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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: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him”. 1 John 5:14-15

ASAP

Do you often find yourself too busy to stop and say a prayer when you are having a rough day? Do you think of doing everything else to improve matters before you turn to the One who can solve problems in the blink of an eye? Me too! Back in the days when I was a practicing R.N. in a busy ICU out in Virginia, I found myself facing many urgent crises. In the world of medicine, when we need something pretty darned fast, we ask for it STAT. I decided to look it up and discovered, after all these years, that STAT comes from the Latin word “statim”, which means “immediately”. Even though I didn’t know what it was derived from, I knew positively that it meant to put that need at the top of the priority list! I no longer practice nursing in a hospital, but in my everyday life, I still encounter more crises than I’d like. In this life everything seems like it has to be accomplished STAT or ASAP, which stands for “As Soon As Possible”. Because we commonly react with panic or run to “fix” the problem as fast as we can, we skip right over the most important response we have at our disposal, speaking about it in prayer to God.
The book of James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
JAMES 5:16

More powerful and more effective than anything else on this Earth, even when we must react  “As Soon As Possible.”. Generally we think of ASAP in terms of even more hurry and stress in our lives. Perhaps if we thought of this abbreviation in a different manner, we would begin to find a new way to deal with those rough days along the way. Here’s a little poem to help us remember.

ASAP
So when…….
there’s lots to do;
you’ve got no time to spare,
as you hurry and you scurry-
ASAP - ALWAYS SAY A PRAYER.

In the midst of family chaos,
“quality time” is rare.
Do your best; let God do the rest-
ASAP - ALWAYS SAY A PRAYER.

It may seem like your worries
are more than you can bear.
Slow down and take a breather-
ASAP - ALWAYS SAY A PRAYER.

God knows how stressful life is;
He wants to ease our cares,
He’ll respond to all your needs.
A.S.A.P. - ALWAYS SAY A PRAYER.

Prayer
Lord, please remind me when we haven’t spoken in awhile. Help me to learn to react to stress with prayer. In all circumstances, may prayer become our automatic plan of action.
Amen

Scripture: II Corinthians 12:5  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you are disqualified.


Testing Time

by guest contributor, Sally Bair

This week I am proud to share a devotion written by my friend, Sally Bair. Sally writes a weekly devotion online as I do. Her column is called Eternal Perspctives. With this week being back to school time, I thought it was very appropriate. Thank you Sally!

“The seasons dictate who starts school when. In the natural world, spring is the time for baby animals to learn vital lessons from their mamas. Birds learn how to fly, fawns how to protect themselves from danger, and foxes how to hunt for food. Humans, on the other hand, usually start school in the fall. Kids around the globe learn how to read and write and solve math problems.
As animals and humans learn, they study for the inevitable tests they face after lessons are completed. Passing a test of strength, ability, and cunning can mean life or death for an animal. Passing school tests can mean future success or failure for a student. Smart students study for tests. I remember many late nights reviewing everything I’d been taught. I didn’t want to miss any test questions.
We grownups keep learning new things, too. If we review the information, we’ll be able to apply it to our lives or avoid repeating mistakes. We’ll gain self-confidence, expertise, and success for our efforts. Perhaps you remember the joy in learning how to build a set of cabinets, or can dill pickles, or use the Internet. Practice and review made it easier and, in essence, you passed the test of success.
Learning new things applies to a Christian’s life, too. As we study the Bible we discover that living a life for Christ means more than attending church on Sunday, saying the right words, and doing the right things. The test comes when we realize that being a Christian is much more than that; it is accepting Christ as Savior and Lord of our life.
Such testing requires self-examination. Do we truly believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Or, like many, do we believe there are various paths to heaven, that Jesus was simply a good man, or that our good deeds will give us entry to heaven?
The Apostle Paul said, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Being “in the faith” means being righteous through Christ’s gift of salvation. Without that, we fail the test. But through self-examination, we can learn if we fall short and then take steps to mature in our Christian walk. ”
Prayer:
Lord, as we grow in Your grace, stumbling and falling along the way, we take joy in knowing that You are always with us to encourage, empower, and restore. May we ever strive for maturity for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

resort along Sheboygan Riverwalk

resort along Sheboygan Riverwalk

Riverwalk in Sheboygan on Lake Michigan
Riverwalk in Sheboygan on Lake Michigan

very possibly retirement condos?

Sheboygan Riverwalk -very possibly retirement condos?

For my husband’s birthday, we took a four day trip to the Siebken’s Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI.  I think you’ll agree that this little lake is a gem!  Siebkens is nestled between 2 larger resorts along Elkhart lake, all of which date back to the turn of the 20th century when tourists came up from Chicago and Milwaukee on the train.

Our weather was perfect, there was a heavenly breeze, and the water temperature was ideal.  We ate all of our meals al fresco along the lake at some of the many restaurants there.  Very few tourists were there because school had started most places, so we had a quiet, restful time.

Our last day we drove a few miles to Sheboygan, WI on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Sheboygan is the Bratwurst Capital of the USA and Chuck looooves a great brat.  We ate at a restaurant waterside along the Riverwalk, Sheboygan’s lovely development of shops, restaurants, condominiums, and marinas along the Sheboygan River just before it empties into Lake Michigan.

Osthof Resort walkway in Elkhart lake

Osthof Resort walkway in Elkhart lake

After knitting Katie a dress for her July birthday only to discover that it will not fit her for several more birthdays (yikes!), I set out to knit another.  And here it is!  I did learn from my mistake concerning figuring sizing.  I’ll be taking it out to her in a few weeks.  Happy dance!

Scripture: Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”
II Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.
Proverbs 21: 13 “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
Proverbs 21:15 “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evil-doers.”
LONDON BURNING
If you have followed the news, you are aware of the economic darkness that seems to be falling over the world- particularly the western world. It leads to a cry for something to be done. Strangers in our midst become enemies we blame our troubles on. Hitler did that very thing in Germany, which led to the Holocaust. People have reached a level of frustration with their governments that is weighing heavily on the proverbial camel’s back both here in the U.S. and abroad. Recently, Jews for Jesus missionary, David Brickner, happened to be attending a conference in London when violence broke out there. He wrote:

I never imagined my visit to England this month would put me smack dab in the middle of one of the greatest episodes of civil unrest in British history. Violence and mayhem on the streets of London and other major cities throughout the country have shocked the British people, if not the entire world. As I write, a pervasive sense of crisis prevails as people struggle to process what is happening. What apparently started as a relatively peaceful protest over the police shooting of a black man in Tottenham has spiraled into random acts of violence and hooliganism with decidedly racial overtones. Normally left-leaning Londoners are calling for the army to intervene; some are convinced that nothing short of that will save the Cameron government from utter collapse. No doubt much of the fear is being fueled by 24/7 media coverage that makes it seem like all of London is burning. The violence is relatively isolated to particular neighborhoods, and I have only seen evidence of it on television. Yet for those who are watching the destruction of their homes and livelihoods, it may as well be all of London that is burning.
How can this be happening? There is a whole lot of finger-pointing going on, but my mother always told me be careful when you point your finger at someone else, because there are always a few pointing right back at you. Our civil societies are often protected by little more than the thin fabric of social contract most people agree is necessary to live together in relative peace and prosperity. But peace and prosperity are not guaranteed, either by our form of government or by the quality of our leaders. It was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who pointed out that democracy is the worst form of government-except for all the others that have been tried! When society begins to erode, civil unrest can occur in a domino effect-and the fingers we point, point right back at us.
Today’s unrest in Britain is but a symptom of the unrest in human hearts. The longing for peace and prosperity is an expression of what French mathematician Blaise Pascal called “a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Perhaps this crisis will provoke some in Great Britain to turn to the only hope for calm in the midst of their storm, Jesus the Prince of Peace.”

I am old enough to remember the race riots of 1967 and ‘68 well. I was 16, the summer of 1967. Our family lived in a suburb of Milwaukee. My mother was nine months pregnant with my baby brother and due to deliver when the riots broke out in the black ghettos of Milwaukee. St. Joseph’s Hospital, where she was to deliver, was in the riot zone. It was after the curfew that was in effect throughout the Milwaukee metro area when Mom went into labor. A police car had to come to our home to take my parents downtown to the hospital. Anything could have happened to a white couple from the suburbs in that area where hate and destruction had erupted. My brother was born safe and sound the next morning, but I remember how fearful we all were.

Right now I am reading a book about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and Burundi written from the point of view of a Burundian Tutsi medical student named Deo Glorias (which is Latin for Glory to God), who survived the massacres and eventually escaped to New York City. There he went through more harrowing experiences as a homeless refugee in Harlem until a loving American couple found him and helped him . Despite poor health and post-traumatic stress disorder, he was eventually able to complete medical school and seek a place on the mission field. From what he describes, I understand that the unrest in Burundi and Rwanda before ‘93 and ‘94 had been smoldering under the surface as both Hutu and Tutsi peoples were becoming desperate over their poverty and diseases (AIDS, TB, etc.). People with racial hatred in their hearts and a thirst for power were preparing to use that desperation to organize the outbreak of genocide. Once it began in Burundi in late 1993, no one could stop it. Bloodlust and paralyzing fear were rampant. Many normally peaceful people killed others out of fear for their own lives. Most were confused as to why they should hate the other tribe all of a sudden. Others had just been waiting for the opportunity to act on their hatred. The physical differences of Hutus and Tutsis were nearly impossible to distinguish, so chaos bred more chaos. The devil was victorious as revenge followed hate, resulting in the genocide of millions of people. Genocide and atrocities, fueled by all sorts of evil in the hearts of societies, has happened over and over throughout history. We never learn.
I wonder what fear of economic collapse, fear, distrust and jealousy of extremists and immigrants, and frustration with the lack of solutions from those we elected to govern us will lead to this time, once a spark is set off? When common sense no longer prevails, civilized society disintegrates. Only Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, can overcome this sinful world. Christians must pray in this hour of desperation for the love of God to prevail and for godly men and women of courage to take the reins. If God does not intervene, the devil will stir the pot and violence will rise to the surface all over again. If we pray, God promises to hear us and heal our land. Jesus said,
“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy…” John 16:22
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16: 33

Prayer
Lord God, since time began, you have witnessed what happens when the evil in the hearts of men and women goes unchecked. I pray for our world and for our country right now, Lord. I can feel the unrest, frustration, and fear in our society. I pray that you will raise up courageous, selfless leaders among us who can bring people to their senses. I pray that our bickering politicians will take a good look at themselves and see the dangerous example they are setting, that they will dig for solutions that put all Americans first, and that they will listen to the voice of reason and peace-brokering among them. I pray for your intervention in all nations where economic, social, and physical hardships are wearing away at the citizenry such that evil can easily take hold and lead to war, terror, and totalitarianism. I pray that Christians will rise up in this dangerous hour to offer the answers that only Jesus Christ can give to our troubles. Oh Lord, stir your people to pray and save us, Lord. Amen

p.s. I’m sorry this has been such a dark message, but I felt God’s prompting to stir things up as well as offer reassurance that He will triumph in the end. As a saying I really lke says, God always bats last. Please share the call with others and pray that God will see us through these dangerous times.

I am very excited to announce that I have had a poem published in the September/October issue of The Writer’s Journal!  Since most of you won’t have access to this journal, here is the poem:

Grasping for Words

I’ve crawled
out to the edge of an idea,
as an inchworm crawls out on a leaf,
clinging to the very tip,
revolving in the air,
feeling for something to latch on to.
So I am grasping about for words,
groping for that elusive phrase
to open my magnum opus.

Girlfriend Time

Scripture:
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17

“A person of many unreliable companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18: 24

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his/her earnest counsel.” Proverbs 27:9

One would think that during the summer there would be more time to spend relaxing with friends. That certainly was true when I was young. I would spend the whole of summer playing with my best girlfriend, Debbie, from dawn to dusk. But now that my girlfriends are mothers, grandmothers, and caretakers for their parents -plus a paying job for many of them, I just don’t see anyone much. Being laid up with a broken leg this summer hasn’t help matters either. The bottom line is that I really miss spending time with “the girls! Maybe it’s just an hour over coffee, maybe it’s lunch with the bunch, or maybe an evening on the patio for a BBQ. Just having time to converse, laugh, and talk out the latest crisis with my friends really keeps me sane.

I came across an article written by another woman who feels the same way. She was taking an evening class at Stanford University. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection; that is, the relationship between stress and disease. The lecturer was the head of psychiatry at Stanford Medical School and one of the things he spoke about surprised the woman at first, but then made a lot of sense.

He said, among other things, that one of the best things a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. He went on to explain that women connect with each other differently than men do. They provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps women to create more serotonin–a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk over how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings?–rarely. Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged–not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking! So, ladies, every time you hang out to share gab time with a girlfriend, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health!

We are indeed very lucky if we have one girlfriend to trust and lean on. We’re extremely blessed if we have a group of women friends, in particular, Christian women. Women’s Bible studies in homes and at churches not only fulfill the need to learn more about God’s word, but they provide the opportunity for women to talk about the ups and downs in their lives, receive wise advice from godly friends, and get recharged to face another week. I have not been able to attend a women’s Bible study this last year and I can sure feel an empty spot as a result. I am going to have to make a much bigger effort to join a study this fall.

Naturally, we married women have the opportunity to talk intimately with our spouses about problems on our minds, but many times we put our husbands in an uncomfortable position. The thing that we need to talk about turns out to be a “girl” thing that he just doesn’t “get”. We get frustrated and our hubbies feel like they have let us down. What we really need to do is bounce that problem off of a girlfriend. Often when we do, she says, “Oh, I know just what you mean. That happens to me all the time and my husband doesn’t understand it either.” Sooooo let’s toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. Evidently it’s very good for our health.

Prayer
Father God,
I thank you for all the girlfriends in my life. Thank you for the women who tend my spiritual needs as well as my emotional and physical needs. I pray that we will never take friendship for granted and that we will always have room in our hearts and lives for another friend. Teach me to seek out women who look like they need a friend and help me to teach young ones how to be a good friend. Amen