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Monday, July 30, 2012

Benny Bel-Aire: My First Car

Did my father suspect I was about to lay some huge request on him when I sat on the arm of the recliner in which he was stretched out? Perhaps, his interest was peaked but, when I threw my arms around his neck, he raised both eyebrows. “Hmmm? What could this mean for dear old Dad?”

“Awe, Daddy, what ever would make you think it meant anything more than I am so happy to see you?” He expressed the reaction I had expected… one hearty laugh but hugged me back anyway.

“Oh, I dunno, maybe a couple of decades of living with three girls and a wife? Hugs and kisses can be the precursor to a serious request of my wallet.” Pushing back to look directly into his face, I saw his big grin and slight tilt of his head. I straightened up and slipped to the low footstool next to the recliner.

“Well, you’re right this time, Daddy. But, I am very glad to see you; I missed home so much this year away.” Mom and Dad had come to help me move out of the dormitory. My things would be stored at the home of my older sister’s in-laws during the summer months. The couple was personal friends of my parents and it was in their home we were spending the night before heading the 386 miles back home.

“So, what’s this all about? Can’t wait ‘til we get home, huh?” Of course, it could have if I weren’t just bursting my seams to ask. I’d waited for weeks already since my friend and I came up with our brilliant summer plans. Not something to ask over the phone, I figured.  Clearing my throat, I sat erect and began my practiced discourse.

“Uh, well, Joyce and I want to go to Spokane to work for the summer, Daddy. I wrote to you and Mom that Uncle Glen and Aunt Mary agreed to let us live with them so it would be safe and all for us to go to Spokane, remember?” He smiled and nodded down at me. Taking that as encouragement, I continued with my well-rehearsed, rapid-fire justification for a vehicle. “Of course, Uncle Glen lives kinda far out so I’m figuring I’ll need a car to get to work. Plus, Joyce and I would want to help Aunt Mary with grocery shopping and things on our days off and, then, there are weekends when we don’t have to work… George and Jean have asked us to come out to the lake whenever we can. Plus, I’d want to come home for a little while before school starts again and that would mean you driving way more than 500 miles to come get me. It would be more convenient for you to not have to make that trip, right” Fortunately, Dad didn’t interrupt my speeding flow to remind me that the Greyhound Bus makes that trip more than once a day so I kept going. “I’m 19 now, Daddy, and have never had a single traffic ticket in all the years since you taught me to drive.” Again, I was glad that he had not mentioned that was only four years, the last of which was spent away at school, so not all that long to rest on an impressive record, really. “Oh, Daddy, I’ll be so careful and I’ll pay you back, really I will.”

“Well, I’ll need to talk with your mother about this, but I’m thinking you might be needing a car if you’re going to work in Spokane.” Jumping up with a squeal of delight, I wrapped my arms around his neck and squeezed while plopping a big kiss right on his cheek.

“Oh, Daddy, you won’t be sorry you trusted me. I’ll do everything you taught me to take care of the car and I’ll never drive faster than the speed limit or be careless.” He returned my hug and reminded me that Mom had the final word. No problem. I’d been getting what I wanted from her for years by telling her it was okay with Daddy if it was okay with her. Sometimes, I had actually asked him for permission first. She wouldn’t say no if he thought it was a good idea; I was certain of that.

After a bit of time at home, Daddy and I began to search the want ads in earnest for a used car for me. There were some really junky cars out there, sadly. At last, a perfect fit was discovered and Daddy signed on the dotted line. My precious car was a 1956 Chevy Bel-Aire. It was turquoise and white, had two doors and a working radio. The steering wheel was huge and the bench seat comfortable, with plenty of room in the backseat for baggage or friends. A nice sized trunk, too, for those groceries or lakeshore equipment needs. Okay, it was 12 years old, but I would baby it and it would be just fine. I named him, Benny Bel-Aire.

I so loved my Benny; he served my transportation needs well. I had no idea just how the Lord had planned to use Benny to teach me, and my parents, the truth that God is always with me. His watchful eyes were, certainly, there when the crisis came!





Friday, July 20, 2012

First-Year Revelations: Finals Week

“I’m tellin’ ya, Sojourner, I’ll flunk out if I don’t get, at least, a B on my Psych and Soc exams. I need to pull an all-nighter, for sure.” My friend’s anxiety was the most common thread of all conversations in the Freshman Commons where the first-year students were served meals. Sociology 101 (shortened to Soc—pronounced “Sowsh”) and Psychology 101 were held in the university’s theatre because each first-year class had hundreds of students. As a result, students never felt the pressure of professors paying any attention to them, especially if late and seated in the back. If one read the textbook, however, one could pretty well pass the exams, other than the final exam. The final exam was based on both the textbook and lectures that contained elements of information not in the textbook. Not only that but, for most courses, the final was 50% of the final grade for the course. Important? You bet; a poor result on just the final could mean you repeat the course.

“I’ve done okay so far, but I’ve never had so much riding on one exam either so who knows? Don’t ya think stayin’ up all night to study would make ya do worse, though? I mean, can ya think clearly if ya’ve not had any sleep?”

“Good grief, Sojourner, we’re not talkin’ thinkin’ clearly here! Everyone knows it’s about spittin’ out memorized facts. They’re multiple choice exams and ya don’t have time to think. Ya just need to know and fill in that little A, B, C, or D square on the answer form. Don’t know ‘bout you, but sleep will erase everything I memorized so I can’t take a chance.”

“But, how can ya stay awake? Do ya take drugs or somethin’?” My friend reached into her backpack and pulled out a box of No-Doze tablets.

“Some of the kids do take the hard stuff to stay awake and then somethin’ else to sleep between times, but I don’t want to get that started so I tell them no when asked. Some kids drink a lot of coffee; but, so far, I haven’t acquired a taste for that bitter stuff.” I agreed with both…not wanting to take hard drugs to stay awake or to sleep and not liking the taste of coffee. “Exactly, so you need some of these little white cups of coffee right here. Listen to this, ‘One No-Doze is safe and easy. The caffeine jolt is no different than drinking a cup of coffee.’ So, you see, this is your ticket to that all-nighter you know you need, Sojourner.”

“I’m not so sure I need them; I’m probably nervous enough to just plain stay awake on my own.”

Okay, well, you know where I am if you change your mind. We’ll all be in the lounge after midnight, except for those who are fortunate enough to have a roommate who also has exams tomorrow. Look, Sojourner, this is a part of being  a university student. Mom and Dad aren’t around to tell you to get to bed or turn out your light. Everyone stays up all night studying during Finals Week. It’s just part of this life.” We left for our separate dorm rooms to study but the conversation did keep rolling in my mind.

By midnight, I was still wide awake. My roommate had dropped out of school during the quarter so I had no real reason to leave my room. However, I was curious as to what might be happening in the lounge. Gathering my notebooks, I headed up the hallway. The sound of students repeating those standard Psychology 101 facts greeted me as I crossed the threshold. “Hey, ‘bout time, Sojourner! Pull up a cushion and sit. We’ve all got the Psych final tomorrow at 8, when’s yours?”

“Mine’s at 8, too. Mind if I join you for a bit?” No one objected. Sitting on the floor, only one student holding the open notebook, we all chimed in with answers to questions. Each student took his turn being the leader and, I had to admit, it was a good way to review the memorized materials. Plus, we had a lot of fun with some of the wrong answers given.

By 4 AM I was feeling the first pull of fatigue. Others must have, too, because the coffee pot was started again and some kids took pills. I was torn as to what I should do. I wanted to sleep but I also saw the benefit in the group approach to review.

“Here, Sojourner, have a cup of coffee?” I didn’t immediately look up from my notebook because I was skimming the material to find things we had not yet reviewed. I started to decline the offered brew but glanced up before I spoke.

My friend was standing in front of me with a little white No-Doze tablet in her palm. At first I shook my head but then reconsidered. “Okay, I’ll have just one cup.” We both laughed, downed our tablet and joined the others in some kind of junk food snack.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

First-Year Revelation: Declared Major

I can’t tell you why I chose Physical Therapy for my major; I can’t remember, really. But, I will never forget the day I changed majors. The event that led to the change is indelibly burned into my mind.

In the American university system a student may choose his primary field of study, “declaring a major,” at the time of application for admission or any time during his first two years of study. He is declaring he wants to spend the majority of his study time in a specific area. This field of study will have specific “major requirements” to guide the student in his choice of classes each quarter. Additionally, there are classes that all of the students must take, called “required courses.” Every field of study has a certain number of “electives”, which are courses that are not at all needed to work in the declared field but are of interest to a student. For example, a student wanting to be a lawyer may choose a major in Political Science or History because these have classes that would help him get into law school after graduation. However, the student may also have an interest in health so would take a nutrition course as one of his electives. Like all of the other students, he will be required to take English and some form of mathematics, etc. The students are assigned an advisor from the faculty in his declared major to help him navigate through it all. If he really has no idea what kind of a career he wants yet, he can sign up under “General Studies” and focus on taking the required courses while he works on narrowing the field down to one choice. (Yes, it is possible to take a “double major” and some students do that. It is a lot more work and usually means one or two additional years at the university.)

I was a Physical Therapy major, whittling away at those specific required and major courses, figuring I’d leave the electives until I needed a break from the intense kinds of study. The only extra-curricular group I joined was Physical Therapy Club. I did this because my advisor recommended I do it as a career networking move. I had had such an overload of extra-curricular activities in high school that I was not really interested in joining clubs and organizations now, but I made an exception for PT Club. It was a nice group of students and, true to advertisement, the meetings were interesting events and not just social stuff. Guest speakers shared new ideas being developed in treatments for various injuries.

When the announcement for the next PT Club meeting included the viewing of a video demonstrating a technique being researched to help paraplegics move their legs, I was very interested. The only rub was that my parents were going to be visiting me on that very day of the evening meeting. They were staying in the home of an amateur radio buddy of my father’s so he would, probably, be well-occupied with radio talk but what about Mom? When I told her about the video, though, she was interested in coming with me. Perfect!

Mom came to my dorm room and we walked over to the Field House together. It was such fun to have Mom see my world and she was a good listener as I went on and on about every detail of university life… what a champ!

There were only a few preliminary items before the film began. The patient was on a PT table, with his therapist on the side that would face the viewing audience. He explained that they were working on using a kind of “cross-muscle” thing to help the leg muscles get moving again. He said that the therapist pushed on the left shoulder, the patient pushed against the PT’s hand on the shoulder but also concentrated on the muscles of the opposite hip and thigh. The patient was dressed in shorts but no shirt, so it was easy to watch the whole process. Mom told me later that the patient really did begin to lift his right hip and thigh.

What? Your mother told you later? Where were you, Sojourner? Ah, yes, well that’s the revelation aspect of this story. I watched the tension of the patient and intensity of the therapist so profoundly that I got caught up in it all. I mean the pushing and straining and trying… well, it really affected me and I couldn’t take it. I left the room quickly… to find a bathroom where I could throw up my supper. No, I’m not kidding; and, no, I didn’t have the flu. I knew that I would never be able to do this in real life when I couldn’t even watch it on a video.

The very next morning I dropped out of my Physical Therapy major and was assigned another advisor… Pre-Med. You are probably thinking I had gone from the pan into the fire… if I couldn’t take the strain of a PT film, how could I cope with all that blood in medicine, eh? Ah, yes, well, blood never bothered me. Weird, isn’t it?

The fact is, dear Reader, God had fashioned me in just this way. His plan was for me to help people with their illnesses in another way. I had no idea God would be interested in answering any prayer for what major I should declare. I thought it needed to be all my own idea. Yes, I knew I liked helping people and I liked sorting out illnesses and treatments, from a very young age, actually. I didn’t get that toy doctor’s kit every Christmas of my childhood for nothing, you know? I wore it out long before the next Christmas rolled around. I was a serious user of those plastic instruments and loved dispensing those candy pills. So, why didn’t I sign up for Pre-Med in the first place? That’s a two-word answer: Foreign Language. Funnily enough, to get a degree in Pre-Medical Science one must earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, which requires five quarters of a foreign language. The Physical Therapy degree can be earned under the Bachelor of Science, which has no language requirement—other than English, of course. My high school Spanish class had been such a disaster; I wasn’t going to do that ever again.

In the end, I lined up with the way God had designed me, took Greek for five quarters (because it was an unspoken foreign language offered), and graduated with a BA in Pre-Medical Science. I never regretted the change in majors and find a lot of satisfaction in diagnosing and treating illnesses in children, especially. God knew what would make me happy; He is the one Who created me!

This verse in Proverbs 22:6 is sometimes used when teaching about God’s unique way of creating us. If we make our choices in line with the gifts He has put within each of us, we will still find satisfaction in our work in old age. (Yes, I do also think it refers to Biblical training.)

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)

****Another First-Year Revelation… Coming Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

First-Year Revelations: English Comp, Conclusion

I worked for hours on my essay, describing a straight-backed, wooden chair from every possible angle and going into suggested uses for same. Every time I counted, it took longer; I kept forgetting the count. (Today, a few clicks on a keyboard and the exact count is available to me, but not then.) I had taken written notes, of course, as I meditated on the chair. Now, it was time to type it up. Again, no computers in those days so a portable typewriter was used, along with a lot of little rectangles of correcting paper to slip in when a word had been incorrectly spelled. No automatic check for spelling either; that’s what the thick desk dictionary was for. I reached for it frequently. I just wanted to do things right. It was my first university English composition. In fact, I wanted to be sure my professor didn’t think I was lazy or trying to cheat on the word count so I didn’t count those words of less than three letters either. There had been some rule about that when counting our typing words per minute, but it escaped me. No siree, I would turn in a paper that showed I had done a lot of work on it.

As I set my paper on the pile of essays, I was surprised to see the wide variety in the number of pages of each composition. Perhaps I should have double-spaced? Some had been handwritten but most looked like mine, only shorter.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” barked out the professor while thumping his fist on the stack of papers, “if your paper is not in this pile, leave the room. I don’t care if you have a paper-hungry dog at home. I don’t care if your baby sister threw up on the pages so there wasn’t enough left to read but your mother has taken them to the cleaners to see what can be done. I don’t care if you had to go to the hospital for emergency surgery last night so didn’t have time, while conscious, to write about the chair. Do you get it? I don’t accept excuses. You may leave the room and try again tomorrow. You’ll need to ask a classmate what the assignment is for tomorrow so ask someone you know pays attention.” Sadly, two students slunk from the room, faces bright crimson.

I don’t know why they neglected to write about the chair but it is possible this was their first day. The registration process was so cumbersome that not everyone made it to classes the first day. Certainly, the rest of us got the picture, no excuses. I groaned, inwardly, when the prof let us all know that the two had just earned their first failing grade on English homework. I felt so sorry for the students.

Lifting up the pile of homework papers, the professor began to quickly leaf through them, separating them into two piles. Next, we watched with growing anxiety as he took out his red pen, making a quick stroke at the top of the first page. “Mr. Butler:” A male student responded. “You have failed this paper.”

“But, Sir, you haven’t even read it?”

“No, I haven’t and I can’t. Your handwriting is atrocious, Mr. Butler. I won’t waste my time trying to figure out what you have written. If you don’t have time to write legibly, I suggest you contact one of the students in the typing pool and pay for it to be typed.” From that point until the end of that first pile, we heard the same pronouncements. Indeed, the pages did look pretty sloppy, with words crossed out instead of erased, on many of the papers I could see as they were now being stacked in the F pile at the corner of his desk. I was so relieved to have taken nearly as long to cleanly type my paper as to write it.

Moving to the second of the two originally separated stacks of homework, the teacher did another culling; only one small stack was put to the side this time. “Obviously, some of you did not remember how many words this composition should be? I can look at this page and know there are not 500 words on it. The number was not the upper limit like some kind of a contest, Ladies and Gentlemen. It was your assignment to get your composition to that number and not over it.” We watched the stroke of the red pen once again as each name was called out.

“I have left this one example for last because it is entirely possible that the student has found her way to the wrong class. In fact, I am nearly certain this is the case and suggest that you, Miss Sojourner, leave this room immediately and sign up for Bonehead Math.” To my utter horror the professor was holding my paper high above his head and shaking it. I wanted to throw up and kept swallowing as fast as I could to try to get control. “Did I not say 500 words? Did I not suggest that this was not, in fact, Bonehead Math class yesterday when you raised this issue of not being able to count to 500? What is this you have put on my desk? It must be, at least, 800 words.”

“Sir, I asked about counting because my typing teacher told us not to count the words that…” I didn’t get to finish my shaky explanation.

“So, now, Miss Sojourner thinks she is back in high school typing class? Count… the… words… and… come… up… with… 500… words. Not 300, not 800… 500! Is that clear?” We nodded our heads but no one spoke. Seemed like there was no excuse for anything one might do wrong in this class. I fought back the tears as his red pen made the stroke on my hours of work, F. He wouldn’t even read what I’d written. I’d never in my life failed any English homework or test.

One lesson I learned that day was never to assume what I had been told by one teacher was the right thing to do for another. I soon learned this teacher shows one persona in class and another in his office. After this crushing humiliation, I determined to never guess what was okay with him. But, from this first mistake, I also learned not to inquire of him in class. If any other student wanted the question answered he would need to do what I did…. go to his office and ask. He was a very friendly and interested prof in that little room. He gladly answered my questions and encouraged me to relax when I wrote so it would flow more naturally, etc.

The English professor never came right out and said this, but it seemed to me that he behaved the way he did because he thought that the vast majority of kids were not in that class out of interest but it was required. He expected a hard time from the students who didn’t like writing so he got the jump on their potential behavior by acting like a tyrant from the first day. There was no fooling around in his class and few students ever dropped out. We learned so much from this man; many of us were sad to leave his classroom on that final day of the Fall Quarter. All of us wanted to sneak back the first day of the new Winter Quarter to see what would happen to those poor, unsuspecting saps just entering the teacher’s lair.

This lesson of 45 years ago is coming full circle. I am a member of Faith Writers, participating in a weekly writing challenge with a 750-word limit for each article. The topic of the article is given every Thursday and, so far, they have not asked for anything on a wooden chair. This year I have been studying books on writing. Guess what I have learned? An editor/agent will not read even the cover letter for a manuscript submitted to them if it doesn’t totally meet the publisher’s exact requirements… font style, size and a lot of other details. Hey, they don’t care if it took you ten years to write the book, they won’t read even one page. Good thing I was in this man’s English class early in my adult life!

So many times when things seem unfair or we are not treated as we think we should be, we get mad at God. If I’m doing what God wants me to do, then why doesn’t everything go right for me? If I am really trying hard to do what I should, why shouldn’t I be given the benefit of the doubt if I make a mistake? Well, dear Reader, as in the above story of a hard revelation for Sojourner, sometimes we have lessons to learn that are not learned any other way. University was like cold water in the face a lot of the time that first year. They wanted us to grow up and realize life in the adult world was more than just freedom from parental control. Toughen up, Kid!, seemed to be the motto. Paying attention to detail is a matter of successful adult life. Not just going ahead with what we imagine could be the right thing to do. It just doesn’t cut it in the working world. Finding a way to get the information needed is the key, not complaining because I wasn’t handed the information at the time I would have expected. You can be totally sure I never forgot the above lessons. I had no idea they would come in handy when I took up writing so many years later! God knew, though, and began my training early. I am so grateful that God knows just what I need and the best time to teach me!

****Another First-Year Revelation... Coming Tomorrow

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

First-Year Revelations: English Comp

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, listen up here.” The Freshman English teacher paced back and forth in front of us, while we noisily gathered our books and notebooks back in our bags. “By tomorrow… I said tomorrow, not the day after… I want to see 500 words written on this chair. This chair right here.” At last, all eyes focused in on the straight-backed wooden chair at the front of the room. Those who snickered received the stern, but wordless,  reproof the unsmiling face sent their way. Okay, so he isn’t kidding.

“Sir, how do we count the 500 words?” Now that glaring look, complete with seriously grooved brow, squinting little eyes, flared nostrils, and a straight line where his smile should have been was directed right at me. All motion in the room came to an abrupt halt, every eye looking at me. There was no doubt in my mind that the heat I felt rising from underneath my collar and spreading up to my hairline, registered a bright-red beacon of embarrassment. It was an honest question, though; I didn’t want to make a mistake.

“Excuse me, Miss Sojourner? Could I have heard you correctly? Are you asking me how to count to 500? I mean, does this look like Bonehead Math class to you?” The nervous giggles spreading around the room consoled me a little, because it felt like others might not know which words to count either. Maybe they were afraid to ask. “Five hundred words, tomorrow.” He stomped out of the classroom and was gone, but my question was still hanging in the air.

“Carlene, do you have any idea how to count the words in an English composition?” My roommate was not in my English class, but I figured it was probably a standard thing.

“Count them? Hmmm, my high school English teacher never had us count the words; we just had to write a certain number of pages. My prof here has not given us any writing assignments yet so I can’t really help you, sorry.”

“The thing is, Carlene, the only time I ever had to count what I wrote on a page of paper was in typing class. We were told not to count any of the articles in the sentences. The kids who turned in their papers with a word count that included those little words got in real trouble. The teacher said they were lazy and trying to cheat.  All  I wanted to know is if that’s the same in English class? What do you think?”

“If it was me, I’d do what your typing teacher said. He’s a teacher, right? He should know.” She sounded pretty confident. I wasn’t that sure. Did what a high school sophomore typing teacher say mean the same as a university freshman English teacher? But, what could I do? I’d better just concentrate on how to find 500 words to describe a wooden chair, without being boring.

Sitting at my typewriter, I began to write. (At the period of that last sentence, the Word Count = 500, if you’re wondering, dear Reader.)

****First-Year Revelations: English Comp, Conclusion… Coming Tomorrow





Monday, July 16, 2012

Lunch on Grandpa’s Mountain

When you’re a 5-year-old city-dweller, there are no sweeter words than, “You and Donna will stay on the ranch with Grandpa and Grandma this weekend.” How I loved the sights, sounds, and even the smells of their completely different world. Staying overnight meant a Saturday picnic on the mountain. But, watching my parents drive through the ranch gate, my tummy felt funny and my eyes, watery. Guess my Grandpa noticed, ‘cuz he grabbed my hand.

“C’mon, girls; let’s get to chores while Grandma finishes up her bread.” Funny how the odor of the barn dried up my eyes, isn’t it? Laughing at the new piglets playing in their pen took away my tummy-ache. Why would city grown-ups say the funny smell of pigs makes them sick?

We finished chores and made our way back to the house. The moment we opened the screen door, the aroma of freshly baked bread hit me. “I was just about to put these sandwiches in the picnic basket. Do you still want to eat on the mountain or did Grandpa work you too hard so you need a rest?” Eyeballing the thick slices of homemade bread used for the tuna sandwiches, I clapped and jumped up and down. How much better they would taste on the mountain.

“We’re not tired, Grandma! Put the sandwiches in the basket, please.” One-by-one the two halves of each sandwich were placed in the woven straw basket. Grandma had lined it with red and white gingham cloth, a second piece for a covering. 

We skipped to the front door where Grandma offered us the handle of the picnic basket. She gave us the familiar warning to go around and come up the backside of the mountain, ‘cuz there was a deep canyon in front.

I helped carry the picnic basket until we started up the mountain; but, then, I had to let go. It was my sister’s job to carry it up the narrow path ‘cuz she was seven. At last, we were next to the tree. The space was a little rocky, but it was easy to clear away a place to sit.

“Do ya think Grandma and Grandpa come up here to have lunch sometimes? I’d come every day if I lived here.” My sister said she didn’t think they ever took the time to have picnics. “Do ya think they’re too old for picnics?” This was a worry to me ’cuz I’d heard people die when they’re too old but didn’t know what number that was. Grandma already had two five’s in her number and I only had one.

“Can you just eat? I dunno if they’re too old but you ask too many questions.”

Tugging on the brim of my cowboy hat like I’d seen Grandpa do, I settled myself down for a few quiet bites. With the sounds of mooing cows and screeching chickens not far off, I scanned the mountain for any sign of squirrels. I couldn’t see any from where I sat, so I stood to go a little higher.

“Hey, sit down. Where do ya think you’re goin’?”

“Just up there; I want to check for squirrels.”

“Finish your sandwich first.”

Holding up my half-eaten sandwich, I reminded her, “Picnics are for eatin’ standin’, sittin’, or walkin’, don’t ya know?” I reckon she didn’t know, and, boy, did she take her job to watch out for me seriously.

“C’mon back here, right now! You know you’re not supposed to go to the top.” I took three more quick steps up, whirled around for a fast check and returned to my sister. “Did ya see anything up there?” Ah-ha! She did want to go to the top, too. That’s when I decided it must be really hard to be the big sister. I mean, it was her job to keep me from doing the very thing she’d like to do herself.

Except for a few grasshoppers and assorted tiny bugs, there wasn’t much interesting on the mountain that day. We finished our sandwiches and headed back to have the usual dessert of milk and cookies with Grandpa and Grandma.

Returning as an adult, I discovered that our mountain had been a sprawling, 10-foot high pile of rocky earth, located about 20 yards from Grandpa’s front door. Our deep canyon resulted from the removal of that dirt. Still, it was a marvelous place for young children to enjoy a picnic lunch on a warm summer’s day.

* * *
A True Story

Friday, July 13, 2012

Punt, Peter, and Pastor Green

Lifting the mini-recorder, the elderly pastor began listening to the stranger’s message. “I can’t believe I so totally blanked and got off the bus at Webster Elementary. Every Tuesday, Mom picks my sister, Jamie, up; I don’t walk her home. Frustrated, I took the back way. Gruesomely bad decision. 

“You might be asking, who are you? My name is Peter Jacob Johnston III and I’m 13 years old, though you wouldn’t think so to look at me. My 10-year-old sister has cancer. I didn’t think a kid could have anything worse happen than that; but, today, I found out there’s worse. Lemme tell you what happened when I left Jamie’s school.

“I passed by this large double-hedge of irises and would’ve kept on going, ‘cept the soles of some familiar worn-out, black boots caught my eye. Naturally, I did a quick glance right and left before I drew closer to the boots. Shock of shocks, Punt was still in those boots. No kidding; there he was, all laid out amongst those purple flowers. Call 9-1-1, I told myself; but instead, I moved to see what made the light flash off Punt’s neck. Okay, now, here’s something worse.
Jeremy’s knife was sticking out of that huge neck, a large pool of dark-red blood already soaking the ground.

“The thing is, even though he’s this tall, African-American Middle School basketball star, Jeremy and me are best friends. Punt, who’s called that because he kicks his target so hard he’d make a field goal if he ever let go, threatened to separate my geeky head from my scrawny, little, white boy body. Jeremy told Punt he’d pay with his own over-sized, ugly mug, if he ever touched me again. Punt is the guy who carries out the punishment for Bull, the school’s chief bully. I don’t know if Punt ever gets to decide on who he kicks.

“When I saw Jeremy’s knife, I just reacted, without thinking. Pulling out my folded-up Math paper, I wrapped it around the knife and yanked it out. I covered the bloody end of the knife and put it in my jacket pocket. Really, I don’t know what I thought I’d do with it, probably wash it off and give it back to Jeremy. I don’t even know if Jeremy really knifed him or not; he could’ve done it.

“The real reason I’m putting this on my dad’s old mini-recorder and leaving it in your office, Pastor, is that, if I show up dead, I just want someone to know what happened and what I saw today. Bull knows that Jeremy’d be lookin’ for Punt when he heard I got beat up on the way to the bus today. If Bull hears Punt’s dead, I’m thinkin’ he’ll forget about goin’ for Jeremy and just come whack me. That’d be the worst hurt for Jeremy.

“Don’t bother lookin’ for me, Pastor; you’ll never find me. Could ya pray for me and Jeremy? Uh, I think Jeremy’s a Christian ‘cuz he spends all mornin’ Sunday down at the corner Baptist Church. Me? Well, uh, if I live through this, I might just come back to get the recorder from you, and we can talk about it, okay?”

Pastor Green hit rewind and slipped to his knees. Tears trickled down the weary old saint, falling like the early rain of spring. “My God and my Father. You alone know where Peter can be found. Take me to him, please.” Standing, Pastor Green walked with determination to his office door, expecting directions from the one Who’d led him for more than 60 years. Realizing it might be a long walk, Green veered off to the restroom just before exiting the building.

Opening the swinging door marked MEN, Pastor Green heard gut-wrenching sobs from behind a closed stall door. “Hello, Peter. I’m Pastor Green and God has sent me to help you find Him. I’m very sad to hear Harold has been stabbed; he was on his way to find you. Harold found Jesus here this afternoon and so wanted to make things right with you.  He feared that Bull would never let him quit. According to Harold, Bull stole Jeremy’s knife.” Slowly, the blue metal stall door moved, as Peter‘s bent body emerged. Lifting his head, eyes red and swollen, the adolescent began to speak.

“I-I got real sick, all of a sudden. D-D-Did you say, Bull took Jeremy’s knife? Then…”

“C’mon, Peter. Let’s go to my office; your Heavenly Father’s waiting.”


____
Author’s Note: This is not a true story, as far as I know. Bullying in our middle schools continues to be an increasingly serious problem. Truly, only Jesus can bring it to an end.

****Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Vow

This is a story of Biblical fiction. To help you read it, here is a key to their Hebrew names:
Yitzhak = Isaac
Hayalah = “Gazelle”, a girl’s name
Hadar = “Splendor”, the name of the girl’s mother
Jephthah = “He will open”, the father of the girl, whose name and story are written in Judges Chapter 11

The Vow

The lanky, young Yitzhak scanned faces in the courtyard until his eyes locked on hers. The joy of life exploded from within the returning Israelite’s breast at the sight of Hayalah’s smile. He had been away such a long time.

“Hayalah, my beautiful gazelle! How empty my heart has been without you!” In four long strides, the joyful youth covered the distance, eager arms raised to envelop his beloved. Instead of the warmth Yitzhak had so long anticipated, Hayalah’s outstretched palms resisted his embrace.

“Yitzhak, oh my dear Yitzhak. You’ve not heard. Come! We must talk.”

Confusion furrowed Yitzhak’s brow as fear gripped him; the stinging in his eyes added to the pain suddenly sweeping over him. What could have happened in his absence? Hayalah tenderly took his hand in hers, leading him to the olive grove. Hadar glanced up from her work as they passed. Was that sadness Yitzhak had seen in the face of Hayalah’s mother?

Sitting on their familiar make-shift stone bench, Hayalah dropped his hand, turning her slender, youthful body to face him. ”What is it? Has something happened to your father?” Hayalah’s lips parted in such a lovely smile when she responded.

“No, my dear Yitzhak; Father is fine. He is still the mighty warrior he has always been. In fact, Father led the Israelites to victory over the Ammonites just three months ago. Did word not reach you in the Negev?”

Yitzhak shook his head, his eyes narrowed, and the corners of his mouth turned down, as they always did when deep in thought. “No, but what has that to do with us, Hayalah? Of course, I rejoice in the triumph over our enemies but...” Hayalah’s tanned fingertips touched his lips to silence him.

“It has everything to do with us. My father made a vow to the Lord.” Suddenly he understood. The scream of recognition ripped from the grimacing lips of Yitzhak and rode the wind.

“No-o-o-o! No, Jephthah! No! Your daughter’s not yours to give. Hayalah’s mine.” Wracking sobs nearly obliterated the rest of Yitzhak’s words. “Hayalah and I… since we were children… We made a vow to each other. I was going to propose marriage this very night. No! It cannot be.” Without realizing his action, Young Yitzhak began the slow side-to-side swaying so common when speaking prayers for the dead. His groans were felt by all who heard him; everyone knew the young couple.

“Shhh, Yahweh isn’t a God Who doesn’t care about us. Has His plan not been to deliver us from our enemies? Haven’t we willingly joined in to do our part, Yitzhak?”

“Of course, but this, this is too much. Why you, Hayalah?”

“It was a devastating shock to Father when he saw me come out of the house to greet him, dancing with joy over the victory. Father had not offered his only child, but the first thing to come out of the house. I didn’t know of the vow, of course. I was just so thrilled and proud of him; I could not let a servant be the first.” Yitzhak shook his head, rubbing his large, rugged hands up and down over his wet face, groaning with each of Hayalah’s words.

Finally, she could bear his agony no longer, pulling one of his hands to her lips. “Oh, my Yitzhak, how I’ve prayed for this moment, that God would give you strength and understanding.” Hayalah’s voice started to tremble.

“My father’s been the family’s outcast his entire life. His brothers never accepted him and said he would have no inheritance from Grandfather Gilead because his mother was a prostitute. Don’t you see how important it was that they came to ask for Father’s help? The victory was for him as much as for Israel.”

“But, what about us? Will you never marry then?” Still holding his hand in hers, glistening eyes met Yitzhak’s.

“No, I will never marry. My heart was ripped from within me that day because I remembered our childhood vow. You and I under the wedding canopy was my only dream.” Hayalah paused until her voice steadied.

“But, in the two months of secluded mourning with my friends, we also sought the Lord. I have earnestly prayed for God to blanket you with the same peace and comfort that He’s given me. Yahweh has a plan for my life, my beloved friend. Likewise, He has not forgotten you; He will speak. Let’s look forward, with expectancy, to His path set before us now.”

____
Author's Note: While all of the personal names are real Hebrew names, only the names of Jephthah and his father, Gilead, are mentioned in the account recorded in Judges Chapter    11. 

****Punt, Peter, and Pastor Green… Coming Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

One Royal Assignment

“Hey, remember Father God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. It’ll be okay.” My roommate and I were walking towards town, my weekly letter home in hand.

“I know; I’m praying He is on the way to market with one right now. Once we buy the stamp for your letter, that’s it.” Both in our own thoughts, the rest of the journey to town was punctuated only by the cool morning birdsongs in the picturesque, Western Swiss village.

True, we had not even two francs between us; but, on the other hand, we were daughters of the King of Kings, right? Could there be any greater financial security?

Back at the worktable, my thoughts did a quick rewind, remembering just a couple of months ago when, early one morning, I padded down the corridor in a friend’s third floor flat in Northeastern Switzerland. I heard God’s still, small voice speak to me.

“You’ll spend Easter at the Garden Tomb this year.” My hand automatically fingered our one last penny in my jeans pocket.

“Oh, yeah? Would be nice.” Moving over to the window, I smiled at the beautiful fluffy, white snowflakes now falling. Easter was two weeks away.

“Tomorrow you’ll find an envelope on the dining table with 4000 francs. Go to Israel.” And, that’s how the Israel assignment began.

Indeed, we enjoyed Easter service in the beautiful Garden Tomb, but that was just a small part of all we experienced those incredible five weeks. There were two grueling days with that crazy rabbi in a 60’s hippy-style mini-van bumping us all over Israel, along roads others rarely traveled. Can anyone say, “Land mine?” Notebooks were filled with little-known facts shared by military top-brass, well-known rabbis, and politicos as our pens flew hours each day during a special conference. We rejoiced in celebrating Israel’s 40th birthday. We shared their grief over the Holocaust on the Day of Remembrance.

The fact-finding part of the assignment completed, we waited at the Western Wall where our Kingly Father urged us to write what we had seen and heard, then tour America. All with only our remaining five francs?

Abruptly, my reminiscing of weeks passed came to an end with Ann-Lise’s proclamation, “Let’s quit writing; time for lunch!” Soon the ringing doorbell interrupted our search for lunch fixings. Marianne lived about thirty minutes drive away; her infrequent visits were a pleasure. 

“How’s the booklet coming? Ready to return to Israel?” Our weeks as journalists for the Lord had yielded so much information about Israel and the people living there. Whittling it down to just 77 pages was no small task.

“Well, as usual, it is hard to cut anything. It all seems essential, or touching, or just plain interesting.” My struggle was familiar to those warm faces smiling back at me.

“Well, I thought of you two this morning when I was in Migros.” She had our full attention. Those joyful butterflies began their fluttering in my tummy in anticipation.

“Uh-huh, staring at the grocery store shelves makes you think of us?” We all chuckled at Anne-Lise’s question. Marianne reached down and lifted up two full grocery bags.

“As a matter of fact, that’s rather how it happened. I went to one shelf after another and heard the Lord tell me to take a kilo of this or a jar of that and, well, here it is.” Anne-Lise found the grocery list she had been adding to as the supplies ran out.

Marianne pulled out one item at a time, followed by a “Check” as Anne-lise crossed it off. When the bags were empty, we all rejoiced that not one item remained on the list. 

“Oh, what’s this?” I said as I folded the shopping bag. “There’s still something in this one.”

“Sugar!” Anne-Lise’s eyes shot up as she registered the kilo of sugar in my hand.

“Huh? It wasn’t on the list.” I was surprised to see Anne-Lise laughing, hands clapping, and her feet ready to leave the floor. 

“No, it wasn’t on the list because I forgot it! How wonderful that God doesn’t need a list!!”

Besides our daily bread (and sugar), our Kingly Father God provided finances, at just the right moment, to print and distribute hundreds and hundreds of copies of Isaac and Ishmael Today. The plane took us to America and a four-month tour including 26 States, covering more than 13,000 miles. At last, the exciting, 9-month Israel assignment was successfully completed. Haven’t ridden a Greyhound bus since.

Author’s Note: This is a true story, lived in 1988.

****The Vow, Coming Tomorrow

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kofta

We’ll take a little break from recounting the “Final Two Years” tweens and teens adventures because I’m traveling this week. So, instead of our usual adventure and analysis of what part God had in it, I will post one of my recent Faith Writers Weekly Writing Challenge stories each day for the remainder of this week. The first two are true stories and the final two are fiction.


Kofta

Approaching the gathering just off the dirt street, Kofta watched as a stone hit the white man’s face. It bounced off but not before it drew blood, red streaks coloring the man’s white shirt. When Kofta noticed that the stranger did not leave his perch but continued speaking, he was intrigued. What could be so important that the man would keep speaking while stones were hurled at him?

Kofta lingered behind while the crowd dispersed. As a teacher, learning was important to the young African man; he was curious to hear the full story.

“Good afternoon, Sir. My name is Kofta. I heard only the end of your words. Is it possible to tell me the beginning?”

“Kofta, huh? Where did you get such a name? Sure, I’ll be glad to fill you in.” The missionary was smiling broadly, sweat pouring down his face in the hot African afternoon.

“Well, I’m on the National Soccer Team and the guys say I am such an important part of the team that they can’t go on the field without me. ‘Kofta’ is the tribal name for ‘shoes’. So, what were you saying about the Prophet Jesus?” Clearly the young man wanted the spotlight turned away from himself and onto what he had missed.

“Yes, you know of the miracles of the Prophet Jesus because the Koran speaks of his great power. But, my friend, there is much more to Jesus than being a prophet.” The two men enjoyed a lively discussion, the missionary pausing only periodically to swipe his handkerchief over his face and neck. Something was happening inside Kofta. He couldn’t explain it but he knew what the man had said was the truth. Mohamed never spoke of these things; at least, Kofta had never heard the stories. To accept this teaching was not to be entered into lightly, however. He would need to think about it.

When the day of Kofta’s salvation came, he rejoiced to have entered into the new covenant by re-birth. His plan was to keep it quiet and not speak of these things at school or with his teammates. Religion should be a private matter for each man to decide on his own. Or, so Kofta reasoned until he heard another message from the missionary, speaking at a conference held at the church.

“Once you know the truth, you can’t just hide it under a basket and keep it to yourself, can you? Others need to have the same opportunity you’ve had to make their own choice. Then once they make the same choice you’ve made, they will need someone to teach them how to live the truth written here in God’s Word.” The white man was holding up a book he referred to often as he spoke. Kofta was way ahead of him, leaving the building as soon as he realized the missionary was going to ask them to consider becoming pastors. No way was he going to sign on to that.

“God, you understand, right? I can’t be a pastor; it’s too much to ask.” The distressed young teacher wanted to learn more, of course, but to become a pastor? The cost was too great. “If I became a pastor, I would never be granted permission to marry any woman, if I found one I wanted. Even if it is discovered I converted to Christianity, I will lose my job as a teacher. How would I support myself? And, God, what about the team; they’re counting on me? Even now, my family will disown me if they find out what I’ve done. I’ll bring great shame to them if I become a pastor, don’t you see that?” The matter was settled as far as Kofta was concerned, but not for his Lord.

Everyone who watched Kofta on the field knew of his great skill and strength; he was one of the most famous players they had trained. However, God hadn’t created the talented African man to live his entire life as a soccer star. That season of Kofta’s life had come to an end. Now, God wanted Him to throw his energies into training just as hard for the ministry.

Today, if Pastor Kofta were asked, “Do you miss the fame and fortune soccer once afforded you?” His face would, probably, light up with that enormous smile and, with a shrug of his massive shoulders, he would give a hearty laugh before responding.

“Never! Compared to life with Jesus, what’s to miss?”


____
Author’s Note: This is my dear friend’s true story. Pastor Kofta lives with his wife of more than 20 years and continues to pastor a church in West Africa, burning with the heart of an evangelist. The couple has one son and has raised a number of children given to them by their relatives, according to the African custom.

****One Royal Assignment… Coming Tomorrow

Monday, July 9, 2012

Does Religious Freedom Nullify Other Human Rights?

Religious freedom was the very reason that the first pilgrims left the comforts and safety of their known world in Europe to journey to a new and undeveloped land. At that time, the main thought was not to be subjected to a government that would tell the Christians how to worship God and just who could read the Bible. It was a hard-fought privilege, costing many lives through war, sickness, and even starvation. But, at last, the freedom was theirs and an independent nation was born. Great, well, Sojourner, you already gave us the scoop on that last Wednesday, the “Fourth of July” What’s the Big Deal?” or don’t you remember? Right you are, dear Reader! And, since that very post I have been asking myself, what does that mean, really? Are we willing to have just any religion practice, unrestricted? What if the practice breaks some of our criminal laws, for example? Do we just say, well it is the way they worship God so our constitution can’t deny them that right. Because of the vast differences found in the practice of Islam and Christianity, not to mention the rapid spread of Islam around the world, I just wondered.

Then, yesterday, I listened to a message presented to a large church in the States that helped me sort it out a bit. The speaker presented in that church a year ago but, through their online archives, we could listen to it yesterday. Lt. General William Boykin has retired from the U.S. Army now and, in fact, has even recently earned credentials as an ordained minister. A Lt. General has three stars on his shoulder, in case that isn’t familiar to you. He was employed for several decades in the Army and had an extremely distinguished service career. He was the head of the Army’s elite “Delta Force” and, in fact, he was the man commanding the disastrous mission in Somalia that ended up in a well-known book and film of the same name, Black Hawk Down. Lt. General Boykin had been, and still is, in a key position to understand the situation with the Islamic cause. He is interested in getting the word out to others so that we’ll not be ignorant of what’s really happening.

Lt. General Boykin said that once our children’s textbooks were published by nine different companies; but, now, there are only two producing the material our children will be learning in school. Both of these companies are owned by Moslems. Currently the history textbooks being read by our public school children have 82 references to Islam and only 2 references to Christianity. In addition, the books for the fourth and fifth grade students don’t even include the name “Americans” in the text. Instead, the Americans are called “global citizens.” By the time they are in the seventh and eighth grades the history series does not give them any examples of how much the United States of America has helped others over the course of history but only the destruction that America has wrought on the world. What? Well, where are the editors of these textbooks? Two of the people who edit these very textbooks had been on trial for terrorism years ago. A technicality got the trial tossed out. On leaving the courtroom, one of the two gave this statement to the waiting reporters: “Guilty as Hell, free as a bird. You just got to love America.”

In Europe Islam is spreading so fast that by the mid-point of this century it will be an Islamic continent. The birth rate for the Europeans is around 1.3 while the Muslims living there is around 5.8… do the math. In England, only 10% of the population says that they attend church, while mosques are springing up all over the land. (I had already learned from the BBC that there are now more mosques in England than churches. In fact, there is an entire region in the country where the Muslims are allowed to practice the Islamic Sharia law, rather than the laws of England. I very recently heard a broadcast that said the important French port city of Marseilles is a Moslem city now.)

Getting back to American shores, there’s been a controversy about the building of a mosque at Ground Zero, the site of the 9-11 unthinkable tragedy perpetrated upon innocent citizens of many nations working that day at the World Trade Center in New York. In the interest of tolerance and a show of solidarity with all people of the world, the present administration sees no problem with letting the very group who killed all of those people, as well as the others who died that day in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., erect an Islamic Centre there.

In an interview with “Conservative News”, Lt. General Boykin responded to the newsman’s question about the construction of the mosque at Ground Zero:

I am so disappointed. I’m also angry that there are those who are so uninformed and intimidated by these people that they are willing to allow this. We need to remember that Islam is not a religion, but a totalitarian way of life with a religious component. Yet we protect the entire thing under the first amendment. Stop and think about it. Islam is a legal system, a political system, a financial system, a dress code, a moral code, and a social structure, yet we protect it as a First Amendment issue. That’s our fundamental mistake. The second thing is, people have no understanding of Islam’s
history or its basic tenets.

Islam’s objective in America is to replace our Constitution with Sharia law.

When they defeated the nomadic tribes in Mecca, they built a mosque at the most holy site. The message was one of triumph that Islam has now defeated you and Islam reigns supreme. They did the same thing at Córdoba [Spain]. They did it in Jerusalem. Same in Constantinople. The message was always one of conquest and victory.

Now, ‘ground zero’ is not holy, but it is sacred because of the lives lost. They want to build a mosque there to proclaim that Islam reigns supreme. Do you know what that is going to mean to Muslims all over the world?

The recruiting to the Jihadist cause will be exponentially increased as a result of the very symbol — the very message — associated with that mosque there. It is incomprehensible to me. It was supported by Christian pastors and Jewish rabbis in this thing they call an interfaith dialogue. It shows such an extraordinary lack of understanding for what Islam is doing.”

This helped me understand why it isn’t right to just allow the Moslems to do whatever they wanted to do “in the name of religious freedom.” Religion is only one part of Islam, yet we are being told to accept them because of the First Amendment right for them to worship as they wish. That amendment did not give them the right to cut off the hand of a thief, instead of holding a fair trial with a judge and jury of his peers. It didn’t give them the right to forbid girls to go to school or learn to drive a car. It didn’t give them the right to beat their wives, and, in fact encourage them to do so if they disagreed with the husband’s opinion. The First Amendment did not give people the right to dictate what a girl or woman could and couldn’t wear. The First Amendment did not give a girl’s father the right to have her genitals mutilated in order to keep her from experiencing any pleasure with sexual relationships. When looking at the total picture of what it means for a girl-child to be born into a Muslim family, what American citizen would agree that it is within the rights of her father to treat her in this way because of our First Amendment? Yet, to allow unrestricted religious freedom, is to allow these and many other gruesome practices because it is all a part of the Islamic religion.

On that gut-wrenching “Black Hawk Down” day in Somalia when L. General Boykin helped evacuate 15 bodies and 72 wounded soldiers from his own command, he said the blood ran like water the moment he released the tailgate of the transport truck where the bodies and wounded had been stacked for transport to the plane. He was so overcome with grief that he sat on his bunk and spoke his anger at God for such a thing. In fact, he said that there is no God. At the moment he said that a quiet voice whispered in his own spirit, “If there is no God, then there is no hope.”

Realizing the truth of this and the error of his own pronouncement, Boykin repented. He said that at the very instant that he was sorry for what he had said, he felt the forgiveness of the Lord.

Truly, dear Reader, without God there is no hope. The good news is that God is, indeed, living and we do have hope! Stand up for what our forefathers fought and died for, America! And Christians around the world, stand up for God’s truth and His freedom! God is on our side; we will win in the end!

****Kofta… Coming Tomorrow

Friday, July 6, 2012

First-Year University: Friends, Reflections

After my first-year encounters with guys, I was not as distressed as David was when he wrote this Psalm but almost:

“And in my dismay I said, ‘All men are liars.’” (Psalm 116: 11 NIV, 1984)

I know this is a gross exaggeration; but, what can I say, I was 18! As I matured a bit, I began to look at my part in the unjust scenarios that played out during that first year. How had I found myself there in the first place?

Beginning at the end and working forward, then, let’s take a look at each situation: Guys and Surprises: “Being engaged” but never suspecting it. (This story actually begins with this link: First-Year University: Foresters Ball, if you want the total picture.) I had been teased, as had all females going to college or universities following high school, that a girl was only interested in a “Mrs.” degree… in other words, finding a husband was the goal. Since I wanted an education first, it didn’t enter my mind that the guys were doing that same thing… looking for their Mrs. Boy, was I naive! I was very comfortable with John Mark and behaved very naturally with him… well, naturally in the sense of a fraternal friend or sister, that is. John Mark interpreted my playful, friendly behavior as being interested in him as a husband. This had been unintentionally deceptive on my part as I was not at all looking down that road.

Yes, it would have been a lot smarter of John Mark to, at least, address the subject with me before he “announced” it to his family as a done deal and invited them to meet me. So why didn’t he? Was he that sure of the relationship? Or, was this just a risky manipulation maneuver to get me to commit to marrying him? You know, she can’t say no in front of the whole family, can she? Of course, she will be surprised and thrilled. Well, I was, definitely, surprised but totally not thrilled. The event marked the end of the engagement John Mark had envisioned.

The issue of Chris was a “horse of a different color” but the reason it happened was the same. (That story is found in the link First-Year University: Guys.) He wasn’t as heartless as one might have thought, however, as he had mentioned the dance to his mother, at least. Had he no conscience about standing me up, he never would have let his mother know he was doing it. I reckoned that he already knew his mother would call me so I wouldn’t be all dressed up with no date coming to take me to the Ball. So, what happened? Is the guy a real jerk?  I think he was a real coward but, when one has a negative experience, I believe that one should take a look at what part he or she might have played. For my part, then, I did not take into consideration that Chris really was not as excited as I was to get all dressed up for a formal dance. Nevertheless, I was going to get him to take me. Did I know he didn’t want to go? Yes, I did but he had agreed to go so I just figured he would feel differently once we were at the dance. Wrong!

For both of these painful situations, I had not tuned into the guy’s feelings or perceptions accurately. I had my own agenda. In both, communication was lacking, big time. Why? What is it that so often keeps us from being honest with one another in our relationships?

In the situation with the off-campus party, the guys at the party were numerous and, truly, had only one thing on their minds… a lasting relationship was not it! (The story is found in the link: First-Year University: Mistake and Rescue.) How had I found myself in that situation? Communication was not the issue here but the fear of what my friend might think of me if I refused to go was. God, indeed, delivered me out of what could have been a seriously bad situation. I was not as easily swayed to do what I knew was the wrong thing in order to please someone else, following my rescue. Why didn’t I stand up for what I thought was right and, in fact, what I really wanted to do all along?

In all three of these scenarios, the foundational element was fear. In each case, the reason for the control fear exhibited over the individuals was pride. In every case, the antidote to the poison fear brings to us is humility. If we would just humble ourselves and speak the truth, such situations would not produce so much pain in our lives. Fortunately, our loving Father God understands just how hard that is for us. Pride was the sin that brought down the angel charged with leading the worship in Heaven. It is just as destructive on planet earth. I know that God is interested in helping us overcome pride in every aspect of our lives and He will help us live a life of humility. The Bible says,

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Bottom Line: God will help us do the right thing; just ask Him to help destroy that ugly pride by practicing humility!

In each of the above situations, I came away with new understanding of what I could do to prevent a recurrence, of course; but, also, I found I had even benefited from having lived the experience. A verse I often bring to mind when facing difficult circumstances, especially when I don’t see any way of rescue, is found in Romans 8:

Verse 28: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (NLT)

Whatever we are going through right now, God is aware of the situation. God has a plan and will help us out of it or take us through it. Both are for our eternal good. Focusing our attention on clearing up any issues of pride in our situations can be a great beginning on the road to victory. God is willing and able to help us learn to humble ourselves and, I have found, provides quite a number of experiences for us to practice this truth!

****Have a great weekend!