Still Missing Her

Seven years ago today, I walked into my mother’s rooms and said: Seven years ago today, I walked into my mother’s room and said: “Mom, today is your birthday.  Do you know how old you are?”  She thought for a moment and said: “No Stan, I don’t think I do.” “You’re 101,” I said.  My statement revived her spunky and independent spirit, and she informed me that, “I might not know how old I am, but I know I’m not 101!

Mom died about a month later form the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Since today is her birthday, I’m re-posting this blog as a tribute to her. . .

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

At this time in our nation’s history bread was 9 cents a loaf, gas was 10 cents a gallon, and a movie ticket was 35 cents.

On Friday, June 20th, about halfway through 1930, Buzz Aldrin was born. At the time of his birth, the idea of space flight was just science fiction; however, Aldrin would join Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969; and, they would be the first two people to walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin wasn’t the only person born on June 20, 1930. A baby girl, who would never experience his fame and notoriety, was also born. Her family had little money but a lot of love. Her fragile world was shattered a few years later when her mother died. She quit school in the 8th grade because her dad needed her to help work the fields—the fields of a farm he would later be forced to sell.

As a young lady, she married, but heartache found her again. At the age of 35, she became a widow when her husband was killed on the job, and she was left with three young sons. A short time later she married again. Five children came with her new husband. His 5 and her 3 made for a memorable life that could be as harried as it was happy.

When her second husband died, the truth was exposed: She was weaker than any of her family knew. Her cognitive skills were becoming cobwebs; Her sense of direction failed her; and, she was often lost.

On Monday of last week, my siblings and I had to stand toe-to-toe with the toughest woman we’ve ever known to break the news: “Mom, you can’t live by yourself any longer—we’re moving you into assisted living.”

Mom’s independent spirit has served her well for most of her life. She kept going and remained positive when she had every right to be negative and quit. It’s that same spirit that keeps saying: “I’m not staying here. I’m going home.” But with the next sentence, it’s evident that Alzheimer’s has a befuddling grip on her once vibrant mind and spirit.

Buzz Aldrin may have walked on the moon, but he stands in the shadow of my mother, Evelyn Lou Lacy–the girl who was also born June 20, 1930. She’s been a loving and loyal daughter, a faithful wife to two fortunate men, and a sometimes-fearsome force who molded the life of her children.

Forgiveness is Good Medicine

Of the 365 days on the calendar, three are more time oriented than the other 362. Two of them are associated with a specific hour in which the hours of clocks either spring forward or fall back 60 minutes. The third day is a festive occasion where people bid farewell to the year that was and celebrate the potential and promise of the year that will be.

Every year is like each day—there is a sunrise and a sunset to each one and the interluding period between the two is filled with joys and sorrows, rights and wrongs, and victories and failures.

As I write this, we are minutes away from the final sunset of 2020, and I’m reminded of Paul’s admonition to the church at Ephesus: “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.”

Several years ago, I read Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness (Harper Collins 2002). After reading this book, I concluded: Smoldering anger and spiteful resentment will rob us of joyful contentment.

Fred Luskin, the author of the book, believes that carrying a grudge raises your blood pressure, depletes immune function, makes you more depressed and causes enormous physical stress to the whole body.  Forgiveness interrupts this downward spiral by purging the toxic mixture of anger, bitterness, hatred, and resentment.

Since the health benefits of forgiving far outweigh the disadvantages of nursing a grudge, I encourage you enter 2021 with a spirit of forgiveness.

Like  Bil Keane (Family Circus) has said:  Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

I encourage you to use the present to give the gift of forgiveness.  The one who gives will be as blessed as the one who receives.

Thanksgiving: Is it Natural or Gracious?

Each year when we draw near to the end of November, we anticipate Thanksgiving Day, and we often hear someone quote I Thessalonians 5:17: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

It’s easy to give thanks when you just landed that dream job, or you’ve been surprised by some unexpected blessing.  But, how do you give thanks when the dream becomes a nightmare, you suddenly realize how fragile you are, and you’re no longer so healthy or wealthy?

Do you still have a spirit of gratitude, and can you still give thanks? You can if you understand Paul’s admonition to the church of the Thessalonians. You can if you comprehend the difference between the word “in” and the word “for.”

Paul said we are to give thanks “in everything,” not “for everything.” The difference between the two is a distinction made by Jonathan Edwards and defined as natural gratitude and gracious gratitude.

Let me give you an example: Yesterday, the aroma of freshly baked pumpkin and cherry pie filled the air with a scintillating fragrance. Today, I will sit on the porch, sip my coffee, and as the tart and tasty cherries tickle my taste buds, I will give thanks—this is natural gratitude.

Gracious gratitude is when it is you and not the pie that is in the oven—the oven of trials and heartache; and, you still give thanks.  It is the expression of gratitude because you know God is with you in the midst of your worries and woe-some experiences.

This sort of gratitude is not distorted by your pains and problems because it is riveted on the character of God and exhibited by a robust trust in His promises. Moses described God as being One who is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (Exodus 34:6).”

And Paul, who was no stranger to hardships, encourages us to trust God and remain resilient when we face adversity:

  • Romans 5:3-5: We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
  • Romans 8:28, 37-39: We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Even though we are facing uncertain times, we can express gracious gratitude, and “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! –Psalm 118:1

Ferhoodlums Among Us

There’s a difference between blending for clarity and mixing things up for the purpose of confusion.  Ferhoodlum is a case in point.  Although you won’t find this word in the dictionary, you can find the two words I have blended to create it:

  • Ferhoodle: To confuse, tangle, or perplex
  • Hoodlum: a thug associated with crime or theft

A ferhoodlum is a person, who engages in the premeditated confusion of the facts.  If you’ve watched the evening news or read any posts on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve read the thoughts and heard the voices of ferhoodlums. 

The poll-watching politicians, like Nancy Pelosi, twist the facts with a stranglehold so vicious that they choke the life out of truth.

Ferhoodlums are not a phenomenon of 2020, they’ve been misrepresenting the truth for ages, including the New Testament era.  Paul warned the Ephesians of their deceitful tactics: Don’t be “tossed back and forth [like ships on a stormy sea] and carried about by every wind of [shifting] doctrine, by the cunning and trickery of [unscrupulous] men, by the deceitful scheming of people ready to do anything [for personal profit].  But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15 Amplified Bible).”

Unwilling to compromise the integrity of the Gospel, Paul was determined to speak the truth: “Since we are joined together in this ministry as a result of the mercy shown to all of us by God, we do not become discouraged.  Instead, we have renounced all the things that hide in shame; we refuse to live deceptively or use trickery; we do not pollute God’s Word with any other agenda. Instead, we aim to tell the truth plainly, appealing to the conscience of every person under God’s watchful eye (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).”

Proverbs 12 is a clear contrast between those who speak the truth and the Ferhoodlums among us: “Whoever speaks the truth declares what is right, but a false witness, deceit. There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue, only a moment. Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy (17-20).”

A Stark Contrast

Proverbs 1: 8-19: “If sinners entice you, do not consent . . . for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.”

God’s compassion stands in stark contrast to the callousness of those who brutalize the innocent. Unlike them, Jesus does not seek to shed our blood; He gave His own on the cross of Calvary.

I Peter 2:24: Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes ycrossou were healed.”

A Last Request

last wordsIn an article in Christianity Today (October 2019), Gerald Sittser wrote about the early church and the Christians who embraced a new story. “The story of Jesus opened their eyes to see history not as a narrative of the empire’s achievements—and atrocities—but as a narrative of God’s redemptive work in the world, which often occurs in quiet and mysterious ways. For them, Bethlehem and Golgotha occupied center stage, not the Roman court.”

I encourage to pause today and reflect on the babe of Bethlehem who died with His innocence intact on the cross at Golgotha. His life was a message of redemption, and His death was the sacrifice that redeemed us.

Among the last few words that He spoke, His concern was for those who persecuted Him, and “Forgive them. . .” was a last request.

Make it your mission today to give life to His dying words and “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).”

What Seeds Are You Sowing?

seedsI’ve never heard the Apostle Paul described as a Master Gardener, but he was an authority on sowing and reaping, and He spoke about it in the 6th chapter of Galatians.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

These verses may have been the words that inspired St. Basil to say: “He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

The importance of sowing seeds of kindness is found in a comment made by Leo Buscaglia: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

I encourage you to make a difference in the life of someone today by giving them the gift of kindness. It doesn’t take much effort to open a door, to share a smile, to speak an encouraging word, or to say a prayer.

Like Mother Teresa said: “Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”

Kindness is a form of communication that is  not limited  by  ethnic or social barriers.  It is a language that even the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

The Patron Saint of Velcro

velcroWhat is it that you first think of when you hear the word VelcroIs it the stick-to-itiveness quality of this 1941 George de Mestral invention?

Mestral was perturbed by the nasty burrs that had lodged themselves into his wool pants after a day of hunting in the woods.  After examining the burrs through a magnifying glass, Mestral was fascinated by what he saw.  He discovered that each burr had thousands of tiny little hooks that had latched onto the wool fabric of his pants.

He was so impressed by this pest from nature that he developed a process to mimic the tenacity of the burrs, so he invented a system of nylon hooks and loops and called his product Velcro

Within the pages of the New Testament, we find the living breathing version of Velcro. As a Christian, Stephen was a pest that Saul could not shake.  Because of Stephen’s faithful tenacity, Saul oversaw his stoning and ultimate death.

Even after Stephen was martyred, he was still a nuisance to Saul.  Like Velcro, Saul could not shake the memory of Stephen’s death nor could he forget his last words –words of faith and grace.

Stephen’s death and the Damascus road experience led to the conversion of Saul.  The former enemy of the Cross changed his name to Paul and became an avid evangelist for the Lord.

What is the Velcro moment that changed your life?

The Nuthatch is No Chicken Little

nuhatchI don’t have any hills in my yard, but I do hear the sound of music. My feathered friends have begun their annual return, and they’re filling the air with their joyful melodies. As they arrive, they’re met by the faithful chickadees and nuthatches who have fed on sunflower seeds and weathered the winter.

If, as some say, the chickadees and nuthatches are deficient in color, they are more than proficient in conversation. The chickadee is reported to have a vocabulary of around 50 distinct sounds including phrases, like “danger!” “feed me!” or “I’m single!”

As the chickadee is busy chattering, the nuthatch listens intently; verifies the message; and, if necessary, acts as a watchman on the wall and sounds a predator is present alarm. While the nuthatch is no Chicken Little,  Eric Greene, an ecologist at the University of Montana, lightheartedly says the bird will “retweet” valid warnings to his neighbors.

The importance of conversations cannot be overstated, and ours ought to be more than idle chatter. Jesus said a person will be either justified or condemned by the words they speak (Matthew 12:27).  Our conversation should be more than great swelling words of emptiness (2 Peter 2:18), or persuasive words of deception (Colossians 2:8).

How can we fine-tune our vocabulary, so our conversation is pleasing to God? We can start with a prayer of David: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).