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On Being Transparent

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.     Isaiah 64:6a

I don’t do windows.

Well, every few years I try. There will be that bright sunny morning when the light was streaming in, and the need for cleaning was so obvious, I grab the window cleaner, spray bottle, rags, paper towels, and squeegee and get to work. Two or three hours later I throw in the towel (and everything on it) and once more promise myself, never again!

Every summer we go to the house in Michigan that my grandparents built it in the 1940s. It was elegant then and it is still elegant now. Forty-six years ago my husband Marty and I got married there, and two years ago our youngest daughter married the love of her life there. The house has French provincial architecture, fireplaces, a bay window, and French doors that open onto a patio overlooking the lake.

It also has windows that have had a curse put on them. Or maybe it’s just the paint on the frames that dissolves every time any liquid touches it… Each magical little pane is specially made to get dirtier the more it’s wiped. After several attempts at cleaning, the glass will go from mildly dirty to ridiculously streaked on the outside – when you’re looking out. Of course, when you’re outside looking in, all you see are the streaks that are inside. I have on occasion treated the job like an Olympic event, “the Window Sprint” – Can I run outside and get that streak off before I forget where it is? Pretty soon I’m streaked too, with sweat and dirt, and breathless with exasperation. No gold medal here.

(Now please don’t write and tell me how you clean your windows. Believe me, I’ve heard the advice, all about vinegar and newspapers and yada-yadda-yadda… I’ve tried it all.)

A few years ago we put our house in Port Huron up for sale, and one of the many jobs that needed to be done was … clean the windows. [Insert scary horror movie music here.] When a perfectly gorgeous day came up and I had absolutely nothing on my schedule, there was no excuse to put off the job, however desperately I wished for one.

I was delightfully surprised to find the job was not only effective but surprisingly fun when it actually worked! I found myself singing as I got into the rhythm -squirt-squeegee-wipe, squirt-squeegee-wipe – and pretty soon I was looking around for more windows to clean. At the end of the day I was standing in the living room, gazing out at the Lake Huron, relishing the fact that the windows were virtually invisible and I may as well have been standing outside. >Eureka!<

For some reason I took this to mean I now knew how to clean windows, so when we later went to Portage Lake, one bright, sunny day I confidently grabbed my trusty squeegee and began to make the dining room gorgeous, one little pane at a time, forgetting that these windows were cursed… Two hours, one roll of paper towels, one bottle of Windex, and one tantrum later, there was not one pane that was totally clean. I threw up my hands and yelled “I GIVE UP!” followed by a few other things that were probably inappropriate for a Christian to be saying.

Have you been there? I don’t mean just with windows, but anything that you’ve tried to “fix,” that only gets worse the more you try? As I stood there that day, hot and exhausted, scowling at the streaks blocking the view of the beautiful lake, I figured the only way to get a clear view would be just to break the windows. That’s it! Just take out the pains – er, panes – completely, and the view would be great. Of course, that would have made the house a bit drafty and buggy, so Marty didn’t go for that idea.

It occurred to me that I was looking at a picture of sin. The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of Mankind has been under the curse of sin. For many people, their lives may seem “good enough.” But then the light of God’s truth shines through, and it becomes painfully obvious that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) The more we look at our sin, the more it bothers us.

So, what do some of us do? We try to clean up our act. Somehow we think we can make it right on our own, although it should soon be apparent that if we were so capable of doing good, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess in the first place. After trying to make things right, we see that we have failed, and more often than not, our feeble attempts have made the situation worse than ever. At this point we should see that we can’t do this ourselves. But some of us refuse to believe we’re that helpless. So we try harder, thinking if we could just try hard enough, we’ll finally clean up our lives.

The bottom line is, we can’t fix the mess ourselves. We have only two choices. We can avoid the Light and hope nobody notices the dirt, or we can go to God and ask Him to help us. Fortunately, He can. In fact, He sent His Son, Jesus, to take all our dirt onto Himself. When He died for us, He was taking our sin and nailing it to the Cross, and we never have to be enslaved by it again. He can make our lives clean, and He can shine His light through us. Isn’t it a relief to know we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up?

I haven’t yet figured out how to get Jesus to do my windows for me, but two years ago before our daughter Kelly married the love of her life on the lawn at that house, we did hire a professional exorcist – er, window cleaning service. Now when I look out through the crystal clear glass and remember how it used to be, I know what a mess I would be without Jesus. I’m just grateful that I’m not without Him, and that He was willing to do what was necessary to make me clean, so He could shine His light through me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in ourselves we are powerless to clean up our own lives. Thank You that You have not left us on our own, but You have shed Your blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we can live the lives You want us to live – the lives we truly want. We choose to trust You to shine through us today, in Your power, in Your name. Amen

The Vanity of Vanity

Do not love the world or anything in the world.        I John 2: 15a

It was a typical morning. Marty was sipping his coffee and checking his phone for the day’s news stories. I was sipping my coffee and getting ready to take the dog on his morning walk. This was the time I usually prayed, as the early morning solitude was perfect for talking to God, my phone got left at home, and the dog was happy, thinking I was talking to him. It was also typical that a multitude of things were vying for my attention. Of course, since I was still sipping my coffee, I thought I may as well take a quick look at my emails – checking for prayer requests.

Off at the side of the screen an image flashed of an absolutely gorgeous dress. If not the most beautiful dress I had ever seen, it was definitely in the top five. Royal blue (my color!), neither tight nor baggy, just flowing gracefully. The model even had my hair, so if I blurred my eyes or covered her face with my thumb, I could see myself wearing that amazing garment to the next wedding. Or ball. Or coronation…

Desire took hold. I showed the picture to Marty, whose opinions on women’s fashion is usually somewhere between indifferent and comatose, and even he did a double take and said, “You should get it!” without even knowing the price. As it was, the dress was on sale, and the price ridiculously low. I would gladly have paid three times that much. I knew the dog (not to mention the Lord) was waiting, but I thought, This will just take a minute, and clicked onto the site.

Of course, the “just a minute” takes a little longer if you have to set up an account, but I typed in my name and email address and created a password at record speed. I then went on to place the order but was told that the password I had just entered and confirmed was “invalid.” After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, I clicked on “Forgot my password” to have them send me what they thought it was, only to be told that my email address was also invalid. By this time my mood was, shall we say, not exactly prayerful?

Then the Holy Spirit, or maybe it was just the voice of common sense, told me that my prayer time had again been sabotaged, and I was getting emotionally upset over not possessing a dress that an hour ago I had no idea existed!

My prayer time that day included some meditation on the sin of vanity.

Prayer: Lord, we are so easily distracted by the world and its “treasures.” Help us to set our minds on You and to have the divine perspective to know that true treasures come from You. In the name of Jesus, the greatest Treasure of all. Amen.

Guilty as Charged (God’s Perspective on Murder)

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sandhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.                                                                                                                                                                                Matthew 5: 21-22

I committed murder this morning.

I called a man a “fool.” In my defense, he had told his wife “the marriage is over” and is living with his new girlfriend. If that isn’t the biblical definition of a fool, what is?

Still, I took it upon myself to do God’s job. I judged someone who is a sinner – just like me. And I had to repent, pray, and receive God’s forgiveness.

Some people have opined that it’s easier to be a Christian than an Orthodox Jew, since the Old Testament has hundreds of laws to follow and instructions on how to atone for oneself when having broken one of those laws. The New Testament, recognizing that the Old Testament law was impossible for anyone to follow, offers us grace. We no longer have to offer endless sacrifices to atone for all of our blunders; Jesus gave His life so that we could be forgiven on the basis of His sacrifice.

But there is a way in which Jesus made it harder on those who would like to think themselves holier than everyone else. These “religious” people knew the Law and kept it – outwardly. The Law said, “Thou shalt not murder,” and as far as they knew, they hadn’t. The Law said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and as far as they knew, they had kept themselves sexually clean.

But then Jesus came along and raised the bar. In His Sermon on the Mount, He redefines “sin” in terms of not just behavior but the heart. Jesus said that someone who is angry with his brother is murdering him in his heart (Matthew 5:21-22), and that “anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

Suddenly, everyone is guilty. Jesus did not present this perspective of the Law to make us more righteous,  but to show us that none of us can obey God’s Law. He wanted us to know that we need a Savior. Those who say Jesus was a great teacher who taught us how to live, and at the same time do not believe that He is the Savior of the world, are missing the whole point of Jesus’ life and teachings.

Please don’t misunderstand, having a relationship with Jesus will help us live better lives. If we truly know Him, we will love Him, and if we love Him, we won’t say, “Man, I’m glad my sins are paid for,” and go out and do whatever the devil, our sin nature, and the world tell us to do. If we love Him – if we’re in love with Him – we would rather die than hurt Him. But living a good life is not what saves us.

I have known Jesus for more than half a century, and I can’t begin to tell you how much He has blessed my life. (This blog is an attempt at a start, anyway.) And I still sin. The difference is, I don’t believe I sin nearly as much as I would without knowing Him, and when I do sin, He lets me know. Like the other time I was aware of being a murderer.

I had the radio on while I was fixing dinner, and a story came on about some people who had swindled a trusting elderly lady and had taken her entire life’s savings. My instant reaction was to became judge and jury, declaring out loud, “Those people oughta be shot!

Immediately, I recognized that in that split second I had become a murderer in my heart. I’m hopeless, I thought. But I also knew immediately that I would be hopeless without Jesus, but I wasn’t without Jesus. I stopped what I was doing, repented, and thanked Him for His grace.

Psalm 103:8-14 is a passage that has been my lifeline whenever I would realize how much I fall short of God’s standards.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,                                                                                                 slow to anger, abounding in love.                                                              He will not always accuse,                                                                                                                               nor will he harbor his anger forever;                                                             he does not treat us as our sins deserve                                                                                                        or reward us according to our iniquities.                                 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,                                                                                          so great is his love for those who fear him;                                                      as far as the east is from the west,                                                                                                              so far has he removed our transgressions from us.           As a father has compassion on his children,                                                                                                so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;                  For he knows how we are formed,                                                                                                                  he remembers that we are dust.

It is such a comfort to me to know that God understands that we are incapable of living the righteous life on our own, and He is here to help us. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. All of them. For anyone who will repent, this forgiveness is His free gift.

Even for a murderer like me.

Prayer: LORD, alone we are helpless to do good. Thank You for spelling it out so clearly that keeping Your Law by sheer willpower is impossible, and that You understand. Thank You for providing a way for us to be cleansed of our sins committed through word, action, thought, attitude, and even our myriad sins of omission. Lead us in a life that reflects Your grace, and never let us make the mistake of thinking that we do good things on our own. It’s all YOU. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

There’s Got To Be an Easier Way To Get Readers

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”    Romans 8:28

I had been on the road for about two hours, making good time and thinking I would be back in Louisville before 8:00. But in a moment my plans were changed, and I found myself on a new “assignment,” “adventure,” whatever you want to call the unexpected event.

I had made it from the Michigan town where I had attended an author event, as far as Ohio, when traffic on the highway in a major city suddenly became heavy. Several vehicles slowed to a complete stop, and I could see the car in front of me fishtailing to keep from hitting the car in front of him. I slammed on the brakes, barely avoiding a collision, but a split second later I felt the unmistakable sensation of being slammed into from behind. My first thought was profound:

Oops.

After pulling off to the side of the street, I looked around amid stuff that had been thrown about – my purse and its contents (I really need to get into the habit of zipping that thing up.) the box from the restaurant that had held (loosely) leftover salad from lunch, and a little of everything else, except my phone, which was in an unknown location, having flown off its holder.

My next thought was OK, I’m alive. Thank You, Lord. My thoughts went back to the meeting my husband and I had had with a lawyer a few days prior to update our wills, and the fact that I had started a letter to the worship pastor at our church, telling him what kind of service I wanted in the event I should be “called home.” As I sat amid the mess in the front seat of my car, I told myself, I really need to get that letter written!

Pulling my mind back into the present moment, I got out and approached the vehicle behind me, where a teenaged girl looked shaken, and asked if she was OK. She said yes, although “That was scary.” I agreed. The front of her little car looked like a smashed tin can with dangling headlights.

My car, on the other hand,  didn’t show much damage, and what upset me more than the crash was having no clue where my cell phone was. Even when I had the young lady call my number, I couldn’t hear it ring. I wondered if it had been flung off the side of the road and lost forever – my address book, my camera, my photo album, well, you get it. I was seriously bothered.

After about fifteen minutes, at last I found my phone, beneath the carpet under the passenger seat, wedged into a small space in the floor. (Go figure.) I called the police to report the accident, and when they asked if anyone was hurt, I honestly told them “No.” (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) Consequently, it was nearly two hours before the police showed up. The girl’s father arrived more promptly, a little shaken himself, partly because the car his daughter had been driving was totaled, and mostly relieved that she was all right.

While we were waiting for the police to arrive, much of the time the young lady and I sat on the side of the hill, talking and getting to know each other. To be more exact, we were learning each other’s life stories. I’ve always loved teenagers, and she was the kind of kid I could like right away – open and transparent, telling me some very personal things about her life, which I won’t share here. Not surprisingly, like many young people, she had struggled with anxiety, and I was sure this present situation wasn’t helping. I noticed she seemed anxious whenever her attention went back to her car, and I felt it best to keep her talking about other things. Once her dad was on the scene and we had to focus on the crash, he and I ended up reminiscing about our first accidents. (At the age of sixteen I had done to my Mustang pretty much what she’d done to her car.) I think that might have helped her feel a little better; nobody’s perfect.

Of course, at one point in our conversation about school and such, I asked her if she liked to read, and when she said “yes,” I gave her one of my books written for teens and young adults, which just happened to be in my car after the author event. 😉 Since she had a job at a well known candle company, she in turn gave me something to make my car smell good.

When the ordeal was over and I left, we hugged and wished each other the best. I remember thinking as I drove away in my car, which now had the scent of pumpkin spice to drown out the smell of spilled salad – We are SUCH GIRLS! (Somehow I can’t see guys behaving the way we did.)

Romans 8:28 says, basically, that there’s a reason for everything if we love the Lord – and if we are called by Him. In other words, even before we know Him, things are working together to bring us to Him. Although she and I had prayed together, thanking God for our lives, I don’t know exactly what that teen’s relationship with God is. I do know that if she reads the book I gave her, she’ll know how to know Him, if she doesn’t already. And I hope that rather than increasing her anxiety, that crash just might be something she’ll look back on and see as part of God’s plan in her life. She is still alive, so He certainly has something planned for her.

To put it another way, I don’t believe that accident was entirely an accident.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for sparing my life and the life of that young girl. Help me never to take for granted that every day of life is a bonus – another day to serve You. Help us both to fulfill Your purpose for us, in Jesus’ name. Amen 

 

That Ain’t Me! (The Proverbs 31 Woman) Part 2

There is a time for everything,                                                                                               and a season for every activity under heaven.                                                                                                                                                    Ecclesiastes 3:1

Yesterday we looked at the description of the “wife of noble character” described in a passage in Proverbs 31, and how it has been a cause of guilt on the part of many of today’s women.

I made the statement that (in my opinion) the “Proverbs 31 Woman” doesn’t exist, at least the kind of woman we think of when reading this passage – the woman who can burn the candle at both ends and in the middle (and probably makes her own candles), and raises perfect children, runs a lucrative business, gives to the poor, etc. And I pointed out that nowhere in the passage does it say that the woman does all in one day, but that all of us go through different seasons of life. Let’s take a look at some of those seasons.

Are you single? Then don’t feel guilty about not yet being a “wife of noble character.” Focus on your relationship with God – becoming a woman of noble character, so that if  marriage is part of God’s plan for you, you’ll be more prepared to step into that role.

Are you newly married? You might focus on your home – refinishing furniture, painting, upholstering, and interior designing. Some women are very gifted at creating a beautiful environment.

If you’re not an HGTV woman, that’s okay, too! This may be a season for a job, putting your husband through school, or getting through school yourself. It is definitely time to focus on your new marriage and establishing a firm foundation of Christ for your home. (The husband may be the “head” of the home, but in my opinion the wife is the heart.)

Are you “with child”? Then this is NOT the season to be up before dawn, working hard and vigorously through the day, taking care of everyone else, and working on into the night! If you’re tired, get your feet up, take a nap, and don’t feel guilty about it! In taking care of yourself, you’re taking care of your child, and that’s a good thing.

If you have small children, you and your husband might pray about whether you should be a stay-at-home mom for a season. If that’s God’s plan, one income will be enough for the family. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking “enough” means a new car every year, going out to eat every other night, and an annual vacation to an exotic place. You are raising the next generation of citizens for the kingdom of God, and nothing is more important than that.

When the kids start school, you may be thinking about going back to a job, or even a career. If your family’s finances are sufficient, you may be led to volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. If the cause is your children’s school, so much the  better! As a teacher, I taught children whose parents volunteered at the school, and I had students whose parents didn’t even show up for parent-teacher conferences. From my perspective, parental involvement makes a huge difference in how well the child does. If your child struggles, you may be in a season of working part-time or not at all, to be sure you’re available to help with homework and be in communication with the teachers. You may even be led to home school. (I am in awe of such parents.)

Whatever you choose, never underestimate how much physical, mental, and emotional energy it takes to be a good parent. Don’t be pressured into doing what the world defines as “important,” while your child suffers setbacks that could last for years.

Pay does not define the importance of a job!

When the children are grown and out of the house, it might be time to pursue other interests and passions, be more involved with your church, local ministries, and outreaches. You could even start your own business, do freelance work, or, if you can’t imagine your life without children, continue to volunteer in schools, Sunday school, or VBS.

But, [Write this down.] you can’t do it all. The world will tell you that you can, but even if you do manage to “do it all,” chances are “it all” will be done poorly. Better to do one or two things with excellence than doing everyone’s bidding and not satisfying anyone, least of all God.

Thirdly, if you find that you have fallen short, even within reasonable guidelines, NEWSFLASH! We’ve all fallen short! (Romans 3:23) There’s a remedy for that, and it’s called GRACE. Never hesitate to come to God for His grace when you need it. Proverbs 31 describes a worthy goal for wives, not a typical achievement, even for the most godly and capable of women.

A note to single moms: If you find that a full-time job is necessary to provide for your children, don’t take on the guilt of thinking that your children are suffering irreparable damage.  If you love them, they know it. Pray for them. Pray with them. When you’re with them, give them your best, and trust God to fill in the gaps. Let them know that He is their Daddy.

Ladies, only God should tell you what to do with your life at any given season, confirming His leading through your husband, if you’re married. “Resist the devil,” (James 4:7) but resist the world, too. (Romans 12:2) That includes anything the devil and the world try to use against you, including Scripture. If Satan quoted Scripture out of context to tempt Jesus (Matthew 4:6), it’s not inconceivable that he would use Proverbs 31 out of context to bring condemnation and depression to women who earnestly want to please the Lord. Don’t fall into the trap of comparison. With your unique blend of passions, abilities, experiences, and opportunities, you are one of a kind.

Prayer: LORD, thank You for grace. We know that without You we can do nothing, but with Your help, we can do more than we ever imagined. Keep us from setting impossible goals for ourselves based on the world’s perspective. Give us Your perspective – divine perspective, in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

That Ain’t Me! (The “Proverbs 31 Woman”)

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Proverbs 31:10

Probably the most familiar passage of Proverbs is found in chapter 31, and it is the passage that causes the strongest reaction from women. And that reaction is often…

GUILT.

King Lemuel is describing “a wife of noble character,” one that we women would do well to emulate.

This woman brings her husband nothing but good all of his life, and he has full confidence in her. (vs 11-12) She is discerning when choosing her materials and has a splendid attitude toward her work. (vs 13) She gets up before sunup (vs 14) and fixes breakfast for her family.  She also provides “portions” for her employees. (vs 15) Whether the latter means food or daily assignments, either way she is responsible and organized.

She is a shrewd businesswoman, owner of a vineyard. (vs 16) She is energetic, setting about her work with vigor, and she is physically strong. (vs 17) She is a lucrative saleswoman who works late into the night. (vs 18) She apparently spins her own wool and makes clothing for her household (vs 19, 21), as well as coverings for her bed – and by the way, she is always well dressed and looking good! (vs 22)

She is kind and compassionate to the poor and needy. (vs 20) She is a supplier of linen garments, which of course, she makes herself. (vs 24) She “is clothed with strength and dignity” and looks to the future with confidence. (vs 25) (If I could do all that, I’d be pretty confident, too.) She is wise, and oh yes, she is a teacher. (vs 26) She always knows what’s going on in her house, and she’s never caught loafing. (vs. 27)

And what does she get in return? “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” (vs 28)

If you’re like me, you get tired just thinking about all the things this woman does, and seeing how much you do not measure up, possibly on the verge of depression. . This woman makes Martha Stewart look like a slug. And me? Well, I have a hard time ordering my own life, much less taking care of everyone else, coming out ahead, and looking like a supermodel when all is said and done.

So, what are we to do with this passage? There’s obviously a reason for it, as it’s in the Bible, and in Proverbs, no less – the book of wisdom.

Okay, ladies, take a deep breath. According to Titus 2, older women are to teach the younger ones, and as I have a few years under my belt, I would like to offer some words of comfort and advice to the younger women, especially those of you who are up to your eyeballs in laundry, children, bills, and women’s magazines telling tell you what you ought to be:

First,  God loves you, where and who you are. He made you for a special purpose, and He will not ask you to do anything without giving you the resources to accomplish it. And he does not want you depressed!

Secondly, (and I hope I don’t get struck by lightning for saying this) the “Proverbs 31 woman” does not exist. At least, not the way we have been taught to see her. Yes, she does a gazillion things, but nowhere does it say that she does them all every day. Each of us has seasons in life, and I think the idea of seasons applies to women even more than to men.

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of these seasons.

Prayer:  Thank You, Jesus, for bearing the burden our guilt, paying the penalty for our sins on the cross. Thank You that through faith in You we can be forgiven and pursue a godly life, free from the weight of guilt. Lord, thank You for Your patience with us, for giving us a lifetime to learn the wisdom that You have for us. Make us teachable, and keep our minds from being clouded by the demands and misplaced priorities of the world. In Your name, amen.

Post Script and Re-post

The Pharisee stood up and prayed to himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoer, adulterers – or even like this tax collector.”                                                                                                                                   Luke 18:11

I want to share with my readers this timely and excellent piece by One day at a time… a.k.a. floatinggold, a.k.a. “Goldie.” But first, a postscript regarding what I shared last week (“Well, That Was Worth a Sinus Infection.”):

I met the lady who is fighting bone cancer yesterday to get her the copies of BARRIERS that she requested. She said (again) that she loves the book, although she hasn’t read very far – family members keep passing it around, so she got five more copies so they could each have their own and she could get hers back. She also got one to give to her local library. The money she insisted on paying me was roughly the same as what it had just cost me to ship eight copies to India as a gift. (A pastor friend is using BARRIERS as a kind of “textbook” in training other pastors. -> !) When I told her she had helped me ship eight books to the other side of the world, she was delighted at the thought of being part of God’s plan for India. (Isn’t it fun to be on His team?)

Now, on a completely different subject,

NROP* Behind Hated Professions, There Are Hated People

Why is it that we fear law enforcement even if we have done nothing wrong?
Have you ever arrived at the border with a twinge of fear? Hopefully, you were not a wanted criminal at the time of the crossing (And you are not one now, right?!), you did not try to smuggle something through, and you did have a visa (or other access-granting documentation). If you travel internationally on a regular basis, such crossing might have become nothing more than a nuisance (Who likes to stand in line?), but for those who do not, it might be a moment of raised blood pressure and increased perspiration. In case of border patrol, you know that they have the power to mess your day up if anything is not ideal. You might not love border patrol because they are an obstacle through which you have to get through to get to your destination. That is understandable. Chances are that you might be short with them because of that.
However, they are just doing their jobs, protecting the country for which they work. How do you feel when someone does not treat you courteously at your place of work?
Some people go a step farther and actually claim to hate border patrol agents. The situation is more dire than ever here in the US, during the current political climate. Professions that were respected in the past are now being spat at.
Blue lives matter.
The beginnings of the Border Patrol (BP) date back to early 1920s. Back then, these agents came from either Texas Rangers or local sheriff’s offices and mainly dealt with whiskey contraband. What is interesting is that these agents often used their own horses and/ or saddles for work. Even though there are still BP agents riding horseback, a lot of changes have been made to the whole profession since the Prohibition era.
Border Patrol is a part of the largest federal law enforcement agency – Customs and Border protection, which guards 7,000 miles of US’s Northern and Southern border, 95,000 miles of shoreline and over 300 ports of entry. Being a Border Patrol agent is a dream job for some because an entry level job for someone with a high school diploma guarantees $55,000/ annually in wages. Within four years, it is more than possible for that number to jump to $100,000.
Before, the job involved a lot of hiding, laying low and waiting until a smuggler came along. The agents felt a rush of adrenaline when they chased someone, acting like the border military. Unfortunately, the job has become less than desirable in recent years, as many agents receive death threats and are called “kid killers”. Moreover, the agents only eat at places that they know are safe and friendly. Otherwise, they run the risk of having people spit (and more) into their food.
The suicide rate among these workers is on the rise. Many BP agents struggle with the public’s opinion of them. Moreover, they are currently overworked, understaffed and strained. Their job is not all about catching the bad buys . Nowadays, it involves making sandwiches for the migrants. Some even use their own money to buy toys for the detained kids. That, combined with insane heat, the agency is having a tough time recruiting members.
The job follows BP agents home. After long hours spent on serving baby formula and trying to avoid various diseases spreading like wildfire at the detention centers, they go home where they hear the terrible things people say to their families. How would you feel if your kid came home from school and told you that their classmates think you are a terrible human being? Often times, families turn on you. Agents report receiving nasty emails from their family members. It is not unusual for families to be torn apart because of the perception of the Border Patrol agents being monsters.
All of this bothers me, because I can put myself in the shoes of those workers. Have you ever thought: “This is not in my job description?” I have. If you were hired to be a cop and now you perform duties of a babysitter, would you not be a little upset? And on top of that, you have to put up with abuse from those that you care for, as well as those for whom you are working. Migrants throw stones at BP agents. American smear them with metaphorical mud.
In the media, we often hear about depression and how we should be kind to one another. That is a great campaign, of which I approve. However, why is it something only meant for some, and not all, people? Why are some people more worthy of our kindness than others? Why do we overlook the person behind the profession? They say it is unfair to generalize, but is it fair to label someone a monster just for doing their legitimate job? Why are doctors considered good and attorneys are considered bad people? They are both professions that are essential to our today’s world. Do not hate the player, hate the game instead.
Hate is a strong emotion that has the power to destroy not only the person you hate but also yourself. Do not be quick to hate; especially someone you do not even know.

Great advice. Thanks, Goldie.

* (News-Related Opinion Piece)

Prayer: Lord, Your knowledge and wisdom are infinite. You number the hairs on our heads, You know all of our shortcomings, and You love us anyway. How could we ever imagine that we have the right to hate anyone, especially people we don’t know? Forgive us. Give us the humility that comes from wisdom, and fill us with Your love, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, That Was Worth a Sinus Infection.

Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Romans 12:1

OK, Lord, I prayed as I drove to my doctor’s appointment,  I offered my body to You, and I did everything I could to prevent this sinus infection, and it happened anyway, so I trust that You have a reason for it. Thank You for whatever You have planned.

For several years I have started my prayer time with what is described in Romans 12:1, offering my body as a “living sacrifice” to the Lord. (I also offer Him my mind and my heart, but I begin with the physical.) I ask Him to cleanse my body of anything that doesn’t belong there – viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, parasites, cancerous cells, toxins, stress and other excesses, inflammation, and hindering or harmful deposits – anything that would harm me or others or hinder God’s work in my life. I ask to be a clean vessel for Him to use, a clean temple for His Spirit to live in.  I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me with His presence. I ask for “divine health” – strength, energy, endurance, coordination and balance (physical, chemical, etc.), flexibility and reflexes, resistance and resilience.

Obsessive? Maybe, but I like to cover all the bases. I don’t expect to have perfect health in this life, but I want to be confident that if anything does happen to me physically, it’s all part of God’s plan, and not just an unpleasant detour. So this morning, although I would have preferred not be sick, I figured there must be a reason.

The doctor at the clinic was friendly. We chatted about things we had in common as she examined me, but nothing super-spiritual. She prescribed a high-powered antibiotic, which I then picked up at the drug store. Ever the well-balanced health nut, I headed directly to the health food store for a probiotic.

A customer was talking with the store clerk when I arrived, and when I was ready to check out, they were still talking. I was anxious to get home and rest, but figuring this was an opportunity to exercise patience, I waited. I learned that this customer had been diagnosed with bone cancer about a year before and had been given 3 months to 5 years to live. I was drawn into her story, and she didn’t seem to mind when I joined the conversation about chemo, radiation, and natural remedies. The lady paid for her products and, not seeming in a hurry to leave, she stood aside so I could pay for mine. But I wanted to do something else first.

“May I pray for you?” I asked her. She responded, “Oh, please do.” I asked her name, and she told me. I laid my hand on her shoulder and prayed that she would sense the presence of the Lord, that He would wrap her in His love, and that she would not leave this world one moment before He was ready to call her home. I acknowledged that He knew exactly what was wrong, and exactly what she needed, and we trusted Him to give her good things, because He loves her.

When we finished, I gave her tiny frame a gentle hug; the lady behind the counter was smiling. The three of us started talking about the Bible.  I started quoting Romans 8:28 – “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His … ”

“… purpose.” The saleslady found the word I was looking for. I told them about my niece’s husband whose life was saved by a case of appendicitis! During his emergency appendectomy, stomach cancer had been discovered – early enough to treat it successfully. He’s been in healthy remission for decades.

We agreed that “instant healing” isn’t always God’s way, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t answering. I told them about my book  BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?) and how I had spent two years reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, noting every verse I could find on prayers that don’t get answered the way we think they should. There are numerous reasons for our disappointments besides “not enough faith,” (but it’s never God’s fault!) and for every barrier there is usually something we can do – correct our request, our attitude, our motive, or whatever else might be causing the spiritual malfunction. In the end, God will help us experience growth, if we’ll let Him.

My new friend asked where she might get a copy of this book. I laughed and said, “In the back of my car.” We walked out together and I got out a copy and wrote her a note in it. I tried to give it to her, but she insisted on paying me. I wrote my email address on a business card and handed it to her; she promised to keep in touch. We hugged (again) and said goodbye. She had a radiant smile on her face as she left.

When I finally stepped up to pay for my probiotics, the saleslady said she was glad I had prayed for the other woman. She had wanted to, but as a store employee she had been hesitant. I told her about my earlier prayer, when I had thanked God for His plan, even if it involved a sinus infection, and we chuckled at the way such detours lead us to where we’re supposed to be.

Prayer: Father, Your purposes are beyond our understanding, but as Your plan unfolds, we are glad that our lives are in Your hands, and not ours. We yield to You, knowing that there is no one wiser, no one more powerful, and no one who loves us more than You do. We thank You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(PS I heard from the lady yesterday. She was loving the book and wanted to order five more to give to relatives at an upcoming family gathering.)