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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

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Winston Churchill

Me and my grandson Andy

D-mail for the week of December 3, 2009

Scripture:  Leviticus 19:32  “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.  I am the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:20  “Hear counsel and receive instruction, that you will become wise in your latter days.”

 

The Wisdom of Elders

 

Thanksgiving was great, wasn’t it?  Were you able to spend the holiday with grandparents or even great grandparents?  We are so blessed nowadays to have the nutrition and modern medicine to increase the lifespan of our seniors.  I was blessed with two grandmothers who lived to be nearly 90, so my children grew up with great grandmothers. They were women of humble circumstances – only eighth grade educations, but they were hard workers and followed Jesus Christ.  I loved to hear them tell stories and offer up the wisdom of people who had lived to see the horse and buggy pass into the age of space exploration and computers.  With our culture’s increasing emphasis on youth (I feel guilty for having wrinkles!), I am concerned that the elderly will become little more than a burden, put away in senior centers and assisted living residences.  So many cultures revere their elders and benefit from their wisdom.  Do we?

 

There has been so much made of the fact that President Obama is young, that we finally have a president who represents the 20 and 30 –somethings of the country.  But can you imagine what kind of country we would be if there were no elder statesmen?   President Obama may be adept at fresh ideas and feeling the pulse of the up and coming generations, but he relies on men and women who have served in our government, government agencies, and in the military for a long time to give him advice and perspective.  The same is true in business and in the church.  Thank God for our older preachers, for those seniors who still teach Sunday School and mentor the younger adults.  If you have no older adults in your life, seek some out.  Adopt a grandmother, seek the advice of a grandfather.  They are fountains of wisdom.  My father retired a vice-president of a major corporation.  He had worked his way up through the ranks from a research chemist to management to a position of vice president of foreign operations.  He had fountains of wisdom and experience in international business.  The University of Pittsburgh recognized that knowledge and hired him to teach international business to its business graduate students.  How fortunate those students were to absorb his first-hand knowledge!  Some of the best times I ever had were serving as the MOPS mentor for our local Mothers of Pre-Schoolers group.  I was able to pass along the knowledge and wisdom I had gained raising my five children to those young mothers.

 

I see from our church newsletter that a women’s mentoring program is set to kick off in January.  They are aptly calling it “Woman to Woman”.  All of us have had another woman somewhere along the line who has invested time and energy in us.  Maybe this is a way, as they said in the article, “to pay it forward.”  If you don’t have such a program in your church or club, initiate a connection on your own.  If you are an “older woman”  in years or in wisdom, keep your eyes open for a young woman who seems to need some support and friendship.  If you are that younger woman, who could use some practical, real-life advice from someone who’s “been there”, seek out an older woman who you admire and ask to spend some time with her (she’ll be pleased and flattered, trust me).

The same is true for you men who are reading this.

 

Most of us have already started to prepare for Christmas.  Realizing that you are very busy this time of year, I did not include the beautiful Slovenian folk tale about what happens when a country sends its “old people” away.  However, if you would like to read this wonderful fable, you can find it on my blog, Pens and Needles, (www.cathyconger.com) .

 

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the wisdom you give us through the older folks in our midst.  They may not have always done things right, but even their mistakes can be valuable lessons for us.  Remind us to spend time with them.  I pray that the young men and women in our government would seek the wisdom of those who have served our country for many years.  I pray that those of us who have experience and maturity will be willing to give time, advice, and friendship to the younger folk who seek it.  May we all give the proper respect and attention to those who brought us up.   Amen

The Most Beautiful Flower                                                                                        

a Slovenian fable

 

Long ago there lived a prince who hated his father.  The two of them were always quarrelling and the king would give his son no part in ruling the kingdom.  The prince married and had a daughter of his own, but he found his life tedious for he had nothing useful to do and could only bide his time, while his father grew older.  At last the king died and the prince, who had now reached middle age, suddenly found himself a king with great power.  Unfortunately, he had neither the wisdom nor the experience to use his power well.

 

The first thing he did was to issue a decree that all the elderly people in the kingdom must leave within a week, or else they would be killed.  “Old people are useless,” he announced. “They stand in the way of younger men with new ideas.”

 

Soon the roads of the kingdom were clogged with old people fleeing for the shelter of neighboring lands.  A week later, there was not an elderly man or woman to be seen throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom.  Then soldiers were sent to search for any who might be hiding, to kill them and anyone who sheltered them.  “Now,” said the king, “my land is free of old fools, and we shall be the better for it!”  But unknown to the king, one old man still remained.

 

There was a young farmer whose parents had died when he was a child and who had been brought up by his grandfather.  The old man had taught him all he knew about growing crops and caring for animals.  The young farmer loved the old man and valued his wisdom, so he hid him in a big, empty water barrel. When the soldiers came to search, the farmer gave them his home-brewed ale to drink so that they grew drunk and careless and left without searching in the barrel.

 

Years passed and things did not go well in the kingdom.  With no wise old counselors to advise him, the king acted upon any whim which took his fancy, often with disastrous results.  This was especially true when the time came to choose a husband for his own daughter.  He did not take the trouble to seek out young men of good character and family from whom the princess could make her choice.  Instead, he announced that all the young, single men in the kingdom must come to the palace and the one who could best solve three riddles would be granted his daughter’s hand in marriage.  The princess was not pleased, but she knew it was useless to oppose her father’s whims.

 

The farmer was one of the young men summoned to the palace and he returned that night to tell his grandfather about the first riddle.  “We must all gather on a hill before daybreak,” he said, “and guess the exact moment when the sun will rise.”

 

The old man smiled.  “All the other young men will look to the east, where the sun rises,” he told his grandson. “But you must look westward to the high mountains.  The moment you see the sun’s first rays catch the topmost peak, you must cry, `Now!’, for at that very instant the sun will rise into view in the east.”

The young farmer did just that and the king was delighted with his quickness.  “Let’s see how you do with the second riddle,” he said.

 

The young farmer went home and told his grandfather, “Tomorrow we must come into the king’s presence `wearing shoes and yet barefoot’.”

 

“Why this is simple,” said the old man, and taking a pair of his grandson’s shoes, he carefully cut away the soles.  From above, the shoes seemed whole, but beneath them the young man’s feet were on the ground.  Most of the other suitors arrived next day with one shoe off and one shoe on.  A few even turned up in just their socks, but the king judged that the young farmer was the only one who had solved the riddle correctly.  But when the young man was given the third task, he returned home in a state of deepest gloom.

 

“This time,” he told his grandfather, ”we must bring to the princess the flower which in all the world smells best and looks most beautiful.  The richer men will seek far and wide for the most exotic blooms, while I can choose only from the wildflowers that grow around the farm.”  But the old man jus laughed.  He gave his grandson a single ear of wheat to take to the princess, and told him what to say to her.

 

Next morning, the steps of the palace looked like a vast florist’s shop.  The other young men had spent all they had on the most colorful scented blooms they could buy.  The princess was growing quite bored with sniffing them all.  When the young farmer presented her with a single ear of wheat, she raised her eyebrows in astonishment. 

The king frowned.  “What is this?” he demanded angrily. “Do you think my daughter merits no better gift than an ear of wheat?”

 

“I am a simple farmer, your majesty,” said the farmer, “and I have brought the princess the loveliest flower I know.  There is nothing more beautiful to look upon than a field of golden wheat rippling in the wind, and nothing smells better than a wheat loaf fresh from the oven.”

 

“He is right, Father!” said the princess, laughing, and the king nodded.

 

“It is true, indeed,” he said, “and if you will have him, daughter, he shall be your husband and rule after me.”  The princess agreed, for she liked the look of the young farmer.  They walked back into the palace together and as they went, the king asked the young man how he came to have so much wisdom at such a young age.  The farmer hesitated, fearing the king’s wrath if he told the truth.  Then, plucking up his courage, he confessed how he had hidden his old grandfather because of his great love for him and because the old man had always given him such good advice.  The king frowned, and thought for a while before he spoke.  He had begun to realize that he would soon grow old himself, and he wanted a son-in-law who would love and respect him when that time came.  What better choice could he make, he thought, than one who had risked his own life for love of his old grandfather?

 

“I see now,” he told the couple, “that the wisdom of old people is something to be valued.”

 

Then the king gave orders that all the old people who had fled the land could return and would be treated with great honor.  So wisdom returned to the land and from that day on, the people flourished.

 

From the book  Hidden Tales from Eastern Europe  retold by Antonia Barber from the original Slovenian tale published in 1885 by Slovenske Narodne Pravlijice (B. Krek, Lublijana)

Exerpts from the Fibromyalgia Network 2009 enews Alert

Should I Get a Flu Shot?

Many fibromyalgia patients have expressed concern by reports of the seriousness of the H1N1 swine flu virus and have asked if vaccination is advisable. Charles Lapp, M.D., director of the Hunter-Hopkins Center, an FM/CFS research and treatment facility in Charlotte, NC, does not generally recommend flu shots to most of his patients, but there are exceptions. He addresses details on who may or may not be a good candidate for a flu shot on the Resources page of his website.

If you are waiting to obtain a flu shot, Lapp suggests:

  • avoid crowds and sick people (especially coughers and sneezers)

  • wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand cleansers

  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your bare hands

  • stay home if you get sick to avoid spreading the virus

  • call your doctor before going to an emergency room

Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever. The Center for Disease Control reports that during the first week of November, overall flu activity in the United States remained high.

Surviving the Holidays Without a Relapse

Thanksgiving really kicks off the holiday season for 2009. For most people, the holidays can be joyous and hectic at the same time. It’s easy for fibromyalgia patients who want to spend quality time with family and friends to overextend themselves and hurt later.

Whatever your circumstances, it’s essential that you make the time to do the things that bring you happiness and provide you with a little extra comfort during the cold season. Don’t view this as being self-centered but rather self-survival. You have put up with the pain and unexpected symptoms of fibromyalgia (FM) all year long, so it is only fitting that you consider your own well-being and try doing one or more of the following each day:

  • Sit in a hot tub or sauna to warm up and relax.

  • Take a long hot bath, but make it special with scented candles and other bathtub comforts.

  • Take a stroll with a partner or friend during the middle of the day to absorb some free vitamin D and marvel at the scenery (weather permitting, of course).

  • Lounge by the fireplace, soaking up the warmth and let the dancing flames just mesmerize you.

  • Give plenty of hugs (and receive them as well) to your kids, grandchildren, partner and other special people in your life. If hugging hurts, then just give a snuggle.

  • Spend quiet time each day reading a book or entertaining magazines, perhaps while sipping a special herbal tea or beverage.

  • Get your family to help with cleaning all pillow casings and blankets, then surround your bed and favorite couch with them to put a little extra comfort in your life … and if you share with your family, they will thank you for the great idea.

  • Liberally use your hot wraps, heating pads, and ointments such as IcyHot, OrthoGel, and BioFreeze (they all contain peppermint oil to soothe sore muscles). Don’t worry about looking fashionable. Just throw a scarf over your wrap and put your comfort first.

  • If you have out-of-town guests, close your bedroom door and take a short nap everyday (unless your company is under the age of 12, they can manage without you for a while).

The point is, you need to take good care of yourself during the next month so you will be ready and energized enough to face the new year. Don’t just survive, thrive.

D-mail for the week of November 26, 2009

Scripture: I Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

IN  EVERYTHING  GIVE THANKS

 

This week is Thanksgiving.  Our church will hold a Thanksgiving Eve service like we do every year.  I love this service because we usually dispense with the more formal format of a Sunday service and come together as a big family would in their living room.  We share what we are thankful for in some very creative ways.  This year a video camera was set up earlier in November in one of the conference rooms.  Anyone who wished to was invited to sit down in front of the camera and share what they were thankful for.  They plan to edit and show this video on Thanksgiving Eve.  I can’t wait to see it! 

Chuck and I took the opportunity, sat down in front of the camera, and told how thankful we are for the birth of our grandson, Andrew.  We also thanked God for the engagement of our son, Pete to Lindsay.  We thanked God for providing a new job for Chuck almost immediately after he found out he had lost the job he had.  When we finished and came out of the room, another couple was waiting to go in.  This man had lost his wife of forty some years to ALS almost a year ago.  It was a dark time for him and his family.  And yet, there he stood with a beautiful woman at his side.  He introduced her to us, along with her son, and told us they were to be married on Thanksgiving Day.  I don’t know what they said on camera, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with thanking God for providing two widowed people with a second chance for love, companionship, and a new family.   We are rejoicing with them!

But maybe you are not rejoicing this Thanksgiving.  Perhaps if you were to sit before the camera, you would have trouble thanking God for your situation this past year.  Maybe you, like millions of others , are struggling financially in this recession.  Maybe you have been dealing with serious illness.  Maybe your marriage has taken a hit or one of your children has chosen to live in rebellion.  Thousands of families have been rocked by this war our country is fighting, either trying to hold down the fort at home while their soldier is deployed or rebuilding their family unit upon his or her return. Maybe that is your family. You may thinking, “I’m sorry, but I’m sure finding it hard to come up with much to thank God for right now.”  I’ve been there.  But God commands us to thank him in all circumstances - yes, I’m afraid He said all circumstances.  For even if we can’t see what He has been doing behind the scenes of our pain, He has been working for our good.  He’s busy using the bad things to somehow benefit us and those around us.  The Bible says,  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Recently I read part of an interview with Pastor Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California and the author of the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. I would like to conclude with Rick Warren’s words because I couldn’t express my thoughts any better than he does here in this interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren.    Rick said:   

“People ask me, What is the purpose of life?  And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.  One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body– but not the end of me.  I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.  We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.  We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness. This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay , getting cancer.  I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore.  Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.  No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.  And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:  
If you focus on your problems, you’re going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain.’ But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.  

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don’t get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn’t put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He’s more interested in what I am than what I do.  That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings. “

PRAYER

Merciful and gracious heavenly Father,

Thank you that you love us enough to use every circumstance we go through to build our character and bring us closer to holiness. Teach us to look for the traces of your fingers even in the painful, dark times when we can’t seem to hear your voice or feel your arms around us.  Thank you for your blessings and great faithfulness.  I pray that no one will be without a warm place to sit and eat and share the company of others this Thanksgiving Day.  Watch over the men and women on the battlefields overseas and give their loved ones peace.  Amen

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  Usually at this time of the year I am making grocery lists and menus, trying to remember who likes what and how I fixed it last time.  This year, I realized, will be the first year I have ever eaten out for Thanksgiving!  And we aren’t even going to eat out on Thanksgiving Day!  It’s an unusual combination of circumstances.  The married children will be at their in-laws (we get them for Christmas), two of the kids are living abroad and will actually be working on Thanksgiving Day since there is no such holiday in Hungary or Ireland.  That leaves Laura, our youngest daughter, who lives alone in the Twin Cities in a tiny studio apartment with an even tinier kitchen.  My husband is an ER doctor and is scheduled to work on Thanksgiving.  So my diningroom will be empty as we head up to Laura’s the day after Thanksgiving.  She said, “Mom, don’t even think about cooking Thanksgiving dinner in my tiny kitchen!” so we’re going out.  We might not even eat turkey.  Who knows?  And come to think of it, I will be alone the whole day of the 26th - to do anything I want to.  Hmm.  Sleep in, sew, wrap Christmas presents, dig out the Christmas decorations, make a pumpkin pie just for me?  This isn’t going to be so bad after all.

*****************************************************************************************************************

I must tell you a good Thanksgiving story.  My husband’s great aunt Madge and great uncle Frederic Windoes lived in Evanston, Ill.  They were both high school teachers; she English, he physics.  Madge was a good cook and many accepted her invitation to Thanksgiving dinner each year.  Because she was a working woman, she indulged in a serving girl for the meal so that she could relax at table with her guests.  She was nothing if not a consummate hostess.

A few Thanksgivings back, Uncle Frederic had discovered something strange inside the turkey as he was carving.  He reached in and pulled out a paper bag!  “Good heavens, Madge,” he shouted.  “What is this?”                                                                                                                                                                 “Why, it’s the giblets of course,” she answered sweetly, as if to imply that cooking the giblets in a tiny , butcher paper bag inside the turkey was the latest in culinary trends.  Uncle Frederic, following her lead, placed the bag on the platter and continued carving with aplomb.  However, since that year, he’d been careful to check the turkey ahead of time for unlikely “tumors”.  You never knew what could happen in Madge Windoes’ house!

Now, this year, all the guests were seated at the lavish dining room table with all going swimmingly when the big moment arrived.  Madge rang the little servants’ bell and called, “Oh Louise!  You can bring in the turkey now.”   Madge felt as if the Vanderbilts weren’t leading an upper crust life any better than she.  The kitchen door swung open and out came the huge turkey, glistening on its platter in Louise’s arms.  Suddenly, Louise’s toe caught on the edge of the area rug.  With eyes as big as saucers, the poor girl watched the turkey careen off the platter onto the Persian rug!  Gasps escaped from every horrified diner - everyone except Madge, that is.  As a mortified Uncle Fred dropped to the carpet to save the turkey, Madge calmly turned to the weepy, hand-wringing Louise and said,

“Oh, that’s all right, Louise. No matter. You can just bring in the other turkey.”  The crisis taken care of, she went back to sipping her wine.

Down on their knees beside the turkey, Frederic and Louise looked at each other.  The other turkey?  Madge added sweetly, “Frederic, dear, won’t you help Louise to dispose of this one in the kitchen?” 

 Without delay, Fred and Louise scooped up the turkey, took it to the kitchen, gave it a good rinse, poured some basting juices over it, and in record time returned it to the table.  It must have been Aunt Madge’s cool demeanor that kept her husband from spilling the beans (notice I didn’t say “turkey”) as he carved the “recycled” bird.  The rest of the meal went without a hitch.  In fact, the society page of the Evanston paper printed a glowing report of the lavish Thanksgiving dinner that was held at the Windoes residence on Hartray Avenue that year.  Who knows if any of the Windoes’ guests that day ever guessed the secret? 

For many years after that, the dropped turkey story was told (within the family) with delight.  Aunt Madge loved to tell it, but her favorite part was, “Oh my, oh my!  You should have seen Frederic’s face when I told Louise to bring in the other turkey!  Flies could have landed on his tongue, his jaw was open so wide!  And when he was carving, he was so speechless and his face was so red, I thought he had swallowed his tongue!  What grand times we used to have on Hartray Avenue! ” 

And now eighty years later, you know the secret too.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

photo taken Thanksgiving 2008 - my son and daughter

 

D-mail for the week of November 19, 2009

Scripture:  John 6:35     Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”

 

NORMAN BORLAUG,

THE FATHER OF THE GREEN  REVOLUTION

 

Soon we will be celebrating one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving.  It just so happens that I was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1951, which means that every seven years my birthday falls on Thanksgiving.  When I was little, I used to think that everyone had a big turkey dinner on their birthdays like I did!  Nevertheless, the holiday is still one of my favorites because there is nothing extra about it.  I mean that there are no presents or parades, etc.  We just gather together with loved ones to thank God for the blessings of another year and to thank him from bringing us through the painful trials we may have had the last year too.  The Pilgrims gathered to thank God for bringing them through one of the most harrowing years they may have ever experienced.  So many of their small colony had frozen or starved to death or died of disease.  Thanks to the generosity and mercy of the native Americans they had met, they were going into the next winter with food to eat and some reasonable shelter.  I am sure in addition to their praises, they also prayed for safety and enough to eat.  Their fear of starvation was very real. 

 

When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, people worried about mass starvation. Besides the fact that so many had perished during and following World War II from starvation, by the 1960s, the voices of science and social science were warning us of an imminent global famine in which billions would perish.  They said that the world population was growing faster than our ability to raise food.  The handwriting was on the wall. The world had too many people that could never be fed. Those nations too impoverished to buy or grow their own food would suffer terribly.  It never happened. Yes, there is starvation and there is hunger, most often due to corrupt governments and natural disasters, but the mass starvation of hundreds of millions never happened.  One reason it didn’t happen is because the Lord sent us Norman Borlaug.

 

An Iowa native, Mr. Borlaug was an agronomy scientist and humanitarian and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1970.  He knew what it meant to be “green” long before it became fashionable.  His research created grain that was heartier and produced higher yields in harsh conditions – a lot higher.  Why he is not more famous I cannot imagine, but I just learned about this distinguished scientist from a friend. Here are portions of an article she sent me about Norman Borlaug, written by Ronald Bailey on September 13, 2009 .

 

“Norman Borlaug, the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history, has died. Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution, .grew up on a small farm in Iowa and graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he studied forestry and plant pathology, in the 1930s. In 1944, the Rockefeller Foundation invited him to work on a project to boost wheat production in Mexico. At the time Mexico was importing a good share of its grain. Borlaug and his staff in Mexico spent nearly 20 years breeding the high-yield dwarf wheat that sparked the Green Revolution, the transformation that forestalled the mass starvation predicted by such doom-sayers as Paul Ehrlich and Lester Brown.  “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. “In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” Ehrlich also said, “I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971.” He insisted that “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980.”

But Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn’t work. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties. In 1965, they had begun a massive campaign to ship the miracle wheat to Pakistan and India and teach local farmers how to cultivate it properly. By 1968, when Ehrlich’s book appeared, the U.S. Agency for International Development had already hailed Borlaug’s achievement as a “Green Revolution.”

In Pakistan, wheat yields rose from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 8.4 million in 1970. In India, they rose from 12.3 million tons to 20 million. And the yields continue to increase. Last year, India harvested a record 73.5 million tons of wheat, up 11.5 percent from 1998. Since Ehrlich’s dire predictions in 1968, India’s population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. Soon after Borlaug’s success with wheat, his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research developed high-yield rice varieties that quickly spread the Green Revolution through most of Asia.

Contrary to Ehrlich’s bold pronouncements, hundreds of millions didn’t die in massive famines. India fed far more than 200 million more people, and it was close enough to self-sufficiency in food production by 1971 that Ehrlich discreetly omitted his prediction about that from later editions of The Population Bomb. The last four decades have seen a “progress explosion” that has handily outmatched any “population explosion.”

More than 30 years ago, Borlaug wrote, “One of the greatest threats to mankind today is that the world may be choked by an explosively pervading but well camouflaged bureaucracy.” In a recent interview with Reason magazine, Borlaug said that he still believed that environmental activists and their allies in international agencies were a threat to progress on global food security. Barring such interference, he was confident that agricultural research, including biotechnology, will be able to boost crop production to meet the demand for food in a world of 8 billion or so, the projected population in 2025.

As recently as 1997 Worldwatch Institute founder, Lester Brown warned, “Food scarcity will be the defining issue of the new era now unfolding, much as ideological conflict was the defining issue of the historical era that recently ended.”  Borlaug, by contrast, did not just wring his hands. Until his death at the age of 95, he worked to get modern agricultural technology into the hands of hungry farmers in the developing world. He was a leading consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Center in Mexico and president of the Sasakawa Africa Association, a private Japanese foundation working to spread the Green Revolution to sub-Saharan Africa. “

 In the late 1960s, Borlaug insisted that governments pay poor farmers world prices for their grain. At the time, many developing nations–eager to supply cheap food to their urban citizens, who might otherwise rebel–required their farmers to sell into a government concession that paid them less than half of the world market price for their agricultural products. As you might guess, the result was hoarding grain or simply not having the motivation to raise it in the first place.  Using his hard-won prestige as a kind of platform, Mr. Borlaug persuaded the governments of Pakistan and India to drop such self-defeating policies.  Fair prices and high doses of fertilizer, combined with new grains, changed things, such that by 1968, Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat.  By 1974, India was self-sufficient in all cereals. And the revolution didn’t stop there. Researchers at a research institute in the Philippines used Mr. Borlaug’s insights to develop high-yield rice and spread the Green Revolution to most of Asia. As with wheat, so with rice: Short-stalked varieties proved more productive. They devoted relatively more energy to making grain and less to making leaves and stalks. And they were sturdier, remaining harvestable when traditional varieties–with heavy grain heads and long, slender stalks–had collapsed to the ground and begun to rot.

At the time of his death, a lot of news people were saying, “Borlaug has saved more people than anyone else in the history of the world.”   His discoveries were astounding and he did do miraculous things for a dying planet, but Borlaug’s accomplishments shrivel in comparison to those of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to be shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”   John 6:35
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Savior of the world, changed and is still changing countless lives.  Norman Borlaug indeed kept the world from starving through greater crop yields,  and we mourn his death, but his death did not save anyone.  Jesus Christ died so that we might live and Jesus did not stay dead. He rose again n order that all who believe should rise again too!

 
As Ronald Bailey said at the conclusion of his article, “While Borlaug gave us the capacity to make numerous loaves of bread, Jesus was the bread of life, the water of life, who forgives, and makes it so believers will never hunger or thirst again. Jesus didn’t give us a green revolution. His is a redemption revolution.”
This Thanksgiving, in addition to all the blessings you have received from God, you can thank God for sending us Norman Borlaug and his fellow researchers for the bread on our tables.

 

Prayer   Heavenly Father,

Thank you for sending us people like Norm Borlaug, whose genius is a blessing from you.  Still greater, Lord, is our gratitude to you for sending us your Son, Jesus, to save us from sin, something no inventor or humanitarian has ever nor will ever be able to do.  Thank you for the food on our tables.  May we be ever ready to share it with those who have none.  Amen.

 

P.S.  Thank you to my friend, LuAnn Zieman, for sending me the material about Norman Borlaug.  There are so many discoveries by scientists in research labs and in the field that we don’t even know about, yet we benefit from them every day.  Thank God for these hard-working people and the wisdom God gives them to help the world.

D-mail for the week of November 12, 2009

Scripture:  Hebrews 13:2  “Do not remain neglectful of hospitality to strangers, for by it some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

 Romans 8.26,27,28   The Spirit is helping us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself pleads for us with unspeakable yearnings. And He who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit thinks, for He pleads for His people in accordance with God’s will. Yes, we know that all things go on working together for the good of those who keep on loving God, who are called in accordance with God’s purpose.

 

THE  BLACK  ANGEL

 

This week we observe the national holiday of Veteran’s Day.  Engaged in war in the Middle East as we are and having the sickening, senseless deaths and wounding of soldiers at Fort Hood by a crazed gunman, we seem to have enough to pray about this Veteran’s Day.  However, millions of Americans have served, been wounded, and died in action in our nation’s past and we would be remiss in not remembering them and the sacrifices they made so that we could enjoy the freedom we have today.  I would like to share one veteran’s story with you today.  It comes from the Chaplain’s Corner of a Marines online newsletter called Sgt. Grit.  The story is about a wartime experience during World War II as related by then Sgt. Robert Boardman.

 

He spotted me on the crowded ward of the U.S. Solace, a hospital ship heading from Guan to San Francisco carrying the wounded from the last great battle of World War II.

This black man, clad in his clean, blue Navy dungarees, appeared to be a member of the ship’s crew.  Making his way through the crowded bunks of wounded Marines and sailors, he came up to me with an engaging smile, stuck out his hand, and introduced himself.  “What’s your name and where are you from?” he asked.  My right hand was bandaged so I gave him my left.  I tried to tell him my name but no sound came out, not even a whisper.  Every day since they had inserted a tracheotomy tube into my larynx on the battlefield, I‘d been trying to make a sound or form a word.  But nothing came through but the air from my labored breathing.

 

This black, new-found friend hesitated by my bed and then went to the foot of the bed and read my casualty information from the hospital tag.  “Boardman, Robert R., gunshot wounds to neck, larynx and hand, Okinawa, 17 June, 1945”   The Army, navy and Marines had suffered tremendous casualties in defeating the fanatical Japanese Imperial forces on Okinawa.  Over one quarter of a million died on both sides.  I was a Sherman tank driver in C company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st marine Division that fateful morning just four days before the end of the battle.  Two of our tanks sustained severe casualties from Japanese anti-tank fire.  We, who escaped, were soon gunned down by Japanese snipers. 

 

 

Now I was aboard this hospital ship, which rode low in the water from all the wounded aboard.  My new friend, whose name I cannot remember, was attracted I guess to my bunk in that crowded ward because he spotted me trying to read a Gideon- issued New Testament.  I was a relatively new believer, having put my faith in Jesus Christ near New Guinea about 18 months before Okinawa, my third battle.  On Cape Gloucester, New Britain, I knew that God wanted me to share the Open Secret that God loves them as my life’s  vocation.  Now, how was I to obey that calling when I could not even faintly whisper?

 

As I lay there trying to read the New Testament given to me back on Guam by my close buddy and fellow wounded C company comrade, Joe Alvarez, I had so many questions.  “How can I serve God with no voice? My God is all powerful; He could have protected me.  Why did He let this happen?”  Into every one of our lives comes suffering in one of its myriad forms.  No one is immune.  It is very difficult, when we first enter its doors and peer into the dark room of trial, to see and understand any worthwhile purpose.  The black crewman seemed to ponder how best to help me.  Then he opened up the book that a few months before had revealed to me the answers to life and death, my wrongdoings and the gift of eternal life.  “Here, Bob,” he said. “Read this chapter.  I’ll be back to see you tomorrow.”

 

There are several major milestones in our journey as Christians, critical times of decision.  How we respond determines the direction of the remainder of our pilgrimage.  That day, aboard that hospital ship was such a turning point for me.  I looked down to see the book opened to Romans 8.  I read and reread it many times.  It didn’t tell me why God had allowed this to happen to me, but it did tell me that God knew all about it and had a plan for I to work out for my good and His glory.  Romans 8 also told me that nothing could separate me from God’s love, despite my weaknesses.  I believe that that black man could have been an angel sent to me because of the cry of my heart’s desire.  Or else it was a believer who was Spirit-led to open my Bible to that exact scripture passage at that exact moment of need in my life.  Some day I will know for sure.  Until then, I choose to call him God’s Black Angel. 

 

We will never know how many moments of triumph, courage, and peace like this occur during the horrors of war.  I am so glad to have read this story of God’s goodness and mercy toward Sgt. Robert Boardman.  Please remember to pray for our men and women fighting for us this very day.  Pray that God will work out everything for good in their lives.  Pray that there is a “black angel” for every soldier facing doubt and fear.  And thank a veteran you know for his or her faithful service.

 

As an aside, I would like to tell you about an organization I read about called Compassion in Action (a different CIA!)  This organization walks the halls of veterans’ hospitals ministering and cheering veterans who are spending their last days in these facilities, many of whom have no one who cares about them.  A veteran named Mr. Dannion spends his time with CIA not only walking the halls of hospitals but also walking the halls of Congress on behalf of the medical needs of the remaining World War II veterans.  In an interview on The Learning Channel, Mr. Dannion pointed out that America is losing 44,000 WWII veterans a month, many of whom will not receive the care and medical attention they deserve for lack of funding.  If God is calling you to show compassion to an aged veteran, there are many organizations who can help you to do so.  Where I live, there is a wonderful home for retired veterans in King, Wisconsin, forty five minutes away.  I have not been there, but my friends who have say that their visits are always welcome and that the smile on the face of a lonely veteran makes it all worthwhile.

 

Prayer

Thankyou, Lord God, for the “angels” that minister to us unawares like the black navy crewman in the story.  Thank you for giving courage and strength to the men and women who find themselves in a fight for freedom and their very lives not only around the world, but in such places as Fort Hood and the Twin Towers.  I pray for the swift and responsible end to the conflicts in the Middle East.  Watch over each and every soldier and sailor over there.  I pray that in the life and death of war that they give their hearts to you and trust their souls to your salvation.  Thank you for the full assurance that no force in heaven or on earth, including death, can separate us from your love.  In the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior,  Amen

 

p.s. In case you didn’t know, the President has declared that our flags are to be hung at half-mast in honor of those who died at Fort Hood this week.  When you fly your flag on Veterans’ day, keep that in mind.   

Thursday evening, at the last minute , Chuck and I decided to try to get tickets at the door to see an unusual concert.  The performing group was called Barrage.  It consisted of a drummer, three guitar players and five violinists.  This was not your ordinary - or even extraordinary - violin concert.  Every one of the artists were AMAZING!  They all played expertly and many of them played several instruments throughout the show.  For over two hours the violinists played a variety of music styles, from mountain fiddling to Middle east dervishes.  Not only that, but the five of them jumped, spun, danced, and even did the splits all while playing at devilish speeds!  My jaw hung open for two hours! Their arranger is a genius , judging from the beautiful harmonies and multi-layered arrangements in each song.  We purchased their Christmas CD, although I would have loved to be able to purchase all their CDs.  After the concert, they sat at a long table to greet the crowd and sign autographs.  They were sweaty, but they didn’t seem to have lost any of their enthusiasm.  I wonder how many calories they burn per concert?  Anyway, we highly recommend that you check their concert schedule to see if they will be performing in your area and go to their concert.  Otherwise, they sell a DVD of their performance on their website   www.barrage.com   Wow!