As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

D-mail for the week of October 1, 2009

Scripture: Romans 9: 15, 16, 20, 21 ;  I Corinthians 8:1


What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christians


Christianity has an image problem.  If you=ve lived in America for very long, I doubt this surprises you.  Just what exactly do people think about Christians and Christianity?  Why do those perceptions exist?  Obviously people believe their views are accurate but do their perceptions reflect reality?


This is the opening paragraph from the book Unchristian.  They are the words of David Kinnaman of the Barna Group, which provides research and resources that facilitate spiritual transformation in people=s lives and has designed and analyzed over 500 studies for churches, non-profits, and corporations.  He goes on to say that their research shows that many of those outside Christianity, especially young adults, have little trust in the Christian faith (and little , if any, respect for the Bible)  and that esteem for the lifestyle of Christian followers is quickly fading among outsiders.  These outsiders admit that their emotional and intellectual barriers go up when they are around Christians.  They report that they reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians.  Think about what this means.  It changes our discussions with them about Christianity and it alters their willingness to commit their lives to Jesus.


As Christians, we cannot just throw up our hands in defensiveness and crawl back behind  the safety of our church walls.  We have a responsibility to gain an understanding of the outsiders= perspectives if we are truly interested in communicating and expressing Christ to this new generation of Apost-Christian@ thinkers.  If they think we no longer represent what Jesus had in mind nor believe Christianity in our society is what it was meant to be, then they have a hard time actually seeing Jesus because of all the negative baggage that surrounds Him.  Young people today are incredibly candid; they do not hold back their opinions.  If you want examples, just read any college or university newspaper.  Here is an example I took from an article from a junior student writing in the Iowa State University student newspaper from the February 2, 2009 edition.  She writes,


I  need to meet more Christians.  When I sat with the congregation at Cornerstone Church for the weekly Salt Company meeting on Thursday, it suddenly occurred to me I had been holding onto a stereotypical and unrealistic image of what a Christian is. I looked around and I saw nearly every category of people imaginable. There were blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, people with disabilities, people with tattoos and people with piercings.  And here I thought all the Christian boys wore long-sleeve blue button-up dress shirts and khakis, while all the Christian girls wore full-length plaid skirts and plain blouses, which wasn=t the case at all.  Had you asked me to describe a Christian several weeks ago, I can tell you these attributes would not have come to mind. But let=s rewind, shall we?

What was I doing at Salt Company. as a politically left-leaning transgender girl and adamant non-Christian? Due to my increased exposure on campus, one member from the congregation by the name of Samantha requested to meet with me so we could hold a respectful dialogue.  Sipping away at my strawberry smoothie while she drank her tea, we constructively discussed our differences in perspective, our pasts and more.  Samantha didn=t pass judgment on me. She didn=t tell me I was wrong and she would pray for me to leave my heathen ways.  She didn=t threaten me and say I must come to know Jesus before I burn forever in a lake of fire. This isn=t to say she agreed with or even understood my life, but she was trying to and I appreciated that. When all was said and done, she didn=t ask me to come to Salt Company. And interestingly enough, that=s why I came.My experiences with Christians in the past hadn=t been anything like meeting and chatting with Samantha. If anything, they had been the antithesis of Samantha: judgmental, damning and completely unwilling to so much listen to another=s point of view, let alone try to understand or accept it. I think I had some justification in my anxiety.  And then I saw those people who challenged my conceptions of Christians. Mr. Purple Shirt, Ms. Septum Piercing, and Mr. God Is My Ecstasy, hands raised high as he sang from the bottom of his heart and top of his lungs. I don=t think I=ve ever seen anyone as genuinely happy as I saw him and others in the crowd that night.Not only that, but when Alex Tuckness, associate professor of political science and speaker for Salt Company, recited lines not of condemnation but of humility, my curiosity roused.  He said,   AGod told Moses, >I am in charge of mercy, I=m in charge of compassion.=  Compassion doesn=t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God=s mercy.@  Romans 9: 15-16


 AWho in the world do you think you are to second-guess God?  Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn=t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying >Why did you shape me like this?=  Isn=t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans?@  Romans 9:20-21  Tuckness went on to discuss the meaning and impact of the passage, asking the crowd, AWhy should we think that we can comprehend all of God=s creations?@  What strikes me is just how differently people can interpret this passage and Tuckness= question. As I sat there pondering what it all meant for me, it crossed my mind that if God exists, I am indeed one of his creations. In fact, if he exists, we would all be his creations, regardless of any categorization we could possibly conceive as humans. And who are we to say that we understand his creations? Who are we to pass judgment?  I don=t know why I am the way I am, but I know I don=t feel any condemnation when trying to pluck answers from the mystical pool of knowledge lying just beyond our human perception. I know that=s something I can=t rationally explain, just like I can=t rationally explain why the one time Samantha didn=t ask if the person she was talking to would like to join her for worship was the time she spoke to me. The lack of that question was a main reason for my attendance. I still don=t believe in God with a capital G, I still find a lot of Christian teachings to be  somewhat self-deprecating.  I=ve seen a lot of Christian hypocrisy and I=m still unsure about Yeshua being the Savior.  But even under the shadow of so much doubt, I think I=ll keep going to Salt Company for now. We may disagree, we may not understand each other, we may even think of each other as pretty weird or even lowly at times, but there=s something I=ve found I need to start acknowledging:   Just because Christians believe in a supposedly higher standard of morality, that doesn=t make them perfect.  Yes, they should still perpetually work to be better people, as should we all. Love thy neighbor as thyself, treat others as you would like to be treated, live and let live, encourage people to be happy, et cetera. But people make mistakes.@

In the book Unchristian ,Mr. Kinnaman says that even though some of the realities he uncovered about how the young generation feels towards Christians, may feel uncomfortable, publishing the results of his research is not meant to berate Christians.  The point is to compel us to really understand outsiders= skepticism so that we can be sensitive in the things we can influence Bour lives, our churches, and the way we express Christianity to others.  Outsiders, Kinnaman says, have a negative image of Christians.  One outsider he spoke to said, AMost people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, antichoice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders who only want to convert everyone and cannot live peacefully with others who don=t believe what they believe.@  (I highly recommend reading Unchristian)


The church today desperately needs more people who facilitate a deeper, more authentic vision of the Christian faith, one which seeks to serve with real compassion and genuine hope, in our pluralistic, sophisticated culture.  Outsiders have made it clear (according to the Barna study) that Christians are primarily perceived for what we stand against rather than what we are for. If we do not deal with our part of this 21st century problem of the church, we will fail to connect with a new generation. The Apostle Paul said,


AWhile knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church.@   I Corinthians 8:1


We are not responsible for outsiders= decisions, but we are accountable when our actions and attitudes misrepresent a holy, just, and loving God and push the skeptics away.  What will you and I do to prepare ourselves to deal with a future where people will be increasingly hostile and skeptical toward us and our God?  How can we show more love?



Lord God,

When I try to share your message with Aoutsiders@, so often I feel defensive and rejected . Therefore, way too often, I just don=t try.  I want you to use me to lead others to the saving knowledge and joy of Jesus Christ.  Please help me to understand what is standing in the way and how, with your wisdom, I can overcome it.  I pray for Christian pastors, priests, and leaders who find themselves in the public eye.  Help them to choose their words with care, to show compassion on all people while preaching what is right with courage and clarity.  And help them to lead righteous personal lives so that they cannot be made sources of derision for the whole church.  Help all of us to do the same.   Amen


p.s. My goodness, I didn=t realize I had so much to say about this topic!  It could have been fewer pages if I used smaller font, but readers have asked that I use larger soas to make it easier to read.  So, thanks for hanging in there to the end.  Last week I mentioned that you could send comments to the response site of my blog, but I gave you the wrong address.  Correction: send comments to       God bless you, Cathy




I recently read the book  Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.  This amazingly well-researched and fascinating story is about the quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-educated physician, epidemiologist, and anthropologist, to rid the world of tuberculosis.  Raised in a poor and very unusual family, Dr. Farmer, brilliant, curious and tenacious, was able to attend Duke University on a scholarship, study in France, and attend Harvard Medical School as well as earn a degree in anthropology and public health.  Unbelievably, he spent over half his time during that period working in Haiti, where he built a clinic and solved innumerable public health problems in the village and area around his clinic.  On the back of this book is the following:

Tracy Kidder’s magnificent account shows how one person can make a difference in solving global health problems through a clear-eyed understanding of the interaction of politics, social systems, and disease. Profound and powerful, Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to haiti, peru, Cuba, and Russia as Dr. Paul Farmer changes people’s minds through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.”

I loved this book and could hardly put it down.  It seemed inconceivable that one man, from humble beginnings, could overcome so many obstacles and still change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.  I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of him!  Read this book.

I just returned from the fall conference of the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association which was held in Eau Claire, WI.  Although all the speakers were informative, my favorite was Jean Ferraca, an accomplished writer and poet, as well as the radio host of Here on Earth on Wisconsin Public Radio.  She spoke about how her poetic skills were put to good use in her recently published memoir, I Hear Voices.  It was the highlight of the conference for me –oh wait.  I guess the highlight would have to be earning the Jade Ring prize for first place in the humorous poetry category of WRWA’s Jade Ring writing competition!  I submitted 3 poems in that category and surprisingly came away with the honorable mention award for one and first place for another.  Following are the 2 poems:


The Next Best Thing to Ice Cream   (Honorable Mention)   


If turnips were like gummi bears

and peas like chocolate chips,

if oatmeal were like pudding

and green beans like licorice strips,


if kidney beans were M&Ms

and sour cream were honey,

if stuffed green peppers tasted

like a chocolate Easter bunny,


then I would eat those yucky foods

and I will tell you why.

>Cause the next best thing to ice cream

might be spinach liver pie.

My Little Pragmatist  (First place - Jade ring)


AKatie,@ I asked,

AWhy are your coat pockets

crammed with crackers and cheese

and little wrapped Snicker bars?@


ABecause Mo-ther,@ she said.

(She=s taken to calling me Mo-ther lately)

AJust in case I ever get trapped

too far from a convenience store.

I don=t take civilization for granted.@








I have had fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since 1986.  However, as was common then, nobody had heard of it, and my case was not diagnosed for another 3 years.  I don’t have time right now to tell my whole story, nor do I have time to explain more about this disease (later, dude).  I simple wanted to begin posting fibro-related information in that category in my blog. 

 I have found one of the most valuable resources on fibromyalgia for patients, care-givers, and physicians alike is the Fibromyalgia Network.  They have a very informative website and they publish a quarterly publication which has really helpful articles as well as  resources for products that can help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of fibro and a contact line to call or email with your questions M-F 9am-5pm Pacific time.  The Network has been around since 1988 and remains on the cutting edge of research and treatments - both traditional and holistic.  They even provide a service that identifies physicians in your area that take fibro patients.  A one year membership entitles you to all these resources.  Go to the website for information on memberships and more!

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug.

Mark Twain



Acts 14:3-4  “So Paul and Barnaba spent considerable time there speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.  The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.”                                    

Acts 14: 8-17a  “Paul looked directly at him (crippled man) , and saw that he had the faith to be healed, he called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that the man jumped up and began to walk.  Whe the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted “The gods have come down to us in human form!’… But when Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they rushed into the crowd, shouting,’ Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you.  We are vbringing you good news, telling you to turn away from worthless things to the living God who made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them.  In the past God let all the nations go their own way, yet he has not left himself without testimony.”

Acts 14:19-22   “ Then some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and won the crowd over.  They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city…Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening and encouraging the disciples to remain true to the faith.  They said,”We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”

I Corinthians 6: 18  “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually, sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?…Therefore honor God with your body.”

Colossians 3:5  “Put to death, therefore, whatwever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, which is idolatry (worshipping lust of the flesh).  Because of these the wrath of God is coming.”

On page 10 of the September 21st issue of Time Magazine is an article by Karen Ball about the citizens of Abilene, Texas and Operation Daniel, a fight against pornography.  An Ohio-based chain of “adult - toy” stores called The Lion’s Den, built one  outside of Abilene along Interstate 70 and placed a big, yellow sign reading ADULT SUPERSTORE beside the highway.  Operation Daniel vowed to send the license plate numbers of porn-purchasing drivers to corporate employers.  Walmart, reports Ball, soon put out the word to its drivers to steer clear. In 2006 the Kansas state legislature enacted a law to limit the size of billboards to 40 sq. feet and its contents to only an establishment’s name, location, phone number and operating hours.  Days before it was to go into effect, a federal judge in Topekea blocked the law until she could consider the pornograhy chain’s challenge that the law was a restraint of free speech.  The Kansas  Attorney General, Steve Six, decided not to fight the law because just such a fight had been lost in Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri.  Why?  Because he said that the porn industry has a huge amount of money for court costs and the state of Kansas is already cash-strapped.  That’s the problem.  Adult chain stores can drive communities into bankruptcy if they put up a legal fight.  Ball reports that Daniel Cosby, the head of the Kansas City office of the National Coalition for the protection of Children and Families,  wants the state to try a different strategy: one that uses constitutionally approved zoning laws to restrict sexually-oriented businesses or creates limits like those on liquor and tobacco.  Under this scenario, the sex-store billboards would go the way of the Marlboro Man, says the article. Kansas state senator, Tim Huelskamp, is quoted to say, “Justice shouldn’t have a price.  What is the cost of one additional rape of a child, the cost of another young woman being a victim?  Kansas families deserve an opportunity to drive freely down the highway without this kind of adverstising.”

However, the citizens of Abilene have found a legal way to fight back.  Right beside the adult sex store’s big yellow sign, they have erected a billboard twice its size, which reads, “Jesus Heals and Restores. Pornography Destroys.” 

Once a week, for the past 30 years, I have driven to Marshfield, Wisconsin to rehearse with a choir I sing in.  Every week I drive past the same neon sign on the outskirts of town that reads, “The Rear End.  Exotic dancers after 4 pm”  The place is set back behind a line of pine trees, invisible from Highway 10.  I try to remember to pray for those dancers and the patrons as I go by, but I have not done anything more about it, even though I know very well what the Bible teaches about the sins of sexual immorality and lust (see some of these verses above).  When a lawsuit was brought against having a statue of Jesus Christ standing on a globe in a public park beside Hwy 13 on the south side of Marshfield, it caused a lot of debate.  The people bringing the suit against it were winning, when citizens purchased the small parcel of land on which the statue stood.  They thought the case was over, but not so.  The opposition insisted that a fence be erected around the statue (to hide it from view).  The judge so ruled; except there was nothing in the ruling that spelled out what kind of fence or the dimensions.  Today, when you drive past the statue, you will see a nice, wrought iron fence around the spot-lit statue.  The fence is 12 inches high! 

Jesus told us that we would be persecuted for following him.  He also commanded that we preach the gospel in season or out of season.  I included some of the Apostle Paul’s experiences in the scripture references above.  Was he always successful and well-received? Read the book of Acts.  He was left for dead many times, imprisoned, driven out of town, and eventually crucified for what he preached.  Some places he was received and the church in those places grew and prospered.  Other places, he was sabotaged by groups whose only purpose was to come in and stir up the masses against Paul and his teachings.  The same thing happens in our world every day.  Abilene, right in the middle of the Bible Belt, the home of Dwight Eisenhower, is home to a strong Christian community, but they were not exempt.  Marshfield, Wisconsin and Abilene, Texas found creative ways to fight for Biblical morality.  God may be mocked, but only for a while.  The gospel will win out in the end if Christians stand up for righteousness.


Lord, thank you for your commandments against sexual sins that break down society.  Thank you for those governments that protect us from these evils. Forgive me for not speaking out more often against those sins in my own community.  Bless the people of Abilene and other places where Christians are sticking out their necks and their wallets to fight immorality.  Give us all courage to face persecution for our beliefs - especially those places where that is most likely to end in death.  Amen

“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”   Mark Twain

Womens= Ministries Unlimited

D-mail for the week of September 17, 2009

Scripture: Ephesians 4:15-18, Genesis 2:25 and 3:7,10,21





Today I went to my first water aerobics class.  The good news is that I survived!  The bad news is that I saw myself in my swimsuit in the very big locker room at the Y.  Summer=s traveling and its accompanying intake of too many yummy foods has taken its toll (or several pounds of flesh, if you will).  So my plan is to be faithful to my MWF trips to the Y pool.  


I just finished a book by Dr. Linda Mintle entitled Making Peace With Your Thighs.  How about that for a title that grabs you?  Her opening statement is:

AImagine living your life free from distraction, distortion, obsession, and self-preoccupation.  Imagine living in the moment and liberated from the patterns of the past while being excited about the future.  Imagine accepting and even celebrating the body you=ve been given, knowing that one day it will be transformed into something more glorious than you could ever imagine.@


Forty years past the feminist movement, I am supposed to believe my appearance doesn=t define me, yet even though I know there is more to my inner life than the food I put in my stomach, more to my outer appearance than the clothes I wear, I struggle to accept my body as it is.  I=m not alone.  Weight obsession and physical fitness are national pastimes.  There are dozens of TV programs and commercials about diet programs, body make-overs, plastic surgery, and exercise products.  It seems that few of us are happy with our appearance.  We long for our heavenly bodies - in fact, we wish we could have them here!  For now, our bodies are our homes and, as scripture tells us, temples of the Holy Spirit.  They are to be cherished and respected.  We are to care for them and keep them as healthy as possible.  In doing so, along with resisting the myths about the Aperfect body@, we hope to make peace with our thighs.  We are not supposed to compare ourselves with others.


Did you know that body image distortion began all the way back in Genesis?  Adam and Eve went from embracing their created bodies to having feelings of shame and inadequacy when they decided to have a treat.  Didn=t you just know food had to be involved in this?  There is no indication in scripture that sin changed their physical bodies outright.  They still had their glorious forms.  What did change was their awareness or perceptions.  That=s what led to them feeling ashamed of being naked and to covering themselves in fig leaves.  On their own they tried to cover their nakedness and not feel shame, but they failed.  God had them discard the leaves and clothed them in animal skins.  This wasn=t a new fashion trend.  It was significant because God was clothing them and it wasn=t because of shame.  It was for protection.  Any woman feels free in the presence of a person who loves her unconditionally.  God is the One who does. We have to work at becoming comfortable in our own skin.  The more mature we become, the less we compare our bodies to others=.   The Apostle Paul says,

AGod wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love -like Christ in everything.  We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other.  His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.  And so I insist B and God backs me up on this B that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd.  They=ve refused for so long to deal with God that they=ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself.@  Ephesians 4:15-18 .


This scripture speaks to our spiritual lives, but it also speaks to the immaturity of measuring our self-worth in the fashion and body- size standards of the media instead of in the eyes of God.  If we constantly think we fall short because we compare ourselves to others, this life of insecurity will pile on pounds of emotional baggage.(no pun intended)  The Gestalt therapists said, AIf I am what I have or what I look like, and I lose what I have, who am I?@  If we attain security through body image, through a beautiful face and tight stomach, who are we when that is taken away?  Will we be able to accept aging or a disfiguring accident or will we go down to depression?  Besides that, how much we like our thighs or any other body part can change daily depending on our mood!  Feelings impact perceptions. Body image is fickle; it can only lead to discouragement.


So, what to do?  Stop comparing.  It only brings insecurity.  Stop trying to become someone else and enjoy being you.  Out of shape or overweight?  Start renovating your temple.  It=s not rocket science.  Eat less, exercise more.  Cut out trans fats, white flour, and sugar.  Don=t eat because you feel emotional; instead eat only when you are hungry and watch your portion size.  Ask God to help you resist temptation and stay disciplined.  Ask Him to help you feel great in the skin you=re in!


Why hope to live a long life if we=re only going to fill it with self-absorption, body maintenance, and image repair?  When we die, do we want people to exclaim >she looked ten years younger,= or do we want them to say, >She lived a great life=? 




The pressure to look like America=s top model comes at us from all directions every day.  Help us to understand how much you love us just the way we are.  If we have let our bodies go by indulging in unhealthy eating or laziness, guide us to the best plan to restore our temple to health. For those of us who find it so hard to maintain the discipline it takes to be healthy, I pray that you provide us with a buddy or a group that will be our encouragers.  Help us to stay balanced in our self-images, realistic, dressed in what is flattering and modest, and working on the beauty we should have inside.   Amen


ps. I went shopping this week to see the new fall fashions.  Tunics with tights and tall, skinny boots were everywhere.  Oh well, fashion changes before we get the bill for the clothes we just bought so I ignored it.  Anyway, it inspired me to write this D-mail about body image.  My high cholesterol inspired me to do water aerobics.  Pray for me!  If you haven=t been to my new blog, On Pens and Needles,  yet, check it out.  The weekly D-mails are being published there too.  The blog address is  Any comments or questions can be directed to me at     Love and blessings, Cathy

I am proud to announce the birth (8/26/09) of my new grandson, now 3 weeks old.  His name is Andrew Robert Conger.  He weighed 10 lbs and was 22 inches long.  He joins Mommy, Kim and Daddy, Michael and sister, Katie Conger.  These photos were taken the week he was born.  Photo #1 is Andy’s first bath.  #2 is my son, Michael (Daddy) with 2 year old Katie and baby Andy     #3 is me feeding Andy his first day home.


My first posted poem!

Around here it is almost cranberry harvest time.  Central Wisconsin produces more cranberries than anywhere else in the world.  The other major cranberry producing areas are in coastal Massachusetts and in Washington.  Cranberries grow on low-lying plants in bogs.  By October the berries are ready to be picked, which is the interesting part to watch.  The bogs are flooded with water that has been kept in nearby reservoirs.  The bright red berries float to the top but have to bne separated from the plants and gathered in.  In the old days, workers would wade into tjhe bogs wearing rubber waders (like in the Ocean Spray TV commercials).  Then, they would rake the plants with large wooden rakes, which pulled the berries from the p[lants and gathered them to be scooped up in curved shovel-type scoops.  Today there are machines to harvest the berries, although the keen eyes of harvest workers are still necessary to keep from ruining berries.  Trucks park along the dikes between the flooded bogs ready for loading with the berry crop.  Off they go to the buildings where they run on conveyor belts past workers who check to see there is no debris or frogs (yes, really - frogs!) in with the berries.  The best berries are chosen for freezing whole.  The rest become cranberry sauce or juice. 

I wrote this poem for the Wisconsin Poet’s Calendar, a calendar publication that contains poems only about Wisconsin.


Under October skies
cranberries bob on the surface
of Cranmoor’s flooded bogs, while crews in rubber overalls
wade waist-deep, raking berries free
from choking green tangles
like prospectors seining nuggets
of tart, red Wisconsin gold.