parsonage, utilities and traveling expenses, but even for the early seventies in a 'border state' this salary was hardly adequate. The church supplemented his income with charity. As many of the members were farmers, they would bring the young pastor bushels of food or second hand clothing.

But, the church had changed in two years. The membership had more than doubled and the coffers were full, so the new Director of Finance doubled Brother Bob's salary for the upcoming budget year. This budget was distributed to the membership and a vote would take place in a few weeks to adopt or reject.

There was outrage. With the new budget, Brother Bob's salary would exceed most of the congregations' annual salary. Never mind that he had just completed his Master's degree in Divinity and most of the congregation had little more than a high school education; the disparity was not to be tolerated, and my husband lead the opposition.

As soon as we arrived home that Sunday, my husband was on the phone to rally others to his point of view. There were meetings at our home discussing strategies and phone calls persuading other members to join their forces. By the next Sunday, the preacher had gotten wind of the revolt and asked the Director of Finance to revise the budgeted salary to a more acceptable range. The Director of Finance refused reminding the preacher that he had little say over the budget. The church was at a stand-off.

Even I was confused. Although I agreed that Brother Bob deserved a substantial raise, the proposed amount was a princely sum compared to the median income for our surrounding area. I kept my fence-sitting quiet from my husband while I served coffee and fresh baked goodies to his constituents during their meetings in our home.

Brother Bob was worried that the discord would pull the church apart, so the from the pulpit he called on the congregation to pray for God's guidance in next week's vote. The week before the voting, I acted on Brother Bob's call to prayer. "Please God, show me how to vote."

Suddenly, I remembered Brother Bob's sermons of the last two years. He continuously warned us that our miraculous growth was a thorn in the side of Satan. We should expect a spiritual attack against the church, and he prophesied that one day our church may be torn in half if we were not spiritually vigilant. These sermons were preached long before the new Board of Directors and their new budget. How did he know?

This time I asked God with all my heart, "Show me how to vote."

As in the past, I received a one word answer - "Yes", and my heart fell.

How could I possibly vote - yes - when my husband was leading the opposition? I cajoled God, "But God, you told me to subject myself to my husband! Shouldn't I vote as he would vote?"
Every time I prayed, I received the same one word answer - "Yes". By Saturday night, I knew I would vote as God had instructed. "Anyway," I reasoned, "It is only one vote."

My husband spent that Saturday tallying up the 'No' votes by phone. According to his census the 'No's' would win by a slim margin. We both went to bed that night believing that we were doing God's will.

The voting was to take place in the sanctuary following the Sunday service. Only members of the church are allowed to vote, so when the visitors had left, the sanctuary doors were closed and we were all given pieces of paper with two boxes - simply - Yes or No. I checked Yes confident that I could follow God's lead in secret and without any discord between my husband and myself. I was wrong; the new budget passed by one vote!

I felt light-headed and a wave of nausea coursed through me. I rode home with my husband's ranting banging in my ears while my heart banged furiously in my chest. Unfortunately, I was playing hostess that afternoon as my husband had invited some of the opposing team over for what was to be a celebratory dinner.

After dinner I refused the offer of assistance to clean-up so I could have some time to myself. "Why God? Why did it have to be one vote?" No answer, but the mindless chore of washing and drying dishes helped to calm me so that by the time I was readying for dessert, I had filed the whole incident away with reasoning. "After all, who knew that I had voted yes?"

"Tell them."


"Tell them."

"No way!"

"Tell them so they know that it was my will."

So, I told them. I explained how I prayed as Brother Bob had asked and that every time I prayed, God answered that I should vote yes. I will never forget the silence that followed. It was leaden and gray. I don't know if they stayed for dessert because I hid in the bedroom with tears in my eyes. I feared going back out there, and it was a long time before my husband came to check on me.

In the end, I left the final solution up to my husband - we would not be returning to the church. I had injured his pride.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Engagement

Four years passed. I had married and my daughter was born a short time later. To make ends meet, I worked part-time as a cashier for a regional grocery chain. It was there that I met Lana.
Lana was my antithesis. As I was serious, she was carefree; I quiet and reflective, Lana talked incessantly. Because I liked to listen and she liked to talk, we quickly became friends. I invited her to dinner on the Saturday before Easter so our children and husbands could meet.

Her husband, Sam, introduced the subject of their new church; a small, Southern Baptist church outside of Louisville with a growing congregation. Both Sam and Lana described the new pastor with excitement and affection. An invitation for Easter services followed.

I had planned to attend the Catholic church, not because I was worried about my yearly obligation - Easter services are required to maintain your Catholicism - but because I had bought my daughter and I matching Easter outfits with picture frame hats and crocheted capes. Mass would provide the perfect setting to show off our new clothes. But, I agreed to forego the Catholic services for the Baptist services, "As long as I still get to wear my new outfit".

I will never forget the experience. The first part of the service did not differ much from the Catholic Mass. There was more singing, and the songs were livelier. The collection plate was passed around and the reading from the Bible was the same - the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was when we all settled down for the sermon that it happened.

I can't say today that I remember the content of the sermon, but I will never forget the feelings that jumped into my head while I sat there. I felt as though the Preacher could see right into my soul, and that he was speaking just to me. I wanted to run away. I didn't know it then, but now I know that I was under Conviction.

Yes, God definitely had a hold of me. Unwittingly, I had invited him into my life that day in the Catholic church when I had prayed for help, and although four years had passed, he did not forget that I had opened that door. Patiently he waited for just the right time to bring me up the next rung of the ladder - to salvation.

Forty-five minutes that sermon lasted - it seemed so much longer. I wanted to flee. Then, an altar call with the final hymn, "Just As I Am". It was as though the fiery furnace had been turned up as I watched people walk to the front of the church with tears streaming down their faces - how embarrassing! The service finally over, I walked out into the sunshine and took a deep gulp of fresh air. I was never going back to that church. I had felt things there that I had never felt before and I didn't like it.

My resolve did not last; I did go back. For months I would come away from the service vowing I would never return. Then all week, I could not wait to go back. I started talking to God again. I asked him what was going on? Why was I feeling this way? No answer. Just the weekly hymn, "Just As I Am" and the altar call. My life became sandwiched between the Sunday services, and the only time I felt alive was when I was squirming in the pew. My life between the services was deadness.

One day, I spoke to God. "I know what you want me to do. You do know that my parents will have a fit about this, but I will walk down the aisle on Sunday if you will just take away these awful feelings. Now, I am in your hands. Don't let me down."

I had just said 'Yes' to God. It was going to be a long ride.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Our First Meeting

I am eighteen and pregnant. I had never felt so alone and scared. I know now that many young women faced this crossroads from childhood to womanhood, but I remember feeling that I was the only one standing in this dilemma.

What was I going to do? How would I tell my parents? They will be so angry and disappointed in me, and with seven brothers and sisters, it was doubtful that they would help me financially. I was sick with worry and condemnation - my old friends.

Yes, worry and condemnation were my constant companions. The oldest child of eight and raised a Catholic, I was no stranger to worry, condemnation and penance. So, I did the only thing I knew to do at the time, I went to confession.

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was five months ago. I disobeyed my parents three times, I lied four times, I fought with my sister six times and I committed adultery once." Then I waited for the shadowed head behind the screen.

"How old are you?"


"Are you married?"


"Then you could not have committed adultery. You must be married to commit adultery." I am shamed further by my stupidity and horrified that now I must explain my condition.

"I am not married and I had sex with my boy friend." I could not bring myself to admit to my pregnancy. Anyway, I reasoned, being pregnant was not a sin - the sex before marriage was the sin.

"Then you did not commit adultery; you committed fornication." I groaned inside. Fornication sounded so much worse than adultery. We never discussed fornication in my catechism classes.

"Say an entire rosary and sin no more. Now say the Act of Contrition."

As I recited the Catholic Act of Contrition, I felt no relief from my guilt. I made the sign of the cross and left the confessional. Terrified, I scanned the faces standing in line for their turn at redemption to see if they had heard my shame through the wood carved doors of the confessional. Then I slinked into a far off pew to say my penance.

I did not think to bring a rosary to confession with me. I had never committed a sin so grave as to require a whole rosary as penance. In my distraught state of mind, I could not concentrate on the prayers of the rosary. Instead I looked around the great expanse of the sanctuary.

Life-sized statues of Mary, Joseph and others stood in gilded finery. The vaulted ceilings loomed high held by huge beams intricately carved. Stained glass windows depicted the historical saints of the church and at the front of the church a massive cross held our Savior over a marble dais and altar.

All of this splendor did nothing to quell my distress or guilt. I started to speak in a small whisper. "God, I know I did wrong. Please forgive me."

Then God showed up! "I will never leave you nor forsake you." I exhaled all my worry, fear and guilt.

Years of catechism and hundreds of Sunday Masses, yet, this is the first time I had ever met God. Recited prayer, rosaries, confessions; none of these things had ever touched what I was experiencing at that moment. All I did was talk to him, and he answered!

I left the church feeling renewed and hopeful. This was just our first meeting.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

God's Favorite Color is Blue

Each morning, I spend eighteen precious minutes driving to work on a tree lined parkway. This drive has become my pause between the flurry of getting my son and I ready for the day and the demanding pace of my workday. It is during this drive that I stop to catch my breath.

I remember driving one, clean September day and God's small voice welled up inside of me, "Look at this day. Isn't it fine?"

So I looked. The sky was cobalt blue without a cloud marring its expanse. In the foreground, huge trees bursting with the green of a full season lay across the sky. I responded, "Who would think to create green trees against that color blue?", I asked incredulously.

A single syllable was all I received. "I"

I smiled. Then, I reflected. I reflected on scientists studying God's laws of nature, and although they revered those same irrefutable laws he set at the dawn of time, they could not see him. I reflected on the water cycle; just one of these laws. I pictured dinosaurs drinking deeply from antediluvian lakes and later relieving themselves with a long, satisfying gush. The warm air and sun distills the gush, and the water evaporates into the air leaving the impurities on the soil to feed his tiniest creatures. The evaporated water travels far and returns to the earth as the rain outside my office window. And so we drink and complete the cycle. I marveled at how self-contained and arrogant the earth must appear in the cosmos; one blue planet, starkly marking its place among a myriad of red and gray planets.

Then suddenly, I knew that God's favorite color is blue.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. " John 3:16 RSV

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day

Why does a soldier fight?

A soldier fights over there so we do not fight the war here.

A soldier fights for the Rabbi reading from the Torah.

A soldier fights for the woman pursuing her medical degree.

A soldier fights for the couple who just gave birth to their third child.

A soldier fights for the grocery clerk stocking the shelves.

A soldier fights for the newspaper editor writing tomorrow's opinion.

A soldier fights for the young boy with Presidential aspirations.

A soldier fights for the new patent on the next generation of broadcast technology.

A soldier fights for the rapper writing his next song.

A soldier fights for the actress who just finished her best picture.

A soldier fights for the minister conducting Sunday services.

A soldier fights for the blogger who rants against his own leaders.

And tonight, a soldier fights for me. He may die for me - am I worth his life?

I hope I am.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Linen Suit

Spring is here! I love spring when the aroma of the awakening earth runs along the wind and through the leaves on the once barren branches. Everything is fresh and clean like the smell of new mown grass.

I pack away my sweaters, boots and heavy coats and replace this amour with cottons, sandals and linens; including my linen suits.

Have you ever worn a linen suit? It hangs crisply on the hanger looking business- like and smart, but even the act of 'putting it on' produces the first crinkles of the day. As the day progresses, the car seat belt, your office chair and the movements of arms create their own impression on the suit. As the day continues, your activity is imprinted on the suit for all to see so by the time you return home, the suit is wrinkled and disheveled.

Our soul is like that linen suit. When we awaken each morning, we feel refreshed and neatly pressed; ready to take on the day. Then the day makes its impression on us with crinkles of misunderstandings, creases of anger and frustration, wrinkles of worry, and perhaps a spot or two of despair. By the time we return home, our soul is disheveled.

Unlike the linen suit, we cannot press out our soul's wrinkles with an iron. The fluff setting on our dryer will not plump us up again, nor will a dry cleaners restore our soul.

No, only God can set things right for us. A visit with God will clean the spotting, iron out the wrinkles and fluff out the fabric of our being. We are restored by our Creator - but only if we visit with him at the end of the day.

"Thou art a hiding place for me, thou preserves me from trouble; thou dost encompass me with deliverance. [Selah] I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you. Many are the pangs of the wicked; but steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!" Psalms 32:7-11 RSV

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Winter Harvest

"After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves." Luke 10:1-3 RSV

We have seen that the first fruits will be harvested together before the heat of the summer; lest they wither. The summer fruits are harvested as they ripen and mature. Now let us learn about the winter harvest.

The seeds of the winter harvest were planted along with the first fruits and the summer fruits, however, they have taken longer to germinate and grow. Their growth or even germination may not even appear until after the first fruits have been taken up. Though they may grow along side the summer fruits, they did not benefit from the spring rains. They must persist through the blazing summer sun and possible summer droughts.

The days become shorter with more darkness and cold nighttime winds. An early frost may sear their upper growth. They grow hard shells such as pumpkins or winter squash to withstand the cold, or they may hide underground as potatoes and parsnips. They are not as flavorsome as their spring and summer counterparts, but they have much more substance because of the hardships they have survived.

The Hebrew Harvest Feast of Sukkoth is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Sukkoth is when the final harvest is carried into the storehouse. It is also called the Feast of the Tabernacles to commemorate the huts constructed by the Israelites in the desert. These huts were temporary dwellings which could be erected, taken down and carried during their wanderings. It is also indicated that these huts were constructed in the fields during the final harvest allowing the field workers to sleep close to their fields until the harvest was complete.

"Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!' And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town. "Woe to you, Chora'zin! woe to you, Beth-sa'ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Caper'na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:4-16RSV

These fruits will carry the people through the long, cold winter and witness the returning spring.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Summer Fruits

"Thus the Lord God showed me; behold a basket of summer fruit." Amos 8:1 RSV

The first harvest has been completed leaving room in the garden for the summer fruits. Those grown during this time are the most robust and abundant. They are hardier than the first fruits for they have matured in adversity. They are not harvest together as the first fruits were harvested - but they are harvested as they mature.

These fruits share smaller amounts of rain and blazing sun. They weather thunderstorms; possibly hail. They are subject to predators, insects, slugs, root rot, mildew and drought. Subsequently, they are firmer, spicier, juicier. They provide more nourishing spiritual food than the first fruits because of their adversity. Herbs, spices, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes,
corn, beans - these are the summer fruits harvested throughout the long hot summer.

"Do not be afraid to serve the Chalde'ans. Dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. As for me, I will dwell at Mizpah, to stand for you before the Chalde'ans who will come to us; but as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken." Jeremiah 40:9-10 RSV

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The First Fruits

"As an offering of first fruits you may bring them to the LORD, but they shall not be offered on the altar for a pleasing odor. " Leviticus 2:12 RSV

God's earthly abundance is tied to seasons; there is seed time and harvest. He promised that if we plant our seed, the harvest will be a hundredfold. However, this hundredfold harvest is so bountiful that it must be harvested in divisions or the fruit may wither on the vine before all has been brought into the storehouse.

The expulsion from the Garden ushered in the winter of desolation. Despite periods of sunshine, there was very little growth, but when Jesus started his ministry the planting season began. Those seeds were germinated in the upper room on Pentecost. It is no coincidence that the Hebrew festival of Shavout (Feast of the First Fruits) was also celebrated on that very day.

The first fruits are planted in the first days of increasing sunshine. Rain is abundant and although a late frost may take out some of the crop, most of the early fruits weather the nighttime temperatures with little trouble. These fruits are usually tender such as lettuce, peas, strawberries - for they have been cultivated in the most ideal conditions. They are cherished because they are the first abundance after the long winter, and so the first harvest is completed.

"Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." ICorinthians 15:51-52 RSV

Thursday, May 11, 2006

From My Prayer Journal

This morning you told me that you love me. I want you to know that I love you, too. How can I express my love to you with mere words? They are inadequate to encircle my feelings. I can only express my love through your Word - your son, Jesus.

You have been my salvation, my light on a dark path. I can shine that light on every dark corner of my life and the fear fades away. You have lifted me above confusion and around despair. I have glimpsed heaven through your joy.

What I perceive as difficult, you have made simple. What I could not accomplish alone, you have carried me through in the palm of your hand - safe and hidden.

I look forward to coming home; to seeing your face when I have shed that which separates me from you - my earthly body. Thank you is such a small phrase, but it is all that I have to give. In Jesus' name, Amen.

"And he said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest, nor is anything secret except to come to light . If any man has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:21-23 RSV

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How Do You Navigate the Waters of Life?

We are all on a journey crossing the waters of life to a distant shore. We all start from the same place, but not all of us reach our destination in the same way - if at all. We all want to go home, but it is how we choose to get there that is the key.

There are those who want to get there as quickly as possible, under their own power, so they choose a speed boat. But, they soon find that the crossing is a bumpy, teeth grinding ride. They never reach home because a speed boat cannot hold the fuel to reach that far off destination.

There are those who favor crossing in luxury, so they choose a cabin cruiser, but a storm comes up, and their boat fights against the wind. The boat is tossed against the waves, falters and stops. They drift on the waters never reaching their destination.

Then there are those who choose a sailboat. They open their sails to the wind knowing that this; instead of man-made fuel, will propel them to distant shores. If the wind dies down, they open more sails. If the wind becomes strong, they trim the sails. The wind helps them glide above the waters instead of plowing through and when the weather is brisk, they 'head up' sailing closer to the wind. As the wind changes direction, the sailboat tacks, always adjusting to the wind.

The sailor speaks his own language: rigging, luffing, coming about, that sounds foreign to those choosing to stay on the land. Although they pass through the water without much churning, they still leave a wake and they eventually reach the new land of their visions and dreams. They have come home.

"But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. " Matthew 25 6-13 RSV

Monday, May 08, 2006

Forgive But Not Forget

"...but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:15 RSV

There are two idioms that I would like to address. One is 'Forgive and forget' and the other is 'I will forgive, but I will never forget'. Is there room for both in the kingdom of God?

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." John 14:27 RSV

For us to have peace, we must forgive as Christ forgave. God's plan of salvation through his son, Jesus promises us that our sins are forgiven if we believe. All our past, present and future sins were laid upon the cross, and we walk with God as though there had never been a separation fostered by sin. This removes guilt. Going forward, guilt would be another sin because it is not based on God's plan of salvation. Remember, guilt should come before forgiveness; not after.

When we forgive but not forget, the veil of guilt still hangs over the other person. Also, the veil of self-righteousness hangs over ourselves. The relationship is not restored. The only change is that the power has shifted from one person to the other. We must not only forgive, but forget if the relationship is to be restored.

Also, when we do not forget, our peace has not been restored. Though we hate to admit it, there is no forgiveness without forgetting, for that remembering allows an open door to Satan for stirring up the anger all over again. We must forgive and forget.

Jesus had raised up Peter by appointing him the first leader of the his new church. Peter certainly had a bravado about him and was probably the best candidate for this job. However, when the atmosphere became charged and danger was imminent, Peter denied knowing Christ three times.

When Jesus appeared to the apostles after his death, Peter repented. He didn't tell Jesus he was sorry, but his actions spoke of sorrow and repentance. Jesus forgave him as he prophiesied at the Passover meal - but did Jesus forget?

Obviously, he did because Peter was still the first leader of the church. His sin existed no more.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

God or Church?

God has carried me to a unique position in my spiritual walk with him. Some thirty years ago, I walked down the aisle of a small Baptist church in Kentucky confessing my commitment to God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, his son. I remained at that church for just under two years, then my time there ended.

The next thirty years were spent alone with God. Periodically, I did 'visit' churches feeling that perhaps I should belong to a congregation, but I never found a fit. Meanwhile, God was instructing me, loving me, and preparing me spiritually through his word in the privacy of my own home.

Recently, God directed me towards a Baptist church in my town, and I reluctantly joined this church - not because I felt a connection here, but because God told me to join. Though, I would have preferred to be kept separate, he had work for me to do at this church.

My concern in joining a church was that I would once again become immersed in 'church' leaving behind God's spirit. You see, I was raised a Catholic and taught that the church was all important, all knowing, divinely appointed to be the liaison between God and myself. The church issued proclamations, demanded compliance with their institutions and interpreted God's word to their congregations based on their ideals. To this clergy, compliance with the church dogma was the road to salvation, and it should be revered.

So, did I find a difference in the Baptist church? Who can see the heart of a man, except God? But, I have noticed that the greater number of days per week spent in church service, the greater esteem bestowed. And, I am greatly saddened by this.

In both cases, the love is for the church. The church has become our focus of attention, adoration and perhaps salvation. This is not what Christ intended when he created the church.

"Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, ..." Matthew 4:5 RSV

This verse from Matthew has great significance. It shows that the temple or church of the day no longer belonged to God because it had been infiltrated by the spirit of Satan and that spirit was the same spirit that had separated Lucifer from God - pride.

When we venerate the church instead of God, we are venerating ourselves because we are the church. We have placed Jesus' Bride as our object of worship, and just like Lucifer, we have proclaimed ourselves wiser and more worthy than God.

Did we forget?

"And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split;..." Matthew 27:51 RSV

God destroyed the temple - or church - when Jesus had finished his plan of salvation. No longer would our sins be forgiven through the church by sacrifice or penance, but rather through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Salvation - God's Plan or Man's Plan?

"What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him." Matthew 21:28-32 RSV

Many believe that penance and repentance are synonymous, however, the meaning for each are strikingly different from each other. The Greek word for repentance (Metanoia) is mentioned no less than fifty- eight times in the New Testament and means - a changing of one's heart or mind about something.

The idea of penance (from the Latin, poenitentia) did not originate until well after the apostolic age when men such as Justin and Augustine searched for some type of contrition by man to justify the sinner and restore him to the Spirit of God.

The originators of the Reformation rejected the idea of post baptism forgiveness of sins by contrition and penance. Both John the Baptist and Jesus called sinners to repentance, not to penance because the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was the only payment necessary for the forgiveness of sin. This payment included the past, present and future sins of the believer.

Both Judas and Peter rejected Jesus prior to his crucifixion. Judas handed Jesus over to the authorities and Peter denied knowing Jesus three times after his arrest. Which was forgiven for their denial?

There is no doubt that Judas was sorry (contrition) for what he had done, and he certainly paid his penance (death). However, it was Peter who was forgiven. He turned away from his denial and became the first and strongest witness to God's plan of salvation.

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