Thursday, August 31, 2017

What Can I Do?

A few days ago, Hurricane Harvey touched down and barreled through the state of Texas creating chaos, destruction, flooding, and loss.  As I write this, torrential rains are still falling, rescuers are still bringing victims out from submerged homes and cars, and a multitude of shelters are filling up with survivors.

News reporters are claiming that the amount of devastation from this storm is “unprecedented” in comparison with previous hurricanes.  Many are comparing the amount of damage from this storm with that from Hurricane Katrina back in August of 2005. 

My heart breaks for those people.  When I see the actual photos and videos, I know there is no media distortion of the reality.  It’s simply bad down there.  Real bad.

Like many others, I am pondering my options to help.  Living in an opposite corner of the country from where this tragic storm is happening makes me wonder how I can find some practical way to send assistance.

Along with the theme of the book I am currently writing, I will continue to encourage all that there is always some way to make a difference with whatever financial or other resources one has.

I’ve seen large organizations like Samaritan’s Purse sending tractor-trailer loads out on their way to Texas, almost as soon as the weather forecasts predicted a monster storm.  Samaritan’s Purse is a non-denominational evangelical Christian International Relief organization based in Boone, North Carolina.  Money donations received throughout the year enable this organization to be ready for disasters when they come.

I’ve read about local churches in my area, including my own, collecting supplies.  They are gathering baby supplies, pet supplies and food, cleaning supplies, and non-perishable food items.  It is easy enough to drop stuff off at a church that is organizing and funding their transport to Texas.

The news reports are showing local Texas folks using their own motorboats, Sea-Doos, and Jet Skis to rescue people trapped in the rising waters.  These people are doing what they can with what they have.

I know of people opening their homes for those who have lost their homes.  It is no small commitment to take folks in to live with you, yet I know this is pleasing to the Lord.

Many churches and groups, large and small, have united in prayer for those affected by the storm.  Although there will be some loss of life, I am sure prayer is a major factor in minimizing those losses.

And finally, as I continued my ongoing Bible study on the book of Job this morning, I came across this interesting verse:

Is it possible that a simple, kind smile can be helpful to others?  I confidently answer that with a resounding YES.  I can think of many times in my life when I was going through a very rough time.  I didn’t need advice; I didn’t need material things; I just needed some compassion and support.  A genuine smile did that for me on many occasions.

Kindness and an abundance of Christ-generated smiles can go a long way towards helping, loving, and restoring.

Now that is something we can all do.   

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Trials of Job

Job has always been one of those books of the Bible that I have "religiously" avoided.  Usually when I consider getting into it, I decide nah, that'll be for another time.

For some reason, though, a couple of months ago, I decided it was time.  Time to dig deep down into the sufferings of that troubled man Job, and see what it all had to say to me.

Even if you're not overly familiar with Job, you may know that he suffered greatly.  In a small nutshell, here is the story:

Job was a righteous man who had received many blessings from God.
Satan believed Job would not continue to be faithful to God if Job had everything taken away.
God agreed to let that happen.
Job lost much - his wealth, most of his family, and his health.
Job endured.  Through all of his suffering, and in spite of the misguided advice from his "friends," Job continued to trust in the sovereignty and goodness of the Lord.
At the end, God blessed Job for his deep faith and restored to Job even more than he had lost.

I don't claim to have every insight on the book of Job, and I certainly am no Bible scholar, but I'm about half way through the book now, and several areas to study further have stuck out over and over as I continue through it.  (Might this be a future Bible study booklet to write?  I'm praying about that.)

Here are the latest takeaways I have written in my personal journal as of this morning.  (I'm sure if I sat down to write this list another day it would be a completely different list.  I suspect there is an abundance to excavate from the life of Job.)

1.  Sometimes we will suffer.  Inexplicably.

2.  There is a lot of foreshadowing of the coming Messiah in the book of Job.

3.  Jesus suffered and he has told us that in this world we will suffer, too.  We should not be overly surprised when it happens.

4.  Satan tries to use our pain and trials to convince us that God doesn't care about us.

5.  We cannot begin to know the full extent of the mind of God.

6.  Hindsight will always clear up a lot of what was perplexing in the moment.

7.  There is much to learn from Job's "friends" about friendship, or rather about how NOT to be a good friend.

8.  It is always best to draw near to the Lord in the midst of the storm.

9.  God deserves and will always get the glory in the end.

10. God can be trusted, even when we don't understand.

11. Bad things do happen to good people.

I'm curious - if you've studied Job, what are some of your takeaways?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

It's Not So Complicated!

Why do we make it so hard?  Evangelism shouldn't require rocket science to pull it off.  Even so, we usually make it harder than it needs to be, or we concoct extravagant reasons to try and excuse ourselves from carrying it out.

There are two instances in the Bible in which Jesus shows us how to do one-on-one evangelism, and we would do well to study his example.  One is found in John 4, when Jesus speaks to the woman at the well.  The other, on which I will focus today, is found in John 9.

My own eyes are not so great, and I suppose that is why this story resonates so strongly with me.  First, I have incredibly bad eyesight.  I got my first pair of glasses somewhere early in elementary school, and my eyesight has steadily deteriorated over the years.

Then, about seven years ago, I experienced vitriol detachments, first in one eye, then in the other.  Although not a serious condition, it's annoying.  Most days it causes some blurriness of vision, especially when looking side to side.  Driving in rain along with this blurriness is not a good thing for me.

And furthermore, I'm at the age where I need bifocals, regular application of mascara to avoid the "turtle eyes" look, creams to keep the bagging syndrome minimized, and waxing or other eyebrow maintenance operations to keep that unruliness at bay.

But, when I read a chapter like John 9, I'm extremely grateful that I have my vision at all, and that my parents were able to afford eye correction devices for me throughout my early life.

The bookends of the ninth chapter of John are a physical healing - a man healed of blindness, and a spiritual healing - a salvation when the same man decides to follow Jesus.

Verses 35-38 are a simple blueprint, given to us by Jesus, of how to share the good news of the gospel with an unbeliever.

Read John 9:35-38 and see if this isn't a simple summary:

          A Story of Evangelism

     1.  Jesus went to find the man. 
     2.  Jesus asked him if he believed.
     3.  The man asked some questions.
     4.  Jesus answered his questions.
     5.  The man decided he believed and stated his belief to Jesus.
     6.  From then on the man worshipped.

We must go to them.  They won't come to us.
We must talk to them about Jesus.
They may have questions.
We must patiently and lovingly answer their questions.
At some point a decision must be made, one way or another.
The person may make a statement of his belief.
If the person has decided to follow Jesus, it will show in his life.

Let's not let anything stop us from sharing with others the greatest news there ever was!

Monday, August 21, 2017


It's been a crazy, busy couple of weeks!

The whirlwind started with a bit of unpleasantness (see "Spelunking in my Colon" two posts ago), but  got better day by day once I got out of that body shop.

Youngest daughter Sarah arrived with her family Thursday a week ago.  Of course we started our time together by taking grandkids Gabriel and Claire on an obligatory run to Target.  One never can know if OUR Target may perhaps have a few deals that THEIR Target does not.  So, we had to check.    It's a mystery how one can enter that place needing nothing and exit a few hours later having laid down $100 or more bucks.

Two days later, middle daughter Lindsay arrived with Ellie.  We decided to make a major family entourage to the nearest amusement park, Knoebel's Grove, in Elysburg, PA.  The wondrous thing about this part is the no-entry fee.  Patrons just buy books of ride tickets.  Any unused ride tickets can be saved indefinitely for future park visits.

Even though 6-year-old Ellie offered plenty of courage as a co-rider, 3-year-old Gabriel was quite hesitant about many of the rides.  He was able to find a few that tripped his happiness centers, though, including the tiny train ride and a few other kiddie rides.

Monday and Tuesday of last week was our scheduled 2017 Girls Getaway.  The plan was to head north a few hours into New York and see how our favorite giraffe, April, and her baby are doing. Although not all the ladies and girls of the family could make it, five of us piled into the vehicle and headed on our way - Lindsay and daughter Ellie, Sarah and baby Claire, and me.  For a one night adventure, we had an overly ridiculous amount of baggage and road snacks.

On the way we made several stops to let the kiddos out to burn off some energy.  At a playground we found numerous painted rocks, which Ellie re-hid in new locations.  This current fad of painting rocks and hiding them for others to find always gives me a smile.  I will be doing more painting and hiding of rocks with my grandkids.

We made a planned stop at Salerno's, an Old Forge-style pizza joint.  Although the pizza came out looking quite tasty, it was a mutual vote of thumbs down on the taste of the cheese.  Very sticky and pastes onto the teeth and roof of mouth, annoyingly so.

After arrival at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpersville, NY, we purchased our entry tickets and several buckets of food to hand-feed the animals.  The highest building in the park was an easy indicator for me as to the location of the giraffes.

Oliver, the male giraffe and April's significant other, was out in the corner of the yard, avoiding people.  The staff on hand told us he doesn't like people, quick movements, or being touched by humans.  Ok then.  He didn't get any carrots from me.

Inside the building in her pen, April, on the other hand, seemed to welcome the company (and the carrots).  In fact, she even took a carrot right out of MY mouth.  I laughed at the tickling whiskers of my first giraffe kiss.

The giraffe tender on duty there allowed me to come around the back corner of April's pen to get a close up look at April's young male baby, Tajili.  I am pleased to say that both April and her young one are doing well and the baby is already about 8 feet tall, judging by how it looked when it stood up in front of me.  It was born just back in April during the Easter weekend.

Baby "Tajili"
After returning back home from our Girls Getaway, we took the littlest ones to the Rolling Hills Red Deer Farm in Catawissa, PA.  They offer a fun-filled one hour tractor-pulled wagon tour of the property and its various male, female, and baby red deer pens.  The kids love feeding the deer biscuits from a bucket.

Gabriel loved feeding the red deer
One ambitious stag took a bite out of my backside while trying to get at a biscuit that was laying there behind me.  The chomp occurred just a moment before the tour guide warned us to watch for the deer with White Tag #125.  Apparently he's a nipper.  The deer were all hungry and approached the wagon for treats with very little coaxing.

Many of the stags are in the phase where the velvet is coming off their antlers.  They appeared to have gross, bloody strings hanging from all over their racks.  Although I've been at this deer farm numerous other times, I haven't seen this phase before.

Finally on Friday, I picked up the grand twins to give them their final 2016 Christmas present - a trip to Lancaster to the Sight and Sound Theater to see the current production, Jonah.  The humongous whale "swam" just inches right over their heads, and they loved it.  The special effects of the show left them speechless at times.

Afterwards, we found a neat 50's style diner where we giggled about how bad we were.  We had decided to eat dessert for dinner.  The girls had their jollies posing in the vintage cut-outs on the property before we headed home.

After their all day drive I got the word that Sarah and family had arrived home safely.  Little Claire was so happy to be reunited with her buddy, Snickers the family cat.

Claire and her buddy Snickers
Now I'm back to the routine, too.  I'm pushing to finish writing my book proposal for my agent.  As Charles Spurgeon once said, "By perseverance, the snail reached the ark."

That's me.  I will get there.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sneak Peek!

By now many of you know that I've been writing about a life-changing adventure I've experienced over the past twelve months.

That's a lotta pages.  It's a 3 inch notebook!
I am in the final labor stages of my latest book, Risking it All:  One Woman's Adventure Giving Away Her Income, and I'm getting excited for this latest "birth."  In just a few weeks or months, I'll have it out of my office and into your hands.

Some other book-writing related news:

I've got an agent who wants to represent me.  Yea!

I'm steadily working on my social media platform, as my agent has encouraged me to do.

The daily writing plan
My calendar is scheduled with a detailed writing plan, and I'm doing my best to stick to it.  The hubby is a great support and has been super helpful doing other tasks around the house, so that I can get the writing done.

However, I think I'll explode if I don't share a little overview and a bit of a sneak peek!

The book is a heart-baring journal documenting the difficult and exhilarating lessons I've learned while giving away my entire income over the last year.  Hopefully readers will find my stories uplifting and sometimes comical.  It is my prayer that exposing my thoughts and discoveries throughout the journey will challenge readers' current concepts of how to love others and inspire them to explore their own creative opportunities for giving.

Each month I have focused on one of twelve major social issues of our time.  However, even I was shocked to my socks with the unexpected twist that happened in the last month of the adventure.  (No, seventeen horses won't drag that secret from me.  You'll just have to read the book!)

Let's get to it!  Here is a little sneak peak of the first chapter of the book.  It's a content list of the journal entries for the first month (September 2016) of the journey.

September 1:  It Begins Today

September 8:  Two conversations with the hubby

September 9:  A brief look back to earlier in the summer

September 10:  Starting to explore practical ways of helping

September 11:  Can I take a major trip while on this money adventure?

September 11:  60th birthday thoughts

September 12:  Directions for the rich

September 14:  Excited to give

September 15:  Searching for cheesesteak nirvana

September 16:  Resolution of the cheesesteak saga

September 20:  Charity Watchdogs

September 21:  Some timely wisdom from Paul

September 22:  Mushrooms and a spirit check

September 23:  Prayer

September 24:  2000 verses

September 25:  Learning to pay attention

September 28:  Thinking about world currency

September 29:  Jesus, the perfect model of kindness

September 30:  Doing what no one else does

Hopefully you'll share my excitement about this life-changing adventure I've experienced.  Does this sound like something you'd like to read?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Spelunking in my Colon

I have a feeling that this post will be  TMI for a Monday of a brand new week, but I've got a feeling now that you've read that, you'll find yourself inexplicably curious and compelled to continue reading on for all the glorious and gory details.

There is one majorly awful day that occurs in my life, and in the lives of those of us who are over 50 or so, about every five years.  That is the Prep Day.

They say the Prep Day is worse than the actual procedure itself.  I cannot say that baring my backside for all the world to see is anywhere on my Bucket List either, so I'm not sure which is worse.  Neither part of the event is fun in my book, and I've often wondered what could possibly motivate a doc to choose this line of work -labor that requires spelunking into colons, one after another, every single day of the week.

Oh I've read that the hazards of colon caving are many, and perhaps that is part of its allure.  It takes a distinct set of skills including the negotiation of pitches, squeezes, and unexpected water hazards.

Some consider colon spelunking to be an extreme sport, although those words, "extreme sport" often bring to mind a negative impression of athletes who have no sense of concern for safety.  That is not typically the case in this scenario.

Others categorize the sport as a form of adventure tourism.  One can not argue that there are certainly a multitude of nooks and crevices to explore and new things to discover around every corner.

For a few spelunkers, this genre of caving even transcends the title of being a sport.  These folks take it to the next level as they pursue mapping, photography, and the management and conservation of cave resources.

However one looks at it, it means that today green and orange jello is one of the major food groups represented on my meal plates.  No, it's actually the only food group for the day.

Gator Aid has been stocked for the ingestion of the "cleanser,"  and rolls and rolls of toilet paper have been readied to accommodate the dreaded poop fest.

Now, I'd like to share some of my memories from previous excursions into my colon, in case any of my readers may happen to have the same event scheduled somewhere soon on your calendar.
Beware, reality ahead.  Read at your own risk:

1.  If you have taken your 2 laxative pills and swallowed your first dose of Miralax and Gatorade and you feel fine, do NOT leave the house on any quick errands.  Instead, do a few laps around the house.  Actually, within one foot of the toilet.

2.  Trust those ridiculous noises coming from your gut.  Unsnap your pants and get in position.  Now.

3.  From this point on, and for the next 12+ hours, do not trust a burp, hiccup, cough, sneeze, or giggle.  Every fart is a traitor.

4.  If your prep starts late in the day, do not plan on sleeping much.  Better to stay parked on the throne.  Otherwise, you will surely be changing the sheets or leaving an unpleasant trail from your bed to the toilet.  Even professional cheek clenchers cannot win this battle.

5.  While spending hours on your Throne of Cleanse, use your phone or laptop and Google how to turn your farts into a melody.  You'll be glad you have learned this skill when you are in the recovery room after the procedure and the nurse requires you to let out your air.  Might as well make an impression on the other patients and be able to exit the facility as a legend.

6.  If you have scheduled your procedure at a facility more than 5 minutes from your home, it's too late.  You were an idiot.  Pack an extra set of britches.  You'll be needing them.

7.  Prepare to be unnerved by the copious amount of farting all around you in the recovery room.  This is one place where it is socially acceptable to do so, and trust me, some do so with gusto.  I felt like repeatedly exclaiming "Ole!" after my last time in response to the guy on the other side of the curtain.  I had the sense he was a professional airbag in his pre-colonoscopy life.

8.  Expect to feel like a 3-year-old.  Come on, admit it, farting is always funny.

9.  One good thing is that the anesthesia gives you a mini vacation away.  Think of a sunny, relaxing beach and next thing you know you're on your way.

10. A final blessing is that if someone accuses you of being full of crap, you can honestly tell them you are not.

Let the adventure begin!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Feeling Like Job

All of a sudden, my car needs service.  Two warning lights came on the other day.

Then the day after that, our puppy began acting out of sorts.  Each morning, for three days, we would wake to discover she had left us some unpleasant piles by the door.  She is six years old, and this is not typical behavior.

Then my computer acquired some nasty virus while I was doing research for my latest book.  It required calling in the services of my son to get all back to normal.

Migraine meds give their own side effects
Yesterday and again today I was awakened with a massive migraine.  The kind that is accompanied with vomiting and then a debate with myself as to whether the migraine meds were still in or not.

My job was terminated, and so suddenly I have no income.

I'm starting to feel like Job.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been studying the book of Job.  It's been years since I've spent time reading through this difficult story, and as of now, I'm about one fourth of the way through it.

People's understanding of God in those days was quite limited, and I'm so thankful we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit since then, so that we have a better knowledge of the heart of God.

Job knows he is innocent, yet his entire livelihood has been erased, and his body is covered with horrific sores.  He is suffering greatly.

His "helpful" friends (three so far) insist that if he will just confess his sin, probably a hidden sin of some sort, he will be healed, and all will be restored, and he'll find happiness once again.

Golly, who wants friends like those?

In the customary religious thinking of those times, it was believed that all ailments were dealt out by God as deserved punishment for some sin.

If I were to go along with that line of thinking, I must really be messing up these days, to have all these bothersome and painful ailments.

Romans 3:23-24 tells me, though, that everyone has done bad things.  Mercy and grace are still available.

     "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [that includes Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and me], and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

Because of Jesus, I don't have to view every struggle or bit of suffering in my life as a little or large zap of punishment from a frightening God.  These trials are just a result of living in a fallen world.

Someday I'll have answers for all of it, and so will Job.

For now, I just wish I could lose this migraine.