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.)

 

Anger: the Bad, the Ugly, and the Useful

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.                                                                                                                                                                                            James 1:19-20

I don’t know how I got into this group on Facebook. It seemed that one day I just started getting notifications of their posts. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a group of very angry people. They posted the kinds of things that would get your blood boiling, and they wanted these photos, articles, and quotes to go viral. I was routinely admonished to “pass this on to all your contacts!” My usual reaction was to wonder, Why?

Sometimes the post would be a scandalous photo of a well-known person. The most recent showed a very familiar face between two unidentifiable people in white hoods, with a cross in flames in the background. The caption said, “_____ _____  at a KKK cross burning.” (As if we’re too dumb to figure out what the picture was set up to look like.)

It took less than a minute of digging to find out that the picture was a fake, one of many scandalous photos taken by a professional photographer, whose specialty is finding actors who look like famous people and photographing them in compromising poses. These pictures are sent out over the internet, knowing that they will be passed along at lightning speed by thousands of people who don’t bother to check their sources. (Why would they check it out, if the picture “proves” their own personal biases?) These people are angry, and they want to make others as enraged as they are – as many as possible.

Another post quoted a famous person in American history, saying something so despicable that I doubted any reasonable, sober person would have said such a thing. But even if he had said it, I questioned the relevancy of the quote, since this person has been dead for over two hundred years! I seriously doubt we’re going to hold him accountable at this point.

But then one day the group posted a video that sounded an alarm. The video showed a young man with a gun, who gave an impassioned rant about how much he hated black people. He ended the rant by firing his gun, accompanied by an obscenity aimed at black people, complete with the “N” word. A note from the member of the group who posted it said, “This needs to be passed around until it reaches the authorities!”

Pass it around? Are you kidding me? I thought. And I did what would seem the reasonable thing; I contacted the authorities and at their request, sent it directly to them. They called me back the next day, agreeing that the video was deeply concerning and wanting to know where I got it. I told them about the group, and they asked me to contact them and try to find out the source of the video. I told the group that the authorities were on it, and asked where it had come from.

(At last! An opportunity to do something!)

Silence.

I sent a private message to the individual who had posted it and asked who had sent it to her: no answer. I asked a third time. Nothing.

The next day I saw another post from the same group, designed to make people angry about something else they could do nothing about. Meanwhile, here was something we could do something about, maybe preventing another mass shooting, and these angry people were doing nothing to help the authorities catch him and stop him!

Now I was angry.

We all know the kinds of havoc anger can cause in our bodies: indigestion, heartburn, ulcers, high blood pressure, hypertension, heart attacks, stroke, the list goes on. It can also do damage to relationships, neighborhoods, work places, classrooms, even nations.

And yet, anger can be a good thing. History gives us many examples of people who have made a positive difference in the world because they became angry enough about an injustice to do something and make a difference.

So, anger can be damaging, or it can be energizing. When is it okay to be angry?

I have a simple rule that I try to adhere to: If I can do something to change the situation for the better, I should let my anger motivate me to make the needed change.

If, on the other hand, I can’t do anything about it – if my anger will only hurt me and others – I should turn away and focus on an area where I can contribute something positive.

If the cause of my anger is something I have heard that is questionable, I should find out the truth and make it known wherever the rumor has been sown, especially if people have been misinformed. (I am generally not popular with gossips.)

If the source of anger is someone who is out of my reach, I will pray that God will change the person’s heart. (If this seems like a cop-out to you, you don’t know the power of prayer.) And yes, I have prayed for the young man in the video. I really hope that by now he has been apprehended and is getting the help he needs. Above all, I pray that his heart will be convicted of his sins, and that he will repent and let Christ save him from the old,  sinful, hate-filled life and give him new birth.

In other words, Jesus is the answer (as always).

Prayer: Father, You have created us with the capacity to be angry when we see injustice, to be fearful when we sense danger, and to be compassionate when we see someone hurting. Let our emotions be directed by Your Spirit, that we would channel them in the direction that will be helpful, not hurtful. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

 

 

A Recovered Alcoholic’s Perspective

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”                       II Peter 2:19

Recently as I read a blog post regarding the value of feedback, I saw a comment from a fellow blogger,  primerecovery.wordpress.com/ who said he didn’t receive a lot of feedback. I went to check out his blog, thinking I would offer a fellow writer some encouragement, and ended up getting much more than I expected to give. This post makes some excellent points, based on personal experience. As for being persuasive, let’s just say that he made me want to give up drinking – and I don’t drink!

[From “Prime Recovery, Learning to Live Again” by Ceponatia]

Recovery has brought so many gifts into my life that I forget to acknowledge the things that it’s removed. This morning, I’ve been thinking about the negative people, places, things, and feelings that are no longer a part of my life in sobriety. The list is quite long, so I’ll just touch on a few in this post. I hope my sober allies can identify with this list and if you can think of anything in your own life that sticks out, feel free to share! We might have it in common.

Toxic Friends
For years, I accepted “easy” friendships. Do you know what I mean? Real friendships require that you put in work to benefit the people you love and vice versa. Easy friendships are when you happen to fall in with people and there is rarely any emotional or intellectual connection… you’re just lost together. Often they’re cynics, complaining constantly about their problems. I received no benefit from these friendships; if anything, they dragged me down. When I got sober, I cut all of these people loose and never looked back. A few of them have reached out recently and not only have their lives not improved, but they’ve also gotten worse in many cases. I’ve no doubt that if I had continued to spend time with them, I’d be drinking again by now.

Anxiety Attacks
Alcohol is a depressant. We all know that. I’m also a big coffee and soda drinker (pop to those of us in the midwest). During my time in the trenches, I had a cycle where I’d get savagely drunk one day and then drink energy drinks and soda to try to perk myself up during my hangover. The combined effects of caffeine and alcohol withdrawal would frequently give me massive panic attacks that could not be stopped because they were chemical instead of mental. My hands would go numb, I’d start slurring my speech like I was still drunk, and I could feel my heart beating at what felt like 200BPM. It felt awful. But, if I didn’t drink caffeine, I’d be too exhausted and depressed to do well at my job which I needed to fill my alcohol and gaming habits.

Obesity and Weakness
McDonald’s and I were best friends while I was a drunkard. Between the ages of 26 and 37, at which age I finally quit drinking, I went from 155 to 220lbs… pretty rapidly. Since I basically sat on my butt playing video games all day while drinking, I also wasn’t in great physical shape. Truly, the only reason I had any upper body strength at all was that I managed a restaurant which involved putting away heavy cases of meat and produce. All-day I’d sweat alcohol, reeking of rotten ethanol. My beer gut hung over my pants as my underwear carved a daily indentation into my corpulent body. I had bigger breasts than some of the women I’d dated! The month I quit drinking I lost 15lbs immediately, even though I was consuming candy and carbs like a madman. I’m now a comfy 178, much stronger than I was, and my A-cup breasts went away.

Being Shattered by Poverty
In fairness, I do make a little bit more money than I did when I was drinking, but not significantly more. Even so, I now pay my bills with ease and can still afford to have some fun whereas before, I could barely afford food for the week after the money I spent on alcohol. I used to tell people that I didn’t know how I could possibly be considered “above the poverty line” because I never had money. Now that I see how much money I spent on alcohol and its related costs like binge drunk-eating and impulse buys (around $600 a week) it’s fairly plain. I’m not perfect… I still have impulse purchases and sometimes I indulge a little too much on fast food! But it’s far less frequent than it used to be and I actually put money into savings every week for the first time in my life.
I can’t imagine drinking again. Every time a small craving comes up, which I consider more a feeling of boredom than wanting to drink, the actual thought of giving in and drinking makes me physically sick to my stomach. I’ve said that before and it’s still true. It happened just yesterday… I walked by the alcohol aisle in the supermarket and thought back to what it was like to sit in front of my computer and drink a whole case of beer and I felt almost a dry heave building in the back of my throat (sorry if that’s gross it’s just true!). I don’t miss it. I’ll never miss it. Life is going too well.

[Back to “Seeking Divine Perpsective”]

We all struggle with something, it doesn’t have to be alcohol. I hope and pray that this “view from the other side” has given you something to be grateful for, or motivation to ask for God’s help in making whatever changes are needed in your own life.

Prayer: Lord, You know that every one of us was born with a sin nature that has led us into troubles of all kinds and kept us from the relationship You want with us. Thank You for Your patience with our frailties and Your willingness to help us up, if we will only trust and obey You. Help us today, in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

If You Don’t Mind My Asking …

One thing I was not expecting when I started blogging was how the blogging community is … well, a community! Having followers in other countries was something I hadn’t expected, and I get geeked at the thought of connecting with people all over the world through my writings and theirs. Many of the places I hear from are places I will likely never visit in person, but it’s good to know that distance doesn’t keep us from sharing our ideas and inspiration. I’ve learned a lot in the past year and a half, and I feel as though my global perspective has broadened quite a bit, thanks to you.

I want to ask all of you a favor, because I would like to have a mental picture of how my followers are spread over the globe. Some of you have your location clearly stated on your home page, others are a little harder to figure out. (I just found out that a blogger I assumed was American all this time is actually in South Africa!)

So, if you are willing, please let me know where you are writing from. You don’t have to be that specific, unless you want to be. If you’re in the U.S., you might just tell me what state you’re in. If you’re in another country, you can just tell me what country, or be as specific as you want to be. If you’re uncomfortable posting where you are, feel free to email me (bascha3870@yahoo.com). And if you aren’t comfortable telling me where you live, that’s fine, too. I don’t want to be “creepy,” as my kids would say. I just want to know my blogging community a little better. (I can see myself getting O.C.D. about it and covering a map with little pins showing where my followers are. … Yeah, I’m weird.)

I love dialoguing with people in faraway places, but I also love finding out I have followers who live close to where I am, and that there’s a possibility we might actually run into one another sometime – or meet intentionally.

For those of you in the Great Lakes area of the U. S. or Ontario, if you are anywhere near Port Huron, Michigan, around September 21, I want to invite you to an “author’s event” – a catered luncheon, speeches by guest authors (including yours truly), and an opportunity to meet, ask questions, purchase books, and get said books signed. I attended last year, and the sheer diversity of authors made it a very interesting occasion. (I wrote about the event and about an epiphany I had there in my post “Who’s Prejudiced Now?” – October 12 of last year.) I think I came home with a copy of every book that was sold there. Who knows? If you live close by, maybe you could end up being one of the featured authors next year!

Port Huron is a beautiful town about 50 miles north of Detroit, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Huron (at the base of the “thumb”) and across the Blue Water Bridge from Sarnia, Ontario. It’s also about 60 miles east of Flint, Michigan. The author’s event is at the Griswold Street Baptist Church, 1232 Griswold Street, Port Huron, and will go from noon to 3:00(ish).

If you are near Grand Rapids, Michigan – on the other side of the state – around October 8, consider attending the “Prologue Writer’s Night” at Baker Book House, 2768 E Paris Ave SE. I’ll be speaking at 7:00 about “Harvesting the Stories Around Us.” Following a 20-minute talk, there will be a writing time until 10:00. If you come earlier in the day, you can meet me, as I will be signing copies of my first four books from 9:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. I would love to meet some fellow bloggers, especially ones that I feel I already know! This event was set up by a former student of mine, who now works with Baker Books. I’m sure she would love to meet some of you, and of course, it’s always nice to get together with other writers.

If you are able to attend either of the Michigan events, please drop me an email (bascha3870@yahoo.com) and let me know. I’ll get back to you with more specifics. The people putting on the luncheon on the 21st would like reservations to be in by August 31, if possible.

If you are too far away to attend either of these, of course I understand.

Again, I am thrilled to have such a broad circle of friends – and I do consider many of you my friends. You have shared pieces of your lives with me and allowed me to share pieces of mine with you. Some of us have prayed for one another on occasion, and that is certainly my definition of “friend.”

Blessings, and I hope to see some of you soon.

Annie

PS If there’s a name you like to be addressed by that isn’t in your blogging title, let me know that, too, so I’m not just calling you “hey you.”

PPS. I am Ann, or Annie (or “Mom” or “Nana”), in Kentucky half the year, Michigan the other half. (You can probably guess which half. 😉 )

 

 

 

 

Knocking Down the Wall of Racism, One Brick at a Time

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.              Romans 12:21

One of the things I miss about my dad is his self-deprecating sense of humor, which would come out at random times and have the whole room laughing. Or just the passenger in his car.

At the end of a brief visit during my freshman year in college, Dad was driving me back to the airport. We came to an intersection where we had to stop but the cross traffic did not. It was a busy time of day, and cars sped by, with seemingly no one willing to sacrifice a few seconds to let us on. After about five stressful minutes, Dad muttered under his breath, “Come on, somebody …!”

Just then, a black man slowed his car down, smiled at Dad, and motioned to him to go ahead. Dad smiled back, waved a “thank you,” and pulled out. After a moment of silent smirking on my part, I heard Dad mutter in mock disgust, “How’d’ya like that? Forty years of prejudice, shot to hell.”

If my father were alive today, he would be over 100 years old. He grew up in a time and way of life that might be called “racist” by today’s standards, but I have never known a sweeter man. Dad was one of three boys, raised on an “farm” – a large lot with a pond, some chickens, a vegetable garden, and an occasional random creature, such as an orphaned baby bear and an alligator, which wouldn’t have been unusual in Florida, but this was Missouri. (Don’t ask.)

My grandparents had “hired help,” which I’ve come to understand were more like members of the family. My grandmother would discuss dinner options with her cook, who told her it didn’t matter how many chickens they prepared, the boys would eat everything in sight anyway. According to family lore, one day after a rainstorm, the chickens lay around looking as though they had all drowned. The cook told Granny that they weren’t dead, admonishing her to hang them on the clothes line by their feet. Granny followed her advice. Sure enough, after dangling in the sunshine for a while, the chickens dried off, perked up, and began flapping and protesting.

A generation later, my parents had a maid named Vester, who worked for my mom from the time I was about five. (I remember hiding from my sister’s wrath behind Vester’s skirt, and her ordering Susie to be nice to her little sister.)

Vester was the first one in the family to know that Marty and I were engaged. As it was a week before Susie’s wedding, after the initial silent squeals and hugs, she advised me regarding the best time to tell my stressed-out parents. Vester traveled all the way from St. Louis to Michigan to attend the wedding – not as a caterer, but as an honored guest. I will never forget how beautiful she looked in her royal blue kaftan.

Four years later Vester was the first to know that Joanna was on the way, not because I told her, but because she’d had a dream about a child in the woods. When she had asked who it was, a Voice had told her, That’s Ann’s little girl. 

Although Vester was nearly as old as my father, after my mother’s death she kept “working for him” (taking care of him). And Dad took care of her, in the only way he was able in those last years, by giving gifts to her and her family. When he could no longer drive, he gave his practically-new luxury car to her grandson, who was a chauffeur. Vester stood in Dad’s room at the assisted living facility and gave a tearful speech about not waiting until someone’s funeral to give them flowers. “You gave me my flowers today.”

After Dad had passed away, my sister and I kept in touch with Vester and her daughters during her last days. I remember visiting her in her home and seeing many familiar things that I recognized as having belonged to my mother, and even my grandmother. (Vester had more heirlooms than we did!) Her devotion to our family was so profound that my youngest daughter Kelly and I traveled from Michigan to attend her funeral at a church we had never been to, in a part of St. Louis we had never seen, full of people we had never met. Vester’s daughters excitedly introduced us to almost everyone there, and almost everyone we met fairly gushed about how much Vester loved our family. There was no talk of race or economic status, only talk of God, grace, and the devotion of people who genuinely loved one another.

As an adult, I have enjoyed deep friendships with people of different ages, races, religious traditions, nationalities, and backgrounds. I have learned a lot from them all, including that practically every individual I encounter has the potential of becoming a close friend. It keeps life interesting.

I was sharing the anecdote about the intersection with another blogger, and it occurred to me that the black man on the busy street had the answer to racism – kindness! He wasn’t glaring at Dad, pointing a finger and calling him a racist. He was treating him as he himself wanted to be treated. And while admittedly there are people and situations that are too far gone to respond to kindness, attacking a racist is not going to change him, either. Hateful behavior only drives prejudices deeper. (Why do we even have to state this obvious truth?)

What would happen if we treated everyone with kindness and respect, even those we perceive aren’t worthy of it? (Are we worthy?) Who knows, we may see more people’s attitudes change for the better – more “years of prejudice, shot to hell.”

Prayer: Lord, open our hearts and minds to Your image in every person we encounter, and help us to resemble You by loving them as You do, in Your name. Amen.

The Ballad of Narnia

Teach then to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Deuteronomy 11:19

One of the perks of being retired is being able to spend an extended time in our family summer home, up north and away from the oppressive heat. Of course, this is the season where everyone here has family visiting from the hotter climates, and we’re no exception. Children and grandchildren have filled out house with fun and shrieks and giggles and sand and damp towels. Evenings are different from evenings a generation ago. We have a TV now, and they have their devices, and when we’re all gathered inside for the evening, it’s hard to peel the kids away from the screens. But I have fond memories of nights when their parents were little, snuggled up together in bed or in front of the fireplace, reading our summer books – mainly The Chronicles of Narnia. I think it was about five years in a row we read them each summer. There are seven books in the series, so that was enough to fill our summer evenings with fauns, centaurs, unicorns, dwarfs, Marshwiggles, Dufflepuds, and of course, the wonderful talking Lion, Aslan, who ruled over it all.

I also remember singing to my children as they were going to sleep, and I would often try out my original songs on them. I guess it was inevitable that I write a song about Narnia.

The Ballad of Narnia

Peer inside the wardrobe door, and see what you will find;                                                                 If it be that Aslan calls, you’ll leave this world behind                                                                        And step inside another realm, envisioned in a dream,                                                                    Where fantasies are very real, but not quite what they seem.

Narnia, fair Narnia, O where do you come from?                                                                                   Spoken from the Lion’s mouth before time had begun?                                                                         Narnia, dear Narnia, you seem to call to me                                                                                            To come and be the true creation I was meant to be.

Gaze into the winter skies and see the wonders there;                                                                           The Narnian stars are huge in size, their beauty bright and rare.                                                         And when upon the peaceful snow they shine their friendly light,                                                     Tiny hoof prints tell of fauns who danced one moonlit night.

Hear a tale of long ago, when evil ruled the land,                                                                                        When all of Narnia lay in snow beneath a witch’s hand,                                                                         How children from another realm arrived amid the strife.                                                               The lion Alslan saved the kingdom, though it cost his life!

Narnia, dear Narnia! He must have loved you so,                                                                                          To make himself the victim of more hate than we could know;                                                       Narnia, dear Narnia, now was it worth the pain?                                                                                     He must have known he’d given more than he could ever gain.

Gather up your courage, for there’s danger in the air,                                                                                And all who love the Lion must for battle now prepare;                                                                     It is a war of wrong or right – there is no neutral ground –                                                               And every good and honest creature now is honor-bound.

Take up your sword, dear child, for it is time for us to fight                                                                     The evil forces lurking in the shadows of the night;                                                                               But have no fear – the Lion himself is fighting at your side,                                                             With golden mane a-flying, and his great jaws open wide!

Narnia, dear Narnia! This war’s already won!                                                                                           For Aslan’s royal face is shining like the noonday sun.                                                                        Narnia, dear Narnia! He came to set you free!                                                                                    He’s given death the final blow, and you the victory!

You must go now, back into the world where you belong,                                                                        But Narnia lives within your heart; she’s an eternal song.                                                                 And Aslan will be with you, though he will not look the same,                                                       For here we call Him “Jesus,”                                                                                                                                                               and He’s calling you, by name.*

Prayer: Lord Jesus – Lion of Judah, our Savior – we marvel at Your love for us, that You would give Your life as a ransom for us. However the story is told, it’s still the greatest story of all. Thank You for the privilege of telling the story to our children, and our children’s children. May it always be in our hearts, in every generation.

*”The Ballad of Narnia” copyright 1991 Ann Aschauer