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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  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“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

It seems that while Judy Wallman, a professional geneology researcher in southern California, was doing some research on her family tree, she came across an ancestor that she happened to share with Senator Harry Reid.  She found out that Remus Reid, her ancestor and Harry’s great-great uncle, was a wild west outlaw.  On the back of the photograph of Remus Reid that Judy obtained during her research it says, “Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.”

Judy recently e-mailed Senator Reid to see if he had any more information on their notorious common ancestor.   Believe it or not, Harry Reid’s staff sent back the following  bographical sketch for her genealogy research:

“Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include equestrian assets and  intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he 
devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run  by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important  civic function held in his honour when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

Folks, you’ve got to hand it to Reid’s staff.  That is some awesome political spin!!!!!

The way of life that we Americans have today rests squarely on our own shoulders.  Our government may have evolved very differently from what the founding fathers envisioned, but we still have the same Constitution and the same duty to keep it intact as they did.  I believe what James Madison said over 200 years ago, that the Constitution that he helped write can only work for a moral and religious people and that it is inadequate for the government of any other. (see quote below).  What will happen to our government as its citizens grow more immoral and turn away from God?  Watch the news and see.  Look around your communities and see.  Read the writing on the wall and predict. Listen to the words from our pulpits and be not surprised.  All it takes for evil to triumph in this nation is for good men and women to do nothing.  Christians, we are called not only to condemn the evil around us, but to get out there and serve to change the tide.  We are the light and the salt in our world and if it falls, God will hold us responsible.

No country can be well governed unless its citizens as a body keep religiously before their minds that they are the guardians of the law, and that the law officers are only the machinery for its execution, nothing more.”  Mark Twain

“History doesn’t entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid. ” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.  Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he/she will commend you.  For he/she is God’s servant to do you good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he/she does not bear the swaord for nothing.  For he/she is God’s servant to bring punishment on the wrong-doer …the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give everyone what you owe.: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect,then respect;if honor, then honor. ” Romans 13: 3-4 and 6-7

“I urge that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”  I Timothy 2:1-2

“When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God. The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made not for the public good so much as for the selfish or local purposes;  Corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. ”  Noah Webster (father of American public education)

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”  James Madison 

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government ofany other.”  John Adams

D-mail for the week of October 22, 2009

Scripture:  II Corinthians 5:17    ATherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come.@

 

A Pumpkin Parable

 

inspired by The Pumpkin Parable, a children=s book by Liz Curtis Higgs.

 

The pumpkins had been harvested and piled on a wagon to be sold at the Pumpkin Patch store.  One by one, people came to buy pumpkins.  One lady was looking for pumpkins that were juicy and fleshy inside because they make the best pies.  One family came searching for the biggest pumpkin ever.  They were going to put it out in their front yard with some corn stalks for a fall decoration.  But most people came to buy pumpkins with perfect shapes, for they planned to carve their pumpkins into  jack >o lanterns. 

 

As the days passed and the nights grew colder, the pile of pumpkins on the wagon grew smaller and smaller.  No one had taken so much as a second look at one smallish, lumpy pumpkin.  Each night the lumpy little pumpkin watched the farmer carefully light candles in the many pumpkins on the steps of the Pumpkin Patch store.  The light from all the pumpkins was so beautiful.

AAh,@ the smallish, lumpy pumpkin thought, AI wonder how I could have such an honor?@ He couldn=t imagine anything more wonderful than to have a face that would shine with light for all to see.  One night, when a perfectly brilliant, orange harvest moon illuminated the chilly darkness, the smallish, lumpy pumpkin called out to the moon.  AHello there, Mr. Pumpkin! @

 

ADon=t be silly, little pumpkin,@  answered the Moon. AI may be round and orange, but I am not a pumpkin.  I=m a harvest moon.@

 

AWell, Mr. Moon,@ said the smallish lumpy pumpkin, ACan you tell me how a pumpkin gets to have a face that shines with light for all to see?@


AYes indeed,@ said the Moon. AYou see, people choose perfectly round pumpkins and take them home.  There they slice off the top with a knife.  Then they scoop and scrape out all the squishy pulp and seeds until the inside is smooth and clean.  Next they carve eyes, a nose, and a big, smiling mouth.  When they place a candle inside their pumpkin, the light shines through the holes they have carved.  They set the pumpkin, which is now called a jack >o lantern, someplace where the face will shine with light for all to see.  It is the greatest honor a pumpkin can have.@

 

ABut no one has chosen me yet,@ said the smallish, lumpy pumpkin, Aand the pile of us that are left is nearly gone.  I heard another pumpkin say that the farmer takes the lumpy, crooked pumpkins like me, that nobody wants, and smashes them up for the hogs= dinner!  Do you think that will happen to me?@

 

ALittle pumpkin, you may not have a perfect, round shape,@  said the wise, harvest Moon, Abut I can tell that you have a special love inside your lumpy exterior.  You must pray that someone will come who will see that love and choose you.@

 

The next day, the farmer set out a sign by the pumpkin wagon. ALAST DAY TO BUY YOUR PUMPKIN@, read the sign.   The smallish, lumpy pumpkin prayed so hard, he thought he might burst.  And then it happened.  At the very end of the day, a mother and her little boy drove up to the Pumpkin Patch store. The door opened and the little boy ran over to the wagon.  AMommy!  Mommy!  There are still some pumpkins left!@ he shouted with glee.  His mother walked over and looked into the wagon.

 

AOh dear,@ she sighed, AIt looks like all the good ones are gone. But maybe it=s a blessing, since we can=t afford these prices.  Perhaps the farmer will give us a discount on one of these bruised and lumpy ones that are left.@

 

The farmer walked over to the mother and boy.  ACan I help you?@

 

AYes. Hello. My son here has his heart set on carving a jack >o= lantern this year.  I promised him that when he was six, he would be old enough to carve a pumpkin.  Well, you know how little boys are. He just had his sixth birthday last week and carving a pumpkin is all he can talk about.  The problem is that I=m a single mom and I haven=t been able to find work for some time and well …  I don=t suppose, sir,  that you would consider a discount on one of these misshapen pumpkins?@

The farmer smiled toward the little boy, who was jumping up and down by the wagon.  


ATo tell you the truth, ma=am,  it=s the end of our last day and I was going to mash the rest of these pumpkins to feed to the hogs. You=d be doing me a favor by taking one off my hands. One less to smash, you know.@

 

AThank you so much!@ the mother said with tears in her eyes.  She wiped her eyes with her sleeve and heartily shook the farmer=s hand.

 

AMommy!@ shouted the boy from the wagon, AI see the one I want!  It=s just perfect.@

 

AIs it now?@ she laughed as she walked back to the wagon.  AIt=s a bit smallish, but just the right size, I think, for a boy=s first jack >o lantern. Perhaps we can turn the lumpy side away from the window.  Well, come on then.  Pick it up and let=s take it home.@

 

AThank you for the pumpkin, Mr. Farmer!@ the boy called out.

 

AYou=re mighty welcome,@ the farmer answered. ATake a picture once it=s carved and send it to me, will you?@

 

AOkay.  We will!@  As the smallish, lumpy pumpkin felt the boy=s arms around him, he quivered with joy.  Later that night a smallish, lumpy jack >o lantern sat in the boy=s window while the boy got ready for bed.  ATurn out the light, Mommy, so we can see the light shine out of his face.@ 

 

She switched off the bedroom light.  AHe turned out to be a very handsome jack >o lantern, didn=t he?@ she said.  AHow about if you and I crawl under the covers and I will tell you a special story about jack o= lanterns.@

 

AOK, Mommy.@

 

AHundreds and hundreds of years ago, people carved pumpkins into jack >o lanterns with very scary faces.  Because they were superstitious, they believed that the jack >o lanterns would keep evil spirits away from their door on a night they called All Hallows Eve.  Today we call it Halloween.  The thing is, that Christians don=t need to be superstitious or scared because when Jesus is the Lord of a house, like he is of our house, evil cannot hurt us.  We can look at this carved pumpkin in a different way. This pumpkin is like our hearts.  On the outside, some people=s hearts may look lumpy and misshapen while other people=s might appear to be perfect.  Either way, everyone=s insides are the same before Jesus comes to live in them.  You see, God chooses us, lifts us up, and takes us into his care, just like you did this pumpkin.  Then he opens us up and reaches way down inside, even though it is yucky.  Just as you took the big spoon and scooped out all the gooey stuff, God scoops out the yucky stuff in our hearts Bincluding the seeds of doubt, selfishness, greed, telling fibs, bad temper - things like that.  Then, like you carved a smiley face in your pumpkin, God gives us a smiling face.  And because we are so clean inside, the light of God=s love shines right through our happy faces just like the candle light shines out through the jack o= lantern for all the world to see.@

 

ASo I=m God=s  jack o= lantern, right Mommy?@

 

ARight!@ she answered, giving him a hug.  Then, while the boy and his mother sat curled up, warm and cozy in the boy=s bed, the smallish, lumpy  pumpkin=s face shone as bright as the big, orange harvest moon in the night sky — maybe even brighter because of the love of a small boy who had Jesus in his heart.

 

Prayer

Lord of light and love, thank you for coming into our lives to brush the dirt off and scoop the yucky stuff from our hearts so that we can smile and show the light of your love to a dark world.  Amen

 

D-mail for the week of October 15th, 2009

Scripture:

II Timothy 3:16  “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

 

Acts 8:27  “ So he (Phillip) started out (south on the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza) and on his way, he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.  The Spirit told Phillip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ The Phillip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.  ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Phillip asked.  ‘How can I unless someone explains it to me?’  So he invited Phillip to come and sit with him.  The eunuch was reading the passage, ‘ He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before the shearer, so he did not open his mouth.  In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.  Who can speak of his descendants?

For his life was taken from the earth.’  The eunuch asked Phillip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’  Then Phillip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”

 

OUR  UNIQUE  BIBLE

 

Right now my home congregation is focusing on the topic Investigating Christianity.  Pastor is preaching a series of sermons that were inspired by the book, Faith by Chuck Colson.  If we want to reach others for Christ in this post-modern and very skeptical world we live in, we must be rock solid in our faith.  As Colson tells us, we had better know what we believe and why we believe it or we will fall flat when it comes to trying to convince non-believers that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.

 

I referred in a recent D-mail to a book entitled Unchristian by Kinnamon and Lyons, who head up the Barna Research group.  Barna conducted a study to see what Americans knew about Christianity, who professed to be Christians, and what they professed to believe in.  One of the results of the study disturbed me , but I’d have to say, didn’t surprise me.  No longer can we assume, they say,  that Americans recognize Biblical references or even that they have read the Bible.  As a matter of fact, we can no longer assume that when we use the Bible, the inspired word of God, as the authority for our beliefs, that people will respect that.  That means that for many of us who are trying to reach the younger generation with God’s love and promises, we are going to have to convince them that the Bible truly IS the infallible word of God!  If you weren’t feeling too confident about how well you know your Bible, fellow Christian, you’d better study it a whole lot more.

So what makes the Bible the most unique book ever written?  That question was posed to a Christian speaker at a university speaking engagement by a skeptical student.  The student asked, 

“Why do you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God?”

Here was his answer.

 

“Consider the following facts about the Bible. First, the Bible is not just one single book. This is a more common misconception than many people realize, Especially with people who do not come from a Judeo-Christian

background.  Rather than being a single book, the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, which is called the canon of scriptures. These 66 books contain a variety of genres: history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom, literature, letters, and apocalyptic just to name a few.Second, these 66 books were written by 40 different authors. These authors came from a variety of backgrounds: shepherds, kings, fishermen, doctors, prophets, and others. And most of these authors never knew one another personally.

Third, these 66 books were written over a period of 1500 years, again a reminder that many of these authors never knew or collaborated with one another in writing these books.

Fourth, the 66 books of the Bible were written in 3 different languages. In the Bible we have books that were written in the ancient languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic; a reflection of the historical and cultural circumstances in which each of these books were written.And finally, these 66 books were written on 3 different continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe.  Once again, this is a testament to the varied historical and cultural circumstances of God’s people.

Think about the above realities: 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents. What’s more, this collection of books shares a common storyline. The creation, fall, and redemption of God’s people; a common theme.  God’s universal love for all of humanity; and a common message- salvation is available to all who repent of their sins and commit to following God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.

In addition to sharing these commonalities, these 66 books contain no historical errors or contradictions. God’s word truly is an amazing collection of writings!”

After he had shared the above facts with this student, he offered him the following challenge:
“If you do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if you do not believe that the Bible is of a supernatural origin, then I challenge you to a test.  I challenge you to go to any library in the world. You can choose any library you like, but you must find 66 books which match the characteristics of the 66 books in the Bible.  You must choose 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, written on 3 different continents. However, they must share a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message, with no historical errors or contradictions.  If you can produce such a collection of books, I will admit that the Bible is not the inspired word of God.”

The student’s reply was almost instantaneous.  He emphatically stated, “But that’s impossible!”

It truly is impossible, for any collection of human writings, is it not?  However, the Bible passes this test. The Bible contains 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, with no historical errors or contradictions. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the mark of divine inspiration.

The next time you encounter someone who challenges the authority of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, try sharing this challenge with them.  Perhaps you would like an opener for a spiritual discussion with a non-believer you feel called to talk to?  You don’t even have to mention the Bible up front.  Just ask them if they think it would be realistic to assemble such a collection of books.  Should they tell you that it is impossible, open up the Bible and show them what God has to say just for them.   [ Should you wish to read more about these facts about our unique Bible, here are a couple of websites that you will enjoy. www.ChristianAnswers.net/kids/amzbk-0.html

or www.josh.org  search for “what is so special about the Bible"]                                                                                                                                

PRAYER

Holy God,   Only you could have directed so many authors to write so many books over such a long period of time from one end of the known world to the other without a single contradiction, without a prophesy from the Old Testament that did not come true in the New Testament.  Only one omniscient, omnipresent God could, with such painstaking precision, proclaim the same message over and over, that you love your creation, your people.  Your purpose was to have us walk in perfection with you in the Garden of Eden, but when we messed that up, you loved us so much that you and your son, Jesus Christ, planned a way out for a fallen world.  You inspired 66 writings that laid out that plan and you chose 40 different kinds of people to write it.  Thanks and praise be to you, our loving and omnipotent God!  Lord, I pray that the Bible will not “go out of circulation.”  I pray that people will always pick it up and wonder at its contents.  And when we have the chance to share with someone who has never heard what your word says, that we may be like Phillip in the book of Acts, the disciple, Phillip, who caught a ride with a top official of Queen Candace of Ethiopia , who happened to be reading Isaiah and couldn’t understand it.  May it be said of us as it was of Phillip, “Then Phillip began with that very passage of scripture and told him (the Ethiopian) the good news about Jesus as they traveled along the road.”  Amen

The Old Maple Tree

 

Resplendent in flaming, fall foliage,

she stands poised

on our front lawn,

impeccable attired.

 

A callous wind plucks at her brittle sleeves,

rustles her crimson petticoats,

sets her to shivering until

she drops her fading frock

round her ankles in a heap.

 

And there the old gal stands,

like a naked mannequin,

waiting for the first snowfall,

her next season’s gown.

Granddaughter Katie at the pumpkin patch!

I took this photo of granddaughter, Katie, getting to know her new baby “brudder”, Andy.  Look at her eyelashes!  To die for!

Katie turned 2 in July and the whole family celebrated her birthday at her great grandmother and great grandfather’s mountain home in Pennsylvania.  It had been raining all day so when the sun peeked out for a short time, we quickly gathered on the deck for her party.  She adores Curious George so she had a “Georgie” cake, party hats, balloons.  I even found a Curious George ball cap for her.  These photos were taken with our Canon 30D zoomed in and later cropped.  Isn’t she the cutest little girl you ever saw?!! 

You know what they say… It’s okay to kiss a fool and it’s probably okay to let a fool kiss you, but NEVER let a kiss fool you!  Well, this kiss is the real deal.  Peter and Lindsay Stamsos are engaged and are planning their wedding for October 17, 2010.  They are both in Budapest, Hungary right now teaching English for a year.

D-mail for the week of October 8, 2009

Scripture: Matthew 9:21,22,28;  Matthew 17:20; Mark 10:52; Luke 1: 30-38; Luke 17:6; John 14:12-13; Joshua 2; Acts 3:16; Phillipians 4:12-13

WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

 How many times have you heard, AYou can do anything if you put your mind to it@?  How about, AIf you believe in your dream, you can make it happen.@?  This theme is the premise of so many books and films.  I love to see the underdog overcome all obstacles to fulfill his dream and do the impossible, don=t you?  If you haven=t seen the movies  Seabiscuit or Dreamer, rent them and enjoy.  They are perfect examples of this theme.

At the YMCA where I swim several times a week, each day they have a >thought for the day= written on a white board by the front desk..  I look forward to reading them.  Last week there was one that made me laugh, but it was also thought-provoking.  It said,

AThe next time somebody tells you that you can do the impossible if you never give up, tell them that it is impossible to dribble a football.@ 

That=s true.  The laws of nature make it physically impossible to dribble a ball the shape of a football.  Face it.  There are all sorts of things that, even if you try them thousands of times, remain impossible.  But you say, Apeople do miraculous things every day.  Look at all the miracles in the Bible.@  All right.  Let=s look in the Bible.  The Bible tells us in several places that if we have faith, we can move mountains or be healed. It also contains numerous stories of how ordinary people accomplished miraculous things against enormous odds.  Abraham, Noah, Elijah, Samson, David, and on it goes.

Jesus said to the woman with the bleeding problem, ATake heart, daughter. Your faith has healed you.@ (Matthew 9: 21-22).  Jesus asked the blind men in verse 28 if they believed Jesus could heal them.  When they said yes, he touched their eyes saying, AAccording to your faith will it be done to you@ and they were healed.  Another time Jesus said, A If we have the faith of a tiny mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, >Move from here to there= and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.@ (Matthew 17:20)   Luke 17:6  relates the same story but instead of moving a mountain, Jesus says those with faith can command the mulberry tree to be uprooted and thrown into the sea and the tree will go.  In Mark 10:52, Jesus reminds the disciples that salvation is impossible with man but not with God.  AAll things are possible with God.@  Another commonly quoted verse with the same message is  Phillipians 4: 13 AI can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.@ 

This same theme - that through God, all things are possible- recurs throughout the Bible.  Abraham believed God=s promise to grant him a son.  When Mary asked the angel how it was possible for her to be pregnant when she was a virgin, she believed God=s promise and acted on it.  When God toppled the city of Jericho, the prostitute, Rahab, who believed in God=s power, asked that her home not be destroyed.  Rahab remained in prayer, believing God would save her household, and hers was the only one left standing.  Miracle after miracle is related in the Bible when people believed the impossible and God came through.

In Acts chapter 3 the Apostle Peter healed a crippled beggar.  When he explained that it wasn=t his power that healed the man, he told the people ABy faith in the name of Jesus this man whom you see and know was made strong.  It is Jesus= name that has given this complete healing to him, as you can see.@ (Acts 3:16)

 

Jesus said in John 14:12-13    AI tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the Son will bring glory to the Father.@

But there is a huge difference between accomplishing anything you dream for hard enough or anything you put your mind to and doing the impossible in Jesus=name.  That difference is the will and power of God.  If you want to do something that is impossible given the limitations of being human and living in a fallen world with fixed laws of nature, you=d better know whether or not it is in God=s will before you expect to be successful.

 

Impossible things happen every day, but they are done in God=s power in Jesus= name.  You can have all the faith in the world that something miraculous can be done, but if your faith does not rest in God=s will and power, it won=t happen.  Before standing on  Phillipians 4:13,  AI can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.@, you should know that the words Aall things@ translates Aall things that are pleasing to God@.  Read Paul=s whole thought , beginning in verse 12. A I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.@   That means that you must be abiding in the Holy Spirit and in the will of God for this thing you aspire to do in Christ=s strength and power to be pleasing to God.  Otherwise you won=t have the strength to do it because the power that comes from Jesus Christ, won=t be there.

As  Paul explains, we must be living a life in union with Christ to be content in all circumstances and to be able to tap the source of Christ, abiding in us, to Ado all things@.   Is your dream in the will of God?  Then never doubt and never give up because God=s power will bring it to pass.

 

Prayer

Lord God, You are the God of miracles and impossible things.  Help us to hear your voice, to be able to discern what plans are pleasing to you, before we take on the impossible  If we jump out of an airplane without a parachute, we will fall to the earth and die.  Not that you can=t send angels to break our fall, if this experience carries out your will, but help us to use common sense in what we choose to do in faith. And when we know that a task, though seemingly impossible, is what you want us to do, give us the endurance, the persistence and the courage to do it.  Amen