Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mesothelioma, Me, and Many Others

Back at the end of last year I received an email from a woman named Katherine Keys.  She shared with me a remarkable story about her life and mesothelioma.  This story really struck a chord with me because in 2009 my father died from mesothelioma.  I agreed to post her story and then I got sick.  Life as I knew it was put on hold.  I must apologize to Ms. Keys for my failure to carry the story out.  with that said, today, April 26th I am sitting here at work thinking about when we got the first diagnosis.  Mesothelioma is a scary word.  To me it meant instant death and  I began to research what it was and what it did. One site that helped me a great deal is the free ebook on Mesothelioma.   My dad was in the Navy during WWII and when he returned from the war, worked around asbestos.  Asbestos is the cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. The mineral asbestos gets its name from the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks recognized the fireproof qualities of asbestos, while recognizing the harmful effects on asbestos workers. The word asbestos means inextinguishable.Mesothelioma got the best of him in 2006 and he died in 2009.  So my question is....Have you walked in my shoes?   Do you or a loved suffer from this dreaded disease?   I am sharing Katherine's story so that if someone is helped it will be a good thing.  I have also enclosed some sites for you to find out about mesothelioma.

"My name is Katherine Keys and I have been fighting mesothelioma cancer for the past 9 years. If you don’t know, mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. People are can be exposed to asbestos in many ways. I was exposed when the office I was working in decided to redo the floors, which contained large amounts of asbestos.  
At the age of 49 I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Pleural Mesothelioma and was told I had less than two years to live. But I was determined to stay positive and beat this cancer against all odds. My treatment included having my right lung and the lining of the lung removed. Soon after, I began several months of radiation therapy.
I am overjoyed to say that my fight paid off and now 9 years later I am still cancer free! But I know I did not face this battle alone. The doctors and staff at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center are true miracle workers and I am forever grateful to them.
I was also helped greatly by the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma Lawyer Center. Not only did they help me obtain financial compensation which helped with my treatments and quality of life, they genuinely care about my well-being. I am proud to call them my friends and they continue to stand by my side as I fight mesothelioma.
I feel it is my duty to give back to the community--to let people with asbestos diseases know they are not alone. There is help available!
You have a great website. If it's not too much trouble, would you mind posting a link to and on your website? I know together we can help a lot of people! I look forward to hopefully hearing from you, and thanks for all your time in advance.
All the best,"

Find out all you can about this dread disease and let's all work hard to eradicate it.....NOW!

Memories and Hodgepodge

It is Hodgepodge time again.  Here are my responses to this weeks questions.  If you want to play along copy and paste the questions to your blog and jump over to Joyce's blog by clicking here and link to the party.  Hope your week is AWESOME!
From this Side of the Pond

1. April showers bring May flowers or so the saying goes. Has your April been filled with showers? Do you carry an umbrella, wear a slicker, or make a run for it? Besides rain, what else has filled your April?   I carry an umbrella but usually just make a run for it.  My April has held a good bit of rain, but fortunately it was gorgeous on Easter Weekend so I had a dry weekend and gorgeous weather.  My April has held end of the year beginnings, weddings, birthdays, and fun....oh my!

2. What's something you could you give a 30-minute presentation on at a moment's notice and with zero preparation?  Being a Proverbs 31 woman and I have a presentation I have done several times at Women's events called Musical Bridges that is the story of the music in my life.
3. Share with us a favorite food memory from childhood.  From the time I was 3 and old enough to gnaw on a rib bone my dad always cooked ribs for our birthdays.  His birthday was the 14th of April and mine is the 15th.  Ribs has not been my birthday meal since my dad died in 2009.....this year our neighbor and good friend, Tracey cooked ribs on my birthday.  It was heavenly!!!!!  I loved it!
4. What's a song you thought you knew the lyrics to, but later discovered you were wrong?  Ahhhhh Mondegreens.  I love them.  The saying comes from a poem, "They shot the Earle of Morray and Lady Mondegreen."  The actual line is "They shot the Earle of Morray and laid him on the green."  I have several of these misheard lyrics.  My worst one is from the song, Sitting on the Dock of The Bay."  I always thought it had a bad word in it....and of course as a child loved saying it.  I heard the line "Watching the ships roll in....." as "Watching the Sh#t roll in."....for years.  It made perfect sense to me.  The other was "There's a Bathroom on the right/There's a bad moon a risin'" and the infamous Hendrix's lyric, "Scuse me while I kiss this guy/Scuse me while I kiss the sky."
5. According to one travel website, the most overrated tourist attractions in America are-
Niagara Falls (NY), Hollywood Walk of Fame (California), Times Square (NYC), Epcot (FL), Seattle Space Needle (WA), and Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market (Boston). How many of these have you seen in person? Did you feel like a tourist? Did you care? Tell us about a place (not on the list) you've visited that might be considered a tourist trap, but you love it anyway.  I have been to all of the above and loved them.  I was at Niagara Falls when Nick Wallenda walked across it.  It was amazing.  I love the hustle and bustle of Times Square and fell in love with Mt. Ranier in Washington from the Space Needle.  Frank and I went to Disney World a few years ago and I have to an adult I LOVED Epcot.  The cultural aspect and the foods from other countries was amazing.  I guess of all the Disney Properties....Epcot is my favorite.  As far as feeling like a tourist.  I don't care and I usually research the places I am going to I feel like a native.  I love Nashville....but it is so pricey and I would consider it to be a tourist trap.....I bought a pair of boots in a Nashville boutique and paid a pretty penny for them.  I found the same pair of boots at DSW in Birmingham for half the price....and not even on sale.  
6. Your signature clothing item?  Simple....jeans, my Birkenstocks, and a tee favorite is my Ron Jon's shirt.  I would wear them to church on Sunday.....if I wasn't the preacher.  LOL

7. What's an experience you've had you think everyone should experience at least once? Why?  Hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing, The Hallelujah Chorus, in Salt Lake City.  It was breathtaking.
8. Insert your own random thought here.  Today is East meets West Day....and I thought I would share one of my favorite songs.  Have an awesome last week of April.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fly Away With Hodgepodge

I have missed a couple of weeks doing my Hodgepodge.  The end of school is near and I my world has been in a state of Helter Skelter. Hodgepodge is back so let's get right to it. If you've answered this week's questions add your link at the end of Joyce's post. Be sure to leave a comment for the blogger linking before you because that's the neighborly thing to do here on a Wednesday. Here we go-

From this Side of the Pond  

1. Tell us about a time you felt like you were 'flying by the seat of your pants'.
Right now!  It is the end of the school year.  My seniors have given up.  There are sporting events that affect classes, there are plays, there are special events......and on top of that....Every teacher has some kind of field trip planned.  I am lucky if I have half of my original class on any given day.  I have to teach x amount of things....and I am truly flying by the seat of my pants trying to get it all in. 

2.  When or where would you most like to be 'a fly on the wall'?  The School Board Executive Sessions.

3. 'Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.'-Henry David Thoreau 
Would you agree? Why or why not?  I love the calm of nature.  I love stopping and smelling the roses and just the other day while I was smelling my knockout roses a gorgeous butterfly landing on my right shoulder.  I just stood still and enjoyed it's beauty....and smiled.

4. Share a favorite movie, book, or song with flying in it's title, lyrics, or theme somewhere.
I am going to have to borrow Joyce's movie.  I too love the movie Fly Away Home based on the true story of the young girl and her dad who helped some baby geese get from their home in Canada to the warmer waters of North Carolina. Hummingbird by Seals and Croft would be my song.  I love it when they finish it....with Come Fly Away......  I also want to agree with Joyce on her second movie, October Sky.    It was awesome.  I actually have been to the town where the Rocket Boys came from.  It was awe inspiring.  The book was Homer Hickam's memoir- Rocket Boys. Such a great story! 

5. What is one task or chore you tend to do 'on the fly'? Is this something that really needs to be done another way?  Joyce and I seem to be cut from the same cloth.  I would have to agree with her.Dusting. Eh. It just keeps coming around, doesn't it??? I do periodically give the house a thorough dusting, but a lot of times I'll be walking by a piece of furniture, will notice the dust, and do a quick wipe with the swiffer. Not the same as actual dusting which does need to happen on a more regular basis round here. 
6. What was happening the last time you thought to yourself or said aloud, 'Wow, time flies when you're having fun', and you meant it.  Spring break the week before last.  

7. This Thursday is National Garlic Day. Will you add garlic to your menu on Thursday? Do you like garlic? What's your favorite dish made with garlic?  I love garlic and cook with it fairly often. Not sure what we will be having on Thursday because we eat at Celebrate Recovery and our meal depends on what the Food Bank has to offer. My favorite dish made with garlic is Frank's homemade spaghetti sauce.  Yum Yum.

8. Insert your own random thought here.  This past weekend was Easter.  In our town their was a scavenger hunt for the Easter Egg Bridge.  It was a great place to take pictures and a good friend of mine did just that.  Marcie, her daughter, and daughter in law took the three grandchildren and had a field day with cell phone cameras.  The pictures are lovely. 
Kaid is a Mr. GQ.  He makes the best pictures.

Jett and Kruze are a precious brother and sister.  They make my heart smile.

Kaid, Kruze, and Jett.  I love these three with all my heart.    Did you make the traditional Easter attire pictures this year???? I didn't make the first one.

Monday, April 17, 2017

By His Grace

While preparing for my Easter Sunrise Sermon I found myself in the book of Ephesians and Ephesians 2:8-9 stuck in my head and heart all week.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast"
On Friday and Saturday I received 10 pieces of junk mail from credit card companies and car dealerships telling me that I’d been “pre-approved” for a line of credit. This trash mail makes me so tired.  I did not even open any of Saturday's mail because I threw it all in the trash can.  As I was looking at each envelope I thought about the fact that this mail may wear me out but I knew of something I’d never get tired of: God telling me that I’ve been pre-approved to be His child. Before Jesus began his earthly ministry, He traveled to the Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John. As soon as He came up out of the water, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and God spoke. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  Is that not amazing?  I think it is.  Before Jesus even performed the first miracle, preached the first sermon, or called the first disciple, God made sure that His identity was clear. He was accepted, approved, and completely loved. This makes me smile.....because so am I.....and so are you.  I have so many Christian friends who work so hard to earn acceptance and approval.....and guess what guys...Jesus has already taken care of that.  I am not telling you to stop doing your best....but I am telling you that you don't have to earn acceptance.  You already have it!  The problem is that the devil will do anything and everything he can to keep you from believing that truth. Make no mistake about it, Satan knows that you are a chosen, holy, dearly loved child of God who has been created to fulfill a great purpose that God has planned for you. He knows it, and he hates it. His goal is to keep you from believing it. And if he can keep you from believing the truth about your new identity, then he has won.  Who are you going to believe?  Whatever voice you listen to will determine your destiny.....and personally myself I don't want to never make it to my Promised Land....I am all about keeping on towards the land of milk and honey.  There is a military slogan that says...."Be all you can be" and believe me that is what I want to do....I want to "Be what I have been called by God to be" don't you?  There are many days when Satan gets in my head and heart and messes with them.  It is on those days I have to affirm just who I am......1.  I am His daughter and if you are a faithful follower and believer in Christ so are you.
2.  I am someone whom He loves...and dearly.  3.  I am someone with whom He is well least most days.  You know, I can never thank my Heavenly Father enough for loving me and for helping me to walk in the confidence of a woman of faith who is truly loved.  This pre-approval is not junk mail.  It is the real deal and for that I am thankful every day of my life.  How about you?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Why Am I Here?

My scripture this morning is found in Revelation 5:1-14

As I began meditating on what God would have me say to you this morning, I found myself coming back time and time again to the same theme. What would bring people out this early in the morning for a sunrise service? What would cause people to come and sit in this cold weather on these cold metal chairs? Who or what is worthy enough for this kind of devotion? Our scripture this morning tells us who is worthy of all of this and more. It tells us who is worthy and it also tells us why He is worthy.

. The Revelation given to John tells us why we are here this morning.

. 1Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals.

2And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?”

3But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.

4Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it.

5But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth.

7He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne.

8And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.

9And they sang a new song with these words:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

10And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.”

11Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders.

12And they sang in a mighty chorus:“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

13And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne

and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

14And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.

. John describes a scene in Heaven - a search for someone who was worthy to begin the process of the final judgment.  He looked around and saw no one worthy of this honor. 

Then one of the Elders told him to look, The Lion of The Tribe of Judah was worthy. The one who had been sacrificed for the sin of all mankind. Jesus Christ was worthy. He was the only one in all of heaven, earth and under the earth who was worthy to start this process.  He was the only one worthy of the praise and honor that they gave Him afterword.

They wrote songs about Him and sang them just like we did this morning.  They praised what He had done for mankind and they worshiped Him.  Just like we are doing here this morning.  He was the only one that they would do this for.   Jesus is the only one that we will do this for.  We are here this morning to praise and honor and remember what Jesus Christ did for us.

Let me remind you again of why we are here this morning.  On Friday of what we call Passion Week, Jesus was crucified on a cross.  He died on that cross for the sins of all mankind. God had always required the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin.  Jesus voluntarily placed Himself on that cross so that He could die for you and for me.  He told us that if we accept this sacrifice that our sins will be forgiven and we will be seen as righteous by God.  We will be in a right relationship with God.

 He was taken off that cross and buried. He was dead.  He was dead and buried and everybody thought that it was over.  Jesus had been a great teacher. An exceptional Rabbi but now He was dead.  All of His followers were confused. What do we do now.  On Sunday…today,  though all that changed.  What happened today changed the course of mankind.  You see, today, Jesus Christ came out of that tomb.

The women who loved Jesus went to anoint His body and they found that the tomb was no longer sealed and that Jesus’ body was gone.  Angels appeared to them and told them that they shouldn’t be looking for Jesus there. They told them that Jesus had risen from the dead and that they should go and tell His disciples that He would meet them in Galilee.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that Jesus appeared to over 500 of His disciples after the resurrection.  He did this so that we would believe that He had risen because of the witness of so many people.  He’s alive, I’m sure the women told the men when they saw them.  He’s alive, I’m sure Peter and John cried out when they saw the other apostles.  He’s alive I’m sure all the others who saw Jesus cried out when they saw Him

Folks we are here this morning in the cold because He is worthy of our honor and our praise.  He is worthy of this small sacrifice of comfort.  Why?  Why?  Because He Is Alive this morning.  Celebrate with me this morning… Jesus is alive this morning.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Who Is This?

"My scripture today comes from Matthew 21:1-11
What were people waving palm branches about 2,000 years ago when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey?  What did they expect would happen?  What did they want from Jesus?  What do you want from Jesus?  What do I want?  Why are we waving palm branches this morning?  I would imagine that our answers might be as varied as the people so many years ago.  Some of us might be waving our palm branches because that is what everyone else is doing.  We're not sure what to think about it, but it's kind of cool and it feels good to fit in with the crowd.  Others of us are, perhaps, welcoming King Jesus into our presence.  And by "King Jesus" we might be thinking "King Jesus" the democrat who thinks like us.  Or we might be thinking of "King Jesus" the Republican who will be backing our candidate.  Maybe we don't have a clue.  Or perhaps we do.  Who is "King Jesus" to you?  What is He King of?

Some scholars speculate that there are at least two groups of folks involved in the Palm Sunday Parade. There is the "large crowd" that "spread their clothes on the road"......and "cut palm branches off the trees."  These folks were in front and behind Jesus shouting: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!"  These are the same people who have been on the road with Jesus all the way back from the beginning, along with many, many others who have been picked up along the way.They include tons of women, former prostitutes, J  esus' mother and sisters and other women who had been treated as equals for the first and only time in their lives by the man on the donkey.  There were former lepers in the crowd, people who had once been blind, lame, and even dead.  There were, no doubt as well, many hundreds, if not thousands of folks who had been fed by Jesus on the hillsides as He taught them.  They had been in the original crowds of 5,000 and 4,000 having miraculously eaten their fill of bread and fish.  And there were, of course, the original Twelve disciples......those guys who knew Jesus most intimately but still didn't really understand what His mission was about.  Then there was the other group of folks.  These were the residents of the city of Jerusalem.  Most of them probably watched from the sidelines as this wildly enthusiastic motley crew came marching loudly into their city.  Some of them might have joined in with the others waving palm branches and spreading their clothes out in front of Jesus--giving Him the "red carpet" treatment.  Why not join in?
People like to be part of the "in" crowd.  And the people shouting "Hosanna's" certainly seemed to be having a good time.
What's the old saying?..."Everybody loves a parade."  In any event, we are told that "when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up."  "Who is this?' they asked."  Turns out that no one seemed to have the "right answer."

Today we live in a time when lots of us are confused as to "Who Jesus Is."  Some folks preach what has come to be called "the prosperity gospel."  There is nothing in Scripture to back up their claims, but they teach the people who come to their churches that Jesus wants us to be rich.  So they insist that if they give their hard-earned money to these "prosperity preachers" they will somehow get lots more money back.  They will finally be able to buy that vacation home in the Keys, put in a swimming pool, retire, or just make their rent payments.  In the meantime, the only ones getting rich are the snake oil salesmen running these operations.  So, in some minds, Jesus is, what?...  ...a lottery ticket, a rising stock or the fastest horse on the race track?

Others seem to think that Jesus is an American politician.
He's concerned with capitalism, oil, big business, national defense and keeping illegal aliens out of the country.  Others might say that Jesus is a Socialist or a Communist.  What did the crowds who were waving Palm Branches think about Jesus 2,000 years ago?  We are told back in Matthew Chapter 12 that they had begun to wonder whether Jesus might be the Son of David...
. other words, whether Jesus was going to be the new King David…  ...the Messiah who was gonna slaughter the occupying forces of Rome and give Israel their home back.  But, Jesus wasn't a war lord.  He didn't believe in using swords, fighting or war.  He didn't care about money...or the amassing of money.  He did care about everyone having enough to eat, and clothes to wear but that was about it.  Jesus wasn't a politician. 
Jesus wasn't a nationalist.  He cared about Israel, but He had just as much concern about the foreigners, the people in other lands, Israel's enemies.  Jesus wasn't a snake oil salesman.
Jesus told the truth and it got a lot of people mad, very, very mad.
Jesus wasn't a lottery ticket.  He told rich folks to sell all they have, give it to the poor and come follow Him.  He told His followers "stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth..."Jesus wasn't trying to win a popularity contest.  He told those in charge that they were hypocrites, blind guides, and children of hell.   With this said, Jesus wasn't a kill-joy either......He wasn't the judgmental "church lady" from the old   Saturday Night Live Skit.  Jesus seemed to love a good party.
His first miracle was at a wedding in Cana of Galilee where He turned six stone jars filled with water into about 180 gallons of wine.  The religious elite who watched Him suspiciously described Him as a "glutton and a drunkard," and they didn't like the company He hung out with either.  He made friends with crooks, prostitutes, losers, cripples, the homeless, the blind, the beggars.  And His acceptance of them changed their lives.  He washed their feet, fed them, loved them, taught them, healed them, had compassion on them, and welcomed them into His circle no matter their race, gender, lifestyle or religion. What are we to make of this?

At the very least, doesn't this entice you to learn more about Him?
If He is the very embodiment of God--and in seeing Him we see the Almighty--I want to know Him very well, indeed.  I want to study the Bible.  I want to participate in Sunday school, small groups, and I want to worship every chance I get.  And the more I learn about Him, the more I want to tell others about Him as well…  ...not out of fear for my soul, but out of love for my neighbor…  ...for the love of Christ fills me and I can't keep it to myself.  We are told that "when Jesus entered Jerusalem" on that first Palm Sunday so many years ago, "the whole city was stirred up.  "Who is this?' they asked.  How would you answer this question?  How does your life mirror your answer?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April and Easter

If I had to choose a holiday that was my favorite I would have to pick Easter.  I LOVE  Easter.  It is my favorite holiday because of what it stands for, what all it involves, and just the pure glory of it.   So, last week, in my Easter readings,  I found myself buried in  an awesome  devotional by Rick Warren and just had to share it with you.  The scripture that he drew his devotional from was  “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Corinthians 6:14 NIV).

Did you know that millions and millions of Christians around the world celebrate Easter every year.   The sad part is that for far too many of us the story has become boring and rote. We have the basic facts down. I know I have since I was a small child.  I mean, come on….. Jesus was arrested. He was crucified. And three days later, God raised him from the dead.  Yet we miss something very important. We miss what turns Easter from a one-dimensional holiday to a multi-dimensional, life-transforming way of life.  We miss that the story of the Resurrection isn’t just Jesus’ story — it’s our story as well.  You see, you are a part of the Resurrection. Jesus’ death and Resurrection didn’t just prove there was life after death. The Resurrection proves you can have life after death, that there’s life beyond your grave.  Jesus says, if you trust in him, death becomes a transition, not an ending point.  I love that concept.  One day your heart will stop. That will be the end of your body. But it will not be the end of you. God made you to last forever. That’s why you often have a feeling there’s more to life than this. Jesus made this amazing promise in John 11: 25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (NIV).  That’s quite a promise! Jesus proved he could do it by resurrecting himself. Otherwise, we would have no reason to believe it. If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross and been resurrected more than 2,000 years ago, you would have zero chance of getting to Heaven — no hope of the afterlife and no eternal life.  The Bible says, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Corinthians 6:14).  As Easter comes our way this year, that’s a truth to hang our lives upon. It’s great news that Jesus rose from the dead. But what turns that truth from black and white to living color is that one day — if you trust in him — he will raise you from the grave, too.  That’s the promise of Easter.  Is that not an amazing concept?  I know it is to me. 

Blessings, Karen

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Why Is There Suffering and Evil?

My scripture today is from John 9: 1-7 and it addresses the question…..Why is there so much suffering and evil in the world.

We live in a world where the answer to nearly every question is right at our fingertips. All we have to do is log on to Google, type a question, and in a matter of milliseconds, we have hundreds and sometimes even hundreds of millions of answers to our query. Or, if it’s a little too inconvenient to get to the computer, turn it on, and navigate to the search engine, we can just press the “Home” button on our smart phones and ask Siri our question. It’s quite nice, really. Except for that fact that we are now conditioned to expect a definite answer to all of our questions, and the simple fact of the matter is that there are some questions for which no good answer exists. This question before us today is perhaps the best example of such a question, “Why is there suffering and evil?”

The funny thing is; this is not a new question. Humans have been asking this same question for thousands upon thousands of years; probably as long as we have existed! It is to some degree the question that is asked by the disciples in this morning’s gospel reading, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?” They are in essence asking, “Why is this man suffering?” What’s interesting is that Jesus doesn’t really give them a direct answer. But maybe that’s because as I mentioned a few moments ago, there’s really no one good answer to the question of suffering and evil in the world.

As we seek greater clarity to this question, “Why is there suffering and evil?” I think it best for us to begin by considering why we ask this question in the first place. And for the answer we need to turn to the scriptures. 

In the book of Genesis we are told that as God created the universe and each part of it, God called it “good”; this includes the light, the seas, the land, the plants and vegetation, the animals and creatures, and even humans. So throughout history, faithful God-followers have looked at this story of the “good” creation, and leaned upon their faith in a “good God”, but that knowledge cannot be reconciled with the fact that there is indeed a great deal of “bad” in the world around us. So we ask, “Why?” And for a long time, humanity had a pretty straightforward answer to this question, which was basically that suffering happened because God was punishing a person or group of people for some specific reason.

This answer begins with Adam and Eve, the first humans who, the Bible tells us, defied God’s instructions and ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Their sin broke the relationship of all humanity with God, and subjected us to temptation and sin. We call this original sin. So throughout the Old Testament, we see this sort of cause and effect relationship between humans and God. The humans sin, defy God’s law and mandates, God punishes the humans. God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians because Pharaoh would not release the Israelites from enslavement. When the Israelites didn’t trust God and built idols in the wilderness, God made them wait 40 years before entering the Promised Land. The Israelites were exiled to Babylon according to the prophets because they had not been following God’s commands and God’s law. So it was for thousands of years. Every earthquake, every disease, every disaster humans explained, was the doing of God, a response to the sin of the people.

But over time, two things have happened that make such a simple response to the question of suffering and evil inadequate. For one, Christ has come, the embodiment of God himself. And in his own suffering and death, we see God’s immense love for all people, and God’s desire to save us, not to harm us. Secondly, science has taught us a lot about the way the natural world works, and with the knowledge we have now, it just doesn’t make sense to point to every natural disaster and say that it is God’s way of punishing humanity (even though some people still like to do this). A good example of this is forest fires. Forest fires sometimes start because of dumb things we humans do, like burning leaves in the middle of a drought, but sometimes they begin with a lightning strike. Often, these fires spread rapidly, they decimate not only forest vegetation, but also animals and birds. They can even force people from their homes. They can cause immense destruction, but forest fires also cleanse the ecology and restore the system to balance, and often the wildlife that returns after a fire is more lush and beautiful than it was before the fire. In the same way, the El Nino weather pattern that is causing so much flooding and extreme weather across the U.S. right now, is also bringing California much needed rain after years of extreme drought.

So, we have to acknowledge that some of the suffering humanity experiences as a result of natural disasters is not God punishing us for some sin or wrong-doing, but is part of the natural order of things. And these disasters don’t make God’s creation, or even God, less good. They are in some ways and at sometimes an unfortunate by-product of keeping creation balanced and healthy. Still, I realize that doesn’t answer for all suffering that human beings experience. What about this question of evil?

Nearly every day the news is filled with war and genocide and terrorist attacks that are causing innocents to suffer around the world. Why doesn’t God, who is all-powerful, prevent such evil? Why doesn’t God stop people from doing evil things? To find the answer to this question, we have to consider free will. Going back again to creation, we are reminded that humans are created in God’s own image, and we were created with the freedom to choose between good and evil. I suppose that God could have created humanity so that we would always choose to do good, but that’s not really freedom, is it? That’s more like robots that have been programmed. And devotion or faithfulness to God would be awfully empty if it were something that were coerced rather than chosen.

So God has given us the freedom to make choices for ourselves. Joshua says, “Choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” That is a wonderful choice to make; a life-giving, saving choice; the best choice any person could make. It is the choice God WANTS us to make, but does not coerce us to make. But we also have the freedom to choose to act against God, and it is often such actions that are evil, harmful, and the cause great suffering. In his infinite power and knowledge, God clearly chose to allow for human freedom even knowing there would be negative consequences. Even still, God does not want to see us suffer, whether by our own doing or for any other reason. God really does want good for us, even when we make bad choices.

So it is that suffering, however horrible it may be, provides an opportunity for God’s grace to be at work. And it is God’s grace we need to lean upon in the midst of suffering. This is especially true when we face illness, disease, even death, which are often the most difficult types of suffering to comprehend. You all know that question that goes, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” As we consider such suffering, let’s now take a closer look at our Scripture reading from John.  Join me in John 9:1-7.

John tells this story of a blind man. Unlike blind Bartimaeus and other afflicted people in the gospel stories, this man does not approach Jesus seeking healing. Rather, he is noticed by the disciples as they walk by him in the midst of their work with Jesus. The disciples see this man who has been blind his whole life, and they revert to the common explanation at that time for such affliction, original sin. But the disciples want to know now, since this man has been blind since birth, if his blindness is due to his parents’ sin, or his sin. Jesus’ answer, as you heard, is neither. “This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him,” Jesus tells his disciples. Now, let me just pause for a minute right here to make clear that God does not cause suffering and harm so that he can subsequently heroically sweep in to “save the day.”

Life happens; we make poor choices, natural disaster strikes, our physical bodies fail us. But God does not wish harm for us, in any way. God does not want us to be sick, or hungry, or lonely. Such an idea is completely contrary to the entire Biblical story. God desires good for us. God loves us. God wants to save us. So it is that in the midst of suffering we can find hope. So it is that in the midst of the bad, we can look for the ways God is still working good. Indeed, that man had been suffering from blindness for many long years, not because of his own sin or that of his parents, not even because someone evil had harmed him. Without giving an answer as to the cause of the man’s suffering, Jesus healed the blind man so that his disciples, all of us, can see that God does not leave us alone in our suffering. God is with us and God works to bring good even in the midst of all the bad.

Could you imagine living in this world without such promise and hope, without such faith in a good God? Why is there tragedy? Why suffering? Why evil? These questions can cause us to doubt God and one another. But if a flood comes or a child is born with a heart defect and there is no God, then what answer is there to suffering and evil? What meaning and purpose? Life is nothing but one tragedy after another, and the only thing before us is fear. I would rather live in a world of hope than a world of fear. “I would rather live in the world that has a possibility of God than one that has none, particularly one like ours where evil and suffering” are such a part of our existence. Because “with the possibility of God comes the possibility of meaning, purpose, and hope being found [even] in the midst of tragedy and suffering.” Indeed, we are still left with questions, but at least with faith in the promises of a good God, in the midst of tragedy and suffering, we can always have hope in a better day.

So you’re in the coffee shop with your friends and one says, “Okay, I don’t want a long, complicated answer, but explain this: If God is so good, how come there is so much bad in the world?”

You might respond with something like this, “That’s a tough question with no straight answer, but I know that God is loving and works for good in all situations. In the hardest times of my life, I have experienced God’s love in so many ways that have helped me make it through. I know there is suffering and evil in this world, but I also know that God is a force for good. And I’m a Christian because I want to be part of God’s good work in our world.”

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring Time Ups and Downs

Happy Spring  to one and all! Here are my answers to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. If you want to play along then copy and answer on your own blog, then run back over to Joyce's blog by clicking here and add your link to the party. See you there!

1. Setting aside the real March Madness (NCAA Basketball) describe something happening at your house this month that might earn the title 'March Madness'?  Getting Income Taxes ready to turn into the Preparer.  Stuff was moved all over the place when I was in the hospital and I am still finding receipts and such.
2. What's a favorite made up word from your childhood or a favorite from your children's childhood? Does your family still use the word today? If there's a story behind the origin please share.  Alas, I did not have a made up word when I was a kid.  My mom was a stickler on using words that really existed.  This carried over to my children as well.  If she thought you were using a made up word you would have to go get the dictionary, look it up, write 5 sentences using I made sure I never used them.
3. Will you be doing any spring cleaning now that the season is upon us? I read here a list of 15 quick (under one hour) spring cleaning tasks. They were-

clean out a drawer, vacuum furniture, whiten tile grout, dust the nooks and crannies you don't get to year round, degrease kitchen cabinets, wipe down walls, go behind furniture, wipe down ceiling fans, vacuum the mattress, clean the range hood, wash baseboards, shine the stainless steel, clean out vents, tackle the windows, and wipe down gadgets

Of the fifteen 'quick' tasks listed which two most need doing at your house? Will you do them?  I will be cleaning out drawers, vacuuming furniture and drapes, moving furniture around, wiping down ceiling fans, and several other small activities. These excite me.  I find stuff I did not know I was missing.   I will save the big stuff for after school gets out.
4. A favorite movie set in Paris or New York?  An Affair to Remember and Saturday Night Fever.  Paris would be Ratatoille (spelled wrong I know).
5. What's put a spring in your step this month?  Spring Break for my school system begins on Friday.
6. Did you ever want to be a teacher? Why or why not?  I did not ever want to be a teacher.  I wanted to be someone who bummed around the world and wrote in her journal and was published for her amazing works.....or work at the BBC in London on some grand Shakespearean project.....I ended up being a teacher....and feel that was the road best taken. I guess the Father really does know best.   I love my job.

7.  What's your favorite floral scent? Do you have this somewhere in your home or maybe in a perfume? How do you feel about florals in food? How about wines with floral notes-yay or nay?  My favorite floral scent is lavender, hands down. I am allergic to a lot of gardenias....but I love the smell of flowers.    I have lavender all over my house in live and essential oil format.  I love florals in food....if they are edible.  I even like wines with some floral notes.
8. Insert your own random thought here.  My 45th class reunion is this summer.  Susan and I have attended a few of ours and left the hubby's at home.  We have really enjoyed meeting up with our classmates, finding out what they are doing, and hanging out with each other....oh! and reliving our lives growing visiting places that only exist in our memories.  This year I think we are going to make a trip of it and bring the guys with us.  The other side of reunions:  I went to Frank's 30th in Fort Walton, Florida.  We went to the mixer on Friday......I had a blast.....he was miserable.....and we did not go back on Saturday.  Have you ever attended a class reunion and how did you feel about it?

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Luck of the Irish - Happy St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick's day is the one day of the year when we all can be a little bit Irish.  It is one of those holidays that everyone loves but might not be quite sure how it all started.  Lá Fhéile Pádraig - or the Day of the Festival of St. Patrick - is a cultural or religious celebration which is on the 17th of March, which is the date notes as the traditional death date of St. Patrick (ad 385-461) , the foremost patron saint of Ireland. But the day not only celebrates the arrival of Christianity into Ireland, but celebrates Irish culture and heritage in general.  St. Patrick's Day in London emerged after the end of World War II and it was through St. Patrick's day that members of the Irish Country Associations would meet up with their fellow county ex-pats and walk behind their county banners, celebrating their Irish identity.  It's from this tradition that our Irish Day Parades today have evolved. The city of Chicago dyes the Chicago River green to celebrate the day. Savannah dies their fountains.  Green beer can be found in any good pub.  My favorite tradition is the serving of corned beef and cabbage.  I LOVE IT!....One day a year.  In 2009 I was fortunate enough to be in Dublin for St. Paddy's Day.  It was remarkable and remarkably crazy.

If you ever get a chance to visit Ireland you must go.  It will claim your heart.  I know it did mine.

Happy St. Patrick's Day !

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wednesday Hodge Podge 300 and Counting

300? Say what??? It's true! We've reached the 300th edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge, so go us! And to celebrate we've got a brand new Hodgepodge button. You can grab the code from Joyce's sidebar by clicking here to include in your post.  Is it not beautiful.. One item of business-Joyce has declared  next week Spring Break in the Hodgepodge, so no Wednesday Hodgepodge on March 15th. Joyce and her daughter will be visiting the west coast.  I don't know about you but I am a bit jealous. The Hodgepodge will be back in action the following week, March 22nd.  Want to participate?  Answer on your own blog then hop over to Joyce's blog by clicking here  to add your link to the party. Be sure to visit a few a leave a little bloggy love.

1. What is one area of your life where you're a perfectionist? Is that a good thing?  I am a perfectionist when it comes to singing.  It is a good thing most of the time....except that I hate to mess up.  It kills me.....and then I worry about my performance.  I used to be really bad and actually throw up before performing in public.  I HAVE outgrown that.
2. What's something you find perfectly ridiculous?

3. What's a skill you've developed by way of that old fashioned saying, 'practice makes perfectAgain it has to be singing.  I took voice lessons, I sing all the time, I do scales....I practice, practice, practice
4. What's your idea of a perfect breakfast?  Oatmeal with fresh berries and toast.

5. What's a trip, holiday, vacation, or day outing you've taken that you'd rate a perfect 10? Tell us why.  They would all be perfect 10's if I was really honest.....I have several.....Pacific Northwest with Amanda and family and Kat.  PEI with Kat, Nantucket with my SMAK group, Niagra Falls when Nick walked across the falls with Susan, Amanda, Linda, and Missy, Mackinaw twice with special people, Italy with my daughter, Kat and dear friend Mary is my number one.  England, Ireland and Wales with Mary....and Hawaii for Mary's 50th birthday.  Any trip I take with Frank is always a 10.  I love to travel, especially with special people in my life.
6. What quote or saying perfectly sums up your life right now? If you can't do perfect, how about one that comes close?  Every perfect life is a parable invented by God. Simone Weil

7. How would you spend $300 today?  I would send it to my daughter and son-in-law in Moldova for Stella's Voice and to help stop human trafficking.
8.  Insert your own random thought here.  Our Spring Break is the last week in March.  When you were in school did you have Spring Break and what did you do?  I grew up in South Florida and Spring Break was crazy in Fort Lauderdale/Miami with all the colleges coming down.  Those two towns were off limits for me during Spring Break I live in Alabama and everyone here goes to the Gulf Coast....I still avoid the beach during Spring Break.  Believe was never like Where The Boys Are portrayed it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wearied and Burdened

One of my favorite verses is found in Matthew 11:28:  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

There are so many times in my life when this verse has been there for me.  I remember when my brother died, my grandparents, my parents, .....and then there was Mary.  I can remember my cell phone buzzing at 4 in the morning....I knew it would be one calls me that early.  I sat there and read the text in horror and disbelief. The first thought in my mind was NOOOOOOOOO!  How could she leave me?  How could she be gone? We had so many plans!  We were planning to drive Route 66 this summer!  She was the picture of potential. So much going for her. She had been through so many challenges and had come so far...I remember the gastro bypass gone wrong....and chuckled.  Then more shockwaves rippled through the core of my heart followed by a landslide of sorrow.  I woke Frank up in tears and he silently held me as we both felt the enormous grief permeate through us.  Mary was gone!   All who knew and loved her grieved. In our homes. On social media. In our conversations. In our prayers. In our hearts.  We grieved deep with a pain that stings fierce.
We grieved for Bill, the boys, the grandkids, for the empty seat at their dinner table, and the empty gape in their hearts and home. We grieved for her friends, BRHS, and our community. We grieved because death hurts. 

As we gathered in the community to celebrate her life many stories were shared. I struggled to breathe.  She was my soulmate.  She was my sister from another mother.  I hated cancer.  In the sacred sanctuary of God’s presence, we were reminded that God is the healer of the broken and as I looked at her family I saw brokenness. We were reminded that death is not the end for those that place their faith in Christ. We were reminded to cherish those we love and to keep our eyes wide open to the needs of those around us.   I stood on the stage to sing and could not breathe.  I hurt.  Even today, five years later the weight of it all still sits heavy on my heart. I remember pouring my heart out to the Comforter and sensing His peace in the middle of the grief. The burden remains, but the pressure of it is lightened in His presence. And I’m reminded that God’s strength comes to me as I yoke myself to Jesus and allow Him to share in the carrying of my grief. In doing so, I am locked into His power that walks with me step by step through every struggle.  I found myself wondering....when life is jagged and darkness taunts us like a bully, how can we see beyond the despair that grips us?  I did find in the depth of my pain that... when grief runs deep God’s comforting love runs deeper still.  The peace I was longing for and the rest that I was desperate for would always be found in the arms of Jesus. And those arms are constantly reaching out to us.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29).  This is the invitation Jesus gives to each of us. Will you accept his invitation?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Team Jones and The New Year

Kat sent me the New Year Newsletter a while back and I failed to share it with my faithful followers.  I am so very proud of them.

Dear friends,

Outside is gray and the snow is beginning to melt. This makes everything look covered in mud and dirty. It is our least favorite time of the year, but it is also when the weather begins to warm to the 40s and 50s, and we know that sunnier weather is just around the corner! We hope this letter finds you all enjoying the beginnings of spring and new life!!! January and February have been busy months and we are awaiting the day when we can spend more time outside! It was a long and cold winter, and we rejoice with warmer weather and the opportunities it brings!

This month has been a wonderful month. We began the month by sharing at the kindergarten where many of our girls learned while they were at the orphanage. There is a very special teacher there who is one of very few who ever showed our girls kindness and love as they grew up at the orphanage. We went and were special guests at a program. We had the opportunity to take them Christmas shoeboxes as well, as many of them are from poor families or from the orphanages. It was such a joy to see our girls reconnect with a woman who has poured her heart out for them. We are always so overwhelmed by the positive examples our girls and guys have had, and we feel especially grateful for them. So many people have beaten and abused and mistreated our precious ones that it is very easy to be angry and frustrated with most adults, but these few positive examples restore our hope.

Throughout the month of February, we really focused on different types of love and how God loves us. We posted scripture, shared love, and had a great youth group meeting or two about love. We even had a special girls night just to remind them of how loved they are. Understanding who you are in Christ and knowing that you are loved by Him no matter what is so important to their healing from the wounds of their pasts. On Valentine’s Day, we woke up early and made special heart shaped Danishes for the girls (all 36 of them) and then spent the day decorating and making a yummy Greek dinner for them. We set the table for 36 and then served them a plate full of delicious food with a side of home-made heart shaped cookies. They loved it, and they all said they felt so loved. We try to remind them that as much as we love them…God loves them infinitely more. It is such a treasure to be able to share His love with these girls-to try every day to be a beacon of His light and love.

During the past four or five weeks, Kathryn has started a new weekly tradition. She got up very early one Monday morning and made breakfast for all the girls in both houses. Then the next Monday, she did the same thing. Then for the past few weeks, Brian has been helping with preparing breakfast as well. The girls all love it so much, and it makes them feel loved for us to get up very early (about 4:30 typically) just to do something special for them. They are more than worthy of that level of effort and so much more whether they realize it or not, and we want them to understand how worthy they are of love from those around them. Their response has been so positive, we are completely hooked on making special breakfasts on Mondays. We find ourselves throughout the week thinking of different ideas of what to prepare. We love starting our day with lots of hugs from our little family, most of whom we typically don’t see until they return from school in the afternoon.

We don’t normally write much about our lives outside of Stella’s Voice, but there’s stuff happening there too. For instance:

• Our local church (International Christian Fellowship) has made the transition to a new pastor. Our previous pastor and his wife are wonderful, and we were so blessed to have the chance to learn from them. However, health issues have required them to move back to the states. The new pastor and his wife are super nice, and we are looking forward having them as part of our little church family.

• The Honda Element that we purchased has been such an amazing blessing to us. It has been so nice for Kathryn to have more freedom to go anywhere she needs to or wants to go without depending on someone else or our luxurious public transportation. We have also been without our ministry vehicle for about three weeks, so having our own car to drive in its place has been tremendously valuable for us and our whole crew. We can’t say thank you enough to those of you who have supported us in ways that allowed us to buy a car.

• We have started a Bonfire account to help raise some much needed funds. Not being able to come home to raise support can be quite difficult for many reasons. Our friend Abby helped us design some shirts to sell through Bonfire as a fund raising project. You have until March 15th to order a shirt. Every purchase helps. Thank you sooooo much for your help!! Please feel free to share this link with others

As always, we have attached a few photos here as well. Thank you all again so very much for your prayers, cards, emails, Facebook notes, and financial contributions. It takes all of these to keep us going when we are so far from home. We appreciate all that you have done and continue to do for us.

With hearts full of thankfulness!

Brian and Kathryn Jones

Team Jones in Moldova

P.S.  We observed End It Movement day on February 23rd. This is a day to shine a light on the tragedy that is modern day slavery. Our houses exist to prevent our girls and guys from being victims of traffickers.

We are still experiencing winter-like weather here. It was 40 degrees today and then it snowed again. Forty is a balmy day for us

I am having trouble posting the pictures that are attached so I will only share the high points.

La multi ani from Moldova