Friday, December 28, 2012

A Season for Miracles

     I wonder how often all of us have missed witnessing a miracle simply for lack of opening our eyes? Do we think the time for miracles ended with the final words of Revelation? Or perhaps with the death of the prophet Jeremiah? I’m not even speaking of the daily wonders of each sunrise, new life, each breath we take, the love shining from another’s eyes. I have been strikingly reminded these last months of 2012 that God is still working miracles today, if we simply ask and believe.
      Jean was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in late spring– “convenient” timing since she is a  teacher. Surgery and radiation took place during her summer break, allowing for recovery time before the fall re-opening of school. All went well, except that Jean experienced one of the forewarned complications: one of her vocal cords was paralyzed from the surgery, and by mid-August she still had no voice. Prayers for her were intensified, and every morning she awoke and tried her voice with only a whisper resulting from her efforts. One week before school started she awoke and did the usual vocal test, and much to her delight a sound came out amazingly resembling her normal voice! At her scheduled doctor’s follow-up appointment a few days later, a scope was inserted in her throat and her doctor was stunned to see that her vocal cord was still paralyzed! The man of medicine could only say, “I can’t explain it. You shouldn’t be able to talk!” Jean replied, “Oh I can!” with a great big smile. She’s back at school teaching her fifth grade class with her miracle voice!
      Jeff has been battling a very rare form of lymphoma, called Waldenstrom’s. He has other health conditions which make treatment very complicated and difficult. He had exhausted all avenues except for a trial at Dana-Farber in Boston. He was accepted for screening and went to Boston to complete qualification for the trial. I can’t possibly explain all the numbers and their significance, but anyone who knows anyone who has been treated for any type of cancer knows the importance of various “numbers.” The next to last day of the week-long screening one of Jeff’s numbers was off-the-charts WRONG to qualify him. A request for prayers went out as the doctor gave him a last-ditch effort shot hoped to improve that number. The next morning the last hopeful vial of blood was drawn and tested. The results: off-the-charts POSITIVE, qualifying Jeff for the trial. After approximately six weeks of the trial drug, Jeff’s numbers are steadily improving, meaning that the new drug appears to be working!
      Daddy (a strapping 210-pound, mentally sharp age 98) went in the hospital with pneumonia November 26. He was treated with mega-IV antibiotics, and after a week released to go to rehab to regain his strength. Almost immediately he began experiencing severe diarrhea and loss of appetite. He grew weaker and weaker and finally was refusing to take even any liquid nourishment. My brother and I had gone every day to try to encourage him to eat ANYTHING, to no avail. Sunday, December 11, having lunch with friends after church, everyone was asking about Daddy and I described what was happening. My friend Linda said, “It sounds like C. diff.” (Clostridium difficile, one of the new “super-bugs” caused by taking too many antibiotics.) “What’s that?” I asked.  Bill immediately looked it up on the internet and concurred that those were exactly his symptoms. Christian volunteered to take me to Greensboro, and so we went. I spoke to Daddy’s nurse about C. diff, and he said he didn’t think that was it. The next morning Daddy seemed even weaker and more distressed. I insisted Daddy be seen by the doctor and be given IV fluids at least. Meanwhile a urinary infection had been discovered: more antibiotics. The test for C.Diff. was done, but results would not be in for a day or two. All the while, before my very eyes Daddy worsened. I decided he must go to the hospital, where he was tested IMMEDIATELY for C.diff with IMMEDIATE positive results. He began treatment in hospital and was transferred back to rehab in a few days, where he is slowly gaining strength and beginning to eat limited solid food. I KNOW God spoke through Linda to set us on the right track for Daddy’s healing!        
      My miracle was one of the heart. I can’t even say how long I have asked God to help me love, I mean truly love, this person who is important to me, yet so different in many ways.  I have loved her with His love, of course, yet we remained distant by more than the miles that separate us. Each time I see her, I offer the same prayer, and each time it has been the same– not unpleasant for the most part, but not the warmth I have longed for for many years. It changed this time– I can’t say exactly how or when. I only know that the night before we parted I cried because I knew it would be a long time before we would be together again. The next day I cried as soon as she was out of sight and all the way to the airport. I cry even now as I write, but these tears are in humble thanksgiving to God for this gift of love, this answered prayer, the one I perhaps believed in the least. But isn’t that just how we are, thinking miracles are for other folks but not ourselves?
    Our miracle is much like mine described above, but of course on a much grander scale. It came for you and for me and for every other human being who has ever lived. Like mine, it is a Gift of Love, the Greatest Love ever given to humankind. Like mine, it was long-anticipated, but probably never really expected, certainly not in the way it came. You very likely know the story, because we’ve just spent millions of dollars, dozens of hours, untold amounts of energy and weeks of planning the annual celebration of This Love, this gift of mercy unprecedented. This arrival of our Creator God Himself in human form among us – a tiny Jewish baby in a humble stable in an insignificant town in Israel – could have gone unnoticed EXCEPT this town, these stables, were the very spot where the perfect lambs for the temple sacrifice were raised! Where else could the Perfect, FINAL Sacrifice for all the sins of the world be born? Does that fact take your breath away as much as it does mine? I feel like I could BURST with excitement over the knowledge of this Good News! Makes me want to do a happy dance and sing and shout all at the same time!
    You know, this may have been a difficult Christmas for you, as it was for me. Things aren’t so great in our world right now, and my world was a little less than perfect this Christmas with Daddy between the hospital and the nursing home, but when I gaze at my Christmas tree covered with lights and stars and think of the light of that first Christmas star, I can’t help smiling. At the center of my tree, all decorated in white, is one red, heart-shaped ornament with one word on it: JESUS. Oh, I know that wasn’t His name in Hebrew, but it’s how we think of Him today.  My Christmas wish for everyone reading this is that you know His perfect love, that you accept His perfect gift of love, even though none of us deserve it. That’s why they call it “grace.”

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Persimmon Fall

     Sometimes I think God sends the persimmons when He wants to hear from me more frequently. There's something about gathering those beautiful and luscious orbs that makes me break into paeans of praise. Of course I know that they come the same time each year, even though it seems lately they fall sooner and sooner. Perhaps that's just my age speaking -- time really DOES speed up the older you get!
      By all accounts, I should be somewhat sorry when it begins to happen: first, it's undeniable evidence of  the carefree, unscripted summer's ending. Even though autumn is my favorite time of year -- the crisp weather, beautiful colors, pungent fragrance -- there's some intangible sense of ending that brings an inexplicable touch of sadness to my soul. Secondly, something in me feels OBLIGATED to pick them up, which is a backbreaking, messy job, which  leads in turn to more backbreaking, messy work in the kitchen preparing them for use. And third, the shorter, darker days of winter, which inevitably bring sickness and much time spent indoors, are always difficult for me.
      Nevertheless, today my soul is singing happy songs thanks to the persimmons. They provide a feast for ALL the senses, a surprisingly sensual fruit in my estimation. First comes the visual treat of watching them appear in mid-summer, tiny green spheres hidden among dusty emerald leaves in a nondescript tall, skinny tree. I can't even say what their flowers look like, they are so insignificant. But watching the fruit develop is a joy-- they seem to inflate quite rapidly from pea-sized to full-blown (approximately 1-2 inches in diameter). And  soon the pale green merges into shades of yellow, gold and orange that reminds me of carnelian stones. On the ground, their rusty watercolors are punctuated by their dark brown calyx, the remains of the four-lobed flower which has gone unnoticed.
      I know my persimmon days will begin soon when I hear the "Plop-plop" of the first fruit falling. It may be a late summer rain shower, or a sudden breeze that brings them down, but whatever the cause, I smile at the sound. And soon I'm heading to the garage to dig out the tarps that will capture them. Next comes the indescribable fragrance: so spicy-sweet it tickles your nose until ungathered ones begin to ferment under the trees. Those are the ones I leave for the bees and ants-- why be a glutton? 
      A fastidious person (which I am not) would probably not relish gathering persimmons. I frankly enjoy handling the tender, squishy fruit, perhaps simply because I know that the best ones are quite soft, which means they often fall apart into soft shapeless blobs which soon turn gluey on my fingers. Scrubbing my hands with a rough sponge or cloth is a small price to pay for the reward.
      Which brings me to the delectable taste that resembles nothing else I can think of. Persimmons often suffer the undeserved reputation of being sour until combined with sugar. On the contrary, they are as sweet as honey with a touch of spice. Now unripe-- that's another story. Though I've never tried for myself, I hear they can make you pucker for quite some time!
      The next challenge, which I truly delight in, is discovering new ways to use these autumn treasures. I've found fabulous recipes for bread, cake, cookies, and muffins, but nothing will ever compare to my Aunt Mid's Persimmon Pudding. Since I gladly share the recipe with friends, I suppose there's no harm in including it here. It might become your favorite, too!

Aunt Mid's Persimmon Pudding

1. Wash and mash persimmons through a sieve, removing seeds.

2. Combine: 2 cups pulp, 3 eggs, 1  3/4 cups milk.

3. Sift together: 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (OR 1/2 tsp. cinnamon & 1/2 tsp. nutmeg). Add to persimmon mixture.

4. Then add: 1  1/2 cups sugar, 3 Tbsp. butter, melted,  and vanilla to taste. OPTIONAL ADD-INS: coconut, raisins, nuts. (NOTE: I ALWAYS use coconut.)

5. Pour into oiled (I use Pam spray.) 2" deep 9x11 pan or baking dish. Bake at 325F for 1 hour.

6. Glaze: 1/4 cup boiling water, 3 Tbsp. brown sugar. Dissolve and brush on top after baking.

NOTE: I have made this recipe using egg substitute, gluten-free flour, and coconut milk, and it's just as good as ever!!!

      Well, I hope you enjoy the recipe and have a wonderful "Persimmon Fall"!

      "For seven days celebrate the Feast to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete."  (Deuteronomy 16:15, NIV)

Sunday, February 26, 2012


     This morning in church, when Pastor Derald asked for testimonies, a woman stood and told an amazing story that continues to haunt my thoughts. Her granddaughter shows horses and yesterday had to borrow someone else's trailer to transport her horse to an event. Though I don't know a lot about horses, I am aware that like most animals they are sensitive beings, and so was not surprised to hear my friend say that when "Dillon" was loaded into the unfamiliar trailer for the return to his home stable, he became "spooked" and began to rear and neigh wildly. Understandably, there was nothing anyone could do to intervene while this large animal flailed in the close confines. As he did so, a beam dislodged from the top of the trailer and fell across the horse's back, yet he continued to rear with a small crowd gathering to watch helplessly.
      As the horse's screams grew louder and louder, my friend's daughter began hearing a woman in the crowd praying for Dillon to be released from this demon. The louder Dillon's cries of distress grew, the louder the woman's prayers soared, as she turned to the only possible Source of help for the poor creature. Suddenly, letting our a chilling scream that everyone there presumed to be his death cry, the horse collapsed on the floor of the trailer, and silence fell over the crowd. Dillon had gone into shock, which probably saved his life. The beam could then be easily removed from his back, and when he recovered his vet found there was no significant injury to the beautiful creature.

     Have you ever felt tormented by a demon? I certainly have! Oh, it probably hasn't been life-threatening as Dillon's situation was, yet I am more and more aware that the closer we walk with God, the more Satan tries to distract us from doing the work God has given us. Recently I have been privileged to begin sharing the Gospel with a young lady. Last week I asked some friends to pray with me and for me in this exciting and challenging undertaking. One of the group immediately warned, "Be prepared to be under attack, because you are doing God's work."

     I have certainly experienced Satan's attacks in the form of depression and discouragement, and perhaps even physical ailments. Today I am indeed suffering all three. How blessed I am to have been reminded by Dillon's story of our Lord's faithfulness when we call upon Him. As often happens in our sweet church, Pastor Derald's sermon fell right into step with the uplifting story about Dillon. He preached on Jesus' temptation in the wilderness immediately after His baptism and the recognition of Who He was by John the Baptist. We were reminded that Jesus, the Son of God and God Himself, was attacked by the Evil One even as His true work on earth just began. (See Matthew 4:1-11)

     And so, when we feel we are under attack by demonic forces, we would do well to remember three things: first, we are in very good company, since our Lord Himself endured all the same temptations that we experience. Second, God has given each of us, not just some, the power to resist the devil, if we simply submit ourselves to Him. (James 4:7) Finally, it is on God's faithfulness, not our own, that we rely.

     "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Is It Humility or Pride?

     Why, I wonder, do I find it so difficult not only to ask for prayers for myself, but even to pray for myself?  I began yesterday's prayer journal entry by exclaiming, "How humbling it is for me to know others are praying for me!"

      After several weeks of a lingering, albeit minor, illness, I have begun hearing the prayers of friends and family on behalf of my own health. The first time it happened I had to swallow the urge to shout, "You don't need to pray for me! My sickness is trivial compared to that of so many others around us!" And I truly still feel that way, when I look around me at the list of friends and neighbors battling various cancers, chronic illness, pain or other deadly disease. Oh, I have asked for prayer plenty of times, but it was usually for someone else's benefit: a sick or hurting friend, a loved one in a difficult or life-changing situation, an important decision. When I have asked for prayer for myself, or even prayed for myself, it was for wisdom in helping someone along in their faith journey.

     I also began wondering, though, if my reaction was an indication of some sort of pride. Do I think I'm too good or too perfect or too capable to need prayer? I certainly hope not, and yet the word that best expresses how I feel when I hear someone pray for me is "humbled." Does it not follow, then, that I must have felt some sort of pride before knowing I was being lifted up in prayer?

     In the Old Testament book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar ruled over a flourishing Babylon. He was understandably proud of his accomplishments. When he began having disturbing dreams, his Hebrew servant Daniel was able to interpret them, and they were a clear warning and condemnation of the king's wickedness and oppression of the poor. When Daniel's predictions came true, Nebuchadnezzar was wise enough to "praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." (Daniel 4: 37 NIV). Of course, if "Neb" had known the Hebrew scriptures, he should have remembered Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

     Well, I hope my pride does not equal Nebuchadnezzar's, and I know my accomplishments are nowhere near his, BUT I pray that if this season has been a lesson in humility, I have learned it well. I find it interesting that in the midst of this examination of pride, I was directed by a Facebook friend to watch the attached video of Scott Hamilton on the site "I Am Second." Though it takes about ten minutes, I hope if you are struggling with some form of pride, you will take the time to watch it. It is quite a picture of humility!

     "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14 NIV)



Friday, February 3, 2012

Welcome to My Blog!

      You may ask, "What's it about?" Well, truth is, I'm not sure! For several years, since retiring, I've been asking God, "What do You want me to do?" I'm not really ready to stop being useful, but my primary "gift" is words. I was fortunate to be able to make a living writing for about ten years. I wrote magazine articles, primarily about travel. (Yes, it was fun!) But what does a retiree do with words?
      I've been blessed for the past seven years to be part of a wonderful singing group, Wing and A Prayer (You can find us on Facebook or on the web). Our talented leader, Phil Giallombardo, has generously mentored me through writing lyrics for a few of our songs. I fear this has been a much greater blessing to me than to anyone else, and yet, I pray always that our songs bless someone who hears them in some way.
      But lately I've been yearning for more. A way to share my thoughts, touch someone with my words, pass on a few things I've learned in my nearly sixty-five (!) years. It was either my husband Bill or my son Christian who suggested a blog, and so finding it not too difficult to begin, here I am.
      What will follow remains to be seen, but I invite you to join me on my next "journey" ....

                                         "Yes, happy are those who have it like this!
                                     Happy indeed are those whose God is the LORD."
                                                                                -- Psalm 144: 15 (NLT)