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

Scripture: Psalm 25:9-10, Proverbs 3:5, Isaiah 55:8-9A HELICOPTER VIEW OF LIFE

Last week I wrote about the “if onlys” and how we have to get past them and trust God with the future. His ways are beyond our feeble brain’s ability to comprehend. (For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9) I have an example from one of my college roommates who reads my D-mails. She gave me permission to share her response.

Cathy,
Do you remember when I was going through the divorce? My Mom had breast cancer. My nephew died in a motorcycle accident. Jacob was in a car accident that incurred over a quarter of a million dollars. I had a biopsy for breast cancer. WHAT A YEAR! (Most of it within six weeks) But looking back, I can see God in all of that, standing by my side and saying, “wait and see, it will get better”. And it did! There are days when I get up and say, “Now what?” But then I remember how He led me out of the fire, and I know it will be OK. Love, F

My friend is now remarried and very happy. She didn’t have breast cancer, but her mother did. It took a long time for her to get through depression, financially recover, repair and sell her house, help her children through college, rebuild her self-esteem, and date again. But things did get better and she learned to trust God through it all. Whe I asked her if I could share her email with you, she wrote back,

Of course you may use it. May it inspire others to believe in the LIGHT at the end of the tunnel. And I genuinely believe that friends are the angels God sends us during times of darkness to get us through! I bought a stamp that says, “Friends are those people who know the words to the song in your heart and sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” It’s listed as anonymous, so I imagine you can use that, too. Thanks for the prayers. I pray for you, too! Love, F

Isn’t she a great friend?! She has been an inspiration to me.

Have you ever been stuck in a major traffic gridlock? I live in a small town where a being “stuck in traffic” means getting behind a school bus at 3 pm. However, when we travel -especially in the summer- around Chicago, there is a stretch of highway on the interstate south of the city where it’s sure you will sit in bumper to bumper traffic for at least an hour, and often a lot longer. The cause? Usually it’s construction or a bad accident. Why is it that we feel the need to know why traffic is stalled? It won’t make the traffic move any faster. But someone in our car will ultimately say something like,
“Do you think it’s an accident?” or “I wonder how far this construction goes?”. I’ve seen drivers change lanes, thinking maybe the other line will move sooner. I’ve seen cars pull onto the shoulder and move ahead, only to see them eventually again trying to merge back into the same lane they were in 15 minutes earlier. I’ve seen people get out of their cars and climb up on the roof to see if they can spot what’s happening up ahead. It’s just plain frustrating to be stuck and not know why or for how long.

Then a traffic helicopter appears above. From up there, they have an extended view and can see what the hold-up is. They can figure out when traffic will move again, based on what they see (ambulances, tow trucks, a semi on its side across the road, etc.) I think life is like that traffic jam. Uncomfortable, painful, tragic, inconvenient, frightening things trap us. No matter how we try, we cannot know the reason this thing has happened to us. Worse yet, we haven’t a clue how long it will last. Our prayers are formed down in the exhaust fumes of our traffic jam, where we can’t see ahead, nor can the other cars around us. But God has a helicopter view of our circumstances!

Our God is not limited by time or space. He can see around corners. He knows what is causing our problem (and it’s usually quite complex) and no matter how much we believe that He hasn’t paid a bit of attention to our prayers, He has! As a matter of fact, He’s been changing circumstances, like the traffic police redirect and shuffle cars around to break the gridlock, in order to free us from our crisis. Like the domino effect that got us into crisis, it takes a lot of shuffling and some serious, direct intervention by God at the source to change things and set us free. What it comes down to is that God can see far ahead where we never will and He knows exactly what will work best to fix the problem.
“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His ways” Psalm 25:9

Sometimes it takes what seems like forever. Who knows what’s happening behind the scenes? Maybe He has been sending “ambulances” but the ambulances can’t get through (or some idiot drivers won’t move over to let them through). Sometimes He allows us to stay stuck right where we are in order to protect us from something dangerous down the road only He can see. And sometimes things can’t change until we do. Some prayers really do take a lifetime to answer.

So next time you’re trapped in a gridlock of a problem and your prayers don’t seem to mean diddly-squat and you’ve been waiting an awfully long time for an answer, remember
1) God is not deaf and He has a helicopter view of life
2) God began working on the problem the moment you prayed
3) Maybe the problem is you ( All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant. Psalm 25:10)
4) In order to fix your crisis, God has to deal with a lot of other people who are part of your gridlock
5) Listen for “ambulances” - let them through (or climb in…they might have been sent for you)
6) God loves you too much for you to give up on Him (Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5)

Prayer
Lord, thank you for being so much bigger than our problems. Thank you that there is nothing you cannot do and yet you love us enough to not do it for our own good. Thank you for all the blessings you have bestowed on us this year - thank you for food, clean water and shelter, family and friends, a job, a car that runs, our health, sunshine and rain. Bless those who need all these things and show us where we can help. Watch over those who are traveling this Thanksgiving and keep them safe on the road and in the air. Amen

My parents, my husband and I stayed two days in Portland after the wedding to sightsee.  Here are a few photos of what we saw.  I haven’t mastered the process of posting photos in the right order yet so a few are out of order.  I’ll have a few more to post later.

Photo below is my husband and father eyeing the bridge across Multnomah Falls.                                    Who’s up for the climb on the path up the mountain to the bridge?  

 

Fisherman on Willamette River
Fisherman on Willamette River

Path through autumn wood on Sauvie Island

Path through autumn wood on Sauvie Island

Multnomah Falls in Columbia River basin east of Portland

Multnomah Falls in Columbia River basin east of Portland

Falling water at Multnomah Falls in Oregon

Falling water at Multnomah Falls in Oregon

Our outing to the pumpkin patch on Sauvie Island in Willamette River
Our outing to the pumpkin patch on Sauvie Island in Willamette River

Me sniffing a prize rose at the Rose Garden in Portland’s Washington Park 

 

Portland skyline taken from Washington Park - Mt. Hood in background

 

 

I took this photo at my son’s wedding.

Gearing Up for the Holidays
by Don Uslan MA, MBA, LMHC

The holiday season is a time of year that most people look forward to. After all, gatherings with family and friends should be full of enjoyment. So why does the thought of having company in your home or hosting a holiday event conjure up feelings of stress and awkward moments? What can you do so that the holidays will not land you in the dumpster emotionally and physically? People with fibromyalgia (FM) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) often face special predicaments that keep them from fully enjoying this time of year. Turn a new leaf, and do what you can to prevent your less-than perfect health from putting a damper on the season’s festivities. Gear up to have a ball this year by reading the following common scenarios and advice on how to handle them.

Scenario: Company is coming, the house is a mess, and you don’t have the energy to pick up. How are you going to get your house cleaned? You can suggest that the family gatherings take place at someone else’s home, but you believe that year after year of not hosting builds resentment toward you. You feel awful when you have to say NO because you want to see your family too. As a result, the holidays are a time of feeling badly about yourself, and how can you look forward to that?
Tasks on a sheet of paper, and when your energy allows, start dividing up what you are able to do and what you will ask others to do. Be sure to give them plenty of notice, and call them a couple of times to confirm. A little humor won’t hurt: “You’ve agreed to pick up the soft drinks. If you forget, you may end up as the next Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and on the roof with Santa.” Consider sending out reminder notes, e-mails, or voice mails so people don’t forget. A little “nudging” will go a long way in getting things done. Make a schedule for various tasks at least three weeks in advance. Put “paper to pencil” and note the dates that specific items need to be done by. Allow time for human error and forgetfulness by adding a couple of days if something doesn’t get done.

Scenario: Kids and grandkids want entertainment. This is not the time of year when you drop them off at the local mall or movie theater for a few hours of quiet time for yourself. Youngsters relish the family festivities and want you to be a part of them as well. How do you appease a child who is too young to comprehend chronic illness? What fun activities can you do together to retain your “connection” with the children of the family? Are there ways to pace activities with children to make them feel special throughout the holiday season?
If you are the aunt, uncle, grandmother, or grandfather of little children coming to your house, there is no reason that your physical limitations should dampen their joy of being in your home and spending time with you. You may not be the energetic entertainer you once were (and neither is anyone else), but you can still be the “focus of fun” or the “prophet of play.” Wear a hat, colorful clothing, or anything that sparkles. If you are up to it, you can even wear a costume or paint your face. Looking like fun doesn’t take much energy. Set up a corner of the house as the “toy zone,” and leave out whatever games or crafts you want. Lay plastic down so children feel comfortable making a mess, then, just scoop up the plastic and throw it away when they are done (the plastic is cheap and sold with paint supplies). Make sure to have a constant source of “goodies.” Children don’t care where the food comes from (it can be inexpensive store-bought candy), as long as it’s there and you deliver it with love, affection and attention. Sit with children, read them stories, or listen to their stories. This not only takes minimal energy, but may even be somewhat restorative. Rent videos. (Confession: I watched “Pinocchio” 32 times with my son David when he was 2 years old over the course of a year–I’m not sure who enjoyed it more. I stopped watching it when he started calling me “Gepetto” after I pulled his nose.) Your mind may be fatigued, your body may be in pain, but your creativity can still flourish while you conserve energy.

Scenario: Perhaps you do not have strong ties to your family, or no family at all. What can you do so that the holiday season does not intensify your loneliness?
The term “Holiday Blues” is a very real phenomenon. During the holiday season, people remember the past through the lens of longing for warmth, safety and closeness. During the darkness of winter, you may compare the present with the past, and it may not fare too well. This is especially true if your social support is limited. Isolation is the worst psychological consequence of any illness. It produces a type of depression that can be hard to break out of. Try to preserve whatever social support you may have by making contact with people from the past. Send a year-end letter highlighting stories from your life or anything you think will be amusing. It can be a form letter photocopied on colorful paper, with a short personal note at the bottom. Many will call or write you back, providing you with a sense of connectivity. Give small gifts-perhaps homemade-to neighbors, just because it may feel good. Do whatever you can to break out of isolation before the holiday season. Join a church, synagogue, or any other community group … and enjoy the presence of others. Attend a lecture. Take a class. Go to a concert. Many of these activities are inexpensive or free if you look around. If you are too blue to participate, then enjoy the company of people and listen to conversation. Try to attend to things outside of yourself. Don’t become cooped up indoors; spending time outside of the house helps to combat feelings of isolation. Check out the local mall, if only for the decorations or to “people watch.” Staying alone indoors begets loneliness, which breeds depression. Consider getting a dog or a cat. Some of the best therapy comes from You must conserve your energy. Be sure not to engage in activities or get caught up in situations that make you “feel bad.” Try to gain self-confidence in what you are realistically able to do and acknowledge the real limitations your illness has imposed, even if it is difficult for you (and your loved ones). The more you can accept your limitations, the more those who love you will do the same. Also, don’t view acceptance as a form of giving up, but rather as a necessity for moving on with life.

Keep in Mind … the devotion and love of a pet. The warmth, affection, and interaction can make you appreciate being alive. But, make sure you have the energy to take care of a pet, especially a kitten or a puppy, who require lots of training and extra attention until they mature. Cost is another factor to consider. Even if you get a pet for free, their care can be expensive. The holiday season may be an opportune time to volunteer to dog- or cat-sit for a neighbor … a form of “rent a pet” to see how you do. Remember, the best way to handle isolation is to try to avoid it. Plan NOW to avoid becoming lonely by appreciating the power of being with people and your important need for human contact. Even if fatigue contributes to your feeling that you aren’t up to being with others, realize that you have a lot to offer other people (and pets), even if you don’t know it right now.

Scenario: Living under scrutiny. It is nearly impossible to hide the medications you take, your mid-day nap or after-work crash on the couch, not to mention all of the proactive things you do to make it through the day (stretching sore muscles, applying heat wraps, long soaks in the tub, etc.). From the perspective of your extended family, you appear obsessed with your health and very much a hypochondriac. However, spending the entire holiday trying to explain your illness to other family members seems self-defeating. It gobbles up energy you don’t have and forces you to dwell on the one subject that you want to have a break from. What should you do?
Make it clear that you have a medical condition that forces you to take extra care of yourself. Explain that you don’t wish to make someone else uncomfortable, but that you need to make sure you don’t over-extend yourself. And then … here comes the “white lie” … tell them you have “arthritis”! Yep, after all these years of trying to get an accurate diagnosis, find the right healthcare providers, and receive the proper treatment, you are going to fib and say, “arthritis.” Why? Because people don’t normally challenge arthritis. Friends and family members have a clear understanding and acceptance of arthritis. They know it causes pain and functional limitations, and usually don’t question it. Almost everyone has had a grandmother or aunt with arthritis, and the popular press seems okay with it. If it makes it easier on you, why not simply call it “arthritis” and leave it at that during the holidays? Now, your job is to say no more. You don’t have to explain, justify, share, prove, or compare. You simply have a common medical condition called arthritis. You can only do things in moderation and must take time out to rest. Sometimes, it includes excusing yourself when it’s boisterous and loud, or asking for help in clearing dishes when there are plenty of able-bodied people around. If you aren’t able to perform a task, don’t complain or explain yourself. Stay within your limits to avoid exhaustion and a painful symptom flare up. You can be a gracious host, a friendly conversationalist, a welcoming relative, as long as you do things in moderation. If you quietly excuse yourself to go to your room to rest, no one need be the wiser. Plenty of healthy people do this, so why can’t you? If you need a cane, use one and don’t feel obligated to explain yourself. If asked, simply say, “I need a little extra support,” and then ask them to pass the Christmas cookies. Don’t make a public display of needing to recline or a verbal excuse for your inability to lift or carry. Your body may experience pain and fatigue, but your heart can express joy at this family gathering; your spirit can be welcoming of loved ones; your character can be as charming and as humorous as your limited energy allows. This can be a beautiful and memorable holiday season for you.

Reprinted from Issue #71, October 2005 PO Box 31750 Tucson, AZ 85751-1750 (800) 853-2929 • www.fmnetnews.com Article is for informational purposes only. You must consult your physician for treatment. This article is copyrighted by Fibromyalgia Network.

 
 Here is a heart warming photo.
A Nativity Scene was erected in a church yard. During the night some folks came across this scene.

An abandoned dog was looking for a comfortable, protected place to sleep. He chose baby Jesus as his comfort.
No one had the heart to send him away so he was there all night.
We should all have the good sense of this dog and curl up in Jesus’ lap from time to time.

No one mentioned that the dog breed is “Shepherd!”

Scripture: II Corinthians 4:7
II Corinthians 1: 8-9 “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure…but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.

BOGGED DOWN IN THE “IF ONLY’S”

Yesterday I realized I was inviting myself to a pity party. On my bathroom mirror I put sticky notes with prayer requests written on them - usually the ones that mean the most to me. I love to be able to take one down as the Lord answers the prayer! But this miserable recession has affected those I love who need jobs and money for school, and none of the sticky notes have come down for a long time, and I’m going through a rough time with my health and my diet is working way too slowly and it gets dark at 5 o’clock, and, on top of it all, I listened to the news on the radio too often this week and, and , and. Have you ever felt that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s nothing you can do about it? You begin to think, “If only God would…” or “If only the government would…” or “If only I didn’t have to face…”, then life would be better. In our discouragement we lose perspective and get bogged down. So here I am writing to you from a muddy bog, and in the process, receiving God’s message for me. Hopefully it will speak to someone else out there too.

Dr. James Dobson wrote a book entitled, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, in which he addresses the burdensome situations in life that we can’t understand. Some are painful or life-threatening, others are simply inconvenient or uncomfortable. Dr. Dobson writes,
“We know that God could eliminate these problems with a whisper, but, instead, He allows us to struggle. Why? One of His greater purposes is to reveal His power in us.”
The Apostle Paul wrote,
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels (clay pots), that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” II Corinthians 4:7
The Message translation puts it,
“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness (the light from the face of Christ within us). We carry this precious message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.”

If you are bogged down with discouragement, impatience, or the “if onlys” as I am this week, the Bible encourages us to release them to God and trust that He is working behind the scenes. Somehow he has a perfect plan for us - even though it may seem less than ideal right now. We may not see why God is allowing the hardships, but we (that’s me talking to myself too) can be assured it is part of His eternal plan for our good. What else can we do except give up the whole thing to God and keep our eyes peeled for how He is going to use our “if onlys” for His purpose? It beats worrying in the middle of the night!

Prayer: Lord, Help me out of my muddy bog and up onto dry ground. Help me trust you to accomplish your perfect plan in my life and in the lives of those I am praying for. Meanwhile, would you show mercy and give us a peek at what seems to be taking so long? I love you Lord. Lord, don’t let us forget the people who are in life-threatening situations from war and from persecution and from disease. Amen

My free-spirited son, Peter, was married to another free spirit, Lindsay, on October 17th in Portland, Oregon.  Our whole clan gathered from all over the U.S.  We rented a house and an apartment in the lovely Hawthorne neighborhood of south east Portland to house us all for the week.  The weather was marvelous!  It was in the 60’s and sunny for a whole week!  For those of you not familiar with Portland weather, that was a miracle.  October begins their rainy season there but it didn’t rain until several days after we left!  The festivities began with a bridal shower on Friday evening at the home of one of the bridesmaids.  Two of my daughters had arrived in town by then and my son-in-law, with the help of his trusty GPS, got the three of us there.  The rest of our children plus Chuck’s brother and family and my parents flew in Friday evening so Chuck got to make a trip out to the airport (using his trusty GPS!).  Saturday was family time.  Our clan had a picnic in a beautiful, nearby park.  Meanwhile Lindsay and her clan were carving pumpkins and making centerpieces for reception decor.  Dozens of pumpkins had P’s and L’s carved in them.

Saturday night we had a groom’s dinner in the party room of a local restaurant that Pete and Lindsay liked to frequent.  We served finger foods and I made a Wisconsin specialty for dessert - caramel-covered cranberries.  Peter’s sister, Laura, had put together a montage of Pete and Lindsay’s baby, childhood, teen, college, and recent photos on film with appropriate music tracks.  We all enjoyed the film immensely.  Laura did a great job!  Afterwards us old folks and the grandchildren went to bed, but the bridal party plus anyone else under 40 who wished to go, went out to a kareoke bar.  I’m told that even the shyest of the crowd got up and sang.  There must have been a lot of beer!

 The wedding was held at 2 pm on Sunday in a meadow surrounded by towering, ancient Douglas firs and oaks in an area of Washington Park, Portland’s huge, gorgeous city park.  The meadow is in the Hoyt Arbouretum.  The only way to get to it is by hiking paths through the woods down a fairly steep incline.  Fortunately, they opened up the service road to us so that we could get chairs and guests delivered to the meadow.  The chairs were set up around a huge, ancient oak tree which the bridesmaids had decorated with dozens of brightly colored satin ribbons, hanging from the branches -some 20 ft in the air.  I was glad I didn’t have to climb that ladder!  The ribbons rippled in the breeze.  It sort of reminded me of the May poles we used to dance around at May Day celebrations when I was a child. 

After the guests were seated, we began to hear the sounds of a polka band in the distance.  Sure enough, a band consisting of a clarinet, accordian, and a tuba were leading the wedding party down the switchback hiking trail to the meadow.  As they got closer, we could make out splashes of white through the trees from the bride’s dress.  The bridesmaids wore blue dresses and, to make them comfortable, sweaters and colorful puddle boots!  They carried brilliantly-colored boqets of fall flowers.  The bride wore a blue sash at her waist.  Her gown was all lace.  Peter wore a brand new brown tweed suit with an orange sweater vest and a brown tie.  The other male attendants wore dark suits and the best man wore a jaunty hat.  As the music got louder, the guests stood and watched the opening in the woods, practically on tip-toe and began clapping to the rhythm of the music.  The band was playing the familiar Hungarian Rhapsody, which was appropriate since Pete and Lindsay spent the whole last year living in Budapest, teaching English.  The whole idea of a bridal parade originated on a trip they took to Serbia during one of the school breaks.  In a small village there, they saw a traditional bridal procession through the streets with a band leading the way.  There, it is the custom for the families and all the guests to follow the bridal party and the band through the streets to the church.  Pete and Lindsay fell in love with the idea and adapted it to their wedding.

At last the procession broke through the trees and the bridal party walked down a short “aisle” between the rows of chairs and took their places under the huge tree.  Beneath the tree with its dancing ribbons, in the bright autumn sun, Peter and Lindsay became man and wife.  After the ceremony, the band led all the guests in a procession up the service road back to the parking lot.  The rest of us stayed for photographs while some burly family members folded and loaded up the chairs.  We left the meadow in the late afternoon sun with the ribbons hanging joyfully from the tree.  For the bride’s family, led by Lindsay’s mother, Teri, and father, Rick, the afternoon was a frenzy of cooking.  They cooked all the food for the reception, including barbequeing delicious steaks!  Our side of the family relaxed at our rental house, where I served coffee and fancy pastries from two of the many wonderful bakeries in Portland. We were so pleased that our best friends from home were able to fly out for the big day.  They were joined by one of their sons and his wife and baby, who live in Seattle now.

The reception began at 7 pm at a place called Holocene, which is a nightclub Monday through Saturday but rents out for private receptions on Sundays.  The carved pumkins glowed from every nook and cranny and fall flowers and candles decorated the tables dressed in deep orange and brown tablecloths.  Abundant food was spread on buffet tables in an adjoining room.  The previous week, Lindsay and her “girls” had gotten together to make mustaches for everyone!  Yes, mustaches.  They had formed all shapes and sizes of mustaches from clay, stuck each one onto a long stick and baked them.  They then painted them black, brown, red, and blonde.  Much fun was had at the reception as guests held their chosen mustache to their lips.  There was also an old-time photo box - the kind that you sat down inside with your friends or best girl or guy, inserted your quarters, and got a strip of four black and white photos to take as a souvenir.  All the guests took turns during the evening having their pics taken.  Scissors and a wire of clips were right there so you could cut off one pic and clip it to the wire.  Later, Lindsay and Pete collected the pics and made a collage to remember the guests who were with them on their big day.  They also provided a big box of all varieties of hats that they had collected from thrift stores and flea markets.  Throughout dinner guests wandered back and forth from the hat box so that by cake time, everyone was in a chosen chapeau!  What fun!

After dinner, Lindsay and Peter cut the cake, which was a three layer beauty , homemade by a friend of their’s.  Each layer was a different flavor but all were yummy.  Next came the toasts.  I was so touched to hear what my son’s friends, many of whom I didn’t know well or at all, had to say about Pete.  I was called upon to say something too!  Chuck had prepared his toast, which was beautiful, but I was not prepared.  I told a few “Pete as a kid” stories, which his friends enjoyed.  Then the dancing started.  No, not with the polka band.  They had a DJ for the reception.  After the first round of special dances, those of us over 50 retired to our beds, along with our other kids who had to be at the airport by 6 am the next morning.  Pete and Lindsay danced until 1:30 am and then retired to their hotel bridal suite.  They plan to take a honeymoon to Mexico at a later date when they have more vacation time and some money!  They did take Monday and Tuesday off, during which time we saw them for short stretches between their much-deserved naps. Monday and Tuesday Chuck, my parents, and I did some sightseeing.  The weather was so gorgeous!  Then the four of us headed to the airport Wednesday morningand flew home.  I’ve been sleeping in every morning since! 

 Meanwhile, Pete and Lindsay have been “nesting”.  They’ve been shopping for furniture and other storage pieces with their wedding money and have been having a ball opening wedding gifts and making their apartment cozy.  Everyone is anxious to see the wedding pictures.  The photo above was a silly one taken between the ceremony and the reception at their apartment.  The cat in the photo is their furry child, Cupcake.  The photos we took are almost ready to post (they will be available on our site at www.flickr.com) .  The ones taken by the photographer and various relatives will be ready ?  Stay tuned!

Scripture:

II Timothy 4:2   “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction.”
I Peter 3:15   “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

WILL YOU HAVE AN ANSWER ?

I know a doctor - we’ll call him Dr. John - who is quite outspoken about his atheism. Since my husband and I have not kept our Christian beliefs a secret, he knows where I stand. Whenever we find ourselves together in a social situation, Dr. John takes delight in questioning me about Christianity. He loves to hammer me with the “tough” questions. The first few times this happened, I was a nervous wreck. Everyone else at the table was listening to our parlay and I wanted to be a credible witness for Christ. I used to “bone up” in advance if I knew Dr. John and I would be attending the same function. Finally, I realized that he wasn’t interested in what I had to say; he merely loved to get a rise out of me. I learned that if I approached him in a very relaxed, non-defensive manner, sticking to relating my personal experience with Jesus Christ, he had nothing to say. Saying a silent prayer that the Holy Spirit would work on him after we’d parted ways, left me able to enjoy my evening much more.

Have you ever been in a similar situation with an unbeliever? Unless your unbeliever friend is truly a seeker, perhaps the best thing to do is to relate your personal experience, model a Christian lifestyle around them, and lovingly let the Holy Spirit do the rest. (I would love to hear from you about your experiences with unbelievers who love to “put you to the test” and what worked for you. conger@wctc.net) I came across the following story of a young man who was put on the hot seat for his beliefs. I wish we all could respond as profoundly as he did.
****************************************************************

A young man was sitting in the front row of his atheist philosophy professor’s college class one day when the professor began,
‘Let me explain the problem science has with religion.’ The professor paused and pointed to the young man.
‘Young man, would you stand please? Now, you’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?’
‘Yes sir,’
the student replied.
‘So you believe in God?’
‘Absolutely. ‘
‘Is God good?’
‘Sure! God’s good.’
‘Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?’
‘Yes.’
‘Are you good or evil?’
‘The Bible says I’m evil.’

The professor grinned. `The Bible. Uh huh.’ He thought for a moment.
‘All right. Let’s say this young lady sitting next to you is sick and you can cure her.
Would you do it? Would you try?’
‘Yes sir, I would.’
‘So you’re good…!’
‘I wouldn’t say that.’
‘But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.’

The young student remained silent, so the professor continued. ‘He doesn’t, does
he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to
Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?

The student looked down, but didn’t answer.
‘No, you can’t, can you?’ the professor said. He took a sip of water from a glass on his desk. `All right. I’m not being fair picking you out like this. Let’s relax and start again, young fella. Is God good?’
‘Er..yes,’
the student said.
‘Is Satan good?’
Without hesitation, the student answered, `No, sir.’
‘ Tell me. Where does Satan come from?’
The student thought and said in a faltering voice. ‘Well, from God.
‘That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in
this world?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God made everything. Correct?’
‘Correct.’
‘So who created evil?’
the professor continued. ‘If God created everything,
then God created evil. Since evil exists, and according to the principle
that our works define who we are, then we must conclude that God is evil.’
Again, the student faltered.
‘Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?’
The student was growing more and more uncomfortable. ‘Yes, I’m afraid they do.’
‘So who created them?
‘ Not getting a response, the professor repeated his question. ‘Who created them?’

Still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer broke away to pace in front of the classroom. The class was mesmerized. ‘Tell me,‘ he asked, pointing to another student. ‘Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?’
The student’s voice cracked as he rose and said. ‘Yes, professor, I do.’

The old man stopped pacing. ‘Science says you have five senses you use to
identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?’
‘No sir. I’ve never seen Him.’
‘Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?’
‘No, sir, I have not.’
‘Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelled your Jesus? Have
you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that
matter?’
‘No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.’
‘Yet you still believe in him?’
‘I do.’
‘According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol,
science says your God doesn’t exist… What do you say to that, son?’
‘Nothing,
‘ he replied. ‘I only have my faith.’
‘Ah yes, faith
,’ the professor repeated. ‘And that is the problem science has
with God, ladies and gentlemen. There is no evidence, only faith. Both you gentlemen may sit down now
.’

The first student sank gratefully into his seat. But the second student remained quietly standing, whereupon he directed a question to the professor. ‘Professor, is there such thing as heat? ‘
The professor folded his arms across his chest and said, ‘Yes, son. There is.’
‘And is there such a thing as cold?’
‘Yes, son, there’s cold too.’
‘No sir, there isn’t.

The professor, obviously interested, turned to face the student. Suddenly you could hear a pin drop in the classroom. The young man explained. `I am a student of physics. Physicists know that you can have lots of heat, even more heat… super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but there in nothing called ‘cold’. Scientists can measure down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but they cannot go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest temperature, -458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy. Heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.’

The professor walked over and sat on his desk. `Go on,’ he said.
‘Well, how about darkness? Is there such a thing as darkness?’
‘Of course,
‘ the professor replied without hesitation. ‘What is night if it isn’t
darkness?’
‘I’m afraid you’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of
something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light,
but if you have no light, you have nothing and it’s called darkness. That’s the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness is not something. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?’

The professor began to smile at the student standing in front of him. This was going to be a good semester. ‘So what point are you making, young man?’
‘My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to begin with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.’
The professor’s face could not hide his surprise this time. ‘Flawed? Flawed how?’
‘You are working on the premise of duality,
‘ the student explained. ‘You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought! It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. In other words, death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.’
As a murmer spread through the classroom, he continued. ‘Professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?’
‘If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes I do.’
‘Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?’

The professor shook his head, smiling as he realized where the argument was going. A very good semester, indeed.

‘Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot
even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching
your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?’

The class was in an uproar. The student remained silent until the commotion subsided. ‘To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.’ He looked around the room. ‘Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?‘   The class laughed.        

 ’Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, perhaps felt the professor’s brain, or touched it or smelled it? No one? It appears that no one has done so. All right then. According to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, Professor — with all due respect, sir - and if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures?’

The atmosphere in the room hung with tension. The professor just stared at the cheeky, young student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the old man stood and said, ‘I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.’
‘So, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life
,’ the student continued. ‘Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?’

Uncertain what was coming next, the professor responded, ‘Yes, of course. We see it everyday. It’s in the daily examples of man’s inhumanity to man. It’s in the multitude of crimes and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.’
To this the student replied, ‘ But evil does not exist sir, or at least it does
not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. Evil is just like
darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of
God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man
does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes
when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.’

The professor put his hands in his pocket and leaned back against his desk thoughtfully. At last he looked up at the young man. `What is your name, son?’

`It’s Albert Einstein, sir.’

Prayer
Thank you, Father, for the profundity of all your ways that may be hidden from the eyes of even the most learned of men but are simple and logical for even the most child-like of your people who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Many of us feel so intimidated, Lord, when intelligent and learned people question us about the truths of your existence and the salvation won for us by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Most of us will never be able to respond like Albert Einstein, but I pray that when the time comes for us to have an answer for our faith and the truths of the Bible, you will fill us with Holy Spirit answers.
May our simple testimonies break down walls of unbelief in those who are seeking you. Amen

Scripture: John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

I FOUGHT FOR YOU

This week, on November 11th, Americans will remember and pay honor to our military veterans. The history behind this national observance goes back to World War I. Here is a quick history lesson:
World War I, then normally referred to simply as The Great War (no one could imagine any war being greater!), ended with the implementation of an armistice [temporary cessation of hostilities in this case, until the final peace treaty, the infamous Treaty of Versailles, was signed in 1919] between the Allies and Germany at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of November, 1918.

On November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” The original concept for the celebration was for the suspension of business for a two minute period beginning at 11 A.M., with the day also marked by parades and public meetings.

In 1920, on the second anniversary of the armistice, France and the United Kingdom held ceremonies honoring their unknown dead from the war. In America, at the suggestion of church groups, President Wilson named the Sunday nearest Armistice Day Armistice Sunday, on which services should be held in the interest of international peace. In 1921, Congress passed legislation approving the establishment of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. November 11th was chosen for the date of the ceremony. On October 20 th, Congress declared November 11, 1921 a legal Federal holiday to honor all those who participated in the war. The ceremony was well received.

In 1926, Congress adopted a resolution directing the President to issue an annual proclamation calling for the observance of Armistice Day. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, most states established November 11th as a legal holiday and at the federal level, an annual proclamation was issued by the President. In 1938 Congress passed legislation making November 11th a legal, federal holiday called Armistice Day. At that time America had no actual national holidays because the states retained the right to designate their own holidays - The federal government could, in fact, only designate holidays for federal employees and for the District of Columbia. In practice, however, the states almost always followed the federal lead in designation of holidays.

World War II and the Korean War created millions of additional veterans in addition to those already honored by Armistice Day, so on June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day. In 1968 Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law, which established the fourth Monday in October as the new date for the observance of Veteran’s Day. The law was to take effect in 1971. From 1971 to 1975, Veteran’s Day was observed on the fourth Monday of October. However, twenty five states had changed the day back to November 11th by 1975, including Wisconsin. Because of popular support, federal observance reverted to November 11th in 1978, and has remained so since.

With the Vietnam War, Gulf War, our present conflict, and other conflicts in between, many more veterans have been added to the ranks of those we choose to honor. Parades, flags at cemeteries, speeches, and other events mark this day of observance of the sacrifices our men and women of the armed services have made to keep our nation free. Certainly, someone in your family, someone amongst your friends, has served and deserves to be honored on November 11th. If you know a veteran, won[‘t you send them a card to thank them? If a relative or friend is buried in a cemetery near you, how about placing some flowers on their grave? And pray for the men and women and their families who are right now making the sacrifice of military service, many in harm’s way.

If you are able to run www.youtube.com on your computer, I’d like to recommend the following You Tube video     http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=KTb6qdPu8JE
Listen to the many voices say, “I fought for you.” It is very moving.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that you watch over our men and women serving in the military right now, especially those in dangerous places. I pray for your angels to protect them as they protect and defend us at home. I pray that you will bring healing to those soldiers who are recovering from wounds, some grievous. I pray that our government will set aside funds to support those soldiers whose wounds have caused them to live with handicaps and often, no income. And Lord, I pray for the peaceful cessation of war in the Middle East so that our soldiers can come home. Amen

So, all you writers out there. How often have you sat at a conference or in a writing class or critique group and tried to write something really impressive in response to a writing exercise the leader set out there? For you non-writers, just know that this happens a lot. Writing exercises are a common way to get the creative juices flowing. Writing exercises come in all shapes and forms, but a common one is to complete an open-ended sentence that sets up a story idea.

Well, this time the exercise was to write a few sentences to set up the following phrase for a great story. “And that’s how the fight started.”
All by itself, this line is a perfect story starter, but here’s what a few very clever writers’ did with it that made it even better!

*One year, I decided to buy my mother-in-law a cemetery plot as a Christmas gift…
The next year, I didn’t buy her a gift.
When she asked me why, I replied,
“Well, you still haven’t used the gift I bought you last year!”
And that’s how the fight started…..

*My wife and I were watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire while we were in bed.
I turned to her and said, “Do you want to have sex?”
“No,” she answered. I then said,
“Is that your final answer?”
She didn’t even look at me this time, simply saying, “Yes.”
So I said, “Then I’d like to phone a friend.”
And that’s how the fight started…

*I took my wife to a restaurant.
The waiter, for some reason, took my order first.
“I’ll have the rump steak, rare, please.”
He said, “Aren’t you worried about the mad cow?”
“Nah, she can order for herself.”
And that’s how the fight started…..

*My wife and I were sitting at a table at her high school reunion, and she kept staring at a drunken man swigging his drink as he sat alone at a nearby table.
I asked her, “Do you know him?”
“Yes”, she sighed. “He’s my old boyfriend. I understand he took to drinking right after we split up those many years ago, and I hear he hasn’t been sober since.”
“My God!” I said, “Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?”
And that’s how the fight started…

*When our lawn mower broke and wouldn’t run, my wife kept hinting to me that I should get it fixed . But, somehow I always had something else to take care of first, the shed, the boat, making beer - always something more important to me. Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point. When I arrived home one day, I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of sewing scissors. I watched silently for a short time and then went into the house. I was gone only a minute, and when I came out again I handed her a toothbrush. I said, “When you finish cutting the grass, you might as well sweep the driveway.”
The doctors say I will walk again, but I will always have a limp.

*My wife sat down next to me as I was flipping channels.
She asked, “What’s on TV?”
I said, “Dust.”
And that’s how the fight started…

*Saturday morning I got up early, quietly dressed, made my lunch, and slipped quietly into the garage. I hooked up the boat up to the van, and proceeded to back out into a torrential downpour. The wind was blowing 50 mph, so I pulled back into the garage, turned on the radio, and discovered that the weather would be bad all day. I went back into the house, quietly undressed, and slipped back into bed. I cuddled up to my wife’s back, now with a different anticipation, and whispered, “The weather out there is terrible.”
My loving wife of 5 years replied, “And, can you believe my stupid husband is out fishing in that?”
And that’s how the fight started…

*My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary. She said, “I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 150 in about 3 seconds.”
I bought her a bathroom scale.
And that’s how the fight started…

*After retiring, I went to the Social Security office to apply for Social Security. The woman behind the counter asked me for my driver’s license to verify my age. I looked in my pockets and realized I had left my wallet at home. I told the woman that I was very sorry, but I would have to go home and come back later.
The woman said, ‘Unbutton your shirt’.
So I opened my shirt revealing my curly silver hair.
She said, ‘That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me’ and she processed my Social Security application.
When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about my experience at the Social Security office.
She said, “You should have dropped your pants. You might have gotten disability, too.”
And that’s how the fight started…

*My wife was standing nude, looking in the bedroom mirror.
She was not happy with what she saw and said to me,
“I feel horrible; I look old, fat and ugly.
I really need you to pay me a compliment.”
I replied, “Your eyesight’s damn near perfect.”
And that’s how the fight started……..

Maybe you would like to give this writing exercise a try at your next writer’s conference or writer’s club meeting. However, I guarantee you’ll never get results quite as good as these!