Friday, July 18, 2014

Let Me Tell You About a Man...

There once was a man, young in years, yet wise.  He married his true love, prepared to make a life for them on the fertile lands of the Midwestern Plains.  He knew the soil, the seasons, and the life, as it had been his way of living since birth.  They shared their love of tending the soil, for nurturing each other, and, most important, their love for God.  As they began their journey of wedded bliss, however, there were storm clouds on the horizon.

For in a far off country, Communism was dividing the land.  Brother was fighting against brother.  The domination of the many by the few was unveiling the realities of the ideology.  Women and children were suffering and mourning the loss of their husbands, fathers, and sons.  The leadership of our country decided it was time to step in.

And so it was, that the young man--though just beginning his new life, and not yet even 21 years of age--was called by his country to fight on the soil of a foreign land.  Along with thousands of his fellow citizens, he boarded a ship for that land across the ocean.

The man entered a world he had never known:  a world of mortar shells and land mines.  A world where one false move could cost a man his leg, his life, or the lives of many other men.  A world of bitter cold and wounded soldiers.

He spent the majority of his days in an area known as the Punch Bowl.  This was an area that had been taken by the North Koreans, but which the Americans had determined to reclaim for the South Korean people.  Before the man was assigned to the Punch Bowl, 160 men had lost their lives there, as an overzealous commander had been more concerned about his medals than the lives of his men.  It was there that the man truly entered into the horrors of war.

Every day, he would witness young children on their way to school, in the midst of this war zone.  He would load a trailer with provisions for the men on the front lines, and risk his life to assure his fellow soldiers had  provisions. One of those meal runs could have easily ended his life.  As he and his buddy stepped into the bunker with buckets of food, a blast hit the food trailer attached to his Jeep.  That trailer ended up being kicked into a canyon, now a victim of the war, too.  Pieces of the shrapnel ended up in both men, though the man would not have his share removed until over 60 years later.

He would use that same Jeep on other missions as well, as he would often carry the bodies of the same men [he had fed] to a nearby MASH unit for medical care...or to a camp where the body was placed in a bag.  The man learned that every day could truly be his last as well.

One day, while driving along a rim area of the Punch Bowl, known as Heart Break Ridge, he heard a mortar round aimed at the fuel barrels he was transporting.  Though he was not hit, he quickly shoved the barrels off the truck, to lighten the load and make himself less of a target.  On some of those same roads, he taxied an airplane mechanic to assist a downed pilot.  He also spent time concentrating on NOT driving in the ruts of the road, in order to avoid the tell-tale wires of  land mines.  Many times, his cargo was of the high-ranking leadership--a cargo which he transported to the front lines and back.

At a certain point during his service to his country, he was given the privilege of some R&R in the country of Japan.  There, the man handed a very well-worn picture of his bride to an artist, from which the painter was able to compose a beautiful likeness of the man's young wife.

Near the end of the war, the man was commissioned to take a commanding officer from a port on the eastern coast, through miles and miles of forest, to a city in northern Korea, where the Armistice Agreement was to be signed.  However, at an American checkpoint, the two men were refused entry, due to a machine-gun mount on the rear portion of the man's Jeep.  Though the man did his best to negotiate a compromise, in the end, they were turned back, resulting in a long drive back through the mountains and to the coast.

The man faced death and danger every day.  But one day would stick in his mind forever.  Another soldier had been shot by a sniper, and the man was sent to retrieve his body.  The sniper, with uncanny accuracy, had shot the soldier in the head, which caused his helmet to land several feet away.  The man knew the soldier's wife would want her husband's helmet.  To his horror, when he inspected the helmet, the name inside was his own:  Vernon Davis.  Apparently, the two men had slept side-by-side the previous  night.  When dawn broke, the deceased man had accidentally grabbed the wrong helmet.  The man knew that it could have been his head in that helmet, and his body being sent back in a bag.  Yet the man, in the compassion given him by his God, wrote the letter which would be delivered to the soldier's wife, explaining how he had died for his country.  The man wrote many such letters during his time in that foreign land, though he was personally experiencing the daily struggle with the mortality of his brothers and the battle for his own survival.

Then the day came:  the man had his discharge and would return home!  However, again, not all was picture-perfect, for the man had contracted malaria.  He would see his girl soon, but also spend some time recuperating in a veteran's hospital.

The man did not speak of the incidents of the Korean War for many years.  He would occasionally mention positive memories, but never anything in depth.  Until last week, when the man sat with his youngest daughter and a photo album, and his memories came out, bit by bit.  The time had finally come for the stories--hidden inside for over half a century--to be shared.

Yes, the man is my father.  He is a hero.  He is MY hero.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Just a Misunderstanding

If there is one thing that is really hard for me (to deal with), it's being misunderstood.  Whether it is the intention of my actions, or the tone of my voice, or the look in my eyes, I want to be understood.

One of the prime examples is from the birth of our second son.  While in labor, and just minutes before he made his presence known, I was in the middle of a hard contraction.  The pressure against my lungs was immense.  I couldn't catch my breath.  I felt like I was going to pass out.  I gasped out, "I can't..."  But before I could say, "Breathe," one of the nurses rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, yes, you can."  Seriously?  I had my first son with no drugs whatsoever.  I know what natural childbirth feels like.  I wanted to scream at her, "I know what I'm going through.  I just can't BREATHE!"  But, alas, my next contraction hit, and my mind shifted to more pressing issues than straightening out the nurse.  :o)

More recently, the misunderstanding worked out in an unusual way, though.

While with my son at a campus visit, I was standing to the side while he was waiting in line for his breakfast.  A young lady was sitting nearby.  We exchanged the usual, "Hi, how are you?" type of pleasantries.  Then, suddenly, she looked right at me and said, "I know what you're thinking.  You're judging me!"  I was truly shocked.  I had no idea what she meant.  So I asked, "Judging you for what?"  Her response:  "You're thinking, 'What's wrong with this crazy girl, and why does she have some of her hair shaved off?' "  I could honestly reply, "I didn't even notice that.  What I was really thinking was that you're a pretty young lady."  And she was!  Only after she mentioned it did I notice the small area of shaved hair and the bright streak of pink in the back.  Later, as we were leaving campus, we exchanged hugs and I told her I'd be praying for her.  She definitely made an impression on me.  But not because of her hair.  The impression was that she was very self-conscious about her appearance and needed to be reminded that she was beautiful.  (That's not her in the pic.  Just a random pic.)

In pondering this, I think we often do the same thing with God.  When we're in the middle of a situation, we assume we know why God is doing what He's doing to us.  He's mad at us.  He's trying to teach us a lesson.  He's punishing us for a sin.


Maybe we should ask HIM what his intentions are.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, May 26, 2014

Diploma in Hand

Yesterday afternoon, I saw a young man take one of his many steps toward independence and adulthood.  As the tassle was moved from one side of the mortarboard to the other, a giant leap was made.  High school was ended.

Nineteen years ago, I heard the most remarkable news:  we were going to have a baby!  Our first, and the child of our prayers, David has been such an amazing blessing to our lives since that first moment when we learned of his presence in my womb.

As he takes these next strides into his adult life, it is time for Mom and Dad to take some steps back.  But the prayers will always be there, son.  May God go with you, lead you, and be your ever-present Source.

Love you!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

The Dark Path

Today's Scripture reading was the story of the road to Emmaus.  If you're not familiar with the story, it takes place on the day of Christ's resurrection.

"That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma′us, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him."

Two of Jesus' followers were leaving Jerusalem.  Hearts broken from seeing their Teacher crucified, they were returning home.  They were discussing it all, probably trying to sort it out.  What would they do, now that the one [they believed to be the Messiah] wad dead?  Yet, the women said He was alive.  What should they make of all this?  And then, He was there.  A man that seemed to be just another traveler.  

"And he said to them, 'What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?' And they stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, named Cle′opas, answered him, 'Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?' And he said to them, 'What things?' And they said to him, 'Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.'”

Who could He be, this stranger, who had not even heard of Jesus?  How could this man live in this region, yet not know of these terrible happenings?  Ah, but He did know."And he said to them, 'O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?'  And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

Now they were even more puzzled!  This man had such wisdom.  He taught as only One other had taught.  He knew the Scriptures.  Even more, He knew the Scriptures regarding the Messiah.  He made everything so clear.  They must hear more!

"So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, 'Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.' So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight." 

They recognized Him when He broke the bread.  The only One this could be?  The One they knew to be crucified, and others now claimed to be alive.  Yes, the women were right! But He had disappeared from their sight. Now, what?

"They said to each other, 'Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?'  And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, 'The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!'  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread."

The day was "far spent," and yet they returned to Jerusalem.  They walked in the dark, with burning hearts, because the message they had to share was worth it.  They could not wait until dawn.  They must make the journey.  Their news was received with joy and confirmation:  He has risen indeed!

Sometimes, we have to walk in the dark for awhile.  We have been with Jesus.  He has opened our hearts and our spiritual eyes to amazing things in the Scripture.  He has spent time imparting Himself to us.  We have a new awakening.  We must share it with others!  Yet...there is that walk in the dark.  Dare we venture out into the gathering mists of night?  Or should we wait a bit longer?  Perhaps wait for the morning light?  The darkness often shrouds the destination from our sight.

The walk in the dark is not pleasant, to be sure.  It is a time of eager anticipation of a return to light.  We have a message to share, you know.  This darkness is an obstacle that we would wish away if we could.  But it is necessary.

Are you walking in a dark time of life?  Does it seem God has put you on a path you do not desire?  Walk through the darkness, my friend.  Let God lead you by the hand to the place He chooses.

For at the end you will know, in an even deeper way:  He has risen indeed!  

*For "the rest of the story," read Luke 24, beginning with verse 36.  I think you'll agree:  the trip through the dark was worth it for them!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Familiar Voice

While I was growing up, I always had a pet.  Since we lived on a farm, we tended to have several "barnyard" cats of the mixed breed variety.  I had aquarium fish and gerbils. There was seldom a time when I did not have a dog.  When I left for college, the dog I had was Buddy, a German shepherd.  (My dogs were ALL my buddies.)  Buddy died shortly before I returned home after my freshman year.

I don't have any actual photos of Freddy,
but this little guy looks a lot like him!
A couple of weeks later, my dad brought home a scrawny, malnourished puppy.  He had found it near an irrigation system.  I immediately adopted the little guy, and named him Freddy.  He flourished, and was romping around our yard with me within days.  About three weeks before I left for college, Dad got a phone call.  The man on the line said, "I hear you found one of my puppies?"  Dad affirmed that we had been in possession of the dog since May.  The gist of the conversation was this:  the dog must be returned, but not until I left for college.

During my Thanksgiving break, my mom asked if I would like to visit Freddy?  We drove to the area of Freddy's owner.  When I stepped out of the car, several young dogs, all the same size/age of Freddy came running down the road.  But when I called out, "Freddy!" only one dog came to me. He had instantly recognized me. Freddy and I had a joyous little reunion right there in the middle of the road!

As I was reminiscing on this time, I realized it was a great picture of Lent.  Throughout our lives, we get separated from our Master.  We tend to stray off into the little side roads of life.  But when our Master calls our name, we recognize His voice.  Our decision is whether to run toward that Voice or turn our back and run away.

Lent allows us the opportunities we need to focus on hearing God's voice more distinctly.  Fasting, prayer, and alms giving are the main ways we do this.  Fasting, because it is a choice to separate ourselves from something we want, in order to spend more time with God.  Prayer, because it is the actual participating in listening to God and allowing His Voice to become even clearer, without the distractions.  But alms giving?What is THAT?!  It is an old fashioned term which means giving to the poor.  What does this have to do with drawing closer to God?  The more we focus on God's voice, the more we should want to help those in need.  Letting go of our money is a vivid picture of letting God be in charge of our finances.  It's an amazing reminder of allowing God to be in charge of each and every area of our lives.

When He calls your name, will you recognize His voice?

Monday, March 03, 2014

Speak Life!

I want to share a very personal story with my blog readers.  I was blessed by a total stranger today.  This woman will never know how much she impacted my life.

Now that I'm in the "over 45" crowd (and have been for a couple of years!), my doctor is strongly urging me to undergo some of the tests I've been avoiding because I felt I was too young.  Or, to be more honest, I just didn't want to go through them because I'm a needle-phobe and have severe white coat syndrome.  This is no joke.  The doctor (I'm seeing now) is the first who hasn't made my blood pressure go up just by walking in the room.

Most recently, she made a very convincing argument for the necessity of a mammogram.

I have no knowledge of a woman who enjoys this procedure.  However, there is some history of cysts in my family--no breast cancer I'm aware of--so I figured it was better to make the appointment and just get it over with.  Three to four days of pain, and I would be fine, right?

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the appointment and...survived.  However, a follow-up call from my doctor's office informed me they could not get a good read on one side.  I needed to make another appointment and have some new "pictures" taken.  Ugh.

I went back today, knowing a little better what to expect.  Going by what I was told, there was nothing to worry about.  This was all pretty routine.  Until I walked into the radiology department.

The technician showed me one of the x-rays from my last appointment.  There was a good-sized spot on that picture.  She said there was concern about it.  Thus, the new testing.  I was floored.  She was surprised that I was so...well, surprised.

We went through another round of x-rays.  Then I waited.  Those were some agonizing 15-20 minutes, as I sat alone in the tiny dressing cubicle and prayed.  And prayed.  I felt very alone.

She called me back in, only to inform me the radiologist wanted just "a few" more pictures to read.  As you can imagine, I was getting past the "this-is-no-big-deal" stage to the "what-in-the-world-is-going-on" stage.  More images, more pain, and then more waiting.  More loneliness.

When she called my name again, I stepped out of the dressing area expecting grim news.  However, the tech had a smile on her face.  Her report:  "That last image was the clearest one.  The radiologist said it's all clear.  Everything is fine."  And then, it happened...

She stepped forward and wrapped me in a hug.  Her words:  "I can see the look on your face.  I've been there.  This is good news, though!  Go home and have a great evening!"

That is one of the best hugs I have ever been given.  I will never forget it.  Thank you for blessing me with your friendship today, sweet technician.

Her words breathed life into an afternoon that had become very dark and lonely.  God definitely answered my prayers.  Not so much because of the results (though, of course, that is an answer, too!).  The real answer came in the hug of a stranger.

Thank you, God, for showing me Your love through that amazingly kind woman.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Song


There is joy in the Lord!


"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."   Colossians 1:11, 12



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What He Sees

This past weekend, our oldest son had a role in a local stage production of "The Outsiders."  I have never read the book or seen the movie.  It was a sobering look at the lives of teens separated by social status.  The "greasers" and the "socs" (well-to-do social upper crust) were the groups created in the mind of S. E. Hinton. Yet they represent the divide between many types of kids in any decade.

The climactic moment of the play is a rumble.  Our son played the part of Paul, one of the socs, who begins the fight.  As the young men began swinging their fists, suddenly, our son was being pummeled and knocked to the ground.  I knew this was coming, and it still made me slightly sick to my stomach.  I knew he was really going to be okay...yet I wanted to run to the stage, drag my eldest to safety, then head back onto the stage and straighten things out!

As I was watching, though, a thought came to me:  how does God feel when we're getting beat up?  When we challenge the world to a fight, and they step up to take us on...what is God thinking?  Does He want to call out a warning to us ("Duck!") or step in and receive the punch in the face in our place?

But, as a good parent, He sometimes lets us take our walloping.

You might be thinking, "What good parent would do that?"

One who knows what is best for us.  Sometimes we have to take our licking.  We have stepped into a situation, and He lets us learn our lesson.  We have been belligerent and tried to take matters into our own hands.  We have become cocky, thinking we could take on the enemy's thugs--and will win it all on our own, and in our own way.  We want to fight on our own, and He lets us see what happens when we do that. The enemy likes to make us think we're in the battle by ourselves.  He isolates us and bring on his bullies.  We fall for it.

But, as a good parent, He also reminds us He is on our side.  We don't have to fight alone or give in to the enemy's tactics. We need to learn we have to fight by God's rules and use His battle plan. We can call on our Big Brother to step in and save us.  Because He has already fought the battle and won.  He knows how to do it, and will help us win, too.

Yes, some of the skirmishes are going to end in ways we find unpleasant.  But always, always remember:  we may not win each fight, but with God on our side, we will win the WAR.