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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

It’s Palm Sunday 2013 and I have cabin fever something awful!  The 2 feet of snow that surrounds me is no longer as beautiful as it was a month ago.  My winter coat is so dirty but I dare not take it to the cleaners yet.  It’s still too cold.  I guess that is why no one has wanted to tour our house.  It’s been nearly 2 weeks since we showed the house.  Next week we go on vacation.  I have very high hopes: first that spring will be here when we return and secondly that a buyer wants to buy OUR house.  It seems that most young couples are looking for a more modern home with an “open concept and granite countertops”.  If I hear those words one more time, I’m going to scream!

However, I am a glass half-full kind of girl so I’m concentrating on some good news.  Last week we went to Door County to meet with our builder.  He had completed drawings for us (except now we’ve had to change the garage around to fit the setback restrictions and allow room for the drainage field).  We picked out the gas fireplace we want and the tile for its surround and hearth.  We also chose shakes for the siding, shingles and shutters and nailed down our window choices (we have a LOT of windows).  It felt good to move forward on the new house.  The more choices we make, the quicker they can break ground and begin to build when this house sells.  On Friday we went to Wausau for a doctor’s appointment for me and did some shopping afterwards.  I found the exact glass candle lantern I wanted for the new livingroom at TJ Max!!  Up until now I’d only seen them at upscale furniture stores for $120 and this one was $30.  Little things bring me joy.

While I wait impatiently for spring, I decided to write a poem about it.  I hope you enjoy it and Happy Easter!

SPRING IS NEVER LATE

Spring has sprung but not ‘round here,

not for squirrels and starving deer.

Impatience asks this every year,

“When will the songbirds reappear?

And for that matter, leaves on trees,

daffodils and bumble bees,

hyacinths and April showers?”

If only I had special powers,

I’d cause the sun to melt the snow

and make the dandelions grow,

but I cannot; when will I learn

the seasons come, each in their turn?

While resurrection germinates,

the promise of rebirth awaits

when buds burst forth to celebrate.

God’s promises are never late.

The Day Our Goldfish Committed Suicide

Again and again we had saved our fish, Lowell,
who continually threw himself out of his bowl.
We thought that our fish
must have had a death wish,
for despite all our pleading,
he came close to succeeding.

Then one day, in a wink,
he leaped into the sink,
flopped around on his side
just as though he had tried!
We were too late to save him
so a funeral gave him.

`Twas a gray day indeed
but his wishes we’d heed.
We placed our dear Lowell
in a different bowl,
gathered round in a hush,
bid farewell with a flush.

But we’ll never forget
our finned friend from the wet
and the way that he died,
from fish suicide.

Mary’s response to the message that she would bear the savior was a remarkable song of praise, sometimes known as the Magnificat (Luke 2:46-55). It begins, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” which means that because God’s announcement opened her heart him in a way that she couldn’t have imagined, her soul was beginning to grasp the bigness of God.

I remember the first time I looked through a telescope at the open sky on a cold winter evening. When I pointed it at the half-lit moon, I was stunned as it came into focus-to see mountains and plains, unlike the picture books I was used to, but the real thing in real time. An ethereal, bright disk hanging in the sky was now a real place to me. The telescope magnified its reality. The moon didn’t increase, but my comprehension of it did.

Sometimes human beings look at God as if he were a distant point of light. But when we take his word into consideration, and if we accept it by faith, our perspective changes drastically. We see that we are living in a greater reality, with a greater God than we had imagined, and with greater possibilities in our future.

Mary knew her life would never be the same-not just her life, but the lives of countless others-because of what God was going to do. This stretched her soul, and it can stretch ours.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO BUSY MOMS

By Cathy Conger (based on a poem on the internet by an unknown author)

T’was the night before Christmas. All through the abode

only one creature stirred, as she cleaned the commode.

The children were sleeping, at last, in their beds,

while Barbies and DVDs danced through their heads.

Her husband was snoring beside the TV,

a bicycle assembly kit propped on his knee.

So only the mom heard the reindeer hooves clatter,

and she sighed to herself, “Now what could be the matter?”

With toilet bowl brush nervously clutched in her hand,

she descended the stairs where she spied the old man.

He had ashes and and snow from his head to his foot,

which he tracked `cross the rug, leaving boot prints of soot.

He jumped. “You surprised me, but I’m glad you’re awake.”

“Just look at my rug,” she said. “Give me a break!”

“But madam, I’m Santa. I come bearing gifts.”

“Look, I just want some `me-time’(and perhaps a face-lift).”

“You know. FREE TIME. I just need a few hours alone!”

“Exactly!” he chuckled, “So, I’ve made you a clone.”

“A clone?” she retorted, “Now, this I must see.

Come on, Santa. What good would a clone be to me?”

Then in walked the clone - the young mother’s twin!

Same hair-do, same eyes, same glasses, same chin.

“She will cook, she will dust, she will mop every mess.

You’ll relax. Take a break, honey. Santa knows best.”

“Fantastic!” mom cheered. “My dream has come true!”

I can shop, I can read, I can sleep a night through!”

Then from upstairs the youngest did whimper and fret.

“Mommy!  Come quickly! I’m scared and I’m wet.”

The clone rose up sweetly and called, `Coming, dear.’

“She’s amazing. Thanks, Santa!” said mom with good cheer.

The clone changed the small one and hummed her a tune.

Then the child she had blanketed in a cocoon

gazed up in her face and said, “I love you best.”

The clone smiled and whispered, “And so do the rest.”

Mom’s eyes glared. “Whoa, Santa. I’m sorry, no deal!”

That’s my child’s affection she’s trying to steal.”

“Ho, Ho, Ho, “ said wise Santa. “I believe it is clear.

Come along, clone. They only need one mother here.”

The mom kissed her youngest and tucked her in bed.

Then she turned and thanked Santa for clearing her head.

“I sometimes forget, it won’t be very long,

till they’ll all be too old for my cuddle and song.”

The grandfather clock started twelve times to chime.

Santa laughed to himself, “Ha! It works every time.

Everything here’s going to work out all right.

“Merry Christmas to moms and to all a good night.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Sometimes we need reminding of what life is all about. So stop for a moment and hug that special child, whether he or she is 6 months or 60 years, for they are the Gift that God gave us in life. What a gift to be treasured, far above any other!

May the real meaning of CHRISTMAS be with you this year.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. - Luke 2:6

On the night before Jesus was born, the shepherds would have seen the night sky the way they had seen it thousands of times before. That was a quiet night, in stark contrast to the following night, when an angel would appear with “the glory of the Lord,” announcing the birth of the child-then join with a great company of heavenly beings proclaiming glory and peace.

On the night before Christmas, in the year 1968, three men looked into the night sky also, but from an entirely different perspective. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, the crew of Apollo 8, were further away from the earth than any human had ever been. It was the first time a spacecraft had broken earth’s orbit and ventured out one quarter of a million miles to orbit the moon. In an historic broadcast on that Christmas Eve, the astronauts beamed back to earth a video picture of a small blue disk, the earth, and spoke of the “vast loneliness” of space. Then, their voices crackled over the radio: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless
and void; and darkness was over the face of the deep.”

There, on that small blue circle, the entire drama of human history has unfolded: the Creation, the Fall, war, exploration, feast and famine, marriage and divorce, birth and death. And to that blue circle God came, at just the right time, to begin to make things right in the human race.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, Christmas Eve is a time when we approach that dividing line in human history, the doorway from BC to AD, the revolution begun by the Son of God’s entry into the world. Sometimes you know when you’re on the eve of something big (your wedding, moving to a new home, adopting a child), and sometimes you don’t. Every Christmas Eve we know we are about to mark the moment when Immanuel came.

So on the night before Christmas, find a quiet moment when you can think about what was about to happen in Bethlehem so many years ago. Think about all the ways you need someone to be your savior-someone who has the strength, the wisdom, the virtue, that you know you cannot come up with on your own.


That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. - 1 John 1:1-2

The Beginning. How much we all want to know about the beginning of all things, in order to understand the now of all things, and to pursue the way things are supposed to be in our lives today. The original design must be the ideal, the way things ought to be. The Bible’s opening words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” delineate between a time in which there was only God, and a new time in which his magnificent creation began (Gen. 1:1).

The opening words of the Gospel of John place the Son of God right there-at the beginning: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

Unlike any other birth, the birth of Jesus was not the beginning of a new life. Rather, one who was there in The Beginning, appeared among his creation through his birth. “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us” (1 John 1:1-2). This appearance was no dream or vision or apparition, it was an extended visitation, a flood of revelation, an appearance of the Everlasting in terrestrial form, a real life.

“The life appeared.” It was heard; it was seen; it was felt. Bethlehem was not the beginning of the life of Christ, and that’s why his life can change our lives. Jesus said: “Before Abraham was born, I AM.”

“I AM”: I always was, I am now, and I will always be. That is why he can connect us with our original purpose.

God reached out to the human race in a new way in Bethlehem. Whereas in the past God spoke through the words of prophets, a new channel of God’s communication was opened in Bethlehem. God “has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:2-3).

So Christmas is about the good beginning (Genesis 1), and it is about the rescue of the now (John 1). That means that Jesus will help us regain everything that a human life was supposed to be in the first place-a real relationship with God, real wisdom, real character, real virtue. He intends to restore the image of God in our humanness.

They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. - Matthew 2:9-10

In Psalm 19, David gives voice to the stars:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Vss. 1-4)

If you have ever stood outside at night and looked up at the canopy of stars, away from the city, away from noise, you may have seen that the stars have a message. In silence they speak, and their voice is thunderous.

The star of Bethlehem, a sign in the sky noted by the Magi, may have been a miraculous event, matching the miraculous entry of the Savior into the world, or it may have been a natural astronomical phenomenon, used by God as a sign. In either case, the heavens were speaking in a unique way about a unique world-changing event. Should that come as any surprise?

But note that only the observant recognized the sign, and in this case, they were outsiders. God drew outsiders toward Bethlehem with a word that he had placed in the sky. Don’t ever doubt that God is speaking to the “outsider,” and that those who seek will find. Christmas is both for believers, and for those who have yet to come to faith. In those days, it was a celestial sign that attracted the attention of outsiders. Today, there are many signs that Jesus accomplished something unique in the world, acts arise out of and point to his holy character.


The word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. - John 1:14

Not only did the Son of God become a baby, but also he became flesh. Divinity joined to corporeal muscle, blood and bones. In this humbling of the eternal Son of God, the Word who was with God from the beginning and was God, chose to begin in the way all flesh does-as a newborn.

But what does “flesh” really mean? Doesn’t it sound a bit crass?

In the Bible, the word “flesh” points to a number of different realities. Literally, it means “the body,” the tissues and bones and fluids that are common to any human being living anywhere in the world at any time. The body is the jar of clay in which God has placed treasures. Consequently, at another level, “flesh” can mean “humanity” or “human nature.” To speak of “flesh and blood” refers to the humanness that you share with your family, friends, and people you’ve never met. And at a different level, “flesh” can mean “fallen, flawed, human.” “The flesh” is shorthand in Paul’s epistles for intrinsic human nature-broken and fallible. But there is one exception. One human life that was not
flawed and full of sin-Jesus’.

“The word became flesh.” It means that the Son of God became human-really, truly human-with the exception that he had no sin. Christmas is a time of awe because the best news the human race ever received was that its Creator had so much love, that he joined the human race to save it. He is a savior who experienced real hunger, real fatigue, real sorrow. He faced temptation when the Evil One tempted him in the wilderness with very “fleshy” things like power, wealth, and authority (Luke 4:1-13).

Jesus knows us, because he was one of us. Real flesh, but perfect. So on those days when we are so disappointed with ourselves because we are having a hard time controlling the flesh, this is the kind of savior to turn to.


Jesus Messiah

Jesus Messiah,

Star of the morning,

Light in our darkness,

Immanuel

Souls who are weary

find strength in His power,

the hope for the helpless,

Prince of peace

Jesus Messiah,

Born for all nations,

the ransom for sinners,

Christ the Lord

Last week I attended the Christian Writers’ Conference in Green lake, WI.  The conference is held on the grounds of the Baptist conference grounds, a huge place with beautiful shoreline, acres of woods, and all sorts of recreation.  I’ve been there many times before and this time did not disappoint.  I took a short story writing class from John Lehman, the original editor of a national literary magazine called Rosebud.  I’ve sat in John’s classes before and always learn something.  This time I learned the concept of “writing in scenes”, something that play and screenwriters know all about.  A scene must have at least 2 characters, each with a goal, conflict, and a conclusion that carries the story into the following scene and ultimately to the final conclusion.  It was a great week spent with other writers and old friends.  Outside of class, we attended lectures by each of the instructors in their specialized genre and expertise.  I had a one-on-one meeting with Cynthia Ruchti, a Christian radio host and author.  We discussed the possibility of putting together a book of my best D-mails for publication!  She thought it was a great idea and gave me some advice on how to do it.  I’ve written more than 350 D-mails over the years so it will take time to go through them all to choose the best ones - and then edit them down to 750-800 words!  She suggested that I attend the Write-to-Publish conference in Wheaton, Ill next June to shop it around.  One of the great things about the Green Lake conference is the accessability of the instructors.  Everyone is so encouraging and helpful that even beginners feel comfortable and excited to keep writing.  The students and instructors all had our meals together and spent free time writing and enjoying the beautiful grounds.  By the end of the week I had produced a short story, my first ever crime story!  It has been accepted for publication at an emagazine site called Lit Noir.  Here are the first paragraphs of the story:

The Sticky Key

by Cathy Conger

The night of January 11th was bitterly cold. The only light inside the music building shone through the small window of the door to Laura Olson’s assigned practice room. She was practicing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in E minor for her upcoming senior recital, but a sticky key was driving her nuts. Middle C felt dead under her fingers.

“Oh, come on!” Laura slammed both palms down on the keys. “They were supposed to fix this crappy piano weeks ago. Thirty thousand dollars a year for this school and I can’t get a decent piano to play.” She struck the annoying key again. Nothing. It felt like the hammer beneath the key was stuck. She kicked off her woolen clogs and lifted the lid of the piano, revealing the row of hammers and taut strings. “Hope nobody catches me doing a little piano tinkering,” she said, glancing toward the door. “Hey, so what? I’m the only one anal enough to be here on the coldest night of the year anyway, and Stam won’t notice.” She looked down at the dirt her socks had picked up on the linoleum. “I’ll bet he and his trusty broom have never even been in this room.”

Laura climbed up on the piano bench and stuck her right hand down into the works of the old upright. With her other hand, she struck middle C while she watched for its hammer to move. As she suspected, it wasn’t striking the string.

“Hmm. Something must be stuck under there,” she muttered. Feeling around between the hammers, her fingers met with something squishy, like a soft, little pillow. “What the heck?” she muttered. She pulled her finger away and hit the key again. This time she noticed a little puff of dust as the hammer came down. She tried it again. Another puff. Grabbing a pencil from the music rack, she pried the thing out, only to have it elude her fingers and drop down between the hammers. On her tip toes, she thrust her hand into the works as far as she could reach and felt around. “Gotcha!” she said, when suddenly the doorknob rattled. She practically jumped a foot, nearly dropping the bag. Whoever it was started banging on the door. “OK, OK! I’m coming.” Climbing down from the bench she shouted, “Who’s there?

“It’s Dr. Sterling. I need to use this room.”

“Just a minute.” Laura tucked the small, powdery bag into her jeans pocket and opened the door. “What’s wrong? You nearly scared the liver out of me!”

Dr. Sterling pushed past her into the room. “Oh, sorry Laura. I didn’t know somebody would be here so late. Listen I’m afraid you’ll have to pack it up for tonight. I need this room.”

“Why don’t you use the piano in your office?” Laura said. “It’s a lot better than this piece of junk.”

Sterling looked at the open piano lid. “What do you think you’re doing to this `piece of junk’?”

“I discovered a sticky key. Really annoying, so I thought I’d see what the problem was.”

“You’re supposed to report things like that to the music secretary. I’m surprised at you. A senior should know not to tinker with the schools’ instruments. Gather up your things and run along now. I’ll report the problem to the secretary in the morning.”

Pg 2

“But, I…”

“Good night, Laura.” Sterling interrupted, crossing his arms like a scolding parent.

Laura shrugged her shoulders. “OK, then. Let me quick get my clogs and my backpack.” Throwing her coat over her arm, she slid carefully past Sterling to the door. “Well, good night, Dr. Sterling.”

“See you in class tomorrow,” he said as he closed the piano lid. “Oh, Laura.”

“Yes?”

“ You didn’t find anything in there, did you?” His suspicious tone on top of his odd behavior was beginning to give Laura the creeps.

“In the piano? No sir. Didn’t get the chance,” she said, trying to sound nonchalant. No sooner had she pulled the door closed behind her than she heard the lock turn. “That was weird,” she thought, a chill running through her body. “Something funny’s going on.” Her heart was pounding as she took the little bag from her pocket and examined it by the light in the hallway. It was a plastic bag about two inches square with what appeared to be some kind of white powder inside. Peering more closely, she noticed a split in the seam. Most of the white powder had leaked out in her pocket.

“This must be where the puff of dust came from,” she murmered. “I wonder what this stuff is…and how did it end up under the hammer of a piano?” It suddenly occurred to her where she’d seen a bag just like this - police shows on television. “Oh my God!” she gasped. “Cocaine.”

to find out what happens, watch for The Sticky Key at www.Lit Noir.com