Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/congmicj/cathyconger.com/wp-includes/query.php on line 751

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

The Ethnochoreographer

She travels the world
to places where people suffer,
and places where they rejoice,
seeking the crossroads
where the cares of the earth
meet the cares of the heart,
and spill out into dance.

Every culture dances;
to celebrate, to mourn,
to mark planting and harvest,
birthing and burying,
to tell stories of falling in love,
of going to war.

Locking arms with her,
matching steps,
whirling and stomping,
they communicate life
as they have known it for generations
and how it is now,
a language she records and carries
wherever she travels next.

She stores up countless stories
and tells them with her feet.
Their music becomes her heartbeat,
their stories, her choreography.
She is an ethnic folk dancer
and the world is at her feet.

D-mail for the week of June 24, 2010
Scripture: verses appear in the text

Words of Encouragement

I picked up this week’s Time magazine today. I don’t know how news reporters can keep from drowning in depression. I could not find one piece of good news! There are 2.5 million barrels of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico every day! Things are bleak and very hot in Afghanistan. Flash floods in France have taken lives. Gangs are practicing ethnic murder in Kyrgyzstan against minority Uzbecks. Many of our states are bankrupt. Our universities are laying off faculty and cutting programs. President Obama has so much on his plate that I’m sure he wonders why he ever wanted to be the President. Whew! It’s depressing. But not surprising.

Scripture reminds us that all of this was predicted. Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these things are the beginning.” Matthew 24:6-8 “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:12-13
The Bible also promises us that God is sovereign and that He is our rock in times of trouble. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
It does us no good to keep a Bible on our bedside table if we don’t read it. It does us no good to merely read it either, without taking the words to heart.

The Rev. Phillips Brooks, who penned O Little Town of Bethlehem over one hundred years ago, said,
“The Bible is like a telescope. If a person looks through his telescope, then he sees worlds beyond; but if he looks at his telescope, then he does not see anything but a telescope. Read the Bible as a thing to look through to see that which is beyond. Otherwise, the Bible is just a pile of dead pieces of paper.” What is written inside that Bible you hold in your hand was not just for generations gone by. It is and always will be true!
“The Word of the Lord endures forever.” I Peter 1:25

Are you in need of encouragement or solace? Do not only read the promises, but believe and apply them to life. This week a friend of mine sent me “Ten Predictions for 2011″. They were just what I needed to apply to my life right now. Here they are:

1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still be the most powerful thing on earth.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still honor the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to him.
I need to do everything I can, then bring the woes of our world to the great Creator of life in prayer and let them go. And so do you. There’s an Egyptian proverb that says,
“The marksman hits the target partly by pulling, partly by letting go.”

Do you sometimes feel as though prayer was an exercise in futility? I have felt that way, when Satan has surrounded me with such overwhelming trials that I can’t see God working. Remember that Satan is a roaring lion, prowling about trying to frighten us. He roars so loud sometimes, we can’t hear what God is saying!
“God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:7
I’ve got to stop cringing and whining about all the evil and begin to pray. Jesus commanded us to pray. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. The Holy Spirit promises to pray for us if we can’t find the words. Prayer is need finding a voice, embarrassment seeking relief, a friend in search of a friend, a quest in the darkness. It is knocking on a barred door and communion through a closed door. Prayer is shameless insistence in the name of someone else, expecting and receiving all things that we need to meet the demands of our calling. Prayer is what gets us in the place where we are no longer afraid, but are ready to respond to what’s next. Trust me, I’m writing this for myself! For if life’s greatest tragedy is to lose God, then there is only one thing worse - not to miss Him. God never loses track of anyone…ever.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

“Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things that you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Prayer
Lord God of the universe,
Forgive us for our worry and fear. Forgive us for thinking that it all rests on our shoulders ,when it never did, and it never will. Remind us to pray. Hear our prayers and show us your answers. Help us to stand on your Word and remind us of your promises. Be with our President. Surround him with advisors who know and trust You. May the heavy weight of his responsibilities in these difficult days drive him to look up and listen to what you want him to do. May he and those who govern with him be open to the prayers of others and feel those prayers. Before we open our mouths to criticize him, may we be sure that first we have kept him before You each day in prayer. And Lord, give someone the word of wisdom and the words of knowledge to know how to stop that oil well from pumping! Amen

“DRENCH  YOURSELF  IN  UNSPOKEN  WORDS.”

I took this photo at Middleton Plantation in Charleston, S.C.

Scripture:
Deuteronomy 1:29-31
Psalm 100:5
Psalm 103:2-16
Luke 11: 11-13
Romans 8:15
John 14:6

What Is My Father Like?

It was 1944 in St. Louis, Missouri. In their small bungalow one night, a young mother was putting her three-year-old son, Tommy, to bed. After they had read a story and said a prayer for the boy’s father, who was fighting in the Pacific, the little boy looked up and said, “Mommy, what is my father like?”

Taken off guard, the young mother got tears in her eyes. The boy had only been six months old when his father went off to war. She and Tommy had not seen him for nearly three years.

“This is your father, honey,” she said, as she picked up a framed photograph by his bedside and showed it to him. “And I have read all of his letters to you.”

“Yes, but the letters don’t talk and the picture doesn’t play with me,” the little boy answered.

The mother pulled her son into her lap in the rocker and began to tell the boy what his father was like. She described how strong his hugs were and how gentle his kisses. She sang the song to him that his father sang every morning in the shower. She told Tommy that when his daddy laughed, it was loud and made his belly jiggle. She told the boy how hard his dad worked at the hardware store, sometimes working all the way through the night so that they could buy Tommy’s crib and toys.

She said Daddy liked hot dogs with ketchup better than anything, just like Tommy, and that he always said something nice about whatever she cooked for dinner. She told Tommy about the pink roses Daddy brought her for her birthday. She also said that some things made him mad, like when the man next door blamed him for leaving trash in his yard or when some of the men on his ship wouldn’t write letters to their wives and children, but would go out to parties with strange ladies instead.

She told Tommy the kinds of things his father expected from him, like being helpful and obedient to Mommy, learning about Jesus at Sunday School, praying for the safety of all the soldiers in the war, not fighting with other children, eating his meals all gone, and making Grandpa laugh.

“And my father loves black puppies, doesn’t he, Mommy?”

Laughing she gave him a squeeze. “Yes, I imagine he does. But Tommy, the best thing I can tell you about your father is that, from the time you were a tiny baby, he loved spending time with you more than anything. He cried when he had to go and fight in the war. He loves you very much. Do you believe me, Tommy?”

“Yes, Mommy. Daddy loves me and I’m going to like him a lot when he comes home to play with me.”

“Let’s pray for Daddy right now, should we? Go ahead. Heavenly Father…”

“Father who’s up in heaven, did you know that I have a father down here, too? He’s real strong, but not as strong as you, so please make my daddy brave and safe. Bless Mommy and Grandma and Grandpa and Mrs. Stump at Sunday School and my best friend Russell. And God, would you please bring everybody’s daddy’s home so we can see what they’re like? Amen”

Tommy might not have seen his father in person yet, but thanks to his mother’s description, he was forming a picture in his mind to go with the picture on the bedside stand. His wise mother knew just the things that a little boy would want to know about his father. As a wife and mother, one of the most valuable gifts I can give my children is to speak honorable things to them about their father, to not dwell on his shortcomings, but to praise him and support his decisions - even when I am angry or disappointed with him.

Many children don’t know their father, perhaps because of desertion or divorce, prison or death. For those whose earthly fathers were not loving or good role models, the idea of a loving father is foreign. Fallen fathers are one of society’s greatest tragedies. The best we can do is to try to introduce these children to good men who are willing to spend quality time with them. Praise God for loving and generous stepfathers too. Despite the cruelty and disappointment fatherless children may experience, there is available to them a relationship with the one who created them, who knit them in their mother’s womb, who loves them more than anyone else can and loves unconditionally. God the Father will never leave them or forsake them like their earthly father might have done.

 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 

 ”For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5

 But like Tommy, how can God’s children know what their father is like? Of course as Christians, we know that God has revealed his personality, his powers, his best judgments and laws for us, what he’s done in the past, and what his plans are for the future through the Bible and , like Tommy’s mother, we can have the privilege to tell people what God the Father is like..

Recently my daughter’s best friend from childhood had a baby boy. I saw him when he was only a few weeks old, but oh my goodness! He looked exactly like his father - only shrunk down! It will be fun to see how much he will look like his father as he grows. My oldest son , by age 25, looked so much like my husband it was eerie! Want to know what the father looks like? Just look at the son. God has a similar idea. In order for men and women, who had limited understanding of what God was like, to know God, he sent his son, Jesus Christ as God in the flesh. Those who were in Jesus’ presence, who saw his works, listened to his words, and experienced his love, knew God. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” John 14:6 Today, through the modeling of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit, who came as God within us, we can know the love, the power, and the wisdom of almighty God.

So on this Father’s Day, should anyone ask, “What is my heavenly Father like?” here it is in a nutshell from Psalm 103: 2-16

“He forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, redeems you from the pit (of hell) and crowns you with love and compassion. He satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. Just like he made known his ways to Moses and his deeds to Israel, the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love.
He will not always accuse (does not endlessly nag and scold) , nor will he harbor anger(hold grudges) forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (wrongs).
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; and as far as the east is from the west, so far has he separated us from our sins. As a (earthly) father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear(respect and have awe for) him; for God knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are made of dust.”

Psalm 68:5 tells us that God is a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows.

Romans 8:15 paints our relationship with God as the relationship a child has with his daddy. “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next Papa?!”  Romans 8:15 (The Message)

Luke 11:11-13 shows us the heart of our Father God compared to that of a loving earthly father: “If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, which of you fathers would scare him with a live snake on his plate? Or if your child asks you for an egg, which of you fathers would trick her with a spider ? As evil as you are (compared to God), you wouldn’t think of such a thing -you’re at least decent to your own children (know how to give good gifts to your children) . And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?”

And like a loving earthly father who comforts and defends his children us when they are afraid or in danger, Deuteronomy 1: 29-31 tells us that God acted the same toward the Hebrew children.
Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them (Amorite enemy). The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, like a father carries his son; all the way you went until you reached this place.” Deuteronomy 1:29-31

Praise the Lord for creating fathers for us who try to mirror Him as He models perfect fatherhood! Be sure to thank your father for all he has done for you and praise his efforts to raise you in love and wisdom. If he has fallen short, ask God to help him back to his feet. Ask Him to restore a right relationship between you and your father. If you can muster no love for your father because he injured you so badly, ask God to help you forgive him and find peace in a relationship with God, your heavenly Father.

PRAYER Heavenly Father,
I thank you for the father you gave me and for the father you gave my children and for the wonderful father my son has become. I know how blessed I am to have such loving men in my life. I pray for all of the estranged fathers and children out there to whom Fathers Day is painful. I pray for a miracle this Fathers Day - that somewhere, somehow many a father will be brought back to his family and with forgiveness and repentance, relationships will be restored. I pray for sons and daughters of all ages who have been cruelly damaged by an angry, sinful father. I pray that you will heal their wounds. I pray for those who have lost their fathers to death this year. Comfort them Lord on this Father’s Day. And I pray for all the fathers that have to be separated from their families because of war. May they survive the separation and come home safely. Amen

It is no disgrace to move out of the path of an elephant.

D-mail for the week of June 10, 2010
Scripture
: Matthew 11:28-30, Philippians 4:6, I Peter 5:7

STRESS MANAGEMENT

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?”
The various answers called out from the audience ranged from 20 grams to 500 grams. The lecturer replied,
“The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

He continued,  “And that’s the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, the burden will become increasingly heavy; we won’t be able to carry on. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden. So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down; don’t carry it home. You can pick it up again tomorrow. Whatever burdens you’re carrying right now, let them down for a moment if you can.”

This advice is good for all of us. My son and his wife are moving to Colorado in August so my son can begin a PhD program there. They have 2 children under the age of 3 and own a lovely, small home in the Iowa town where they have lived the past 6 years. They worked hard to prepare their home to put on the market. They were prudent to have it available during the time when first-time home buyers could qualify for a federal credit. So it went up for sale the first weekend of April.  The first day it was on the market, a couple placed an offer to buy. The contract was signed with a closing date of June 11th. How wonderful! They praised God for blessing the first step of their move and settled down to attend to all the other details that are involved in moving -including a large garage sale and the packing of many boxes. Over Memorial Day weekend, they drove to Colorado to hunt for the perfect condo to rent for the five years he will be in school. They found a lovely place they could afford, as well as a job for her and an affordable day care situation for the children. They came home feeling lighter than air.

Then they received news that the sale of their home, due to circumstances having to do with an inaccurate appraisal, had fallen through. The sad news was that they had to put their home back on the market; they were back to square one. But now, they had sold all the tools needed to fix up the yard, the house needed to be thoroughly cleaned and polished once more, and they had to unpack some things to make the house look comfortable and attractive. All the stacks of packed boxes had to be carried to the basement. And all of this had to be done in two days! I was there and I can tell you, I haven’t seen two more discouraged people than my son and daughter-in-law, and I didn’t blame them. It was one of those times when you want to scream, “That’s not fair!”

Suddenly, they felt like they were carrying the heaviest burden of their married life. They cannot afford to move carrying both a mortgage and a rent payment. That was last week. Since then they have had a realtor’s open house and two showings -neither of which amounted to anything. However, they are a Christian couple who have always taken everything in their lives to prayer. This time is no different. Despite the worry that I’m sure they must be feeling in their flesh, they are speaking positively now. God has cared for them in the past and he will again. Tomorrow they leave on vacation for a week and a vacation isn’t a vacation if you bring your burdens along.

Jesus had the answer for stress management in Matthew when he spoke about how God dresses the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air, which are not as important to Him as his children are.  Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28-30,   “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The Apostle Paul also spoke about how to deal with burdens. In Phillipians he said,   “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”  Philippians 4:6 (The Message)

And the Apostle Peter said,  “Cast all your anxiety on Him (Jesus) because He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7

So, if my kids can leave their anxiety at the feet of Jesus, why shouldn’t their mother? Are you stressing about something over which you have no power?  As difficult as it is, try to turn the worry of it over to Jesus. If you must worry, I read where you should set aside 5 minutes each day to worry. Choose a specific spot to go to to do this worrying. Make it an uncomfortable spot you won’t want to stay in any longer than the 5 minutes and where no one can hear you. Then pour out your worries out loud. Let them go. After 5 minutes, walk away. Don’t return until the next day’s 5 minute worry time and don’t worry at all between times. Don’t ridicule the idea until you have tried it!
In the meantime, let the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

PRAYER
Gracious heavenly Father, I come to you with the burdens I am carrying, those for myself and my foot that I pray is healed, those of my children, who all are involved in some pretty scary transitions this summer, those of my friends and my D-mail family, and those of the world - in particular the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the financial crisis in Europe, and the continuing suffering in Haiti. You care for these burdens more than I ever can and better still, you can actually do something about them! Thank you, Lord for your promises to carry our burdens and care for us even more than the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. Amen