Archive for the ‘Long-suffering’ Category

Could anyone ever doubt the artistic brilliance of Michelangelo? Though his architectural and engineering feats were prodigious, the paintings and sculptures of this Italian Renaissance man are yet considered to be amongst the most treasured works in all of art history.

It is rumored that the Pope, while admiring Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, asked “How do you know what to cut away?” To which the sculptor supposedly replied, “It’s simple. I just remove everything that doesn’t look like David.”

Whether this dialogue is true or not is uncertain, but it seems this principle was surely applied by Gutzon Borglum, whose artistic vision equaled Michelangelo’s, or possibly exceeded it. Borglum is the creative mastermind who gave South Dakota its legendary Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.

Four of America’s presidents have been immortalized there. Their granite faces gaze eternally over breathtaking South Dakota. And they are gazed upon. More than three-million tourists visit Mount Rushmore each year to marvel at America’s “Shrine of Democracy.”

The tourists are eager to learn of Gutzon Borglum, Rushmore’s fiercely determined sculptor. If not for his artistic genius and ingenuity, the Memorial may never have become a reality. But is it possible that one man could have single-handedly accomplished such a feat? Hardly.

Borglum may have been the brain of the project, and he may get the lion’s share of the glory, but let’s not forget the whole body of Americans who embraced the dream and worked towards its fulfillment. The first name on the Mount Rushmore roster is Doane Robinson. As secretary and historian of the South Dakota Historical Society, he was eager to draw sightseers to his beautiful state.

While thoughts of tourism were freshly churning in his mind, Robinson read that Gutzon Borglum had been commissioned to carve a tribute to the confederacy into Georgia’s Stone Mountain. He thought of South Dakota’s grand mountains and envisioned “all the heroes of the old west peering out from them.” Fortunately for South Dakota, the Stone Mountain project washed out and Gutzon Borglum was free to sculpt elsewhere.

State forester, Theodore Shoemaker, escorted Borglum into the heart of the Black Hills. He felt that the renowned artist would be captivated by Mount Rushmore. Shoemaker was right on the mark. Once Borglum saw this “garden of the gods,” no other mountain would do. “Here is the place!” he announced. “American history shall march along that skyline!”

The dream took wings. From school children’s pennies to philanthropist contributions, monies and resources slowly trickled in. These invaluable contributions were the fuel that kept Borglum’s dream burning, as were the labors of the men who worked for Borglum: the men who drilled, blasted, and polished the Memorial into its present greatness.

When the plans to sculpt Mount Rushmore were first announced, unemployment was very high. Borglum easily gathered a beginning crew of twenty-two men. Most of them, being loggers, ranchers, and miners, knew nothing at all about carving. Yet they not only mastered the skill of stone carving, they did so while hanging over the side of the mountain in small chair-like “saddles.”

Even though the saddles were sturdy and dependable, the work was dangerous and stressful. Each day started with a taxing 506-step climb to the top of the mountain. The men, who were already exhausted, were then lowered down the side of the mountain to drill and chip the rock away bit by bit.

Borglum originally believed that the Memorial could be carved without dynamite, but he was wrong. Before Rushmore’s completion, 450,000 tons of rock was blasted off the mountain. “We have literally carved with dynamite,” Borglum later confessed.

Most of the men who worked on the mountain earned little pay and gained no recognition. So why did they do it? Initially, the men simply wanted to feed their families. Times were hard, jobs were scarce, and men were desperate. At some point, though, the men caught a glimpse of Borglum’s dream. ‘Red’ Anderson explained, “The longer we were there, the more we began to sense that we were building a truly great thing, and after a while all of us old hands became truly dedicated to it.” Through the years, more than 400 men would share the satisfaction of laboring to create the Memorial.

Gutzon Borglum certainly deserves a place of honor in the annals of artistic achievement. “I want somewhere in America,” he said, “ a few feet of stone that bears witness (to) the great things we accomplished as a nation, placed so high it won’t pay to pull it down for lesser purposes.” The Mount Rushmore National Memorial serves its purpose well.

For me, the past week has been life-changing. Many events, some good, some tragic, have caused me to reflect on my own life. In the end, I want my life to count for something. I don’t want to be famous and admired like the Mount Rushmore memorial, but I want to leave a legacy that encourages people to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. And, I want my life to bear witness of the inexpressibly wondrous things that the Lord has accomplished in me and through me.

I thought about the many people whom God has allowed to impact my life. Like the Rushmore workers, some have helped to gently chisel away some of my pain and imperfections. As Scripture says: As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17).

The Lord has used less gentile people to shape me as well, some were believers and some were not. They, being tools in the Master Sculptor’s hands, were often more like a forceful blast of dynamite because the Lord was using them to reach the places where my heart was harder. Though I could not always see it, the Lord was working all things out for my good (Romans 8:28).

Circumstances, both good and bad, have also helped define me. More often than not, the circumstances have been those which leave me feeling blessed and enriched, but there have been more occasions than I care to remember, when the circumstances of life were also like the explosive charges that carved Mount Rushmore.

It never ceases to amaze me that Borglum was able to assess a mountain and, at the hands of his workers, blast away everything that did not look like a president. One misplaced charge and Washington could have lost his nose, or Roosevelt his ear. But every time the rubble crashed to the ground and the dust smoke cleared, it was evident that the extraordinary masterpiece was one step closer to its completion.

Look closely at the Rushmore Memorial, however, and you will note that it is not quite finished. I think that is a perfect analogy of the human life. We are all works in progress; and we will never be fully perfected in this life.

Even so, let us show forth God’s excellent craftsmanship in our lives by submitting to the Master Sculptor, Jesus. He knows how to skillfully chisel and dynamite all the hardened places in our hearts and lives until we show forth His glory.

Borglum said, “The purpose of the (Rushmore) memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States…” However, we have an even greater calling than Borglum did. Our calling, our legacy to mankind, is to allow the Lord Jesus to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of His kingdom through us.

Finally, let us never forget that His is a kingdom of people. I for one am thankful for all the people who God has used, whether chisel or dynamite, to help refine me. When I think of the rubble lying at my feet, which has been chipped and blasted away in order to make my life into something beautiful, I realize that the Lord’s masterpiece is one step closer to completion.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As such, we are living memorials of our blessed redeemer. Praise God!

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What in the world is “bug dope,” I asked my husband. He laughed aloud at my Midwestern ignorance of the far north. Apparently, bug dope is a real product, though most of you probably know it by its proper description – insect repellent. Bug dope seems a rather odd expression to me. Where I’m from, dope is a bad thing, and you certainly don’t blatantly ask others to pass it to you in public. But there we were, on the shores of Lake Huron, watching an awesome Fourth-of-July fireworks display, and bug dope was the preferred defense against the blanket of tank-sized mosquitoes that were as thick as the smoke trailing in the air.

Bug dope isn’t the only oddity of the north, though. For instance, Midwesterners don’t wear shoes with good “gription” or wear a chuke (touke) when it’s cold outside. Truthfully, I was rather entertained for the first few years of my marriage, learning the peculiar idioms and pronunciations of my “Yooper” husband. He probably felt the same. After all, I had picked up several backwoods phrases along the way, so he had to learn such colorful words as doo-jigger and thingamabob.

Many were the times when my beloved and I were essentially saying the same thing, but I didn’t realize it because of our different vernaculars. He, noting my frustration at not being able to clearly express myself, often reminded me, “It’s just semantics!” He was really big on semantics!

From the beginning, we’ve pretty much shared one brain between the two of us, but it has been a very long time since we’ve had any miscommunications due to language traits. That’s the beautiful thing about intimacy; you really get to know each other –your idiosyncrasies, your thought processes –everything.

And that, dear reader, brings me to our beloved family in Christ. There may be many denominations, but we are all one body: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5). That being the case, we should all be pretty much sharing the same brain, or in other words, we should be like-minded; relating to each other at an intimate enough level as to really understand each other.

During the past few weeks, I’ve read several online threads in which believers were arguing over a certain doctrinal issue –and when I say arguing, I mean just that. This should not be so! …there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. (1 Corinthians 12:25).

Firstly, healthy discussions and debates can be very enlightening, useful even; but arguing is very counter-productive and not at all indicative of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Secondly –and this is the part I find amusing –most of the folks on those threads were essentially saying the same thing; they were just saying it in different ways! But they, in their zeal to prove their own stance to be the correct one, couldn’t see that they were merely locked in a battle of semantics. Had they taken the time to really listen to each other, with loving hearts rather than defensive minds, they would have found that they were basically on the same page. Bug dope vs. insect repellent. Semantics!

My dear brethren, I am in no way suggesting that we succumb to compromise within the church. Nor am I suggesting that all religions, nor all denominations for that matter, are all one body. All roads do not “lead to Heaven!”

I do, however, advocate that we take the time to really listen to each other; knowing full well that we all start our journey of faith from different places. Thus, there may be some ‘language barriers’ to overcome in relating to each other. There may be some strange idiosyncrasies and oddities to overlook, but love and intimacy overcomes all obstacles.

In closing, may I remind us all, myself included, of Jesus’ answer as to which biblical commandment is the greatest:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
–Matthew 22:37-40

“Loving relationships, though necessary for life, health, and growth, are among the most complicated skills. Before we can be successful at achieving relationships, it is necessary that we broaden our understanding of how they work, what they mean and how what we do and believe can enhance or destroy them. We can accomplish this only if we are willing to put in the energy and take the time to study failed relationships as well as examine successful ones. Loving relationships cannot be taken lightly. Unless we are looking for pain, they must not be forever approached in a trial and error fashion. Too many of us have experienced the cost of these lackadaisical approaches in terms of tears, confusion and guilt.”

–Leo Buscaglia, Loving Each Other

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The weather is not scorching at present, but this is a repost from a few years ago; so just think cold instead. I truly felt like someone really needed to hear this one today, so here you go! God bless!

“Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” Well here in this little corner of the Midwest we have to, as far as the terrain is concerned anyway; It’s the closest thing to elevation that we have. Well almost…

My husband and I feel confident that we are living in the place which God has chosen for us, and are fairly settled. But if we had our druthers, we would be living on some mountain ridge. Or at the very least, on a small country farm somewhere in God’s country. By the way, if you don’t know what druthers are, you need to get out of the city for awhile and experience a little country life.

I often awake from pleasant dreams in which my family and I are living in such a place. Then the reality hits me; Nope, we’re still here in these allergy-inducing, scorched flatlands. Most of the time we are content enough to live here. Still, there have been several times throughout the years that we have all but begged God to let us relocate to an area more suited to our nature-loving genes and our manure-wading boots. And every single time, God said No.

Last night I couldn’t help but think about all the incredible things that God is doing in our lives right now -here in this place. I couldn’t even begin to list them all. Then it dawned on me, how many of these blessings would we have missed out on if we had gotten our way and moved? We may have thought at times that we would find more happiness elsewhere, but fortunately for us, God knows what we need and where He needs us, even more than we do and He always makes provision for that.

This realization led me to ponder some of the other times when God answered our prayers for other things with the same unyielding, “No.” I might not always have liked the answer, nor understood it, but I am now fully persuaded that His answers were always in our best interest whether we realized it or not.

Then, God clearly spoke to my heart. He said, “If you think I told you No a lot, you should see how many times I told the devil No. There were so many times he tried to trick you and deceive you, but I said NO! He tried to bring certain sicknesses and diseases upon you but I said NO! He even tried to take your lives but I said NO!”

My mind began to whir with memories of the car accidents we were in and the ones we narrowly escaped. I thought about several other times when I, personally, should have died but walked away unscathed. God has kept us safe through all of this and so much more. He healed us from that which the doctors couldn’t. And when we teetered on the brink of financial ruin, He miraculously provided. I cannot begin to imagine how many times God protected us and provided for us when we didn’t even know the need existed.

The devil has tried endlessly to bring harm to my family and I, but God repeatedly said NO! I don’t know about you, but right about now I feel like shouting for joy. Go ahead, ask me if I ever tire of talking about God and His amazing love. I will most emphatically tell you NO!

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For the last few weeks, my get-up-and-go has been equal to that of a sloth’s, so I haven’t accomplished much. Then again, I haven’t really wanted to do much lately; partly because I haven’t been feeling well, and partly because I tend to procrastinate sometimes. Okay, so I procrastinate a lot, but I plan to do something about that someday.

Being two peas in the same procrastination pod, my husband and I understand this tendency, and lovingly motivate each other toward action when necessary. In fact, the first time I repeatedly told my beloved I would finish some project “when I get around to it,” he pulled a wooden object from his pocket and handed it to me. What is this, I asked. “It’s a tuit –a round one,” he playfully responded. Indeed it was; the word tuit was engraved on one side. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I actually accumulated several of those round tuits before I learned to stop using the phrase, get around to it.

Come to think of it, there’s another phrase that I should probably stop using as well. When it comes to really big chores, like cleaning out the garage, for example, I have sometimes remarked that I only do stuff like that once in a blue moon –it just so happens that there really was a blue moon¹ in the skies recently. And in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t clean out the garage; the blue moon thing is just a silly catch phrase I picked up when I was young, which is loosely translated as, I don’t have a clue when I’m going to do that, but it won’t be for a long time.

Aren’t you glad, dear reader, our LORD acts on our behalf a great deal more than once in a blue moon, or whenever He gets around to it?

Even so, I’m sure that there have been times in each of our lives when it seemed the LORD was, for whatever reason, postponing something important, such as an answer to prayer or a fulfillment of a promise. But we are in good company; even the patriarchs and prophets of old have undoubtedly felt this way. Abraham, for instance, must have grown quite anxious for the birth of his son Isaac. On the other hand, the prophet Habakkuk desperately longed for a different kind of delivery –a deliverance from the enemies of Israel.

You see, In Habakkuk’s time, the foreign nations were causing the Israelites much grief and prevailing against them. Confused and dismayed, Habakkuk earnestly prayed, “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” (1:2).

And what was God’s response? He said He would do amazing things that, “you would not believe if you were told (1:5).” He further instructed Habakkuk to “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables… For the vision is yet for an appointed time… because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up [proud] is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (2:2-4).

Note two things: First, those things shown to Habakkuk were to happen at a specific, appointed time; and they were absolute. God always fulfills His decrees according to His perfect timing, never at some unspecified time whenever He gets around to it. Second, the just (righteous) shall live by faith, which according to Hebrews 11: 1 is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Herein is the irony: To operate in faith, we must implicitly trust in God’s perfect timing, and wait patiently for it, being completely clueless, all the while, as to what His timetable is or what, exactly, He is planning to do.

I’m sure there is much more I can, and will, say on this matter, when I get around to it (wink). Till then, just keep trusting in your Heavenly Father. He will never fail you!

¹A Blue moon is the appearance of the third full moon in a season with four full moons. It is not literally blue. This term has also been used to refer to the second full moon in any given month.

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photo credit: alatoni.com

Black olives may not please everyone’s palate, but my family –half of us, anyway– devour them like candy. In fact, whenever we have a build your own pizza night, my daughter’s pizza is usually black when she pops it in the oven due to serious olive overload. I can’t say I blame her; I’m one of the other olive lovers.

You can only imagine how elated I was the first time I realized my relatives, who lived in Phoenix, had several black olive trees growing in their back yard. “Go ahead, eat as many as you want,” my cousin told me.

Anxiously, I bit into the first one with great expectation. But I spit it out with disgust. Unbeknownst to me, those pleasant-looking fruit are bitter enough to turn your teeth inside out –until they are cured in lye, that is. Yes, I said lye.

Do you have any idea how hazardous lye can be? It can cause chemical burns, scarring, blindness, or respiratory failure; and probably even death under certain circumstances. Yep, that sounds like the kind of substance we need to treat our food with (Uh- NOT). I was stunned further to learn that manufacturers use lye to treat several other foods as well. But let’s talk about olives for a moment.

Did you know that olives are really good for our bodies? Not only do they contain a fair amount of iron, vitamin E, copper (an essential mineral) and fiber, they also have phytonutrients,  the organic components of plants which promote human health. Olives are said to:

 Contain antioxidants to fight disease.
 Have anti-inflammatory properties.
 Help decrease high blood pressure.
 Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
 Lower bad cholesterol.
 and more

It really boggles my mind that something as caustic as lye can take the bitterness right out of the olive fruit. What astounds me even more is that the caustic attacks of other people can take the bitterness right out of us.

How? First we must understand that “The building of character is the most important business of life. It matters little what works a man may leave in the world; his real success is measured by what he has wrought along the years in his own being…. True character must be built after divine patterns…” J.R. Miller, 1894

Jesus Christ is our divine pattern. What did he teach?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which spitefully use you (Luke 6:28).

More profound still,  while Jesus Christ, who was falsely accused, was being led to Mount Calvary to face an unjust crucifixion, he demonstrated for us the most noble of character:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

Why would the Son of God allow Himself to be beaten, spat upon, and ultimately murdered, without speaking one word in His own defense? It is because our Heavenly Father had a plan. Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior, was absolutely perfect as both man and God. But with His every word and action, Jesus gave us a pattern of how to live so that we might be perfected into His own image.

However, we are mere mortal men and we fail. Sometimes we allow the unjust actions of others to cause bitterness deep within our hearts. It is in times like these, I believe, that God allows caustic men and women to “crucify” us so that we may be “cured” and our fruit (the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23) may be sweet.  And more importantly, so that this sweetened fruit may then be used as a catalyst to help heal the spiritual diseases of others.

Dear reader, the next time you or I encounter a caustic, abrasive person, let us remember the words of our precious LORD and pray for him (or her). And in so doing, may he or she see the character of God through us.

In closing, I offer this final thought; relationship battles can often be won through peace– I wouldn’t lie.

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The coin was old, and it was gold; of that I am sure. I imagined that the notorious bandit, Jesse James, dropped it when he was headed to the caverns to stash some loot. After all, I was swimming just a stone’s throw from Meramec Caverns, famed hideout of the James-Younger Gang. True, they hadn’t been near the cavern for umpteen years, but it wouldn’t have been the first time someone found a relic from the gangs’ racketeering days in those parts.

The summer had been a scorcher and the water levels were extremely low. Everyone was concerned that some of the streams in the area would dry up altogether. That’s pretty much how I felt about my life at the time. And my prospects of ever escaping that life, it seemed, were drying-up just as quickly as those Missouri waters.

After graduating high school, I was able to leave that place – a place I had grown to hate– but all too soon, fate brought me back. If only I had known God, and understood how perfectly He orchestrates our lives, I might have been more content. But I didn’t know God back then; I only knew sorrow.

Swimming in the cool river brought a bit of diversionary relief, but I was still rather cranky. To make matters worse, my younger sister kept jumping on my back even though I had told her a dozen times to knock it off. I wasn’t even nice the last time I said it. “Get off my back!” I barked at her angrily.

In order to take my mind off things, I swam to a deep spot and dove under the water to search the rocky bottom for a nice keepsake. The water in that part of the river is normally too deep and fast-moving to swim in, but that summer, the conditions were more favorable. I figured that I might get lucky and find an arrowhead or an unusual piece for my rock collection. In my wildest dreams I would never have thought that I would find a gold coin from long ago, but I did.

With great anticipation, I brought the coin to the surface and slowly opened my hand to examine it. To my great dismay, however, I didn’t even get a chance to read the date on the coin, which was unquestionably quite old, because my sister had ignored my scolding and pounced on my back like a leopard on its prey. I don’t even know where she came from, but I know where the coin went –it flipped out of my hand and sank back into the river. Finding it in the first place was incredibly miraculous; finding it a second time was impossible! We all searched for more than an hour, but it was a hopeless cause and it was starting to get dark anyway, so we left the coin in its watery grave and headed home.

I was very angry at my sister; and that for quite a while. The more I thought about it, the more I had determined that the coin was my ticket out of that place. The realization that my golden opportunity had been knocked right out of my hands caused my heart to sink as well. I don’t know how much I would have gotten for the coin, but I figured it would surely be enough to start a new life. But again, fate was keeping me there -or was it God? I didn’t know Him then, but He certainly knew me. While I had my own ideas of how I wanted life to be, God had a different plan for my life all along.

Scripture says: “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV).

To be honest, I still don’t like the fact that my sister jumped on my back that day, but I’m glad that God stopped me from pursuing my own desires. Had I gotten my way, my life would have gone in a completely different direction than it did, and there is no telling where I may have ended up. God loved me enough to keep me where I needed to be at the time. When He was ready to move me forward, according to His plan, He did. And I have no regrets, because my precious Lord has given me a life more wonderful than I could ever have imagined. I still don’t have much gold, but I do have something much better –genuine peace and happiness.

Dear reader, is there someone you want desperately to “get off your back;” a boss or family member perhaps? Is there a circumstance in your life that has caused your heart to sink and given you a feeling of hopelessness? I want to encourage you that God, in His great love and mercy, knows just where you are and what you are going through. If you are frustrated because you are stuck in a place you don’t want to be, whether physically, financially, emotionally or spiritually; be patient. The events in your life are not decided by some cosmic flip of the coin, but rather, God is working all things out for your good, according to His divine plan.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Finally, please remember that the riches of this world may come and go, but God’s love is forever. Once you take hold of it, no one can ever knock it out of your hands. Even when this life’s difficulties ‘pounce’ on you, as they sometimes will, God is still in control;  and He is working to ensure that you have a rich life despite the way things appear to be.

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photo credit: The Gorilla Foundation

Back in the eighties, it was common for young people to ask each other, “What’s your sign?” They honestly believed that everyone’s “sign” revealed a lot about them.  I never bought into any of that, but I did learn a lot about people by just watching them. I’ve always believed that non-verbal communication often speaks louder than words.  Perhaps that understanding is one reason why the Lord called me to deaf ministry.

My sign today (or should I say sign language) is A.S.L, which stands for American Sign Language. I love the ability to communicate with hearing impaired individuals, and I enjoy watching the expressive way they “speak.” Knowing sign language has come in handy many times; sometimes in rather unexpected ways. For instance, I recently had a unique experience with a gorilla. Of course, we didn’t carry on a lengthy conversation, but he did tell me he was sick.

Let me first explain, some gorillas do know sign language. Have you ever heard of Koko? She is a Western Lowland Gorilla who was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971. Placed under the tutelage of scientist Francine Patterson, Koko has learned over one-thousand signs in which to communicate with humans. She wasn’t the first gorilla to learn sign, but she has certainly excelled at it. Because of Koko’s accomplishments, scientists continue to pursue inter-species communication through the use of sign language and they are having good success.

Whether or not the sick gorilla at our local zoo had ever been formally taught sign language or not, he was clearly communicating with sign. Every time I visit the zoo, I linger at the indoor gorilla enclosure for a while and sign to those intriguing primates just to see if I can actually elicit an understandable response.

One day, as I stood there signing “How are you?” one particular gorilla caught my attention. He fixed his gaze on me and I am almost certain he was frowning. “How are you? I asked again. The gorilla then clearly signed, “Sick. Stomach-ache. Headache.” To be sure I had understood him correctly, I signed back to him, “You sick?  “Sick- stomach ache- headache,” the gorilla repeated. A closer look at the precious gorilla revealed that he did have a runny nose and puffy eyes.

I wanted very much to find one of the zoo keepers, but there wasn’t one available. As the next best option, I gave the information to one of the general staff. The message probably never got passed-on, which saddened me greatly because this gorilla was asking for help and I couldn’t give it.

There have been several times I felt that way while at my children’s high school. At one particular event, I took the time to really ‘see’ those teenagers. And rather than being disturbed at the obnoxious hair colors and styles, piercings and tattoos, and the repulsive clothing, I was able to see them through the same eyes with which I watched the gorilla.

Many of these young people were desperately trying in their own way to communicate. They weren’t using sign language, but with their body language and body image, they were clearly shouting: Look at me! I’m hurting neglected, scared and so on. I stood there wondering, how many of us are really “listening” to these young people.

Koko has many critics who insist that she may have learned to imitate some gestures but has no concept of their meaning. Likewise, there are lots of adults who look at today’s teens and think, they are not conveying any particular message; they are just a reflection of their culture. That may be the case with some, but there are a great many that are desperate for someone to notice –someone to care.

There are also countless others out there who seem to be happy and have their lives in perfect order, but looks can be deceiving. If we looked through God’s eyes, it is quite probable that we would see everyone quite differently.

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

As God’s children, we are to have the same love and compassion as our Heavenly Father does. I pray that we all continuously strive to gain a slightly different perspective; one that will cause us to alter our perceptions in such a way that we are more aware of the needs of those around us.

Most importantly, when we do detect that someone is hurting neglected, scared and so on; may we always be quick to show them the love, mercy and compassion of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The world can sometimes be a very dark place, and there are times when we all need a ray of light to bring hope.  Jesus is that light!  Will you be the one He shines through to brighten the lives of others?


postscript: Koko has her own website. You can learn all about her and the Gorilla Foundation here:
The Gorilla Foundation -Koko

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The man was not home when they came to assassinate him for his faith in Jesus Christ, but his family was. Why they did not kill his wife is uncertain. Perhaps they thought it a far crueler “punishment” to kill his sons and force their mother to watch as they were shot to death by bullets which were far less steely than their own hearts. And so they did just that.

“When will you flee this place?” the woman was asked after this life-shattering tragedy.

“Not until I see God’s revenge on these men,” she answered. “These were my children; I changed their diapers I fed them and nurtured them. I loved them, and I had hopes that they would grow to be pastors or doctors; men who would help our people. And now, their lives have been cut off –they will never grow to be men.”

Concerned, her fellow Christian asked, “What do you mean by God’s revenge? What revenge?”

“I need God’s revenge!” she reiterated. “Please ask the churches to pray God’s revenge on these men that killed my sons — I need to see these men go to Heaven. I want the churches to pray for their salvation!”

Her statements seemed odd to me at first. Then I realized what she meant: our Lord said, Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” (Romans 12:19 NAS). This mother knew that God would avenge her sons’ blood and was therefore seeking mercy on their behalf. She had forgiven those men and prayed that God would as well. Like Jesus upon His cross of crucifixion, she was pleading, ‘Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!’ As I listened to this account of the persecuted church, the Lord spoke to my heart. “Would you – could you –forgive even this?”

I wanted to say, without hesitation, “Yes Lord!” But the truth is, I am not certain whether I could or not. One never knows what they will do in certain situations until faced with it. My childhood and adolescence was excruciatingly painful, yet I learned to completely forgive my tormenters. However, my own experiences pale in comparison to those of the persecuted church in other lands. How would I handle this kind of agony – the cold-blooded murder of my precious children? Could I truly forgive and ask that God’s revenge for them be salvation and eternal life in Heaven for their murderers? I pray so.

Then, I listened intently to the speaker’s own powerful testimony. He was born and raised in the same hate-riddled part of the world as this woman was. In fact, it was he who encouraged her to flee. He managed to do so himself, but not until he was imprisoned five times and inflicted with such inhumane tortures as being hung upside down, beaten with metal cable, and having boiling oil poured on his feet.

Yet he more than forgave –he learned to see them through God’s eyes and love them as He does! For the past thirty-plus years of his life, this man has been involved with an evangelistic ministry and continues to minister to the people in and around his homeland – even those barbaric non-believers who torture and kill Christians.

As he recounted his own sufferings, I couldn’t help but smile every time he said, “We must continue to have the faith of Jesus!” You see, with his still-thick accent, he pronounced the word faith as ‘face.’

Yes, my brother, we desperately need the face of Jesus! I was reminded, as he spoke, of Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

It is only by the grace of God, by His countenance upon us, that we can ever find healing for a heart that has been shattered. It is only by forgiveness that we can find true peace. And it is only by loving our enemies that we can pray with utmost sincerity, ‘Forgive them Father; they know what they do.’

May we, the body of Christ, never forget to pray daily for the persecuted church AND for those who persecute us!

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About the only time I experience the manly phenomenon of being “compartmentalized” is when I am in cleaning mode. I’m not talking about the fifth round of counter wiping and floor sweeping. Rather, I mean the all-out offensive war on grime.

Some of you women know what I’m talking about. When in that mode, we rigorously clean and sanitize everything in sight including the dog if it gets in the way. We are focused!

My son once caught me in the middle of one of those cleaning sprees and asked if he could have one of the apples on the table. They were wooden apples and he knew it, so this was obviously his cute little attempt to pull one over on mom while she was preoccupied. And he did.

“Go for it” I said, calling his bluff.

I stopped scrubbing sticky stuff long enough to watch him bite off a big chunk and chew on it with glee. Normally his ear-to-ear grin would have given him away instantly, but I was focused. It took a short while for my brain to process the fact that he had earlier switched the fake apple for a real one.

Having succeeded in his endeavor to make me laugh, he really enjoyed that apple and I’m glad he did! After all, he gets his sense of humor from his mama so what can I say?

Today was kind of the opposite. I picked a nicely colored apple –a real one — and bit into it expecting the sweet flavor of apple. I might as well have bit into one of those wooden look-alikes though, because it probably tasted about the same. Even caramel wouldn’t have helped this one.

Oddly, the same kind of thing happened this past week. While grocery shopping, I noted how paltry all of the produce looked. Nevertheless, the nectarines looked pleasing enough so I bought one to nibble on while making dinner. What a disappointment! When I bit into that pitiful thing there was zero taste. None!

I said to my husband, “Well, they finally did it; they managed to geneticallly engineer something which resembles fruit –but they forgot to give it any flavor.” He took one bite and realized I was not exaggerating the least bit. Then, wanting to check-out this peculiarity for himself, my youngest son took a bite. Even his taste buds manifested their confusion through the expression on his face as he tossed the remainder of the ‘nectarine’ into the trash.

Later that evening, I was thinking about that flavorless piece of ‘fruit’ and bemoaned the fact that I haven’t enjoyed a really good apple, pear or peach for many years. certain types of fruit have retained some of their flavor but certainly not all.

Then it hit me! Is any of my spiritual fruit tasteless? The fruit of the spirit, according to the fifth chapter of Galatians, are these:

Love * Joy * Peace * Patience * Kindness * Goodness * Faithfulness
* Gentleness *Self-control

Notice these nine attributes of fruit, according to scripture, are singular. This is significant. If someone is living according to God’s word, they shouldn’t exhibit only some of these attributes in their lives–they should exhibit them all.

I truly desire that my own fruit basket be overflowing with every one of the tasty, nutritious fruit of the Spirit. But truthfully, I have to admit that some of my fruit is less flavorful than others. I trust that none of my fruit may be likened to a wooden decoration but even so, real fruit is of little value to others if it is merely a tasteless hybrid.

Heaven forbid that any person every be confused by my testimony of faith because they realize that the fruit I attempt to share has absolutely no flavor. But how do I ensure that my fruit is really good?

First, I am willing to confess to myself, and to you, that some of my fruit is not fully ripe. Therefore, I ask my heavenly Father often that He cultivate me in whichever way He sees fit until my fruit is all HE desires it to be. Once it is, I must be willing to share my fruit with everyone I encounter. After all, fruit is meant to be consumed not merely displayed. The more fruit we share with others, the more they can see God’s goodness –that should be our focus.

My son’s fun little prank helped me learn an important lesson that day. We should all honestly examine our own fruit baskets to see if the fruit is real or artificial. After all, when someone comes to us expecting to find tasty, nutritious fruit, we don’t want them biting into wood.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:8)

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Photo Credit Flickr

My favorite college professor used to relay the most unpleasant events of history with great animation. He would then playfully tell us “That’s the way it was. If you don’t like it, you can just go butt a stump!” I’ve never seen anyone foolhardy enough to do this, but I did watch my drunken step-father once butt heads with an old goat. You would’ve had to been there to fully appreciate the comical skirmish so I’ll jump straight to its conclusion; the goat cleaned his clock. It seems that even docile goats can get quite aggressive when provoked.

The embarrassing defeat never dampened his love of head-butting though. I doubt he ever locked heads with another four-legged grass-eater, but he continued to derive pleasure from butting heads with me (and everyone else) every chance he got. If anyone knew how to get my goat, he did!

Being a control-freak, he found those head-to-head conflicts to be an exhilarating way to boost his own ego, but I became more frustrated with each passing day. Then someone gave me a very wise piece of advice. She told me, “He can’t get your goat if you don’t tell him where you keep it tied.” She was right. With this little nugget of wisdom I was able to turn the tables.

After all these years I have never forgotten this and have, in fact, tried to instill the concept in my children. Unfortunately, they still haven’t quite figured it out. Frustrating as this is, it is certainly understandable. You see, it really irks me when……oops, I almost led you to one of my goats. Never mind.

More to the point, I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions because frankly, I’m never disciplined enough to follow-through on them for more than a day or two. Even so, I have realized lately that I have allowed a few people to find out where my own goats are tied and have therefore resolved to fix this little faux pas before any serious problems arise.

After all, there is a reason I keep certain of my goats tethered in the first place; they are not docile and it doesn’t take much to rile them. Some of these goats used to graze peacefully in the meadows of nonchalant but after a season of agitation, they became a bit aggressive and had to be constrained. I prefer to keep them that way.

You may ask, “Why don’t you just get rid of them altogether?” Truthfully, not all goats are bad; some merely need to be tamed. They can be very useful for refining us and teaching us to respond properly to adverse stimuli.

No matter how careful I am, someone always manages to get one of my goats at some point. So, I can either choose to butt heads with them, or I can take the higher road and cultivate the wisdom of Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man maketh him slow to anger; And it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

Admittedly, I sometimes butt heads instinctively, but I am working toward the latter. I won’t call it a New Year’s resolution since I’m not very successful with those, but I am continuing to strive toward greater long-suffering. Others may choose to be confrontational but from now on, I don’t plan to join them.

Hey, if they don’t like that they can “just go butt a stump!”

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