From Grumpy to Grateful (A Story of Thanksgiving) Chapter 3

I have been sharing with my readers (and their children and grandchildren) my first children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful, which I’m hoping will be published next year. If you missed the first posts, here are the links:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1811

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1860

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1823

“Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22:2)

CHAPTER THREE

          “Wake up, Jack!” the voice that startled Jackson sounded like his mother’s voice, but it didn’t sound as sweet and kind as it usually did. Had he overslept? Jackson opened his eyes to see his mother, but she looked different. She was thinner and tired looking, and the joy he usually saw in her face was not there. “Hurry up,” she said. “It’s time to go to the alley.”

          Jackson blinked as the morning rays of sun nearly blinded his eyes. Where were the blinds on his windows? For that matter, where were the posters on his wall? Where were his soccer trophies, his Lego sets and his hamster, Homer? The room was almost bare. The only thing there besides his bed was a worn, dirty cloth bag in the corner. Even his clock was gone.

          “What time is it?” he asked.

          “Time for you to get up and get to the dumptsters before all the food is gone!” His mother sounded urgent. “They’ll have nothing but garbage in them by the time you get there if you don’t get going!”

          Dumpsters?

          “Isn’t Dad taking me to school?” Jackson asked, confused.

          “School?” said his mother, sounding angry. “Poor children don’t go to school. And we haven’t seen your father since he left us. Wake up, boy, and stop wasting time!”

          Dazed, Jackson got out of bed. He looked around but didn’t see any of his clothes. Then he realized he was expected to go out in the clothes he had slept in. They were rumpled and not very clean looking, but his mother didn’t seem to care about that.

          “Don’t forget your bag, stupid boy!” she snapped, tossing him the cloth bag. Jackson was wide awake now, as his jaw dropped open in surprise. He would be in big trouble is he ever called another kid that word, and Mom never called anyone “stupid,” especially not her own children! What was the matter with her?

          When Jackson stepped out into the bright sunlight, he felt as if someone had opened a giant oven. He was confused by the street. He had never seen this place before, and he almost went back to ask his mother where he was supposed to go. But she had seemed so irritated that he decided to figure it out on his own.

          He noticed there were other children, each dressed in ragged clothes similar to what he was wearing, each carrying a dirty cloth bag, all headed in the same direction. He started to follow them.

          After walking a few blocks, the children came around a corner into an alley behind some tall buildings. Jackson saw fire escapes overhead and dumpsters lined up along the wall.

Alley Dumpster Stock Pictures, Royalty-free Photos ...

The other children climbed onto some old crates and worked together to lift the lid on the first dumpster.

          Then it was a free-for-all, as children grabbed packages of food, fruits and vegetables, and anything else they could get their hands on that might be eaten. They reminded Jackson of his friends at his last birthday party after Kaplan broke the pinata.

          Jackson scrambled up the side of the dumpster and started grabbing. None of what he ended up with was his favorite food – no cereal, no peanut butter, no pizza. But he did get a package of green peppers that was a day past its “best by” date, an open box of stale crackers, a couple of bruised apples, and a dented can of black beans. He began to realize why his mother had looked thin and sad. How long had she been living on leftovers from other people’s trash?

          Just then Jackson saw something shining in the dumpster, and he decided to reach in one more time to see if it was something exciting. As he did, he was suddenly bumped by another boy and nearly fell in. As he grabbed the side of the dumpster to catch himself, there was a sharp pain in his hand, and he saw a trickle of blood roll down the rusty metal side. He realized what had been sparkling in the sun was only a piece of broken glass, and he had just cut his hand.

          As Jackson walked back to his house, he tried hard not to cry. His stomach was rumbling so much that even the bruised apples were starting to look good. He held onto his hand, trying to stop the bleeding. He was anxious to get back to his mother and have her wash the wound, kiss it and bandage it up. Mom always made him feel better.

          But when Jackson got home Mom didn’t seem too concerned about the cut. She just wanted to know what was in his bag. When he showed her what he had collected, she seemed disappointed and irritated with him for not getting more. While she tried to figure out how to open the can of beans, Jackson washed his hand and wrapped it in an old rag.

          “Where’s Charlotte?” he asked his mother.

          “Who?” His mother sounded annoyed.

          “Charlotte. My sister?” Why would Mom not know what he was talking about?

          “Stupid boy!” – There was that word again! “You don’t have a sister. What’s the matter with you today?”

          Jackson felt as if he had just been punched in the stomach. Not have a sister? What was going on? Where was Charlotte? Where was Dad? Where was his school?

          “Go play,” his mother snapped, sounding tired. She sat at the rickety table and buried her face in her hands.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for those who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. You have told us to help the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Jesus, You said that whatever we do for them we are doing for You. Open our eyes to ways we can meet the needs of those within our reach, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Thanksgiving Story) Chapter 2

I’m sharing my new, soon-to-be-published-God-willing children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful, with my readers in the next few days leading up to Thanksgiving. If you missed the first two posts, here are the links:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1811

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1860

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. Luke 23:8

CHAPTER TWO

          “Don’t let him bother you, Jackie,” said Charlotte, who was brushing her hair at the bathroom mirror. Charlotte was Jackson’s sister. She was three years older than he was, and a lot more grown up when it came to handling mean kids. She had a way of making Jackson feel better – usually.

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But today even Charlotte couldn’t lift him out of his sour mood.

          “Don’t call me ‘Jackie’!” he snapped. “I’m not a little kid anymore. It’s Jack now.”

          Nobody called Bill “Billy.” That would be like asking to get punched in the nose. The kids respected Bill. Or maybe they were just afraid of him, but anyway, Bill was cool, and Jackson wanted to be cool, too.

          “OK, Jack,” his sister said, smiling a little. “Don’t let that kid get to you. He’s always been mean, especially since his parents got divorced. He’s mean to everybody.”

          “But nobody’s mean to him,” said Jackson.

          Charlotte laughed. “Yeah, they’re too scared of him. Come on, let’s get ready for Sunday school.”

          “I don’t want to go today,” said Jackson, trying on his new “cool” act.

          “What?!” cried Charlotte, looking very surprised. “You can’t be serious!”

          Wow, thought Jackson, this is a sure way to get attention!

          “You had fun last week,” said Charlotte. “That story about Jesus walking on water? And then Peter doing it? That was awesome! You said so yourself.”

            “Well, I haven’t walked on water lately,” said Jackson in his coolest voice. “Let’s see Jesus help me do it.”

          Charlotte looked surprised that Jackson would say such a thing, but she replied, “Well … I suppose you could ask Him.”

          Jackson went out to the sidewalk where the bug Bill had squashed the day before still lay, covered with hungry ants. He found a puddle in the pothole by the end of the driveway.

          “OK, Jesus,” he said. “Do Your stuff.” He took a deep breath and stepped out over the puddle. As he lowered his foot, it sank ankle deep into the water.

          “Way to go, Jackie,” said Charlotte, rolling her eyes. “Now you gotta go change your shoes and socks, and we’re gonna be late for church.”

          “I told you, it’s Jack, and I don’t wanna go!” Jackson snapped back. He felt a knot in his stomach for what he was about to say, but he said it anyway.

          “What has God ever done for me? I’ve never been healed! I’ve never seen anyone raised from the dead! I’ve never had loaves and fishes multiplied for me! I’ve never seen any miracles! Maybe it is all a fairy tale.”

            Charlotte looked shocked and about to cry. Jackson felt bad for making her feel that way, but he also felt cool.

          “Well,” said Charlotte, frowning, “Mom and Dad won’t let you skip church anyway, so you’re going, Jack.” She said the new name in such a nasty way that Jackson was starting to wonder whether being cool was going to be worth losing the good relationship he had with his sister.

To be continued …

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your patience with us when we are being ungrateful and foolish. Open our eyes to Your goodness, and help us reflect the joy that is available to us every day when we are close to You and grateful for Your presence in our lives. In the name of Your precious Son, Amen.

     

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Story of Thanksgiving) Chapter 1

My first children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful, is being prepared for publication. For the next few days my readers are getting a preview, to prepare for Thanksgiving, and perhaps to share with the children in your life.

If you missed the intro yesterday, here’s the link:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1811

CHAPTER ONE

                “Sunday school?” Bill laughed, even though Jackson wasn’t trying to be funny. “Why would I want to do that?”

          Jackson felt his face getting red as the bigger boy rejected his invitation so rudely.

          “Well …” he began, “we sing songs and hear stories about God and stuff.”

          “God!?” Bill laughed even louder. “You still believe in those fairy tales?” Jackson had never heard Bible stories called “fairy tales” before, and it gave him a sick feeling in his stomach.

          “Fairy tales? No! Jesus really lived, and He healed people! He walked on water! He even rose from the dead after they killed Him!”

          Bill snickered and crushed a beetle on the sidewalk. “Yeah, and that bug’s gonna come back to life any second now.” With that he let out a loud laugh that made Jackson’s face burn. By now the kids next door were looking his way, and he felt like crawling under a rock.

          “Jesus … loves you,” he said, so softly the other boy could hardly hear him.

          “Sure He does,” said Bill sarcastically. He looked tough, but Jackson thought he sounded angry, too. “What did God ever do for me?” he demanded.

          “Jesus loves you so much He died for you!” Jackson suddenly felt stronger as he heard himself say the words, but Bill was quick to answer, and the feeling didn’t last.

          “I told you, I don’t believe in that stuff! What did He … what did God ever do for me?” he demanded again, and Jackson thought he heard a catch in his voice, as if he were trying not to cry. Jackson almost felt sorry for him, but Bill was bigger than he was, and the way he clenched his fists made Jackson back away and stop trying to talk to him.

          “OK,” Jackson murmured, walking away.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we get discouraged sometimes when the people around us reject the gospel. Remind us when we are rejected that You were rejected, too, and that in our rejection we are sharing in Your sufferings. Help us not to let discouragement keep us from sharing our faith. Give us courage to speak out, even when it doesn’t seem that we’re being heard. In Your precious name, amen.

      

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Story of Thanksgiving) Introduction

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

I have recently finished the manuscript for my first children’s book, which I had hoped to have published by Thanksgiving of this year. But, like many other things in this strange and unpredictable year, From Grumpy to Grateful has been on the back burner. Still, I thought my followers might like a sneak preview, especially those with children or grandchildren who like to read or be read to. God willing, the book will be out, complete with illustrations, by next fall.

From Grumpy to Grateful will be posted in five brief posts for the next five days. Meanwhile, a note to the adults:

We can take many things for granted, from food and clothes to our freedom, to the people in our lives. It’s easy to look at what God is doing for other people and feel a twinge of envy, not realizing that these people probably aren’t blessed with many of the things we enjoy every day. These people might, in fact, be envying us at the same time! This cycle of ingratitude happens to adults as well as children. Sometimes it takes a crisis, a loss, or a journey into someone else’s world to give us an appreciation for what we have.

Jackson, the little boy in this story, has been hearing about Jesus and the miracles He did – walking on water, feeding five thousand, healing the sick, and raising the dead. Jackson wonders why Jesus isn’t doing impressive things like that for him, and he complains about it to his sister Charlotte.

You may know someone who has gone on a missionary trip to an impoverished region and come back a different person – a very grateful person. Jackson has the privilege of taking that journey in one night, as he dreams about what it would be like to be without most of the things he takes for granted. When he wakes up, Jackson realizes that he is one very blessed boy!

Before reading this story with your child, ask what he or she is grateful for. You might want to write down the response. Then after reading about Jackson’s adventure, ask your child if he or she has anything else to thank God for. I suspect the second list will be longer than the first.

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You might want to hang your gratitude list on the wall, refrigerator, or bulletin board and add to it each night. Ask your child (and yourself) “Do you know someone who doesn’t have these things?” then pray together for that person, and watch for changes that come from a life of gratitude and caring.

                                    Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Father in heaven, You take such good care of us, and so often we don’t take notice of what You’ve given us, nor do we thank You as much as we should. Help us to be more aware of our blessings and to thank You continually for Your goodness to us. May we set an example of thankfulness to the children in our lives each and every day, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Harder To Be Thankful This Year … or Maybe Not

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Last Easter was different from any we remember, at least for most of us. Many of us were sad that the usual family gatherings were limited, or non-existent, and kids who remembered the holiday as a time for egg hunts and seeing the Easter Bunny at the mall felt let down. But the absence of the “fluff” (and I don’t mean just Peeps) gave us a clearer picture of where our focus as Christians was supposed to be, anyway. After all, the first Resurrection Day began with a profound sadness for those who had followed Jesus, with memories of His excruciating, humiliating death on a Roman cross still fresh in their minds. The ache of inconsolable grief, mixed with residual fear of the Romans, no doubt filled their souls. But soon the devoted women who had come to anoint His body, then the other disciples, who took some convincing at first, knew that the story of their Messiah was not over yet! He had given His life to pay for their sins, then fulfilled His promise, that on the third day He would rise to eternal life – and so would they!

So, if we allowed it, last Easter/Resurrection Day was possibly the most meaningful we have ever had. What’s more, there was evidence everywhere that the gospel had spread to formerly unreached peoples, races, tribes, and tongues in astonishing numbers – as in billions. See “Pandemic: God’s Plan A?”: https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/05/08/pandemic-gods-plan-a/

As we look ahead to the holiday known in America as “Thanksgiving” (though admittedly we should be giving thanks every day), it seems we have another opportunity to make the holiday more meaningful. Those of you my age will probably remember Joni Mitchell’s lyrics, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?” (“Big Yellow Taxi,” 1970) Or as the Mills Brothers put it many years before that, “You’ll Never Miss the Water til the Well Runs Dry.”

Some of us have a had a dry year, to say the least. So, How’s our attitude?

As we possibly get distracted thinking about what we’re missing this year, we shouldn’t lose sight of what we still have. And there’s nothing wrong with being thankful for what we used to have, especially if we didn’t think to give thanks when we had it.

Occasionally God has had to remind me of this truth. A good example is something I experienced decades ago…

I was still a college student, majoring in performing arts. I was also in the throes of a full-blown eating disorder with body image problems that might be hard to understand now. In those days the ridiculously thin and long-legged Barbie doll was considered the ideal female form, and every girl fell short of that model. (What were they thinking???)For years I hated my “fat legs,” although now I realize it was more that my legs are short, which could explain why I could stand and place my palms on the floor without bending my knees. But I digress …

I was at the university gym, heading out to the pool. My lower half was wrapped in a towel to cover what I considered a major flaw, but right by the door someone had decided to put a full-length mirror. (What were they thinking?) As I slipped the towel off to take a quick glance, I felt the usual disgust.

An old proverb says, “I complained because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” What happened next was a similar experience, only the Lord cared enough about me to make sure I would never forgot how blessed I am – as evidenced by the fact that I still remember that day vividly.

As I stepped out onto the deck, I was met by not one, but dozens of special-needs kids. Apparently this was a field trip for them to get out and enjoy a day at the pool. Wheelchairs were everywhere. Some kids were sitting by the pool, dangling their thin little legs in the water, smiling wistfully. Some were still in their wheelchairs waiting for someone to help them into the water. And volunteers were holding others, jumping up and down with them in the shallow end, as the children splashed and giggled with glee.

Shame came over me like a tidal wave. With tears in my eyes, I confessed my despicable attitude and begged the Lord to forgive me. (He did.)

I’d like to say that from that day on I had no body image issues, but I would be lying. It took years of drawing close to Jesus, learning who I am in Him, holding onto His truth rather than my emotions, and things like journaling, Scripture memory, and whatever else He led me to do. In talking with a Christian counselor once, I told him about my journey out of bulimia, which some say is impossible without a counselor! He said if I had come to him, he would have told me to do exactly what I had done. So, I guess I did have a Counselor – a “Wonderful Counselor!” (I hope to write more about this journey in the future, as I know I am not the only one who has struggled with an eating disorder, not by a long shot.)

The point here is that, no matter what we feel we lack, we have something to be thankful for – probably many things. Even if we had nothing at all in this world, if we have placed our faith in Jesus, we have eternity with Him to look forward to, and eternity will quickly swallow up this brief blink of an eye we call “life.”

So, let us GIVE THANKS!!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You gave everything for us, that we could be with You eternally! If the promise of heaven were all we had, we could still thank You forever. And yet, You’ve given us even more! We thank You with all our hearts, today and every day, in Your precious name. Amen

Quick Question

Dear readers,

I have written my first children’s book! From Grumpy to Grateful is a story about how one little boy learned to be thankful. I was hoping to get it published by Thanksgiving, but for various reasons (Covid being the least of them) I am now hoping it will be available by NEXT Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I would love to give a sneak preview of the manuscript to my readers, especially those of you who have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, and/or students who like to read or be read to. From Grumpy to Grateful is a “chapter book,” with five chapters, so it is considerably longer than my usual posts, which I try to keep under 1000 words.

My question(s) for you: (Would you like to read it?) Would it be best for me to (a.) divide the story into five “bite-sized pieces” the length of my usual posts, spaced a few days apart between now and Thanksgiving, (b) post one installment daily Thanksgiving week, or (c) post the whole thing in one long post between now and Thanksgiving so you can read it in one sitting?

Thanks for your input. I don’t take for granted the time you spend reading and commenting on my posts.

Blessings,

Annie

This Is a Test. Will You Pass?

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2a

Although this post is for my American brothers and sisters in Christ, if you are not American, it will someday apply to the situation in your country. Perhaps it already does.

If you are not a Christ-follower, let me explain the term by means of this crash course:

According to the Bible, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That’s just another way of saying, “Nobody’s perfect,” which I think we can all agree on.

Here’s the problem: The Bible also says, “The wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23a) Wages are what we have earned. And what we have earned by living life our own way is eternal death – spending eternity apart from God, Who is holy and perfect. It makes logical sense. After all, if anyone imperfect entered a perfect heaven, heaven wouldn’t be perfect any more, would it?

So … now what?

The good news that comes after this bad news is in the second half of the verse: “… but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:23b) While “wages” are what we’ve earned, a “gift” is given freely, and, thank God, we didn’t have to earn eternal life, or it would never be ours. The sacrifice that paid the price for our sins took place when the perfect Son of God (Jesus) willingly allowed Himself to die on a cross in our place.

But for something to be a gift, it must be received. To be cleansed from our sins, we need to repent (be willing to turn around and go another way), believe that Jesus’s death paid our ransom, and that He has opened up the way for us to live the lives we were created to live, with His help. For a more detailed version of this plan of salvation, these earlier posts might help:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/01/17/be-attitudes-biography-of-a-believer/

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/01/24/the-be-or-not-be-attitudes-the-road-to-true-happiness-part-2/

Those of us whose lives have been transformed by Christ have been adopted into another family, another kingdom. Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20a) Unfortunately a lot of us, especially in America, seem to be forgetting about our “dual citizenship.” At least we seem to be behaving as if this world is all there is.

Here’s a little pop quiz to see how you’re doing in this time of testing:

1.) Is your hope in the Lord or in a politician?

2.) Is your ultimate focus on your problems or the problem Solver?

3.) Can you rejoice in the Lord, no matter who wins the election?

4.) Are you pleasant and kind to people who disagree with you?

5.) When people are nasty towards you, do you treat them well anyway?

6.) Are you more interested in winning people to your God, or to your party?

7.) Do you have compassion on people going through suffering, even when you believe they brought it on themselves?

8.) Do you pray for your enemies?

9.) Can you walk away from an argument without wanting the last word?

10.) Do you let your behavior and attitude preach the gospel along with your words?

In these days of uncertainty, it seems everyone around us is stressing out. People are anxious about the outcome of the election. People are suspicious, as evidence of vote tampering are popping up everywhere. (Yes, people are cheaters – does that come as a surprise to any of us???) People are fearful about what will happen to our country if the “wrong” sinner is elected to office. People are angry with the “other side” for real or perceived wrongs. People are terrified of the violence that may break out – and oh by the way, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Rage, fear, and despair are the norm for “everybody.”

But, brothers and sisters, we are NOT called to be like “everybody!” We are called to be lights in the darkness. Peter wrote,

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9)

Sure, it’s getting darker all the time, but the darker the sky gets, the brighter and more visible the stars shine! Paul wrote,

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16a) [emphasis mine]

Have you caught the vision yet? These dark times are not a time to get sucked into the world’s mindset! If we are behaving with the same attitudes as everyone else, who is going to be interested in what we have to offer in the way of God’s Truth? Everyone has their own “truth,” and unless there’s something different about us, ours will seem like just one more opinion.

BUT, if we show ourselves to be different from the world, because we are citizens of another world – NOW we will stand out, and those who are seeking something better will be drawn to us.

This is a golden opportunity, friends. Let’s not blow it! This is a test. Are we passing?

Prayer: Lord, You have called us to be citizens of another world, one so much better than the one we’re seeing now. Help us not to get sucked into the darkness, but to shine Your light more brightly than ever. May we show the difference You make in our lives, in the name of Jesus, who called us out of darkness into Your wonderful light. Amen.

My Trunk, God’s Treat

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

This is the time of year that brings back some special memories for me, memories of fifteen years of the most ambitious outreach I have ever been involved in. For some background on my earlier dilemma with Halloween, the “AHA! moment, and our humble beginnings, see these earlier posts:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2019/07/12/preview-of-satans-worst-nightmare/

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2019/07/19/satans-worst-nightmare-preview-2-a-different-kind-of-yard-display/

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2019/07/26/satans-worst-nightmare-excerpt-3-small-beginnings/

Over fifteen years our outreach evolved from a “different” yard display (tombstones displaying Scriptures about resurrection) to a dramatized presentation of the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus from Satan’s perspective – “Satan’s Worst Nightmare.” Features included a live band, a large screen displaying song lyrics and scenes from “The Passion of the Christ,” dancers, and special effects such as a strobe light and fog. “Freebees” were added to the candy and tracts – hot cider, hotdogs, popcorn, and most importantly, Bibles.

After we discontinued our outreach, I decided I would at least make use of some of our scenery at our church’s annual “Trunk or Treat.”

In case the concept of “trunk or treat” is unfamiliar to my non-American readers, this is an alternative Halloween festivity for those who have misgivings about “trick or treating” for religious or safety reasons. A group of people gather their vehicles in one location (usually a parking lot) and decorate them – sort of “costumes for cars.” They open their trunks and give out candy to kids who come through. It’s a lot like trick or treating, but instead of going house to house, the kids go car-to-car (or van or truck).

I had never even been to this event at our church, much less had a car in it. I had always been busy directing the final intense rehearsals for “Satan’s Worst Nightmare.” I decided to transform the trunk of my car to show the Empty Tomb, draping the edges of the opening with stone-grey fabric, with “HE IS RISEN!” in sequined letters on a sheet of black cardboard inside. I took the big, round “stone” to lean against one side of the back bumper, and a tombstone declaring “He lives!” for the other.

I dug up one of the angel costumes – a long, white tunic with shimmering silver poncho over the top, silver sash, and a Christmas tinsel “halo.” (To keep warm I wore sweats underneath, so I was quite a chubby angel!) As the kids and parents paraded through, I gave them a jolly greeting of “He is risen!” as I handed out bags of candy and tracts.

One of the tracts was for the adults. It told about historical evidence for the Resurrection, along with an account of how the apostles died, begging the question, If Jesus’ Resurrection was a hoax, why in the world did His followers face excruciating persecution and death without one of them ever breaking down and confessing that it was a lie?

Looking around the parking lot that day, I was a little disappointed to see that most of the hundred or so other cars had secular themes, except for one trunk decorated as “God’s Garden.” This one had a little window just the size of a child’s face and a sign saying “Someone God loves!” A woman in overalls invited the children to peek through the window – into the mirror inside. I went over to express my appreciation of her creativity. She said it was what God had told her to do. I said I had sensed God’s direction for my trunk, too.

What I didn’t tell her was that this day seemed anticlimactic after the intense, directly evangelistic production I had directed for so many years. We had seen so many answered prayers, both providential and what seemed like “miracles,” such as the Bible some Satanists tried to set fire to that wouldn’t burn, or our outreach’s never getting rained out in fifteen years. (There were years it was raining everywhere except the block where we were performing.) I had decided to bloom where I was planted, in this relatively innocuous event. Surprisingly, things did happen later that day that may not have been “miracles,” per se, but nevertheless had Jesus’ name all over them.

The first bit of serendipity was when a woman dressed as an angel came up to my car, pointed a finger at me, and said with prophetic certainty, “The Lord will bless you for this!” I smiled, thinking, True, someday I will know what God is doing right now.

The second touch from God was when they announced the award for the best decorated trunk. (I didn’t even know they did that.) It was a name I didn’t recognize, but the title was “HE IS RISEN!” I was delightfully surprised that someone else had had the same idea, and I looked around to see who it was. Finally I went to the announcer, pointed to my car, and asked timidly if the winner was that car over there, by any chance? Apparently they had got the name wrong, and my car had won! I laughed, picturing Jesus standing there grinning and winking and saying, I was just messin’ with you.

The next little blessing was when I was handed the prize – a gift certificate to the grocery store I went to. Since I didn’t need help with groceries, I asked the Lord who He wanted to have it. He took me back to “God’s Garden” and when I offered the gift certificate to the lady in the overalls, she hugged me and tearfully exclaimed I had no idea what that meant. I learned she had spent her last $3.00 on candy for the kids.

(I also learned the angel lady had told her she’d be blessed for what she was doing, too.)

Happy “All-Hallows Eve,” everyone. Remember, every day is God’s, including October 31.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for giving the enemy too much credit. We know that You own everything – every day of our lives, every breath we take. Continue to reveal Yourself to us, and open our eyes to Your wonders, great and small, in Jesus’ name. Amen

You’re Not Stupid! (But Are You Lazy?)

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scripture every day to see if what Paul said was true. – Acts 17:11

An episode of the TV series “West Wing” shows Charlie, assistant to the President approaching C. J., the press secretary after a press conference where she has evaded a question and/or put some spin on the facts.

“People aren’t stupid, y’know,” he tells her.

“In an election year everybody’s stupid,” C.J. retorts.

NO,” Charlie says pointedly, “in an election year, everybody gets treated stupid.”

You got that right, Charlie.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of having my intelligence insulted every time I turn on the news. The only reason I can think of that journalists would continue trying to influence the public with innuendos, half-truths, misquotes, and downright lies – not to mention censoring any story that doesn’t fit their agenda – is that somehow it’s working. I don’t think the majority of Americans are stupid, so why is this strategy so effective?

I’m guessing it’s because the press is counting on the fact that most voters aren’t going to fact check everything that’s reported. Whether this is a matter of being too busy, other things taking priority, or just plain laziness, few of us take the time to verify what we are hearing – or what we seem to be hearing.

Recently I took this pet peeve to social media, where attention spans are short, in the form of three posts, over a period of several weeks.

Post #1:

YOU’RE NOT STUPID. Has this happened to you? You’re watching the evening news, and the reporter quotes a statement made by someone, then looks into the camera and asks suspiciously, “But is this really TRUE?” Then he throws out a series of random facts and statistics loosely related to the topic at hand, and you’re wondering, “Wait … that doesn’t really answer the question …” or “That wasn’t really the point …”

(He reminds me of the guy putting a ball under one of three cups, then moving them around and around until you’re not sure where the ball is.)

You’re thinking, “I don’t get it …”

It’s not that you’re stupid. You’re being TREATED stupid! Most Americans aren’t as stupid as the media think we are, but how many of us are LAZY? Do your own research. In other words, FACT CHECK THE “FACT CHECKERS.”

YOU’RE NOT STUPID, Part 2

No, you’re probably not stupid, but are you LAZY? Sure, it’s easier letting someone else tell you what to think than to do your own research and think for yourself. But is it worth sacrificing the truth just to save yourself some mental effort?

Beware of general statements regarding someone’s character: “____________[person] is _________ [insulting label].” Even – especially – if the statement begins with “EVERYBODY knows …” or “It’s a well-known fact … “

Check it out. Has that person, in fact, DONE anything to merit that label? [Hint: the more the unsubstantiated statement is repeated without any facts to back it up, the greater the chance that somebody made it up.]

YOU’RE NOT STUPID (But are you LAZY?) Part III: BEWARE OF THE SOUND BYTE!

They do it on both sides, quote something the “bad guy” allegedly said, then “prove” it by playing a sound byte – usually just a few words, a few seconds long.

(Note: The shorter the sound byte, the more often it’s played, the greater the chance it’s being taken out of context and “proves” NOTHING.)

Find the original speech/interview/debate and read or listen to the WHOLE THING. You might be amazed at what was REALLY said and what the few highlighted words were referring to. I DARE YOU TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND. You might just end up changing it, and that’s OK. “A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser to-day than he was yesterday.” (Alexander Pope)

Remember that every human is fallible, and few, if any, of them just wake up one morning and decide to be evil – although they may be pulled in that direction if fed enough random sound bytes and they refuse to examine the context. (“Don’t bother me with facts, I’ve already made up my mind.”)

P.S. THE SAME APPLIES TO RANDOM VERSES OF SCRIPTURE QUOTED OUT OF CONTEX.

That last statement points to another choice you have that is even more crucial, where more than your country is at stake. Whatever decisions we make now (as individuals and as a nation), there will come a time when we (as individuals and as a nation) will no longer exist in this world. After that is eternity. And eternity is a very, very, very long time.

A grain of sand compared with a bucket of sand is very small. Compared to a whole beach it’s even smaller. And that grain of sand compared with the sum total of all the sand in the world – beaches, deserts, bottom of the oceans … Now how small is it?

And yet that grain of sand in the Sahara is still bigger than this life compared with eternity! So why are we so absorbed in the present? God has shown us the way to eternal life, through His Son Jesus. His words were written down for people to read through the centuries, and He has give us His Spirit to guide us as we seek the truth.

When it comes to eternity, don’t let someone else tell you what to believe. There are countless gurus using convoluted logic, stereotypical assumptions, and quoting verses from the Bible out of context. Don’t be lazy! Check out for yourself what the Bible really says. Read long passages, whole books of the Bible, even the whole Bible, asking God to help you understand and apply what you’re reading to your life. I’d love to hear about what you have discovered, especially revelations that changed your mind about any former assumptions.

If you don’t have a Bible, let me know. I’d be happy to send you one.

Prayer: Lord, You told us, “Seek, and you will find.” Forgive us for being too focused on lesser things to think about eternity. Help us to be more diligent in seeking You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.