Monthly Archives: October 2016

Resurrection Friendships

Finally, from the inkwell of Jane’s heart…schuler-books-chapbook-cafe-by-jane-andersonIn 1997 I started a new job. To be honest, when the recruiter called and told me I was ‘in’ at Steelcase, I thought I should ask him to check his notes because I was sure he had the wrong person. As it turned out, there was no case of mistaken identity, the job was mine.

It seems like ancient history, doesn’t it? But can we talk about that for a minute? Relationships from back then became lasting friendships that still touch my heart. Just for a minute, think about the threads of your past and how they have woven the pattern of who you are today. Some exquisitely beautiful and others look like the warped mistakes that they were. The pattern of your life.

It’s been over 20 years since I accepted that job and immersed myself in work and friendships. Today, I went to Chapbook Cafe at a local bookstore, where I was meeting with a group of new friends. As I pulled into the parking lot my heart felt like it was melting. You see, my thoughts were on the last time I sat at a table in the cafe as my dearest friend told me her doctor had just diagnosed melanoma and it looked terminal. I remember thinking how wrong that doctor was. Cathy was healthy, she took care of herself, and besides, I needed her at work. Cathy didn’t know it, but she was an answer to my prayer.

I’m not sure what deep source has caused it, but I have always felt out of place. I could have worked on the road crew or throwing luggage at the airport or stocking shelves or in the offices where work seemed to find me. I never seemed to fit. In my daily quiet time, I would plead my case to God and ask him to take me – a round peg, and put me in a round hole. Instead, he put me, a round peg, into a square hole – and you can only imagine how it felt to have my edges sheared off in trying to fit into that shape. OK – so maybe it was my way of looking at it. But in my prayers, I asked God over and over for a good friend at work. A friend about my age, a girl, not a guy, who shared my values, and, “Please, God, let her have a sense of humor because I need a friend to tell me when I’m being stupid and laugh about it with me.”

Cathy was that friend for me. We would make a rule that we would only go out to lunch once a week, then break all the rules and go three times or four times on really stressful weeks. Cathy was amazingly intelligent. If I had to pay for what I learned from her, I would still be paying off what I owed her. She was also wise, and that goes beyond smart. I know we become like who we hang out with. I hope that’s true because I admired the person Cathy was.

Cathy’s favorite place for lunch was Chapbook Cafe where she could indulge in a double mocha. After her passing, I couldn’t bring myself to go to Schuler’s Bookstore or the cafe, until today. When I ordered my latte it was with fond memories of my friend and the short two years I held her friendship close to my heart.

We don’t know how much time we have with people we love. If we lived 120 years, it wouldn’t be enough. Cathy and I shared the same values and the same interests, but the one thing we shared that is more important than any other thing between us, was faith in Jesus Christ. Psalm 40:16 says,”May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, ‘The Lord is great!'”

Today I am thankful for friendships that never fail. Most of all I am thankful for salvation that lasts forever and that I will see my friend again in heaven because she had faith in Jesus Christ and her home is eternal.

(Guest author: Jane Anderson. Thank you for crossing this sad barrier to join us; we’re blessed to have you! I’ve not been able to bring myself to go to a Biggby Coffee cafe since losing my partner in lattes to breast cancer a few years ago, so I empathize! More of Jane’s writing can be found at: http://bizcatalyst360.com/ or http://talkkindnesstome.com )

Rise Up, My Love (210): Tending our Shepherds

sheep-in-cotswold-englandSong of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” So, the bride concerned herself with the possibilities for new fruit from the valley below, with the condition of the vine already established in the garden, and finally, with the budding pomegranates. What might the pomegranates represent? The pomegranates were considered the choicest fruit. Many scholars deride meditations which “spiritualize” everything, and certainly the meditations of one heart can only bring to light certain facets of the truth…not the whole…but perhaps just a tiny ray, the way shining a light on a diamond may shoot out a sparkle of blue or green to the watchful eye.

Earlier in this study, I mentioned reading one commentator who suggested that pomegranates might represent minds full of beautifully ordered thoughts about Christ and His Word. I don’t know if that’s right, but it certainly is one fitting possibility for this passage. What else might might be a fitting interpretation? The bride, eager to please her King, goes into the garden to see what the possibilities are for new fruit even beyond that which has already been brought into the garden and cultivated (unbelievers), but she is also careful to consider the fruit within the garden walls (believers), and even concerns herself with the choicest plants within the garden. What are those choicest fruits?  shepherd-in-tunisiaTo me, they are the special servants of God. I wonder, are we concerned for the needs of those who are God’s special, full time laborers? Those who spend their lives being concerned for our needs…toiling in our Lord’s vineyard day in and day out? Are we remembering to pray for them? Are we going out of our way to check on them and see what they need? Are we encouraging them, both through our speech (calls, letters, e-mails…) and our actions? Are we letting them know how much we appreciate all that they do? Are we blessing them with financial gifts as well? I remember attending a special prayer service once with a woman who confided that during the six years her husband was in the pastorate, their family had needed to be on welfare for three of those years because they literally were not paid enough to feed, clothe, and house their young family. Don’t think your pastor is overpaid! Check into it; maybe you can be the catalyst to see that your minister’s salary is at least equal to the average income of those in his flock.
ram-close-to-fenceFrankly, it’s my impression that only the wolves in sheep’s clothing are well paid, while the faithful workmen are thinking more of the needs of their flock and living on less than I’d think reasonable. What about the day to day hospitality and friendship which are like oil poured out to anoint the soul? When was the last time you invited your minister’s family over for dinner? When was the last time you hosted the missionaries who spoke at your church? When was the last time you made a point of thanking your pastor for his message, or at least some helpful insight that he shared?  discontented-black-sheepIf you find yourself disillusioned with your minister (or his wife), perhaps your relationship has deteriorated the way marriages often do as we enter into the “grind” years of learning how to love despite failure. At a time when my husband and I were quite discouraged with our marriage, we were challenged to try to find just one positive thing about our mate and praise that one good quality…as a daily exercise, each day thinking of something different to appreciate. At first I was so bitter that it was hard to think of anything positive, but gradually, as I began to pray about it, I began to look more on the bright side, and eventually my attitudes began to change. I realized how crabby and ungrateful I’d become, and how critical and unloving I was. We both began trying to love and encourage one another through praising that which was good, and eventually our sincere praise reinvigorated our relationship like water on a thirsty plant. Earnest prayer and sincere praise can transform a relationship! If you’re feeling critical and disgruntled with your pastor (or his family), please try this method of increasing your love for him, and your prayer and praise will be a healing balm to his soul.  petting-zoo-at-john-ball-parkSo, the beloved bride was concerned for every aspect of her beloved’s work, and so should we be. If we truly love our Lord, we will have hearts to care even for the pomegranates in our heavenly husband’s orchard! Dear Lord, as we see how carefully Solomon’s bride attended to every aspect of her husband’s work, please inspire and enable us to be equally attentive to every aspect of your ministry here on earth. Amen.sheep-in-meadow-cotwolds-england

To Toss or Not to Toss: If You Like It, Try It!

tossed-salad-veggieWhen I was a kid a million years ago, tossed salads were usually made from leaf lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and celery. Do you remember? About thirty years ago, salads became a little more exciting, and extras like onions, olives and avocado brightened the flavor considerably.tossed-saladHowever, today anything goes, and salads have become major flavor feasts! This salad has spinach, shredded red cabbage, corn on the cob, apple, and mixed nuts, but there’s virtually no end to what can be thrown together in a tossed salad and made into a healthy dish full of protein and flavor as well as all the usual suspects (vitamins and minerals). If you like it and happen to have it on hand…don’t be afraid to add it and see if you like it in the mix!

Suggested leafy bases: all types of lettuce, kale, spinach, and shredded cabbages

Veggies: carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers, celery, avocado, cucumber, zucchini, any leftover cooked vegetable such as peas, beans, asparagus, corn, chick peas, black beans, beets, Brussels sprouts, etc.

Fruits: apples, pears, berries of all kinds, mandarin (or fresh) oranges, pineapple, mango, peaches etc. I personally prefer crunchy fruits to more mushy ones like bananas, but taste is one of those wonderfully unique pleasures, and some may just love the addition of juicy/mushy fruits.

Extra credit taste points: pickled beets or peppers (or other veggies), capers, olives (of all varieties)

Proteins: any type of nut or cubed cheese you happen to have around. (To make it a full meal, you can also add chopped hard boiled eggs, tofu, crumbled bacon bits,  cooked, cubed meat or a piece of grilled meat on top.)

Dressing: your favorites. Also, I’ve invested in some flavored vinegars and olive oils that really provide a variety of flavors.

What else? Tried anything different that you really love?

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (Genesis 1:29). (Obviously, some fruits and herbs are poisonous today! The Lord’s original gift and this statement was made before the fall.)

 

 

The Wild Bergamot and The Bees: a Lesson in Unintentional Consequences

bergamot-and-black-eyed-susans-charylene-powersEven though many of the wildflowers have gone to seed in August, the wild bergamot plants are thriving. As I walk the trails at the John Luton Prairie Restoration Park, I immediately notice a great number of black and yellow bees. The buzzing bees traverse from flower to flower gathering the nectar they need to survive. My desire is to take advantage of the afternoon sun; photographing this beautiful prairie and all the inhabits that call it home.bergamot-by-charylene-powersThe Flower  – Wild Bergamot
The soft lavender flower heads of the wild bergamot plants look like a little fireworks display.  The unending historical medical uses for this plant include; poultices for boils and lacerations, as well as minty tea infusions for headaches, indigestion and colds.  The Ojibwe tribe placed these leaves in warm water baths for their babies. In addition to medical uses, the Indigo Buntings build their nests using the strong square wood stems. charylene-powers-birdThe Pollinators – Bees
It is estimated that a third of the food we eat is dependent on bee pollination.  Bees pollinate by carrying pollen on their bodies from the male part of the flower to the female part of the same kind of flower. The stiff hairs all over the bees’s bodies attract the pollen. The bees gather nectar from the flowers to eat. As the bees feed themselves, they provide a service that feeds all of us.bee-on-bergamot-charylene-powersObservations
Focusing on the task of gathering nectar, seems to be all consuming for the bees. When I move in to take my shot, the bees do not notice me, even though I am inches from them. I’m sure  my desire to get a close up of flower and bee will result in a stinging retort from the bees. However, they just keep doing what God has intended them to do. I need to be this focused with my assignments from God.

“So be careful to do what the Lord you God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Deuteronomy 5:32, NIV)

Thoughts to Ponder
I think of the work of the bees and what they actually accomplish. They gather nectar to sustain themselves and pollinate our food source for us.  The work of pollination is really an unintentional consequence on their part. God has a bigger plan in mind for the work He has given to the bees. A plan that the bees cannot even imagine nor will they ever know. What about my assignments from God?  Am I as focused as the bees? Does God have a bigger plan in mind for the assignments He has given to me?  A plan that I – like the bees – cannot even imagine nor will I ever know.

bergamot-field-charylene-powers“As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, NIV)

(Guest author: Charylene Powers. Thank you, Charylene. This is just beautiful!)

Inspiring Friends (Written by my Inspiring Friend, Lisa!)

How do you respond when you’re stumped by a question from a child?  How important is the correct answer?  Even trivia can be challenging.

luton-park-mi-wildflowers“What’s that flower called, Grandma?” my friend, Charylene’s, granddaughter asked as they walked along a trail through the woods.  She answered honestly, “I used to know that, but now I don’t remember.”img_6793 This exchange challenged my friend anew to research flowers, their names as well as facts about their biology, history, and use.  img_6792Sharing a love of photography with her granddaughter, they “hunted and shot” flower pictures from various angles, providing invaluable time together.   achillea-millefolium-white-yarrow-charylene-powersThen, after gathering accurate information, she decided to write a description of each flower’s fun facts as well as how she saw God working through them to speak to her faith, since all creation declares His glory.  daisies-by-charylene-powersAs she learned more about flowers and their various purposes, she tied in spiritual truths to be “rooted and built up in Christ” (Colossians 2:6-7).  asclepias-tuberosa-butterfly-weed-by-charylene-powersNow she’s joined our writer’s group and is in the process of making a book to share with her grandchildren, combining the beauty of macro-lens photos with the glory of God’s living and active word.  She’s sharing her faith through wildflowers!  echinacea-purple-coneflower-by-charylene-powers
I appreciate seeing her progress as she works toward this worthy goal.  She sets an example that it is never too late to learn or try new things so she can share wisdom and faith with the younger generation.  She offered and took me to the prairie restoration site near her home so I could experience and learn for myself.  luton-park-miI felt inspired and challenged to consider how I can share my passion for learning and for the Lord with others.  I even spent time at our writer’s retreat writing a devotional about how we can pay attention and share the various gifts, truth, and talents we’ve experienced with others.  img_9081Who asks you questions? What gifts, wisdom, and talents do you have that can be shared to inspire others?  img_0413Romans 1:20 – “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  img_0430Isaiah 40:6-8 – “A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?'”

“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

The most important question and answer:  And Jesus continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:29 (NASB)

(Guest Author: Lisa Walkendorf. Thank you, Lisa!! You’re a gem. Also, Charylene shared four of the flower photos that she took that day, so a special thank you to Charylene as well!)

Time Out from Politics…Have You Taken Time for an Autumn Retreat?

blue-water-writers-groupOur Blue Water Writers’ Group had their first ever fall retreat at my house last month, and we had such a grand time that we’ve already planned our next one. memoirsIn fact, I had so much fun personally that now I’m wishing everybody could cook up their own autumn retreat—if not for a group of like-minded friends who might need a concentrated time of productivity in their chosen field—meditationthen a personal retreat to focus on something that’s especially precious to you. brenda-bringing-a-basket-of-goodiesOur group shared breakfast together, had a three-hour “silent time” for writing, took an hour break for a brown-bag lunch together, and then went for another three-hour silent time for writing.

writers-retreatSome of us sat at a table together, writing-in-the-garden-roombut most found cozy corners or private areas where they could spread out quiet-retreatand work without any distractions whatsoever.preparing-to-be-a-spiritual-mentorAll of us felt like our time had been well spent.

deer-on-laneI know a number of you are caregivers and can’t even leave your homes to go anywhere for the day, but what about declaring your own private retreat? writer-at-workFor my son Michael’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, he asked for an “electronics-free day,” and he loved having his family enjoying life together with no computers, telephones, or other interruptions. It’s really okay to turn off your phone for a few hours (unless somebody’s life depends on it). writer-in-progressThink about it! If you can’t take a whole day off, maybe you could take a few hours off one evening. If you love taking a personal retreat as much as I enjoyed our writers’ retreat, I bet it will generate sequels!writing-historical-fiction

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place,
and rest a while
” (Mark 6:31).

charylene-and-lisa(P.S.—Although we have all types of writing going on within our writers’ group, several of the women write devotionals, and I asked if they’d be willing to share with you. They’ve consented, so the posts on Wednesday through Friday this week will be guest-authored by these lovely ladies!)

Can You Trump this Gettysburg Address from October 22, 2016?

I would like to ask everyone who thinks Trump is unacceptable as a candidate to listen to his speech and let me know where you think he’s “crazy” or totally wrong. He takes a hard line on the issues, and he stands against corruption everywhere, not just abroad but within our own government and borders, but I  don’t personally think he’s “wrong.” If we’re going to recover as a nation, we’re going to have to stop the internal bleeding and take some time out to heal.

If you don’t want to take time to listen to the whole thing but are willing to consider what he said, I took copious notes but then discovered that his entire plan was neatly laid out on his website, so here it is:

“I am asking the American people to rise above the noise and the clutter of our broken politics, and to embrace that great faith and optimism that has always been the central ingredient in the American character. I am asking you to dream big.

 

“What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again. It is a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter – and begins with restoring honesty, accountability and change to Washington,” he concluded.

 

DONALD J. TRUMP CONTRACT WITH THE AMERICAN VOTER

“Therefore, on the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC:

  • FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;
  • SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health);
  • THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;
  • FOURTH, a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;
  • FIFTH, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;
  • SIXTH, a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.

On the same day, I will begin taking the following seven actions to protect American workers:

  • FIRST, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205
  • SECOND, I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • THIRD, I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator
  • FOURTH, I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately
  • FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.
  • SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward
  • SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure

Additionally, on the first day, I will take the following five actions to restore security and the constitutional rule of law:

  • FIRST, cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama
  • SECOND, begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States
  • THIRD, cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities
  • FOURTH, begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back
  • FIFTH, suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.

Next, I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my Administration:

1. Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.

2. End The Offshoring Act Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.

3. American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.

4. School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to gives parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.

5. Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.

6. Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-site childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.

7. End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.

8. Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.

9. Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values

10. Clean up Corruption in Washington Act. Enacts new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.

On November 8th, Americans will be voting for this 100-day plan to restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities, and honesty to our government.

This is my pledge to you.

And if we follow these steps, we will once more have a government of, by and for the people.”

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding” (Proverbs 3:13. I typically end my posts with a scripture verse, so this is not part of Trump’s statement, but rather my own benediction. May we all seek and find wisdom for ourselves and our countries, wherever we live around the world!)