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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

Scripture: II Corinthians 3:17, Job 34: 13-19 & vs 21-30, II Timothy 4:2-4
USE YOUR FREEDOM! VOTE!

On Tuesday, November 2nd, Americans will be going to the polls to vote in (or out) some important government representatives, as well as some crucial social issues. Will you be one of these voters? Or will you decide that it is too much trouble to read up on the candidates or to go out in the rain that day or to take time before or after work to stand in line?
A common dilemma when it comes to voting is , “Since I don’t know much about the candidates’ stands on the issues, would it be better to vote “blindly” and pick the wrong one or not to vote at all and let others’ votes decide who governs me and my house for the next 2 years?”  I’ve been there. But that’s no excuse. If you have access to a computer, use your search engine to bring up each candidate’s web site and READ what they have to say. Don’t even know who’s running? Go to the campaign headquarters for each party in your town and ask the workers there why you should vote for each of the candidates they are supporting. Ask tough questions. In our town both democratic and republican headquarters are conveniently located in the same mall! You still have a whole week to learn and decide before November 2nd. I realize that the campaign ads on TV and radio have been more about smear tactics than the candidate actually stating what he/she stands for. It’s unfortunate without a doubt, because nobody cares about what the “other guy” did wrong; we care about what this candidate intends to do right! Nevertheless, as Americans, we have the right and the DUTY to have a say in our government. “My vote won’t make a difference” is no excuse. Single votes have made the difference. If you don’t vote, you have no right to grumble, complain, or protest about what the government does next.

As Christians, we have a divine duty to vote for righteousness whenever we can. Billions of other people in this world do not. We are Americans, but we have a higher allegiance to the kingdom of God. In the book of Job, when Job is questioning God’s treatment of the just and the unjust, his friend, Elihu, says to Job,
“Who appointed Him over the earth? Who put Him in charge of the whole world? (ie. Do you have that answer, Job?) If it were His intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust. If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say.
Can he who hates justice govern? Will you condemn the just and mighty One? Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’ and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’ who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? “
Job 34: 13-19 NIV
Elihu is asking if someone who hates justice can govern and points out that God, who is completely impartial to earthly rank, has the right to govern us, for He did not create evil. God is the only one who is completely just and is therefore the only one to judge us. In verse 21 Elihu continues,
“His eyes are on the ways of men; He sees their every step. There is no dark place, no deep shadow, where evildoers can hide. God has no need to examine men further, that they should come before him for judgment. Without inquiry He shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place.
Because He takes note of their deeds, He overthrows them in the night and they are crushed. He punishes them for their wickedness where everyone can see them, because they turned from following Him and had no regard for any of His ways. They caused the cry of the poor to come before Him, so that he heard the cry of the needy
. (Is your incumbent candidate guilty of these things? Will you work with God, using your vote to stop unrighteousness?)
Yet He is over man and nation alike, to keep a godless man from ruling, from laying snares for the people.” Job 34:21-30 NIV
God is over man and nation alike to keep a godless man from ruling, from laying snares for the people, but He uses the words and actions of His righteous on earth to help. God has given Americans the freedom to elect our governors, to keep godless men and women from ruling. Are we helping or hindering Him?
God knew that the time would come when people would be led astray, chasing after the doctrines and beliefs that met their personal desires, believing things just because some TV commentator or magazine editor or outspoken person at the grocery store said they were the truth. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy,
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” II Timothy 4:2-4 NIV
God expects His children to discern what is myth and resist it (God is the ultimate snopes.com!), to base our decisions about issues on the truth of His Word, even when it may be easier to coast along, tolerating the majority view (or at least the view with the biggest bank account). He expects us to preach His truth whether it is “in season” or not. (Isn’t “tolerance” the byword of our times, while those who walk the narrow road of God’s laws are considered bigots?)

A few weeks ago I wrote about Dr. Peter Marshall, chaplain of the U.S. Senate just after World War II. With the years of suffering and devastation around the globe under the rule of several demagogues fresh in everyone’s mind, Peter Marshall spoke these words,

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right. The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration. The time has come - it is now- when we ought to hear about the duties and responsibilities of our citizenship. America’s future depends upon her accepting and demonstrating God’s government.”
Reverend Dr. Peter Marshall : from his sermon, The Uniqueness of the American Experiment in Self-Government February 7, 1949

Please do your homework on the candidates you can vote for and next Tuesday, VOTE!

Prayer: Lord God, who rules over the wicked and the righteous, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, I pray that righteousness will prevail in this coming election. I pray that You will shine a light on the shadiness and half-truths that have been hidden from Americans. I pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to the godly and urge them to vote intelligently. I pray that Your will be done in our nation. Amen

Scripture: Luke 18: 1-8, Luke 11: 5-13
LORD, LISTEN TO ME!

How often have you pounded on the door of heaven seemingly without an answer to your prayer? I have had this happen so many times, I wonder if God is getting hard of hearing (He is older than time, after all!). Recently, my grandniece, Isabella, age 4, demonstrated to me that God wants us to keep on asking and keep on knocking.

A few weeks ago, Isabella’s mother (my niece, Erin) broke her leg. It was a complicated break requiring surgery and several days in the hospital. Isabella has rarely been separated from her mother and she was anxious. Before he took Isabella to the hospital for her first visit, her daddy decided to sit her down and explain what to expect. He explained that mommy would be in bed with her leg all bandaged and that Isabella must be careful not to jostle her because “Mommy’s bones hurt”. Upon arrival at the hospital, Isabella was not fearful at all. She walked right over to the bed and kissed Erin carefully. Then she said, “Mommy, do your bones hurt?” Erin replied, “Oh yes. Mommy’s bones hurt a lot right now.”

Isabella responded, “Then we have to pray.” She laid her little hand on her mother’s bed and prayed, “Dear Jesus. Please make my mommy all better. Amen.” Then without missing a beat, she looked up at Erin and said, “Mommy, are you all better yet?”

Erin smiled and answered, “Not yet, honey. Sometimes it takes a while to…”
“Then we have to pray again,” Isabella interrupted very matter-of-factly. This time she scrunched her eyes shut and loudly prayed,
“Dear Jesus. Please make Mommy all better and listen to me this time!”

As you can imagine, this story made the family rounds! Now I doubt that Isabella was familiar with the scripture in Luke 18 about the widow and the judge, but she certainly had the same persistence as that widow.

Luke 18: 1-8
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Are you tempted to say to God, “Listen to me this time!” ? Jesus said that God is not like that unjust judge. God will not delay His support to His chosen ones when they pray day and night in His will. He honors that kind of faith. In Luke 11: 5-13 , Jesus again urges boldness and persistence in prayer.
Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
I am told that in the Greek, the words “ask” and “knock” in this passage are written in the tense that translates “keep on asking” and “keep on knocking”. Do you have a prayer that you have been praying for a very long time? God is not hard of hearing. He hears your prayer, I assure you. His word assures you! For whatever reason, He has not chosen to answer in your time frame or perhaps in the way you think He should. But, as Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never, never give up!”
Prayer: Lord, thank you for Isabella’s faith. Thank you for reassuring us in your word that you hear us and want us to be bold and persistent in the requests we bring before you. I pray for those who have prayed so very long that they are exhausted with the asking and have lost hope. Lord, give them a glimpse of what is going on on your end of things. Amen

Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother that you may live long upon the earth.”
Proverbs 1: 8 “Listen my son to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”
Colossians 3: 23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

“JUST A MOM?!”

My 30-something college class reunion was held last weekend, although I didn’t attend. I went to my 25th because my oldest daughter was graduating that same weekend from my alma mater, St. Olaf College. I enjoyed seeing my classmates and two of my former roommates and swapping stories of old times. The reason I hadn’t attended any reunions before that was that my fifth reunion had been so painful. It was small, since it had only been five years since graduation, but many of my classmates were there. You couldn’t miss that I was pregnant (with our third child). At the dinner, we sat around a large round table and talked. Then someone suggested that we go around and tell about what we were doing with our lives. Each one, in turn, told about his or her graduate degrees, Peace Corps experiences, and the like. When my turn came, I opened my mouth, only to be interrupted by the woman next to me, who said, “I guess we can all see what Cathy’s been doing!” Another piped up, “And you don’t need a college education for that, right Chuck?”, slapping my husband on the back. I immediately blurted out something in my defense about how important being a stay-at-home mother was, but I felt so disrespected that I vowed never to be put down like that again.

About 25 years ago, when a friend of mine was renewing her driver’s license at the DMV, she was asked by the clerk to state her occupation. My friend hesitated, uncertain as to how to classify herself.
“What I mean is, ” explained the clerk, “Do you have a job or are you just a…?”
“Of course I have a job,” my friend jumped in. “I’m a Mom!”
“We don’t list ‘Mom’ as an occupation. ‘Housewife’ will have to cover it,” said the clerk impatiently.

I had forgotten all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time registering for a conference. The clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high-sounding title like ” Official Interrogator”.
“What is your occupation?’ she probed.

I do not know what made me say it… the words simply popped out.
“I’m a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”
The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and looked up as though she had not heard me right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words.
Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

“Might I ask,” said the clerk with new interest, “just what you do in your field?”

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, “‘I have a continuing program of research, (what mother doesn’t), “in the laboratory as well as in the field (normally I would have said indoors and out). I’m working for my Masters, (first the Lord and then the whole family). I already have five credits (3 daughters and 2 sons). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to disagree?). I often work a 14 hour day (24 is more like it), but the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers. And the rewards are more satisfactory than the actual salary.”
There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants - ages 9,8,5,and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model,
(our 6 month old daughter) in the child development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than ‘just another Mom.’

Motherhood! What a glorious career! Now that I am a writer, I have a mahogany desk, computer, printer, and all the right accoutrements, including a carved wooden plaque I chose especially, which stands on my desk. It reads, M-O-T-H-E-R. And now I am a grandmother! I wonder. Does being a grandmother make me a “Senior Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations”? And are great grandmothers “Executive Senior Research Associates”? I think so!!! I also think it makes aunts “Associate Research Assistants”. Maybe if our modern culture held motherhood in greater esteem , the world would be a better place. The poet, William Ross Wallace wrote this famous line, “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”

Prayer: Thank you Lord for honoring the responsibility and hard work of motherhood. I pray for all the mothers who are in the thick of it right now, raising the best educated , healthiest, best groomed, most well-behaved, most morally well-grounded children they can. I pray for those mothers who are facing tough choices between job and home. Give them extra grace and strength, Lord. I pray for mothers who have lost children to disease, accident, or war. Comfort them, Lord. I pray for the mothers who are now caring for their mothers. Give them strength and understanding for this very special and demanding labor of love. I pray for adoptive mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, and mothers-in-law, who are nurturing and loving children to whom they have not given birth. Bless them, Father. Help me, Lord, as this week I become a mother-in-law for the third time, to build a bridge to my new daughter-in-law and her family that will last a lifetime. Amen

Scripture: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7
“So we say with confidence, `The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’ Hebrews 13:6a
“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 29-31

DRESS CRISIS

This week has been CRAZY for me! As I have mentioned before, my son’s wedding is October 17th in Portland, Oregon. My husband and I are flying out there on the 13th to get settled in the house we rented for the week and to get some last minute tasks done. Way back, when the bride was considering colors and dresses for her bridesmaids, I offered to make the dresses so that she could have just what she wanted and keep the cost down. She agreed and picked out a pattern she liked. It took me all summer to find the right fabric at the right price. It never occurred to me what a tricky job it would be to sew for six young women based solely on their written measurements…until..I began to cut out the dresses. Except for one girl, they all chose a very fitted style from the pattern so there hasn’t been any wiggle room in the fit. AND the dresses are lined!
Now I’m an accomplished seamstress. I made my own bridal gown, my daughter’s clothes, my own clothes, and for awhile I had a sewing business. However, I neglected to remember that I’d never sewn “long distance” before. Oh well, we all need to be stretched once in awhile, so I dove in. I measured, measured, measured with each step of construction. I had promised to mail the dresses by October 1st. Before last week, I was on target. Then it happened. One bridesmaid’s measurements didn’t make sense, i.e. the front measurements were much shorter than the back. If she could just magically appear in my sewing studio, I could re-measure and figure it out, but she lives in Portland. So I said a prayer and did my best. Very soon we’ll see if it fits!
Each dress has a different fall- colored sash. After following the pattern for the sashes, a little voice told me to tie one around my waist just to check.. I tied a lovely bow and, lo and behold, the dumb thing touched the floor! They’d be perfect for girls 7 feet tall! Six sashes were then ripped apart and shortened. Good thing I checked! Then the night before I was to ship the dresses to Portland, a little voice told me to measure the dresses (bust-waist-hips) one last time before packing them. Another good thing! Two of the dresses were 2” too wide in the waist and hips and one was 6” too big everywhere!! I still can’t figure out what I did wrong, but I was up all that night re-making those dresses, lining and all! Boy, was I glad I re-measured. What a stressful and humbling experience. However, I have learned a number of lessons. First, I’m not as accomplished as I have claimed to be. Two, I’m much more of a procrastinator than I want to admit. Three, I will never sew long distance again. Five, I will check the details more thoroughly from now on (Six inches! How could I have been off six whole inches?). And lastly, God cares about stuff like this. We accept that He pays attention to major illnesses and accidents, financial catastrophes, sermons and speeches, births and deaths, etc., but He is a very BIG God. He also has time for a senior’s term paper woes, a lost teddy bear, a wife’s hurt feelings, a cake that didn’t rise, and the details of a wedding. He cared enough about me to whisper , “Measure the dresses one more time.” three nights ago in my sewing studio. Praise be to the God we serve, who cares like that for all of His children!

Prayer: Lord, I cannot believe your goodness sometimes and yet You are always good. I cannot believe your grace sometimes and yet You always pour out grace. I forget how much you love me when I am screwing up and yet You keep loving. You are an awesome God and I am so grateful that You love me and allow me to serve You. I cannot cope with a million details, but You can juggle the universe. Praise your mighty name! Amen