A Weekend To Remember

This weekend my husband and I celebrated our fifth anniversary. We took the weekend and went to Greenville and just enjoyed a restful time. We didn’t take in the cities night-life, eat at the high-end restaurants, or even attend any special events. We just were there. It was wonderful. Between naps we explored the city, walking up and down Main Street in 95 degree heat, and marveled at God’s creation at the Reedy Falls. Beautiful.

For our anniversary we found a small restaurant close to our hotel, the Pho Noodleville. It was Vietnamese Cuisine which was new to me. My husband wowed me again with his knowledge of all things food. . . well, actually with his knowledge of all things. Anyway, we enjoyed a wonderful meal in a charming ambiance. 

The night before we ate at Perkins, a sentimental favorite. Perkins, in Rapid City SD is where we first saw each other face to face. We shared a piece of peanut-butter silk pie. It is also where we had our rehearsal dinner and they served, you got it, peanut-butter silk pie. So, when Bruce suggested we go to Perkins on the fifth anniversary of our rehearsal dinner I was elated.  I knew I was going to get a piece of peanut-butter silk pie. You see, our marriage is best because of its simplicity. We enjoy the normal every day activities with occasional special moments thrown in. And we both love sentimental memory-making.

Some people might call our anniversary weekend boring. A couple middle-aged folks holed up in a hotel taking naps, doing a little work, reading, and taking the occasional drive around town. . .. Not me. I believe that’s what I would call a weekend to remember!

Three Things My Dad Taught Me (Part Two)

Besides learning how to make decisions and how to treat others my dad taught me how to serve God. My dad has served as the pastor of several small churches. He started three churches and has ministered to people in four different states. Many “preacher’s kids” have less than positive things to say about growing up in a pastor’s home. They say their dad was too strict, there was never any money, the ministry took him away from his family, and they were always being watched. Not me. It was a joy to grow up in a Pastor’s house. My dad loved the ministry. It was the life God gave him and he loved it. He still does. He enjoyed working with people, even the difficult ones. One day when I came home from work as a nurse and complained about a patient’s difficult family member my dad said, “Miriam, as long as you are working with people, there are always going to be a few strange ones in your life. Don’t let them ruin it for you.” He chose to love them but kept his focus on God and the task God had for him. He made being a pastor look like fun, serving God was an adventure, a privilege even. We were the blessed ones. He didn’t complain about the long hours, the financial difficulty, the uncertainty of the future, the pitiful retirement benefits. He knew that he was where God wanted him and that was all he needed to know. God would provide even if it meant Daddy worked a second job.  He empowered us to believe that we could be anything God wanted us to be. There are no limits when you are in the will of God. There is no greater satisfaction in life than to be what God wants you to be.

I learned what it means to have a servant’s heart. When I was a teenager, my dad had us clean the church each week. He explained the principle—if you are faithful in this menial job then God will bless you with a less menial job. Years later, when it was my week to clean the church, I asked dad about that. “Why am I still cleaning the church?” I asked, tongue in cheek. He looked at me, gave me that sly grin and said, “I didn’t say you wouldn’t still have to clean the church, I just said He would give you other jobs too.” Humph! He had me there. My dad has never been above doing whatever needs done, even if it’s cleaning toilets.

Another thing he taught me was how to plug along, even when you don’t see the results. A pastor has a tough job. There may be months, even years when the growth in the church is slow, stops, even goes backwards. Often progress is measured more in the lives that are changed, the growth in the hearts of people rather than in the numbers of people attending. From this I learned that quality is definitely more important than quantity. The bottom line is this, if you are in the will of God then all you are responsible to do is be faithful. God will take care of the results. This may be the most valuable lesson I ever learned from my dad, faithfulness.

Wow, you may say. Your dad must have spent a lot of time explaining and talking to you. He must be a very special person. I can’t be like that, I’m not that good. Of course, I think he is wonderful and the best Dad in the whole world. I know he spent time explaining these things to us. The truth is that most of the lessons I learned from my Dad I learned from watching him. You see, the lessons he taught most effectively were the ones he lived. When someone consistently demonstrates the truth, it’s a powerful thing; much more powerful than words.

Three Things My Dad Taught Me (Part One of Two)

I’ve heard that a girl gets her view of God from her father. For some of us that’s not a good thing. For others, like me it turns out to be a wonderful gift. My daddy has been the most influential person in my life. Without him I wouldn’t be. Without his love I wouldn’t fully understand the love of God. Without the discipline he meted out I wouldn’t know the security of limits or understand the importance of a disciplined life. Almost everything he taught me fits into one of three categories.

The first thing he taught me was decision making. To live a successful life we must determine right from wrong, the best from the not-so-good.  By example my dad taught me a simple rule of thumb. Every decision in life should be made based on the absolute principles found in God’s Word, the Bible. That may sound simplistic but it isn’t. Or maybe it is.

 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” covers a lot of decisions about how to act toward others (more on that later). Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. . . that gives the skinny on what to do if someone hurts you.  “…Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” That one covers all of the bad things we can do to our bodies. What about money decisions? It’s there. There are principles for marriage, for work ethics, for raising children, dealing with employees and employers, friends, enemies—it’s all there. Over and over my dad would point out what was wrong with a situation, why—using the Bible principle—and what would be a better approach. He didn’t focus on a list of do’s and don’ts, just Bible principles.   

Oh sure, there are definite do’s and don’ts in the Bible but often there are grey areas, things that aren’t so clearly spelled out. My dad taught us—from Bible principles, of course—a few questions you can ask yourself when in a quandary.  First, will it glorify God? If the answer is no, don’t do it. This is found in I Corinthians 10:31, “whether ye eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. . . Secondly, can I do this thing and still be a good example to others, or will I be a stumbling block? Paul addressed this in I Corinthians 8:9, 12. Maybe it’s not specifically banned in the Bible but someone will take offense. Or, they may follow your example, and it causes them harm.  The third area is more personal. Will it edify me, or build me up? Does this activity make me a better friend, daughter, wife, sister? Does it help me grow or will it drag me down? This is addressed in I Corinthians 10:23. So, armed with the specific Biblical principles and these three questions my dad sent me out into the world.

The second category of truths learned from my Dad’s life is how to treat other people. He knows what he believes, why he believes it, and he does his best to live it. This gives him a consistent walk which is demonstrated through the fruits of the spirit. If you think about it, most of those have something to do with how we relate to God and how we treat other people. Galations says, “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. . .” That’s a pretty impressive list. My dad is a friend and encourager. He loves to help people who need a hand up. He believes that we should see the potential in everyone and let God tell them if they are in the wrong spot. He is also forgiving. I’ve watched him deal with people who hurt him and it is an awesome lesson in forgiveness and self-control. He just lets it go. And beyond that, when the hurtful person has something bad happen guess who’s the first on the scene. Yep, that’s my dad. He chooses to treat them with respect. He chooses not to say bad things about them. He rarely, if ever says something negative about someone. If he does, it’s worth paying attention to and is given as a warning rather than a condemnation. Through my dad’s daily example I have learned how to love the unlovable, how to be patient with others and myself, the meaning of true gentleness, the difference between meekness and weakness, and self-control.  The overriding Bible principle for this dealing with others is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The actual verse says, “as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them, likewise.” That’s one principle my dad bases his life on. It’s a powerful one.

The Works of God

This morning I was reading Psalm 111. I love the Psalms and have many favorites but I am always amazed when one jumps out at me as if I had never read it before. I know I have read them all because many days my devotions come from the Psalms. Anyway, this mornings Psalm focused on the works of God. His works are everywhere for us to see: in nature, in people, in nations, in our circumstances, in history-and the list could go on and on. One point that jumped out at me is that “the works of his hands are verity and judgment” (truth and justice vs. 7). In a day where the works of so many are anything but true and just this stands out. It comforts. It gives confidence. They are also permanent (vs 8): “They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.” Now there’s a truth you can hang your hat on!

This reminded me of the “works of God” testimonies that were encouraged at Northland Baptist Bible College. On Monday’s an opportunity was given in chapel to share what God had done in, for, or through you that week. It was always an exciting but humbling thing to hear how God provided or worked through different students. I had my own “work of God” moment this past weekend.

On Saturday my husband and I ventured over to Sumter for the South Carolina Homeschool Convention. I considered getting a booth at the convention to sell my book, since home schoolers are one of my main market groups. The cost seemed prohibitive since I only have the one book to sell. I decided to wait until I have several in the series, then I’d rent a spot. But, not wanting to miss the opportunity to get my name out there, and realizing it was a great opportunity for networking, we went. As we drove to the convention center I prayed, asking God to direct who we talked to. I wasn’t sure if I would give a couple of business cards to vendors and leave, or what to expect.  At the registration table I started talking about my book and the reasons I was there. The ladies told me that there was a book signing opportunity just outside the entrance from noon to two p.m. All I had to do was show up! WOW! So, we pulled the ever-present box of books out of the van, removed the magnetic sign from the side of the van to use as decoration on our table, taped flyers around the table and set up shop. I sold two books, but was able to pass out a lot of business cards and post cards. I made some contacts I hope will lead to classes with home school groups, public, and private schools. I believe I’ve found another store that will stock my book. All in all, it was a positive experience and I couldn’t help thanking the Lord for the answer to my prayer.

So today, are you watching for the works of God in your life? Don’t let life keep you from noticing. They are all around you.

Teachable Moments from Daddy

This is a piece I wrote for the Black Hills Writers Group “topic of the month” several years ago. I think you will understand why I posted it the night before Father’s Day once you’ve read it. Thank you, Daddy for your principle-based life. 

When I was growing up, my dad had a low-key approach to teaching life lessons. He was not a preachy type, amazing for a preacher. Of course, he is more of a Bible teacher than a preacher anyway. However, the important things he taught in little life moments. Instead of reading us the list of rules, he waited for a “teachable moment,” then taught the Biblical principle. 

For instance, I do not remember any one conversation on all the rules of proper language usage. He didn’t give us a list of words not to say and quiz us later. He didn’t even freak out if we said one. “YOU CAN’T SAY THAT, THAT’S A SWEAR WORD. DON’T YOU KNOW THAT’S A SIN.” Instead, if someone around us used one, he would calmly point out what the word meant, why we never should say it, or why it should only be said in its appropriate context. Therefore, without ever having the “Word’s not to say lecture,” I learned the truth of the lesson. 

I still categorize words, based on this approach. There are two basic categories. First, there are the obvious words that you should never say. They are crude, rude, and unacceptable. Usually these words have to do with bodily functions. 

Secondly, there is the “Inappropriate Use of Words” category. This category has two sub-categories. The first is the “Good Words Used Wrongly” category. This includes the names for God. I had no trouble understanding the problem here; after all, it is one of the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God in vain.” I cannot say “Oh God,” unless I really mean “Oh God!” I cannot say “Jesus Christ” in frustration; he died to pay my sin debt. Why would I use his name lightly, or disrespectfully. A side category of these are euphemisms. As my dad explained it, these are words that people use instead of names for God (or other words they want to say but know they shouldn’t use that way.) Examples are Gosh, Gee, Golly, Heck, and Darn. 

“God isn’t fooled,” he would say, “by us trying to white wash what we say.” He even looked them up in the dictionary for us once. (gee interj [euphemism for Jesus] – used to express surprise or enthusiasm. Webster’s New Students Dictionary. 

Then there were other words. I like to call them the “Not So Good Words, Used Wrongly.” There were two in particular that my dad explained this way. “Before you say them, make sure you know what they mean. When you say, ‘God Damn it’” he said, “you better think about what you are saying. Do you really want God to damn that thing or person? Do you understand what it means for God to damn something? Do you really want him to send that thing or person to Hell?” This led to the second word in this particular teaching moment, “hell“. Why can’t you say, “What the hell?” Or, when frustrated, “Oh, Hell.” 

“Hell,” my dad would say, “is a place. It is real. And it is terrible. Hell is the reason Jesus came as a baby (Christmas!) and lived among us, died on the cross, and then rose again. (Easter.) Hell is not something to trivialize.” 

I never heard my dad use these words inappropriately either, I guess that’s what makes a real teachable moment. When the teacher lives what he says, it’s easy to believe. 

So, when the topic, “What the hell is that” was announced, my initial response was, “well, I guess I won’t be writing to THAT topic.” Then someone reminded me that Hell isn’t primarily a swear word, it’s a destination. In light of how I have learned to deal with these words, I am choosing to use it appropriately. Using words straight from the Word of God, I have written a poem, answering the question, “What the Hell is that?” 

  

  

  

WHAT!?! the HELL IS THAT? 
It’s a sorrowful, pit, no eye can see, 

Dark painful lonely, never set free. 

A profoundly deep and empty space, 

An unquenchable furious fire filled place. 

A wide and welcoming gate it has, 

The road to Hell many shall pass. 

But in it’s depth there’s only grief, 

Just weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth  

The fallen angels, are kept in their chains, 

A bottomless pit, full of infinite pains. 

The smoke coming out is a horrible sight, 

Ascending forever to terrible height. 

The devil someday will be taken as well, 

And cast into the lake of fire with hell. 

A place for those who die in their sin, 

Whose names in the book of life have not been. 

It’s eternal, everlasting, it never will end, 

This place that a Just God all sinners must send. 

Eternal separation from an all- loving Lord, 

A never ending, agonizing, sorrowful reward. 

But it need not be a place that we go, 

For God in His mercy the world did love so. 

He sent His own Son to pay for our sin, 

So we can eternity instead spend with Him. 

With His resurrection the Lord did destroy 

The power of death, and hell, oh what joy. 

And if we repent, and trust in His grace 

He’ll give us a home in a much better place. 

  

A Cousin Welcomes A Son Home on Leave

Yesterday I saw this photo on facebook and I decided to share. This is a picture of my cousin Vernon, with his family. His whole family. 🙂  Ken, their oldest son has been in Iraq and is home on leave. It’s hard for me to believe that Vernon is old enough to have a son in Iraq. After all, it seems like it was just a few years ago we were running all over the fairgrounds in Broken Bow and having pow-wow’s in Grandpa’s granary.

Yes, if you’ve read the book, The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Missing Watch you will recognize those scenarios and you might wonder if Vernon is a character in the book. The answer to that is, “yes, kind of.” As I’ve told my cousins and siblings, I tried very hard not to make any of the character too much like any of us. I do believe Vernon will recognize a little of himself both in Brandon and Max.

I am thankful for the memories I have of times with my cousins. I am even more thankful to see Vernon’s family serving God and country. We are so proud of you Ken, and pray that as you return to Iraq God will have his hand of protection firmly upon you!

Accountability Anthem

When my sister Vonda was about two years old I began to realize something. She watched everything I did and very often she mimicked me. I was fourteen when she was born so she seemed to think I was “something!” I remember her dressing up in my McDonald’s uniform, hoisting my purse over her shoulder and standing in the doorway, “ready to go to work.”

At first I thought this was really cool, but through the years I found myself monitoring my actions with her in mind. After all, I didn’t want anything I did to cause her to do wrong! I wanted to be an example. It was a powerful control force in my life.  As the years rolled by and my siblings started having children I realized that my nieces and nephews were doing the same thing. For instance, since I have sinus issues I had a habit of clearing my throat. When my oldest niece started clearing her throat whenever she was around me it became even more obvious that she was imitating me. As the nieces and nephews got older I started reminding them in Sunday School and Children’s Church that the littler ones were watching them. This cycle of observation goes all the way through society. 

Somewhere around this time I discovered a song in the hymn book. I call it my Accountability Anthem. I have sung it several times for church and every time I do it reminds me that there are people watching me. It’s important to be a good example. It’s critical not to be a stumbling block. So today I share my Accountability Anthem with you. 🙂

I Would Be True

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;

I would be pure, for there are those who care;

I would be strong for there is much to suffer;

I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

       I would be friend of all-the foe, the friendless;

       I would be giving, and forget the gift;

       I would be humble, for I know my weakness;

       I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.

I would be prayerful thru each busy moment;

I would be constantly in touch with God;

I would be tuned to hear His slightest whisper;

I would have faith to keep the path Christ trod.

Howard Arnold Walter (author of 3rd stanza unknown)

Messages From God

Have you ever been the recipient of a “lesson of the week  for (insert your name here)from God”? I have and it is at the same time thrilling and scary. Every time it happens I realize a little more just how much God loves me. He knows me. He understands me. He knows exactly what I need and he can share it with me in the most creative ways.

This round started last Sunday night when our Pastor chose songs with a reference to the Psalms. Then he asked us to share a Psalm that was special to us. I vacillated throughout the song service between Psalm 139 (all about how God knows everything about me  and is all-powerful and able to take care of me etc.) and Psalm 37 where we are told to  Trust, Delight, Commit,  and Rest in  the Lord. I chose Psalm 37, then was surprised when Pastor preached from Psalm 139. Go figure.

 These are two of my favorite Psalms because “letting go and letting God” is one of my main struggles. Yes, I have control issues. Unless I make a daily, often moment by moment point to keep my focus where it belongs – on God and his power, his immutability (changelessness), omniscience, and all those other awesome attributes I try to do it myself. I want to know what is going to happen and when. I want to prevent anything bad from going down anytime and anywhere.

Now, I’m pretty sure that’s an attribute my patients appreciate, however, in the world of my heart it is an issue. So, when  I started the week with the double-barreled Psalms approach my ears perked up. On Monday as I was pulling into the parking garage at work a couple of verses from my  Bible on tape struck me. One was “let the peace of God rule in your heart.” Let – I have to let this happen. The peace of God – now that blows my mind! The thought that GOD’S PEACE could rule my heart. . Rule-have control. All I have to do is surrender control. So, if I let the Holy Spirit have complete control I can experience the peace of God ruling in my heart. That would mean that the peace of God wouldn’t let any ugly, anxious, fearful thoughts in. Hum. I scribbled the verse in my calendar book and proceeded into the hospital where I had a rather unpeaceful night. . .

So, the third and fourth episodes in this Lesson for Miriam week involved first my brother and secondly a blog that I follow. My brother pointed out in a conversation (one in which I fully intended to encourage him) that I should look at the first chapter of II Peter. I knew the moment he said that chapter what passage he was referring to, and why. I knew it because it is yet another passage that I have studied, worked at, and tried to put into practice in my life – because I know I struggle in this area.

The verses say, And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful. . . II Peter 1:5-8.

 You see, I have a problem with faith in God to take care of things. Stupid I know. After all, He IS! Everything. All-Everything. But my humanity still wants to hang on. So this morning, when I realized that “Deeper With Jesus in Rhode Island” had used that very passage in her blog it hit me right between the eyes. This, Miriam is God’s message for you. Trust. Have Faith. Surrender. Let go and let God. Let the peace of God RULE in your heart. Once you get that in place the other stuff will follow. (A word of warning here. Surrender is not a one-time thing. I know. I have surrendered before but yet I pick the control up over and over again. It’s a walk. It’s a daily, moment by moment surrender.)

What is your need? Are you listening to God? Are you reading your Bible so he can speak to you? (Notice every message from God to Miriam came through scripture.) We are given this great opportunity but I’m afraid I’m as guilty as most and I’m wasting it. I don’t want to do that anymore.

A Community of Writers

Today I did one of my favorite things!  I went to a Writers Group meeting in Simpsonville.  I heard about The Writer’s Den group at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference and quickly decided I wanted to join them. I have a strong respect for the power of a group of writers due to my history as a writer.

In the spring of 1998 I decided I wanted to learn to write.  It had been two years since I graduated from Northland Baptist Bible College and felt like I was in a rut. But how do you go about learning to write?  I was in a bookstore one day in Baken Park in Rapid City, SD and saw a poster advertising the Black Hills Writers Group and the conference they were hosting.  Aha!  I filled out the form, joined the group to get the special rate, and excitedly attended my first ever  conference.  In the months and years that followed I was fairly faithful to attend the monthly meetings.  There were many months when I hadn’t written anything.  The year I was secretary of the group there were many months that the only thing I wrote was the minutes of the meeting.

Even though I wasn’t writing regularly I was regularly focusing on writing.  Those friends taught me so much about writing.  They were the accountability that reminded me each month, “You know Miriam, what’s up with that book you are supposed to be writing?” When I did bring something to read they listened, critiqued, encouraged, and pushed me on. I know, without a doubt that the rough draft of my first book would have NEVER been finished if it wasn’t for the BHWG. 

Since getting married five years ago and moving down South I hadn’t found a writers group.  I attended one meeting in Fort Lauderdale and enjoyed it, but getting there was such a hassle.  Since I moved to SC I never got motivated.  Until now… and the best thing is that I’ve found not one, but two groups.  The very day I returned from the Blue Ridge Conference, I had a voicemail waiting telling me about a group in Newberry.  That’s my town!  Wahoo! So next Thursday I get to go meet with another group of writers and gain more motivation for my writing process.

It reminds me of the verse in Proverbs 27:17. “Iron sharpeneth iron: so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” I know that groups aren’t for everyone.  Some people don’t have the ability to get out and go.  Maybe you live too far away from a group. There are online critique groups that might meet your need. Or maybe you are better finding one writing buddy who can read your material and give you feedback.  Whatever works for you, just make sure you are doing it. God has given me this ability. He has given me a RICH heritage and surrounded me with Godly examples. I am beginning to realize more and more that with great opportunity comes great responsibility. So thanks to all of the people who have helped me on my way! I’ll do my best to glorify God with my writing and in my life.

Book Review: “Where’s My Other Sock” by Esther LoPresto

If you have ever asked the question, “Where’s my other sock?” then you really must read this delightful fantasy adventure by Esther LoPresto.

In “Where’s My Other Sock,” Tori, her friends Sally and Suzie, and eventually even her pesky little brother join the search to uncover exactly what is going on with the dryer. It seems that the dryer, the washer, the family pets, and even a mouse named Clarence are all in cahoots to eat all of the blue socks.

In a grand adventure, the children, animals, and machines cooperate to uncover the secret world right under their feet. In the process they make new friends and even help save another world.

This fast-moving, attention-grabbing story is chock full of memorably colorful characters who alternately delight and inspire. This page turner is ageless, one of those books both children and grandparents can enjoy, possibly even together.

Esther LoPresto has produced an impressive debut adventure. I look forward to seeing more from this author. I enjoyed meeting Esther at a recent conference and finding that she had the answer to the pressing question of my childhood. I can’t wait to tell my sister I may have learned the fate of all of those missing socks. . .

For more about this author go to her blog at:

 http://legendsofxenos.blogspot.com/