Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: "Safely Home"

Safely HomeSafely Home by Randy Alcorn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know if I've ever said this about fiction before but I am not the same after reading this book. This book makes you want to research the persecution of Christians in China yourself and draws you to God in order to find out the answer to the question "how should I be responding to this."
Warning: Read this only if you do not mind that your conscience is pricked.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Run for Life

Guest post by Marilyn Morsch (my wonderful mother)

My life changing experience occurred on 9/11/01 while on a summer travel trip to the US Mid- Atlantic states in our trailer. All was going well until my husband and I were finishing up our sightseeing in Washington, DC. Early on that morning, we left in the dark to catch the subway to the first stop on our busy schedule for the day, the 9 AM tour of the Pentagon.
We arrived by Metro subway before 8 AM to allow time to go through heavy security. After showing a photo ID, we were given a numbered badge to wear. As always I scoped out an alternative exit and a bathroom. Being married to a fireman for 43 years has taught me to be prepared for anything.
At exactly 8:45 AM, a tall and distinguished US Army Honor Guard Tour Guide (in full dress uniform including white gloves) gave us our marching orders and had us place all bags, fanny packs and purses in a closet to be locked up securely until we returned. Then he had the 30 of us line up 2 by 2 to enter through the alarmed security doors. We were now on our way through their shopping mall into the hallowed halls of the Pentagon.
About 1/3 of the way through our tour, we heard a loud boom and felt strong movement. Folks in California might call it a 4.3 earthquake. It was now approximately 9:30 AM. Our tour guide yelled 3 pieces of information:
(our route) “FOLLOW ME”, (our destination) “TO THE METRO EXIT”,
(our procedure) “ON THE RUN!” We complied willingly for after having gone up ramps and down stairs, we had no idea where we were and no clue as how to exit this huge building safely.
While keeping my eyes focused on that tall tour guide in front of us, I listened to the people pouring out of offices offering guesses as to what had happened (a bomb in the courtyard, plane landing at Reagan airport in trouble and flew into the Pentagon, etc.) What I did know was that something serious had happened. This was not a practice run.
A few civilian employees were falling apart emotionally even though there was neither smoke nor fire where we were. Everyone was running the same direction, but I wasn’t sure about their knowledge of a Disaster Exit Plan or if there was one. I knew that our salvation from this experience depended upon following our tour guide’s instructions.
During the run down the hall my life did not flash before my eyes, but other thoughts were racing through my mind. One example was the fact that the paper work on our financial affairs had not been brought up to date before we left home. If Bill and I were to die at the same time, the kids would be searching for a needle in a haystack. In fact, if I died before Bill, he’d have the same problem. I told myself that I would take care of that business detail as soon as we returned home. Also without ID, the only thing people would know about me was that I was a grandma because the front of my tee shirt said so. I won’t bore you with any other crazy conversations I was having with myself.
There was a second Army officer tour guide with us. Because my husband has artificial hips and cannot run quickly this tour guide stayed with him the entire run constantly asking if he was all right. This one also assured me that the closet would be open so we could get our personal items. I wondered if that was a fact or a hope. Sure enough, after going the security doors, I swooped up my mini-disaster fanny pack out of the closet and quickly moved toward the exit. Just before we left the building, we passed by our tall tour guide standing against the wall. We gave him our numbered ID badges, the only identification we had throughout the entire experience and the only proof that we had made it out safely. We thanked him quickly and went out into the south parking lot. Adrenaline was abundant for flight, not to be wasted on fright.
We turned westward and saw billowing black smoke, but it wasn’t until I heard a car radio blaring the news that I learned what had happened in New York and to the Pentagon. We all were then told to move away from the building because there was a fourth plane heading towards Washington, DC. That was the one that went down in Pennsylvania. I turned eastward and saw in the distance the beautiful white Capitol. It had been spared but at such a price.
When the F-16 military planes roared overhead, we knew that protection for the city had arrived. They were certainly a welcomed sight. We watched the military set up triage and begin organizing their “troops” while they waited for fire department equipment and ambulances to arrive. Only one trip by the medivac helicopter could be made with the injured before all of the planes were grounded in the country.
Seeing that our training in CPR and first aid was not needed, our next challenge was to find a way back to our trailer in Maryland. We began a long trip around to the other side of the Pentagon where we saw flames, smoke and the gaping hole in its side. We were aware that with this kind of damage there had to be many injuries and even deaths. Sadly, we continued on and climbed a wall into Arlington Cemetery for the long, long walk to a working subway.
The Washington DC of Sunday, September 9th with wall-to-wall people was gone. Having been evacuated, DC was like a ghost town with the streets occupied by only police, military with big guns, a man in a suit running with an attaché case, and two tourists, us. But underground the subway was bustling with activity. There were people who had never ridden the subway and were at a loss as to how to get home. We, with city and subway maps in our possession, were the center of attention for quite a while. For two weeks we had seen people with their heads buried in newspapers and books, talking to no one. Now everyone was talking to someone about what had happened, where they were when it happened, and trying to figure out why it had happened.
Even though we had learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center, nothing had prepared us for seeing their collapse repeated over and over again on the TV for days and realizing the terrible loss of life. We had just been to the top two weeks before. The many pictures I had taken showing their beauty were still in my camera not to be developed until we were home.
We finally got in touch with the family to let them know that we were OK. This was the only day of our four month trip that the family knew exactly where we would be. We were in big trouble because they were sure that we could have found a pay phone somewhere in DC to let them know hours before that we were alive and well. I told the kids that this was payback for the times we waited up when they were out past curfew. They were not impressed with my attempt at humor.
We left Washington the next day and began the long trip home to the West Coast. We saw God Bless America, United We Stand and Prayer for Our Leaders written on signs everywhere, even on school marquees. Flags of all sizes were flown from poles, windows and cars. It was apparent that a great change had happened to the American people over night.
When folks at home found out where we had been during the terrorists’ attack, they asked me a lot of questions. My answers included the following: “ No, I wasn’t afraid. No, we didn’t panic. No, I didn’t think I was going to die. I guess it wasn’t my time to go.” My responses seemed so inadequate after awhile.
These questions made me re-think my experience and re-evaluate my life and my priorities. At the same time, my pastor, Dave Moore of Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, preached powerful messages about sharing God’s love and salvation. He made me aware that because of what had occurred on 9/11, people all over were searching for answers as to what had happened, what was important in their lives, and what they could do about it. I was challenged to meet my responsibility as a Christian to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to those around me.
While I am not shy about my faith, I have never been one to get up on a soapbox and preach either. I knew that I had a story to tell, but how was I going to do it. My decision was to change my Christmas letter that normally shares family news to one about my experience and what it meant to me. Since this would be a totally new challenge I yelled to God for help, and the letter was completed in an amazingly short time. I decided that not only would I send it to the 250 people on my Christmas mailing list, I would give it to anyone who sent me any kind of letter, card, solicitation, or bill. It was MY money paying for all of it, so I was going for broke. The worst thing that could happen would be a shortening of my Christmas card list for the next year. The best thing would be changed lives. I anticipated some interesting reactions, and I got some.
My letter included a shorten version of the experience, the following reflections, and what I had learned from them. Now it was my turn to ask questions. So here it goes.

“Exit from our physical life can happen any time, any place and in any way.
Do you know where you are going to spend eternity? Where is your destination?
To whom are you looking for your security? Who is your tour guide? How are
you going to get there? What is the procedure? Jesus gives the answers to these
questions in the book of John in the Bible. He states in John 11: 25,26, ‘I am the
resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and
whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
I ask you dear family and friends, do you believe this? Jesus is my Tour Guide.
My destination is to be with God for eternity, and I am following His instructions
completely. He says BELIEVE, and our action is TO BELIEVE.
I urge you to read the book of John for THE PLAN given for a life of
peace and purpose now and life eternal whenever it may come. If you want to
know about what is coming in the world situation, read the book of Daniel
(Old Testament) and The Revelation (New Testament), and you will discover
who wins.”

After the Christmas letter went out, this event began to take on a life of its own. People began to ask me for copies of my letter to send to their family and friends. I was asked to share an expanded version with several groups. Tapes of my talk were requested and were sent out. E-mail of the letter even went to Africa.
Then I started a new project. It took seven phone numbers, but I worked my way through Ft. Meyer where the tour guides are stationed and the Pentagon where they were assigned. I finally was connected with their supervisor’s office. He was intending to write an article about them and wanted me to fax everything I had written about the experience. By that time, this included not only the Christmas letter but also an evaluation letter about our tour that I had sent to the Pentagon. I, in turn, wanted an address so I could send the tour guides an appropriate thank you along with my Christmas letter and everything else I had written about them. Warned that this would take a long time for delivery because of security, I was prepared to patiently wait, and I did. Besides, the more people who had to screen my letter were more people who had to read my questions.
I finally received a response from the tall tour guide asking if we wanted to complete the tour when they were up and running again. He would like to finish what he had started that day. My answer, of course, was that we would be there any time it could happen and wanted him to be our leader again. He does not consider his actions during the evacuation to be heroic. He just was doing his job as our tour guide and as a soldier in the US Army. But after all of us had been safely evacuated, he felt relief that he was going home to his wife and baby.
Someone told me that I should write a book about what had happened. This is the closest I’ll ever get to that challenge. Another suggested that I send my letter to President Bush. I am still contemplating that one. He hears from generals and admirals all of the time. Maybe the commander-in-chief would be interested in what two of his rank and file did on 9/11
After this experience, I will never look at life or death the same way. This has given me a new perspective on my salvation experience. I certainly have been moved out of my comfort zone of the church pew. Every time I am before a microphone my heart races, my palms are sweaty and my knees are shaking. I am not a public speaker, but I do believe that I survived this experience for a purpose and an opportunity not to be wasted. I am to glorify my God and spread His message of salvation and grace. Jesus states in Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before God in heaven”. What a wonderful promise.
I do hope that those reading this story will ask themselves, their family and friends the same questions that I asked in my letter. Now is the time for all of us to evaluate who and what is important to us in this life and for all of eternity

Friday, September 9, 2011

In my opinion...Americans Are Crazy

We are:

Against capital punishment but for abortion.

For the equality of women but not against soft porn in our movies and ads.

For charity but we don’t want to pay for it ourselves.

For drug testing in the work place but against it for welfare recipients.

For a balanced budget but not for cutting programs.

For freedom of religion but only if it does not offend us.

For equal rights of marriage while divorcing at an astounding rate.

Against new oil drilling while expecting an endless supply of gasoline for our cars.

For protecting the caribou but not for protecting the unborn child.

Could we possibly be more schizophrenic?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Now that I'm a grown up...

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted" Isaiah 61:1

Few things feel more vulnerable than a broken heart. 
 Life's way of reacting to a crushed heart is to wrap tough sinews of flesh around it and tempt us to promise we'll never let ourselves get hurt again.

That's  not God's way.

Self-made fortresses built to protect our hearts not only keep love from going out, they keep love from coming in.
We risk becoming captives of our own protective fortresses.
Only God can put the pieces of our hearts back together again, close up the wounds, and bind them with a porous bandage that protects from infection...
but keeps the heart free to inhale and exhale love.
Beth Moore
Breaking Free

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There is no doubt...Love Hurts.

Recently I was reading some articles relating to homeschooling that used the term “guard your heart.”  I forgot about this term that was so freely thrown around in homeschool circles years ago and was reminded how odd I always thought it was.

The “guarding your heart” philosophy was used to describe how a single person should interact with the opposite sex.  Guard your heart and you are saving what belongs only to your future spouse.  Guard your heart, don’t get too close, until you are sure of God’s will and then you will not get hurt.  Protect yourself from people. 

  Sounds like a good idea, the only problem is it is not biblical.  The verse that uses this phrase (Proverbs 4:23) is talking about guarding ourselves from sin, not people.  The fact of the matter is that we are called to love and love hard.  In doing so, we will get hurt.  Being vulnerable with people can lead to a great supportive relationship, or we can be left humiliated and devastated.  It is normal and healthy to experience both in ones lifetime many times over.  I love C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on the subject.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

My heart has been broken many times over by the very people I love the most.  The people who know me best have the ability to wound me the deepest.  There is no amount of heart guarding that can prevent this from happening.  If you never “fall in love” with any one other than your spouse, your heart still will be broken.  People are not perfect and they sin.  This will break your heart.  People are not immune and they suffer both mentally and physically.  This will break your heart.  People are not immortal and they die.  This will break your heart.

What matters is how you decided to deal with the broken heart you will inevitably have.  For years my marriage was very painful and I chose to close myself off from the pain. My heart became a little hard knot.  In trying to protect myself from the pain, I became unable to love.  I became harsh and critical.  In recovery I learned I did not have to protect myself, or be guarded.  I just needed to accept things how they were and quit trying to change everything and everyone.  In doing so, my heart slowly thawed and became big and fluffy, bigger and fluffier than ever before... just like the Grinch’s.   I might conclude that a relationship is not healthy for me and decide to end it or take a break from it but I no longer close myself off because of it.  I accept the pain that I am feeling and do not try to hurry up and make it go away by hardening my heart.  I have learned that embracing the pain, instead of denying it, causes growth and an ability to love even more and better in the future. 
In regards to sin, then yes we should guard our heart but in regards to people the Bible is clear.

1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flaming Marshmallows and Other Warnings.

I recently lost my sanity and invited two 4th grade math classes over for a hot dog roast.  I actually do this on a regular basis and it occurred to me that a similar dynamic happens every time.  Even though we have spent a whole school year together and are very familiar with one another at school, they enter my house very tentatively.  They sort of hide behind their parents for a little bit and have to be coaxed into playing one of the games at first.  Soon they start warming up and the fun begins.  We have a great time for a few hours and then it starts to break down.  They forget themselves and their manners and start literally climbing the furniture and the trees.  Flaming marshmallows start getting flung around and just before disaster happens their parents show up.  Their parents’ presence reminds them of what is considered acceptable and right.  The main governing force in their lives brings them back to a place of healthy and good behavior immediately.

It struck me that this same dynamic can be seen in recovery over and over.  We come to Celebrate Recovery very tentative and scared.  We are fearful to admit we have a problem, we are fearful that we might not fit in and we are fearful about not knowing anyone there.  Soon, however, we meet great people whom we can identify with and realize that we do indeed have issues that need working on.  We start meeting with a small open share group, join a 12 step study and start working the program.  We might even start volunteering to help with the details of running the ministry and soon we have fellowship with people like us, often for the first time in our lives.  But inevitably, we reach a point were we tend to forget ourselves and why we are there and we stop working the program.  We don’t call people like we used to, we quit journaling and examining ourselves on a daily basis.  The difference between the 4th grade math party and CR is that no one is coming just before the disaster happens.  There is no parent that is coming to tell us to knock it off, or to hold our hand when we are getting a little out of control.  We are now grown up and must do this for ourselves.  We must not believe the lie that we are “cured” and are done with all that recovery stuff now.  We must parent ourselves and require ourselves to do what is right and healthy even when we don’t want to.

I love a party as much as the next person, whether it’s with 4th graders or my CR friends.  It is true, the fellowship of CR makes it easy to go but it is the constant work that makes life better for me and for those around me.  And when you come over to roast marshmallows I promise I won’t fling one at you.  This is the one area that I think I really am cured.