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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

This Tuesday I am turning 60 years old!  I don’t look it, they tell me, but I think I feel like I’m 60.  I can feel all the years of learning and listening that have enriched my life.  I can feel the thousands of delicious meals I’ve been blessed to eat and the millions of laughs and tears I’ve had that brought me closer to people.  My flabby muscles and stretch marks are there because I was fortunate enough to birth five precious children into the world.  The bags under my eyes attest to all the sleep I missed in order to take care of friends and family.  I feel the creaks and aches in my joints that remind me of the countless miles I’ve walked and stairs I’ve climbed to see the world. I feel all the wrinkles in my brow from worrying more than I should.  Because I smiled many more times than that, I have crows feet around the eyes and smile lines at my mouth.  My breasts have lost their youthful shape because I nursed five children and my legs have varicosed veins because I didn’t have much time to put my feet up.  My hands are wrinkled from washing a million dishes, clothes, faces, countertops, tubs and toilets and swollen from the multitude of hours sewing and knitting.  I feel 60 and I earned every one of the signs those years have left.  I’m a grandma, married to a grandpa for 39 of those 60 years. So on Tuesday I am going to celebrate my 60th birthday and that’s OK with me because too many people never get to live this long.   Besides, when I start to feel old, I just think about my Mom.  She’s going to be 86 next month!

Scripture: John 16: 33, Luke 12: 50-53, Hebrews 13:3

PERSECUTION.COM

Each week I sit down to share something God has put on my heart and mind with as many people as come across this column on the Internet. I’ve been writing D-mails for over 4 years and not once have I received a complaint. Not once have I been charged with a crime. Not once have I had my safety or my life threatened. I have access to as much Christian literature as I wish to read. My Christian witness has been rejected a few times, but I have never been harassed or beaten for speaking to others about my Christian faith. I am blessed to live in one of the countries around the world where this is true.

By contrast here are two news articles from this week:
India–Ten Christians Attacked and Arrested in Karnataka State
Source: Voice of the Martyrs Contacts

Activists from a Hindu-nationalist movement attacked members of two Christian communities on Nov. 12 and 13 in Karnataka state, accusing them of forced conversions. Ten Bajrang Dal activists stormed into Pastor H. S. Nagaraj’s Sunday service on Nov. 13, interrupting prayer and tearing a Bible to pieces. When local police arrived, they arrested the pastor and three church members. The men are still in prison. On the previous day, six believers were waiting at the Belur bus station after a prayer service when activists from the same group surrounded them and began beating and insulting them. The activists then took the six Christians to the police station, where they were arrested. Three women and a child were later released, but the two men remain in prison. There have been 40 incidents of violence against Christians in Karnataka this year.

Nigeria–Two Deadly Days for Nigerian Christians
Source: Compass Direct News

Christians in northern Nigeria have been besieged by a string of recent attacks, some by the al-Qaida-affiliated Boko Haram extremist group. In the most recent incident, on Nov. 4, extremists stormed the city of Damaturu, Yobe state. One hundred fifty people were killed in the four-hour rampage — 130 of them Christians. Ten church buildings were also destroyed in the attacks, and churches that remained in operation saw a dramatic fall in attendance. On the previous day, bomb blasts in nearby Borno state killed four people. And on the same day in Kaduna state, Muslim extremists fired on a church service, killing two Christian women. The same gang raided the Christian community of Kurmin-Bi on Nov. 4, killing one Christian and injuring another. The extremists employed guerrilla tactics, striking and withdrawing, then striking elsewhere while military personnel respond to the first attack..

It is said that there are more Christian martyrs today than there were in 100 AD-in the days of the Roman Empire. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there were close to 164,000 Christians martyred around the world in 1999 and an estimated 165,000 in 2000. The number has risen exponentially. Martyrdom, however, is the extreme form of persecution resulting in death. Persecution against Christians takes other forms, as well: harassment, ridicule, torture, refusal to employ, destruction of personal property and physical harm. More than 200 million Christians are not free to practice their faith.

There are nations where people who share their faith face bodily harm, imprisonment or death. In some nations Christianity is restricted with laws and sanctions. The organization best known for keeping track of persecuted Christians and categorizing countries is Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com ) Christian persecution that merits the attention and assistance of The Voice of the Martyrs has been identified and defined in two categories:

Restricted nations refuse to allow Bibles or other Christian literature to be kept, as well as sanctioning the harassment, imprisonment, loss of possessions and killing of Christians. The following are restricted nations: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Belarus, Brunei, China and Tibet, Comoro Islands, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan (South Sudan is a new UN sanctioned Christian nation), Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen.
Hostile areas
are countries with increasing reports of persecution in various areas. This also includes large areas in nations where governments consistently attempt to provide protection for the Christian population, but Christians and their property are still repeatedly victims of violence. The following are considered hostile nations: Chechnya (Russia), Chiapas (Mexico), Columbia, Ethiopia, Orissa and Gujarat state areas of India, Indonesia, West Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority-West Bank, Mindanao (Philippines).

The situation for Christians is always changing. In 2008, Kyrgyzstan passed new laws further restricting Christians. Due to this, Voice of the martyrs changed the country’s designation to Restricted Nation this year. Here is the list of formerly oppressed countries where VOM previously worked, but where Christians now have freedom to worship.
Formerly Oppressed Countries (post 1967):
Albania, Angola, Armenia (U.S.S.R.)
Belarus (U.S.S.R.), Benin, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi
Cape Verde, Cambodia, Congo, Czechoslovakia
East Germany, Estonia (U.S.S.R.)
Georgia (U.S.S.R.), Latvia (U.S.S.R.), Lithuania (U.S.S.R.)
Hungary
Mali, Mauritius, Moldova (U.S.S.R.), Mongolia, Mozambique
Nicaragua
Perú (Marxist guerilla controlled areas)
Poland
Rhodesia, Romania, Rwanda, Russia (U.S.S.R.)
Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda
Ukraine (U.S.S.R.)
Yugoslavia
Zaire, Zambia

The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. VOM was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In the 1960s, Richard, Sabina, and their son, Mihai, were ransomed out of Romania and came to the United States. Through their travels, the Wurmbrands spread the message of the atrocities that Christians face in restricted nations, while establishing a network of offices dedicated to assisting the persecuted church. Their ministry is based on Hebrews 13:3:

“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
The Voice of the Martyrs continues in this mission around the world today along with many other Christian organizations. VOM works through the following main purposes:

They help Christians who are or have been, persecuted for their involvement in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They provide medical assistance, food, clothing, and other forms of aid. They support Christians who are willing to invite their fellow men, even their persecutors, to Jesus Christ through faithful deeds of love in a hostile environment. They supply Bibles, literature, radios, and other evangelistic tools. They encourage persecuted Christians by giving their testimony a voice, informing Christians in the USA to know how to help. They believe that the lives and the testimony of persecuted Christians is a vital part of the fellowship of all believers and will challenge and strengthen the faith of Christians everywhere.

November 13 was International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. As Christians, we need to be praying for the protection of those suffering in hostile nations, that they will be courageous and sustained by the truth. We need to pray for and support organizations that help persecuted Christians. We often hear about human rights violations as they affect free speech and free elections in various countries. Rarely do you hear about persecutions of people in countries where freedom to practice the religion of their choice has been denied.

Please remember the persecuted Christians. If you wish to learn more about how to pray or how to help in other ways, go to www.persecution.com , the website of Voice of the Martyrs. VOM is the organization I am most familiar with in this area. I’m sure there are more. If there is another ministry that you know of that does similar work, send me information and perhaps I can include it in next week’s D-mail.
Jesus answered, `But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:32-33

Prayer: Lord Jesus,
You have said that we should take heart because you have overcome the world. I pray that those who are facing persecution for their faith would hear your promises and believe when they are afraid, alone, and in pain. Thank you for these brave souls, Lord. And thank you for those who have committed to pray for and send assistance of many kinds to the persecuted. I pray that despite opposition and persecution, the faithful will remain close to you, Lord. As they bask in your presence, may they walk in strength with a shining face so that others - even their persecutors - will see and come to know Christ.
Show each of us what to do so that none of these souls feels forgotten. Amen

Scripture: A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. Proverbs 17:22 (The Message)

NEVER SQUAT WHILE WEARING YOUR SPURS

The last few weeks have been a rather heavy time in my life, so when my friend, Kathy Sidabras sent me a few humorous sayings by the beloved American wit of days gone by,Will Rogers. I laughed so hard that I decided to do some reading about him and share a little of his life and humor with you.

Will Rogers was one of the greatest political sages this country has ever known. The youngest of eight children, William Penn Adair Rogers was born on November 4, 1879 at Rogers Ranch in Oologah, Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma). His parents were partly of Cherokee descent.
While growing up on the family ranch, Will worked with cattle and learned to ride and lasso from a young age. He grew so talented with a rope, in fact, that he was placed in the Guiness Book of World Records for throwing three lassos at once. One went around the horse’s neck, another circled around the rider, and the third flew under the horse, looping all four legs together.

Will attended several schools during his childhood, including one year at Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri. He dropped out in the 10th grade to become a cowboy, traveling in South Africa with “Texas Jack’s Wild West Show” doing rope tricks. He also traveled in Australia and New Zealand with the Wirth Brothers Circus. Back in the United States in 1904, Will appeared at the World’s Fairs in St. Louis and New York City. Will extended his career in entertainment, touring vaudeville circuits in America, Canada and Europe from 1905-1915. In November 1908, Will married Betty Blake, with whom he had four children. Betty was a loving and supportive wife to Will until his death.

During his years in the vaudeville circuits, as well as his time with Ziegfeld Follies in 1917, Will’s act evolved from the exhibition of his lasso skills that had launched his career to the development of his own unique tricks. Always regretting having quit school, he enjoyed talking to people and reading, two interests that became the basis for his famous humor. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the wit of Will Rogers, his humor focused on intelligent and amusing observations about people, life, the country and the government in simple language that his audience could understand. Audiences hankered for Will’s humor more than his roping feats. In 1918, Will began acting in silent films, but when “talkies” came in, Will became a national star. His simple language and country roots appealed to audiences, who saw him as one of their own. Throughout his career, Will starred in 71 films and several Broadway productions. In 1934, he was voted the most popular male actor in Hollywood.

Will Rogers is remembered more for his writing and commentating than for his show business career. He wrote 4,000 syndicated columns and six books, becoming a prominent radio broadcaster and political commentator. He called politics “the best show in the world” and described Congress as the “national joke factory.” His folksy humor and honest, intelligent observations about the government and America earned the respect of the nation. As a result of his status as a nationally beloved figure and powerful political pundit, Will also came to know many world leaders. He was a guest at the White House and a friend of Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt.

Sadly, Will’s life was cut short at the age of 55. In 1935, he planned a vacation with aviator Wiley Post, flying to Alaska with some stops along the way. Will had already flown all over the world as a reporter, visiting London, Manchuria, Java, Egypt, South America, Japan, Moscow and destinations all over America. The ill-fated flight to Alaska, however, took the life of America’s most beloved celebrity. Tragically, on August 15, 1935, Will and Wiley’s flight crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska, taking both of their lives. Will’s untimely death shocked and saddened the nation. Will Rogers’ political writings and sayings continue to remain relevant to politics today, and his wit and humor continue to endure.

Here is a sampling of his folk wisdom. I wish you a big helping of laughter!
1. Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.
2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
3. There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.
4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
5. Always drink upstream from the herd.
6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.
8. There are three kinds of men: the ones that learn by reading, the few who learn by observation, and then the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
10. If you’re riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.
11. Lettin’ the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier’n puttin’ it back.

About Growing Older:
First - Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
Second - The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.
Third - Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me; I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.
Fourth - When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of algebra.
Fifth - You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.
Sixth -I don’t know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.
Seventh - One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it’s such a nice change from being young.
Eighth - One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.
Ninth - Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it’s called golf.
Finally - If you don’t learn to laugh at trouble, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you’re old.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you so much for creating laughter! You didn’t have to. But you must have known that we could never survive without it. Amen

Scripture:
Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6

Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
it is attained in the way of righteousness
. Proverbs 16:31

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9

Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time. Deuteronomy 4:40

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. Psalm 103:17

May you live to see your children’s children- peace be on Israel. Psalm 128:6
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance
. Titus 2:2

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:3-5

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. II Timothy 1:5

MAY YOU LIVE TO SEE YOUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN

As you know, I have two grandchildren. They are the children of my oldest son, Michael and his wife, Kim, and live in Colorado. Katie is 4 and Andy is 2. They are the lights of my life! Since we live so far apart, our visits with them are priceless. Andy is talking well now but cannot pronounce certain letters so he sounds like Elmer Fudd. We were on our way home from taking them to the Dairy Queen and Andy was chattering away with Katie. My husband, Chuck, started to talk like Elmer Fudd, which set us all to giggling. Laughing hard, Andy slapped his leg and said, “Gwampa, you’we kiwwing me!” I thought Chuck was going to drive right off the road! I can tell already that Andy has a great sense of humor. He knows he is supposed to call me Grandma (his other grandmother is called Grammie) but during our last visit, he decided to start calling me “Gummy”. Of course his mother corrected him. After that, every so often, he would get a little twinkle in his eye, glance at his mother, and say to me, “I wuv you, Gummy”. I would get the giggles and answer, “I wuv you too, Fuzzy” (he has a fuzzy crew cut that I love to stroke). Then we laughed at our little joke on Mom.

Katie now goes to pre-kindergarten and seems to have grown out of her toddler ways (all too soon in my opinion). About two weeks ago, her Christian school had Costume Day. Kim said she had found Katie a cute pumpkin costume at Goodwill and that Katie was so excited to wear it to school. I called the day before Halloween and talked to Katie. I had misunderstood and thought she was going to wear her costume to school on Halloween. After she straightened me out about that (their school doesn’t do Halloween), I said I was sorry I had misunderstood. In a very serious tone, she said, “It’s OK, Grandma. I forgive you for not being at my school for Costume Day with all the other grownups.” I got tears in my eyes! She has a tender heart. Before the first day of school, her parents sat her down to talk about what she would be doing at school, etc. They explained that some children are afraid to say goodbye to their moms and dads and they might cry. Katie is so outgoing she has never been fearful of new situations. In fact, she is so forward, that sometimes other children are afraid of her! Anyway, of course I called the night of her first day to find out how it went. Kim said that many of her classmates did indeed cry and Katie went and got each of them a toy and tried to reassure them! It was so sweet. When I got Katie on the phone, I asked her what she did to help the other children stop crying. She answered, “Oh Grandma. I just dried their tears.” Soft-hearted.

Being a grandparent isn’t just getting to brag or enjoying the cuteness or babysitting or buying presents. Deuteronomy 4:9 and 4:40 teach us that we have a duty to help our children to raise their children. When asked for advice, we should share the wisdom that we have gained from experience. More importantly, we should never tear down our children for their parenting (particularly in front of the grandchildren), but should support them and build them up. Praise them for the job they are doing. Take note of how they handled a situation well and mention how proud it makes us to see that. Help them out wherever we can. (See Titus II:2-5)

For the last 2 weeks, Katie, and particularly poor little Andy, have had the stomach flu. As Katie said to me on the phone, “We’re having a barforama, Grandma!” I remember those days of being up all night cleaning up the bed, the floor, the PJs and even shampooing the hair. Well, to make it worse, Michael and Kim, who both work at universities, were having the toughest deadlines and busiest days of the whole semester at the same time. They were at the end of their ropes. If we could, we would have flown out to help, but the best we could do was call and sympathize. I felt so helpless. But we did pray for them. Prayer is the best gift we, as grandparents can give - and not just when things are tough.

Just as we pray for our own children, we have the privilege to pray for our grandchildren as they grow up. We pray for their health, their character, their success in school, their relationships, and most importantly, that they will come to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior and live a Christ-like life.(II Timothy 1:5 and Psalm 103:17) I must admit that I don’t pray for my grandchildren daily as I should. This D-mail speaks to me as much as it does to anyone! Here’s a prayer taken from the Bible study, Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting. It is based on Luke 2:52. Perhaps you would like to pray it over each of your grandchildren. Fill in the blanks with your grandchild’s name.

“Lord, I pray that _____ will be like Jesus, growing “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men,” so he/she will become a well-rounded individual. I pray _____ will grow intellectually, physically, spiritually, and relationally. Thank You for your deep love for them and me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Prayer is one of the best gifts we can give our grandchildren. God is saving our prayers, and they’ll last longer than we will. This week, think of ways to bless your grandchildren. A prayer? A visit? A gift? A hug? A note? Ask God for an idea, and then be willing to carry it out.

Prayer Lord God, thank you for blessing me with grandchildren. Thank you for their child-like faith and innocence. I pray that each of them will grow up in love and security and to walk with you all of their lives. Help us to be a big part of their lives and show us how to be a helpmate to their parents. I pray for those grandparents who, because of special circumstances, are raising their grandchildren. I pray that you give them extra patience and enough energy to keep up. I pray for those who have been shut out of their grandchildren’s lives. Make a way, Lord, for reconciliation. Give us grandparents ideas on how to support and shower love on our grandchildren who live far away. Amen