From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Someone Taught Me Magic, Real Magic

My mother is 86 years old now, still a hard worker, still able to take care of her home with my dad alongside, and still possessed of wisdom. She and my dad are still in love, true love, after more than 65 years. She hasn't been a perfect mother, there aren't any, but she has lived before me, and the rest of the world, a steadfast life devoted to God, my father, her children, grand-children, and now great grandchildren. The older I get, the more wisdom I find in the things she taught me, and they were many. How to work hard, how to get by on little, how to get by in a right way when you have much, to always save some... of everything, how to make a new use for something, and how to love and honor a husband, are just a few of the things she has taught me. Then there is the creativity she taught, she has taught to all of us who have fallen under her tutelage, all the way through the great-grandchildren. She has taught us how to "pretend play."

Being a child of the Great Depression, toys were a luxury that were not hers to enjoy. That was such a blessing for all of us who have followed, because she can teach one how to make a "play house" under a tree, bake lovely "dirt cakes," or be a princess while wearing an old square dancing skirt. No matter how busy she is with her day, she will still take the time to fall into whatever character fits into the play of a child nearby. She can be the person at the drive through window at McDonald's, and take your "pretend" order, a mean witch trying to trick your "Barbie" into marrying the wrong guy, or the MC at your concert, announcing your performance with great flare. All this is accomplished as she cooks supper, sweeps, irons, or washes dishes. Needless to say, she is adored by all children. 

My mother came from a large family, this photo is of her and her sisters.  She also had four brothers.

When I find myself most under the gun, most strained to the breaking point, most discouraged and defeated, without fail, the greatest thing she has taught me comes to my mind. My mother was not especially sympathetic to my woes as I was growing up, which at the time was sometimes very annoying. She has always been an "executor." When there is work to be done, she works until it is done, when a plan of action is needed, she makes suggestions until a choice is made, and when there is a need, of any sort, she finds a resource. She never has had the tendency to entertain the notion that one is helpless or defeated in any situation. If she can't figure it out, she knows daddy can. Then there is her magical cure for the depression that can accompany the hard times in life. It was and still is her standard answer when things seem completely deadlocked, and one is faced with just having to endure. I use to resent so much her answering some complaint about life with the "magic," but slowly over the years, the magic has proved time and again to be magic indeed.

 Easter when my daughters were small, I always wear a hat at every opportunity, two of my daughters and my sister with her hair short.  My mother is in the right hand corner.

Mom and Dad, my daughter Beth, and a passel of their great-grandchildren.

It is such a simple solution for life's darkest hours, works every time, and will see you through the hardest of situations.  According to my mother, the solution to these trying times, is to look around you, find someone with a need, or a problem, and then reach out to them. Her theory is it takes the focus off your own trouble, immediately brings a relief to your soul, and honors God, bringing blessing and solution to your own difficulty, and to the others as well. For a long time, each and every time she suggested this plan, I secretly scoffed, certain there was no validity to such thinking. Time and time again, I would give in and try it... and that is when the "magic" happened. Over and over I have experienced the magic. Each time I reach out to another human being in compassion and care, whatever load I am carrying, lightens. At times I have reached out to others only to experience being taken advantage of, but those times have been few, and still the magic worked. The practice of her theory has brought so much to my life. I have learned to go quickly now to the magic when I realize I am in real trouble in life. Inevitably the trouble passes, the problem is solved, and with the application of the magic, the good is multiplied.  I love my mother for many reasons, one of them is for teaching me magic.

My favorite picture of my mother ever... it speaks volumes of how she has lived her life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It Is Time Again For the Most Comprehensive and Acurate Description of Christmas I Have Ever Heard

How proud I am that it was written by our son, Brian LeCompte, who continues his post graduate studies at Criswell Bible College in Dallas, Texas.  Needless to say, we are so proud of him in every way.  How far from what humanity as a whole makes Christmas this account and explanation is.  Truth however is always in class all its' own, and brings an assurance nothing else can match.  Merry Christmas to all who read this, and blessings to you and your family.

An article on the origin of Christmas
Written by: Brian LeCompte


                I am writing this article so that all who read it might understand the meaning of Christmas and its’ origin.  It will become evident if it hasn’t been already that I am writing this article from a Christian perspective.  I will document the story of the birth of Christ as it is recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament and explain various aspects and historical context of the story which are often misinterpreted or overlooked.  I will then explain that how the holiday celebration arose for different purposes but during the same time out of an earlier pagan tradition and explain how this in no way harms the truthfulness of the Biblical account.  My hope is that all who read this will learn the true scholarly Christian viewpoint of the history and significance of Christmas and will benefit from this knowledge in the same manner that I have after learning it. 

                The purpose for the traditional holiday of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of a man named Jesus Christ.  According to the Old Testament the world would one day receive a savior to come and rid the world of all injustice and He would be the Lord of all the people,  establish a kingdom that is nothing but eternal peace and love, and where sorrow, pain, and death would be no more.  In some of the Old Testament prophetic accounts the man is spoken of as a servant that is beaten and crushed for the sins that are committed by others and in essence takes the penalty for that sin (cf. Isaiah 53:5).  In other scriptures he is spoken of as an Anointed one that would free the people from oppression (cf. Psalm 2).  This word anointed is referencing  a king because it was understood by the audience that the Old Testament was written for, the Hebrew people, or Jews of Israel, that the Spirit of God anointed men that He would make king over this nation of people.  At the time of Jesus’ birth the Jewish people had been under the oppression of Roman rule for centuries and the prophetic Spirit of God had not been among the people for four hundred years (This is also known as the Intertestamental Period.)  The Israelites were” groaning” for their savior to come and free them from this oppression and set them up as His priestly nation once more.  However, the Jewish people were looking for a warrior king to lead an army against their earthly oppressors, not the defeated servant spoken of in Isaiah. 
                The New Testament scriptures affirm for us what was meant by those Old Testament prophecies.  According to the four Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) Jesus was both of these iconic figures spoken of in the Old Testament.  Matthew’s Gospel is primarily focused on the kingdom that Jesus spent his life preaching about and initiating.  Mark’s Gospel is the most concise of the four, and has a pivotal moment in the center of the text when the apostle Peter acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ sent from God to save mankind.  Luke’s Gospel is primarily focused on the blessing of salvation, and John’s Gospel seeks to prove that Jesus was not a mere man but was also God who took on the form of man and performed “signs” or miracles, to prove his identity, then paid the price for all of mankind that would lead all of those who believe in what he did to salvation.  Most of this study will be in the book of Luke, as this book contains the most elaborate narrative of the birth of Christ, and is where the nativity scene, which has become the most popular Christmas decoration and theme for many Christmas plays and traditions,  originated.

The Birth
            The Bible asserts that Jesus’ mother was betrothed (engaged to be married,) to a man named Joseph.  Many have interpreted this to mean that they were already married which would indicate that the Bible is wrong when it records that Mary was a  virgin.  However, the word used in the original text simply means that they were “to be married” or close to engagement in our culture.  The difference between the two is that engagement is a public statement that you intend to be married with someone and focusing on the planning of the wedding while a betrothal, which is what this couple had entered into, is a public statement that you are preparing for marriage.  In this case the couple focuses on a commitment to each other, God, and the community without a physical commitment of sex for each which is to be saved until after the marriage.  This correct understanding of the word gives credence to the Bible’s message that Mary was in fact a virgin when Christ was born.  The purpose for mentioning her virginity is to highlight her purity and also to give no credence to any argument that could be made that Christ was the son of any man.  Rather the text affirms that Jesus is the “Son of God.”  In an Old Testament context this would have been recognition of his Kingship because to be called a “Son of God” in that context would insinuate that you were a King.  However, in the context of the birth narrative it literally means that Jesus was not born by the seed of Man in the manner that all people alive today are, but that he was born directly from God.  This is important to understand because the apostle Paul informs us in Romans 5:12 that death entered the world and was passed to all men because the sin of the first man Adam spread into the nature of all men by birth.  It is easier to understand sin as a gene in this instance that is passed down from the father of any given child.  I am not at all trying to say that sin is literally genetic but it is a way to understand what the scripture is communicating, and that is this sin is passed to all men and therefore every person in the world sins.  The significance of Christ’s divine birth is that he is not from that same line of sin, Christ still took on the flesh of man and so was forced to undergo the same temptations as you and I, but he did not descend from that same sinful line as humanity.  This is a brand new chance for a man to accomplish his original purpose to rule over God’s creation rightly and bear God’s image to the world for all to see and praise.  This new gift of the offering of atonement from sin repairs what went wrong and was given to Man by God, and it was done by God as he took on the form of a mere man! 
            Next is the focus on the location of Jesus’ birth.  The prophet Micah foretold approximately 700 years before the birth of Christ that he would be born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  Luke’s Gospel explains that Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census of the known world should be taken for a myriad of reasons, the most likely probably for taxation purposes.  Joseph was the son of a man named Heli and was born in Bethlehem and so according to Caesar’s decree he had to return to his homeland to be properly registered and so he traveled to Bethlehem with Mary and his unborn “step-son.”  The Gospel account reads as follows concerning the birth, “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6 & 7 ESV.  In the next few sections I will perform a thorough exegesis of this scripture. 
The text is clear that the baby was laid in a manger because they had nowhere else to go.  The place that rejected them is translated as “the inn” for most English versions of the Bible.  However, the word that is being translated is a Koine (meaning common) Greek word kataluma.  The Bible was originally written in Koine Greek, which was a form of Greek that was used by the common people at the time.  This word kataluma has until recently best understood as an inn, but it has for some time been ambiguous.  After newly uncovered Greek texts and letters furthered our understanding of the language, this word would be best interpreted to mean “guest room.”  So with this understanding it would be better to say that there was no room for them in the guest room, but which guest room?  Joseph was returning to Bethlehem because it was where he was born and so he would have had family living in Bethlehem most likely, and would have chosen to stay with them.  This would have been very common because the Jewish culture has always been a very collectivistic culture, in which the primary focus is on the family as opposed to the needs and desires of the individual that comprises the culture of America today.  Also it would be peculiar if there were an inn inside the city because in the first century most inns were found on the road between cities because showing hospitality to guests was extremely important in that setting.  So with this understanding it is appropriate to assume that Joseph would seek to stay with his family, but was not allowed to.  Also, it is understandable that probably in their culture, his family would not allow them to stay because Mary was pregnant with a child, and the couple was not married yet.  To them the child was illegitimate, and in the 1st century context it was a very shameful thing.  We read already that Jesus is being rejected by his own family before he is born, but rejection was an ordained part of Christ’s life,  and was necessary to fulfill the prophecy made in Daniel 9:24-26.   Every detail of prophecy is fulfilled many times in the New Testament, and the academic, or scientific study of God’s Word reveals the validity of its’ message.
After the baby has been rejected and so born outside of appropriate shelter the text says that Mary wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.  A manger is simply a feeding trough for an animal cut out of stone and typically found in small caves called sukkah.  The geography surrounding Bethlehem is riddled even today with these small caves that the ancient Jewish people living in that area would have used to shelter their livestock during times of harsh weather.  Swaddling cloths were the same type of cloth that was used to wrap the bodies of the deceased in the Jewish burial tradition.  So the picture is quite clear; the baby is born in a shallow cave structure similar in appearance to the type of tomb he was to be buried in at his death on the cross, wrapped up in swaddling cloth the same as he would be at his death, and laid in stone feeding trough which also resembles the tomb his body would have been placed in.  

This is an image of a garden tomb.  One side of the tomb 
has been cut away for display purposes.

Seen above is first a picture of a manger and below it a 1st century tomb that is most likely the kind of tomb Jesus was buried in.  It is not mere coincidence that these two look similar and that the description given for the scene of Jesus’ birth is similar to that of his death.  After all Jesus himself said to his disciples that his purpose while he was here on Earth was to die (Matthew 16:21).  It seems that even at his birth God is showing the World his plan. 

The Magi
            If the words before these haven’t already upset someone by changing their entire nativity scene already, then I hope that they do not get angry after this section.  So far if our nativity scene were to be accurate then we would have to ditch the wooden lean to shack and replace it with a shallow cave, then get rid of the nice wooden cot that is coated with hay and replace it with a cold stone box where the baby Jesus would have been placed after being wrapped in cloth giving him the appearance of a corpse lying in a tomb.  However, even more must be done to the nativity scene in order to be accurate. 
Magi or “Wise men” were educated scholars of the day who were from the lands East of Canaan.  Many respected their wisdom and intellect and so one of their main contributions was to council the people about their next King.  Magi were effectively king makers because in that day they would judge the abilities of those eligible for the throne and make a decision as to which man would be the better leader.  The Magi traveled in packs of 20, 50, or even 100 people since the threat of bandits was ever present.  Being from the East their steed of choice was a horse as opposed to the popular imagery of a camel.  They are typically depicted as being three men (because there are three gifts) who were led by a star in the night sky and were present on the night of Christ’s birth.  However, the text makes no assertion that this is true. 
The text says that the Magi came looking for the King of the Jews and asked Herod, the Roman appointed King of the Jews at the time, where he was because they had seen His “star.”  The word that is used here in the original Greek for star is astera.  Generally speaking nativity scenes depict the Northern Star, the brightest star in our sky, as being the star that the Magi are speaking of, but this interpretation places our modern scientific understanding of a star in the minds of the ancients and this is simply not appropriate.  When we see a star in our sky we understand it to be a giant ball of flaming gas somewhere in the universe that is big enough that we can see it but due to our scientific understanding we can tell the difference between a nearby planet and a star or a comet and a star.  However, the ancients only knew stars to be lights and so any bright light in the sky to them would have been called astera.  So the next question is can a star in the sky really lead you to a specific location on the Earth?  If you were to point yourself towards a star in the sky and start walking would you ever reach a destination?  No, of course not you would only walk forever or until you decided it was time to quit because you could never reach the star; but then why does the text assert that “the Magi followed this light until it rested over the house that Mary and the boy Jesus were in” (paraphrased from Matthew 2:10 & 11)?  Well, let me present another hypothesis to you.  One of the names that was given to Jesus was Immanuel which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).   To the ancient Israelites when God’s presence was among the people he would manifest himself in the form of a bright light called the Shekinah.  The Shekinah hovered above the Ark of the Covenant (seen below) in the Holy of Holies, the most sacred room of the temple where God manifested his presence on the Earth.    

If we are to understand that the Shekinah rested over the location where God dwelt on Earth and that Christ is the Son of the Living God, and therefore also God himself, and is called Immanuel which means “God with us,” then it is reasonable to assume that the astera or bright light the Magi witnessed resting over the house Jesus was in was actually the Shekinah of God.  This would explain how the Magi were able to follow the star directly to the location that Jesus was at. 
            Next is the timing of the Magi’s arrival.  If you remember the text from earlier concerning how the Magi found Jesus then you know that the text says they found him in a house with his mother.  We already know that Jesus was born in a cave with the livestock so if the Magi actually found Jesus on the night he was born then how did they find him in a house?  Also, the word that is translated as child in Matthew 2:11 is a word that is actually used to describe a baby not a newborn.  We also know that Herod, fearing that his throne might be in danger, sent men to kill all the young boys in the town that were two years of age or younger, but if the Magi had arrived on the night of Christ’s birth then why would he need to kill babies that were 2 years of age?  With this information it is more likely then that the Magi arrived maybe as late as a year after the birth of Jesus and gave the gifts of gold,  frankincense, and myrrh to the young King.  These gifts would soon be an example of God’s provision because the family was forced to flee to Egypt after an angel warns them of Herod’s plot to kill all the boys in an attempt to kill Jesus. 

The Purpose of Christmas
            We now know that Jesus was born for the purpose of dying and that God illustrated this to the world even in the scene of His birth.  So you might be thinking to yourself that it sounds awful to celebrate the birth of a King when the message conveyed by his birth was the message of death, and that this King would die in one of the most shameful manners by which to die, crucifixion.  However, the Christian understands that the birth of Christ signifies that the promise of God made to his people was kept, and that salvation from the death that is brought on by the sin that we all experience has come through Jesus Christ.  So it is not His death that we are celebrating, for we know that the grave could not hold Him and He is risen, but it is the fact that God had mercy enough that he would save us from our sin.  He keeps His promises and shows that He is a father to the fatherless and a leader to the lost.

Why December 25?
            The text informs us that shepherds received news of the birth of Christ from an angel while they were out in the fields with their livestock and went to see Jesus on the night he was born (Luke 2:8-20).  This has led  scholars to believe that Jesus was not actually born on December 25 because it would have been wintertime and so the livestock would not have been in the fields but rather in shelter.  The Bible is also unclear about the date of the birth and so there is currently no way to know exactly when Christ was born only that it would have been during one of the summer months when the shepherds would have actually had the sheep in the fields.  If this is true then why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th?  The most logical reason is one that skeptics of the Christian faith usually use as evidence that the Bible is wrong.  Before Christmas was started, pagans had a festival around the same time after the winter solstice, which is on December 21.  The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and is preceded by a string of short days.  The ancients recognized this and attributed the phenomenon to the anger of the gods.  Their belief was that if the gods were not appeased then their fury would be unleashed on the world and all would perish.  So the pagans would make sacrifices in order to please the gods and if the next day were longer then it was a sign that the gods were giving them another year of life.  Skeptics like to say that Christians simply stole the holiday and so the story of Christmas is therefore a lie.  I still do not understand how the two ideas are even related, because even if Christians deliberately took the date of the holiday, I don’t see how the facts of the story itself can no longer be validated. Nevertheless, I like the skeptics explanation here for the date because it is logical and I believe it actually helps my argument. 
            Many of the new Christians after Jesus’ resurrection were Gentiles and so they would have been accustomed to celebrations around the time of the winter solstice, and so after embracing their new faith celebrating the coming of their Savior around the same time would have been an easy transition.  Also the fact that it would come to replace the pagan tradition would be perfectly expected from what we know to be the character of God in the scriptures.  God is the ultimate Redeemer, he takes men who are fifthly and sinful and restores their heart so they can be a whole new creation which bears the image of God more fully.  If God has such redemption power for man, then why can he not do the same for a tradition?  It makes perfect sense to me that God could choose to take an earlier pagan tradition that worships false gods and redeem it to be a celebration of the One True God and therefore glorifying his name so that others may hear of His good news.  It is no mystery as to why different civilizations have gods that they worship.  Mankind could see plainly, until recently when science has become a new god, that there is a higher power that is responsible for all that he witnesses in nature.  The Gospels record Jesus performing miracles of nature that in the Roman context would have been attributed to other gods, i.e. turning water into wine which would have been attributed to Dionysus, commanding the sea which would have been attributed to Poseidon, and calming a storm which would have been attributed to Zeus.  It is as if man sees something in nature and assigns a god or gods to be the cause of that occurrence, and then Jesus comes and proves that the cause man was looking for the entire time was Jesus himself.  This seems like a logical explanation for the origin of Christmas being celebrated on the 25th to me.  As the darkness of death was reigning over the Earth through sin and it appeared that God’s wrath had come against us, God sent his son to be the offering for us that met the requirement of sinless before Him, and so we were given new and eternal life.

            The purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world and the Lord of all.  In the image of his birth it is evident that the reason for His first visit to Earth was to die so that the price for sin could be paid and the Way to the Lord God could be opened for those who would have faith and believe that the story of God is true.  Even though there is evidence for the claims of the Bible there is still a necessity for faith.  Not all things in the Bible can be proven with concrete evidence that can be seen with the naked eye.  But then again not all of the claims made by science or any other religion can be either.  Whether one believes in the Gospel’s accounts or in the Big Bang there are still going to be gaps where there is no supporting concrete evidence and so faith must fill those gaps.  It is true that there is no way of proving here on Earth that Christ is risen and seated at the right hand of God in heaven and so as a Christian we exercise faith.  However, let it never be said that the Naturalist who believes that creation can be explained by merely natural properties and was not influenced by a divine being has no faith, but rather let him realize that he cannot prove his hypothesis for creation and so must he too exercise faith if he is to believe that he is right.  Let us never buy into this post-modern ideology either that states that truth is relative and so there is no absolute truth.  If whatever is true for me states that what is true to you is right as well, then this method of thinking is folly.  You and I cannot both be right, it is either one of us is right or neither of us is right.  The real truth is that there is only one truth and  the Christian believes that God is the author of that one truth and so if one’s view of what is truth does not align accurately with God’s truth in the Bible then that person is wrong. 
            If you are a Christian and you read this article my hope and prayer for you is that the Spirit of God has used this information to grow you and strengthen your faith.  I hope that you can use it the next time you are witnessing to another person and that it will bear some fruit in your life.  If you are not a Christian and you read this article my hope and prayer for you that you would know that there is a God who created the universe and that he loves and cares for you more than you can imagine.  The story of Christmas would have never existed if God had chosen to keep Christ with him, but instead because he loved us so, God came to Earth to do what we as humans could never do, and then suffer our rejection of him until we killed him.  I pray that you know that it is no coincidence that you are reading this today, but that God has drawn you to this article so that you can know that he is reaching out to you wishing that you would step out in faith and accept his gift of salvation.    


Friday, December 11, 2015

What Is The Truth Out of the Desert?

CNN's version:

You know I have worked with a lot of Soldiers, I am personally devoted to those who serve. I know they stand between us and the end of our nation everyday holding the line. My husband served 30 years, is a honor graduate of West Point and the Army War College, an Airborne Ranger, Jungle Survival School, whose branch is Infantry. He was awarded the Bronze Star in Afghanistan, and the Legion of Merit. My daughter served 8 years, two sons-in-law... my father, and my grand-father... I have worked with military families, and I love and respect all those who honorably serve, but as in all demographics, there are some who do not serve honorably. I believe that Bergdahl in his youth and immaturity served honorably. I believe after dedicating his life in the exuberance of youth to honorable service, he encountered leadership which was without honor, and out on the battlefield playing their own little movie games. The argument that later that day he was going back to a base where he could have reported his leadership may be true, but, as a Private First Class... no one would have taken any heed to his report. I guarantee you that... My husband once intervened to have a Soldier who had previously served under him, who found himself in a similar situation removed from Afghanistan, after the Soldier reported failed leadership and tried to get the leadership above that failure to act. Instead of action, he was threatened with sexual assault and fratricide, and transferred to the unit whose leadership he had made the report about. I could tell you a hundred such stories... and this man who reported this breech of honor was a Master Sergent. This young man never had any hope of any reports up the chain of command. I think if he had reported, he would not be alive today to stand trial for "his crimes." The United States Army is trying desperately to right its' ship... and as far as the General featured in this news piece... well, the Army has self examined and determined that upper leadership has been at the root of dishonorable acts in the United States Army in recent years. Look at all the generals who have recently been called to accountability. I think the Army should really very carefully evaluate the true state of affairs in Bergdahl's unit, and they have already admitted not all was as it should be... and fess up, then do the right thing. The United States Army recruited and signed up this young man, taught him the Seven Army Values, but emphasized "Loyalty" over honor... They still do.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Some Things Are the Business of Us All

Women tend to have fewer rights in every country, in some they have no rights at all... this needs to change... this cause needs you to help to create change...   If any country is to achieve stability and prosper, the women of that country must equally share in human rights.   Violence against women is so common place in many places.... SHARE, SHARE, SHARE...  I will be writing for the next 16 days in support of this effort.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Contemplating Women

There is a consuming emphasis in my life right now, a focus, it concerns my own contemplation of women.  We are all so very special, each of us is unique, and humanity does not continue without us.  We are in fact, and have always been, every bit as important and essential as men.  No matter what the country, culture, history, or rights we have held in these categories of the human experience, without us, none of it would have existed or be now.

In all of my travels, as I explore the places we go, the wonders of the architecture, the art, the history, and the beauty of the nature of the area, all these things are of great interest to me. However even more so, I am interested in the people.  I wonder about the people who created the surroundings I am visiting, the people who live there now, and what their lives were and are like.  Even the beauty of nature in the location I am visiting gives me information, because it was selected in its' location, and that brings questions to my mind.  I ask myself, what brought those who first settled this place to here?  Who was the first person to make a home in this area; was it a group of people, joining resources and beginning a community?  Were they fleeing oppression, exploring and settling new territory, or seeking particular resources for some endeavor; these and more questions run through my mind fueling a search for information.

At times, basic and simple tasks of women can become anguishing in their performance, and they can do so for many reasons.  There may be natural disasters, lack of resources, health issues, and sadly, war and oppression which greatly affects all people in the efforts which are required toward the activities of daily living. 

As women we also do many other types of things.  Women have never been limited only to household artistry, we have always created businesses, ran governments, influenced the decisions of the leadership of all groups, and been the leadership in many instances.  Scientists, explorers, artists, musicians, poets, dancers, builders, farmers, politicians, (Angela Merkel is at present one of my personal heroines,) medical professionals, performers, and merchants; we have held every title, achieved success in every area.  We have always been entrepreneurs, whether selling baskets we have woven, or building empires as Oprah has done.  ( Notice, I don't even have to type her last name.)  It has never mattered the station we were born in either.  I think of Ester of Old Testament fame, born a slave, made a queen, who then saved a people.

I think of my own namesake from the Old Testament.  Deborah was, the Bible says, a prophetess, and she was the only female Judge mentioned in the Old Testament.  The following is a narrative of one of the tales of her legend, and it shows the confidence the male leadership of the day in her country held in her.

Judges 4:

Deborah and Barak

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud had died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his forces was Sisera who lived in Harosheth of the Nations. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, because Jabin had 900 iron chariots, and he harshly oppressed them 20 years.
Deborah, a woman who was a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. It was her custom to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her for judgment.
She summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you: ‘Go, deploy the troops on Mount Tabor, and take with you 10,000 men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites? Then I will lure Sisera commander of Jabin’s forces, his chariots, and his army at the Wadi Kishon to fight against you, and I will hand him over to you.’”
Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go.”
“I will go with you,” she said, “but you will receive no honor on the road you are about to take, because the Lord will sell Sisera into a woman’s hand.” So Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; 10,000 men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite had moved away from the Kenites, the sons of Hobab, Moses’ father-in-law, and pitched his tent beside the oak tree of Zaanannim, which was near Kedesh.
12 It was reported to Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up Mount Tabor. 13 Sisera summoned all his 900 iron chariots and all the people who were with him from Harosheth of the Nations to the Wadi Kishon. 14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Move on, for this is the day the Lord has handed Sisera over to you. Hasn’t the Lord gone before you?” So Barak came down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him.
15 The Lord threw Sisera, all his charioteers, and all his army into confusion with the sword before Barak. Sisera left his chariot and fled on foot. 16 Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth of the Nations, and the whole army of Sisera fell by the sword; not a single man was left.

I really like that story.  Women are just like men in many ways, some women spend the efforts of their lives very honorably and wisely, others do not.  There are many great women, many ordinary women, and alas, just like men, many evil women.  Women are just as capable of dastardly deeds as men, history plainly tells us so.  As I have observed, women seem to as a whole be much better at deception and manipulation, and nothing is more dangerous and destructive as a woman given to such behavior.  Just as a good woman can make the man she pledges herself to, so she can destroy him, but to every person comes God's judgment, and He judges the same, for there is never any prejudice in Him, and He knows even the thoughts of every person.  In fact when the Bible says, "as a man thinketh," it is referring as well to women.  

No person can deny that there is and has for all time been another gender specific burden which some women encounter, and must bear for a lifetime.  Even today, women the world over, struggle for equal rights in all areas of their lives.  That is just undeniable fact.  There is no place in the world where a specific crime is not committed which most often targets women.  Sadly whenever a particularly heinous group of radicals of whatever persuasion, rises up in the world, sexual assault of the women of their enemies, is adopted as one of their war strategies.  Nothing demoralizes an army or enemy more than the sexual assault of their mothers, sisters, wives, and children.  No other crime is more personal, more devastating, or rampant in our world, it has always been so.  It occurs against individuals in every country.  In the Middle East is is one of the weapons of choice of the group known as ISIS.  Good men and women must always stand against this most brutal crime against any individual, for while women are most often the victim, men as well are assaulted.  Truthfully, this particular crime has always faced difficulties in prosecution, and this has been the case for so many reasons, the crime often remains hidden, and never knows the cleansing waters of justice, even in our own country.

A single life experience has not been the only reason my focus of contemplation has fallen lately toward women, but rather the experiences of a lifetime, both mine and those of other women I have known.  I have known so many great women, whose lives stagger my mind as I consider what they have accomplished, the difficulties they overcame, and sometimes an oppression which engaged their lives and forged them into the beautiful testimony to God which they have become.  There has been however, a single young woman of courage and beauty, and not the beauty of her outward appearance alone draws the attention, but the beauty of her heart and devotion to God, which slays my mind as I contemplate her life.  Shortly after we arrived in Germany I met her, and God quickly knit our souls together.  Some people you meet in life turn out to give you such clarity about why God took your own life down the roads that He did.  I will be writing her story, telling of her origins, telling of her family, the friends who have influenced and helped her, and the sorrow which befell her, as well as the dangerous and injurious trap she found herself held by, in a foreign country.  The story will inspire you, encourage you, and tell you about the love, compassion, and care that the Living God has for every person, even a gentle "island girl."  The story must unfold by the timetable which justice permits, for that is necessary, but each reader will find themselves living her story, and watching the glory and power of God... as they say... "real time!"

The photographic images of this blog post feature photos I took in Italy of clean laundry drying in the sun.  I love clean laundry drying in the sun, it is always a good thing, and these images greatly please me!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

People of Russia! I Have Urgent Communication for You!

I took a trip to Russia and Ukraine once, a medical mission, early on after the fall of communism in Russia. What a beautiful and rich land, filled with powerful and strong people... survivors of great oppression.  I observed so keenly their strength and courage,  their greatest assets.  I am praying for them this morning... and I have an urgent plea for them... 


Those air strikes being carried out in Syria are the calling cards of an increasingly aggressive Russian government... The Russian people need to wake up, smell the coffee, and take action concerning the leadership which is high jacking their country once again.  They need to examine the agendas of the power mongers, realize the effects their goals will have upon the good people of Russia, their children. for generations to come, and rise up against this admittedly dangerous situation. In doing so, they will surely be putting themselves personally at great risk  Leadership like this man is wielding... leaves dead bodies in its' wake.  Patriots of Mother Russia, rise up, your people need your lives and your fortunes pledged in sacrifice.... Your blood, I am afraid, will be required to depose this man who brings trouble to the whole world.  His agenda, though apparent, is much more detailed and planned than the world has knowledge of at this time, and it has evil intent at its' core!  He wishes to make once again the people of Russia subjects of their government, not the directors of it.

This has already gone too far for the electoral process of Russia to make a defense against!  Our own electoral process isn't the only one in shambles.  I have been to Russia... I know you are there, you patriots, lovers of your homeland, you are wonderful people...and I know there is a rising call upon your heart...  I know there is doubt, maybe some complicity, as you struggle to provide for families, and enjoy, as you should, your lives.   However, I must ask, if not you... then who...?  If not now, then when?  Do not fail to act before calamity overwhelms your country and its' people once again...  I offer this advice in such humility, and from a place of great admiration for each of you personally, and for your great people collectively.  Though I am just a humble wife, mother, and grand-mother, even I can see grave precipice before you... please... hear the calling of your true nation... Rise up, and take back her's and her people's destiny!

I recall being at a mass meeting in Russia, and hearing a choir of Russians sing...  it was the most mournful and moving sound I have ever heard....  It shook the ground and the air, it moved in power through me, and though I did not understand a word of the music, the meaning, the message, the sorrow of grief and hardship borne so long filled my soul.  Take courage, take hold, my heart is with you, and prayers before the Holy God, who loves you so.  The reason I went to Russia in the first place, was because I caught just a glimpse of how much the Creator loves you.  You are special in His heart, He desires that you not suffer again.  He will strengthen you, empower you, and give you endurance beyond what is humanely possible.  May His blessings, peace, and confidence reign in your personal lives today, and always.  I remember so many of your faces with such love and fondness.  Thank you once again for the incredible hospitality, welcome, and true friendship which you so generously and freely offered when I visited your amazing country.  I will never forget all you taught me.  I will never lose my admiration and respect for your great people.

One of my new favorite quotes on complicity which I picked up in communications with some very skilled and capable people with whom I have association, applies so aptly here...

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing." 
Albert Einstein 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Think Animals Can Sometimes Smell a Person's Soul

You know, I think a good dog can smell a person's soul... and it makes him know things about his master, mistress, or even a perfect stranger... I think a lot of animals do.

I have been privileged to be friends with a lot of very good animals, and my soul is the better for it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

More of Those Beautiful Horses in the Yellow Field of Flowers

Beautiful Portrait of My Father by Judy Green

Judy Green is a friend of mine from childhood, and she lives in Sweetwater, Texas, where I was born and lived most of my life.

She made this picture of my father with an IPhone after asking him if she could, and could send it to me in Germany.  I cried and cried...  He is now 86 years old.

That Is Where My Brother Lives


I have a beautiful new friend.  My sweet friend Tracy had told me so much of her, and how she had helped her in every way she could as Tracy went through very difficult times.  So when Tracy told me she had fallen very ill, and needed prayer, the Lord God so easily filled my heart with great love for her.  I felt like I had known her for ten years or more in a deep friendship.  God does that among his people, we will after all spend eternity together, and there will be none among the family of God who is not known and loved by all.

So I began writing emails of encouragement and prayer to Jennifer.  She was at first too ill to respond, spending days in the haze of powerful pain killers after extensive surgery.  She had advised Tracy that this would be the case, and not to worry if she did not hear from her for awhile.  On the day of her surgery I woke in the night with her on my mind.  I knew it was God calling me to prayer for her.  God's power is released by our prayers.  He wants us to make supplication in order that we might understand that His response is one of love toward us.

Not long ago I received my first correspondence from Jennifer.  The blessing was mine, she is truly a gifted writer, even in writing a thank you letter to a stranger who God had tapped to pray for her.  I find her correspondence so refreshing, and delightful with great insight about life.  As I said, she has known great tragedy in her life, and this morning she wrote a "letter," (somehow I cannot think of her words as email,) and toward the end of it she shared a story about two of her children, both no longer living in this world.  It touched me so that I asked if I might share it.  She gave her consent.

Jennifer lost an infant baby boy to SIDS when he was very young, the following is the story she told me of how she explained his passing to his older brother.  At first I was only going to share the part of her "letter" to me which told the story of her young son, but as I highlighted the text, my mouse just covered more and more of her words as I realized the comfort and hope they might hold for others who are experiencing hardship in life.  I am usually very selfish with such words of beauty and understanding, keeping my riches for myself, but these words...  There is such power in these words...

The words that follow are her own...

Dear Debra,

Hoping my message finds you well and happy!

As I had mentioned, I had the follow-up meeting with the surgeon.  The news is a little less good than I had hoped for but I am determined to get through it!  And how could I not, when I have kindness, prayers, good thoughts and wishes coming to me - totally unexpected no less.

According to the doctor, based on the pathology reports, the Grade level has been (re-)determined as Grade 3 (not Grade 1), indicating a more aggressive form of cancer. Evidently, it had already moved into the muscle layers surrounding the uterus and into some lymph nodes. The doctor also made me aware that they had removed 38 lymph nodes.    The good news is that, at this point they do not suggest chemo therapy, but radiation therapy which is to start on September 29.  Prior to that date (9/24), I will have a full body CT scan to ensure that no other growths are apparent or developing.  The doctors seem to be of the impression that I have a hereditary form of cancer - they refer to it as "lynch syndrome". Perhaps with your medical experience, you had heard of it?  The university research center offers DNA testing, considering circumstances (and fear driven)  I decided to take part.

As you can imagine, my emotions run from high to low and although I tend to be optimistic, there are moments of sheer cold fear and all the things I tell myself about life, death and acceptance of all, I do struggle. I read and reread your messages as they remind me again and again to pray and that I am cared about and being prayed for.   Meanwhile I keep trying to work on my "bucket list" :-)

One thing that is quite at the top of my list is, that I cross the country (US) at least one more time.. ..Back when, when the world got a little too crazy, I used to put my dogs, their food and water in the back of my car, add on the top carrier with some clothes for myself and drive across country in whatever direction I felt like. What a wonderful feeling!

It reminds me of a little story in my life which I would like to share with you. Many years ago, when my second son (Patrick) passed away of SIDS, I tried to explain what happened to my oldest son (Jerry, the one who died this year). He was only 3 1/2 years old the time. I told Jerry that Patrick had gone to be with God. About a year or so later, during a move 'cross country, we stopped at the Grand Canyon. As we looked out, over the rim into the canyon, I happened to say "that is truly God's country" - to which Jerry said "oh, that's where my little brother Patrick is....!".

I just know that you understand.

Thank you once more for your caring messages, the incredible kindness you extend to me and - your prayers!


              What sweet privilege is mine in this friendship... and yes Jennifer, I do understand...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday, September 3, 2015

There Are Really Only Two Effective Solutions

My upbringing was a blessing which I now realize so many never have the privilege and favor from God of experiencing.  No one could ask for more honorable, loving, and strong parents than I have known.  They overcame lack of formal education, childhoods of poverty and want brought on by The Great Depression, and they knew what it was to work as a child at very adult labors.  They have gone to bed hungry and cold, but never have I ever had one such experience.  Their history of the generosity of their adult lives will never be fully known by anyone, because they have given so much,
to so many, so quietly.  After my father retired at age 62, he never really stopped working.  He would do electrical, heating and air-conditioning "service calls" for a selected clientele, which he called, "old widow women," disadvantaged families, especially those with small or sick children, for our church, and for the disabled, always at a very minimal charge, and many times he just donated the work and the materials used.   Often these "customers" were the widows of World War I or II Veterans.  His own mother was the widow of a WWI Veteran, who eventually drew his last breath under the burden of the exposure he had undergone to mustard gas in the battlefields of France.  He had never fully recovered, and suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease for the rest of his life.  

It is important for me to mention at this point "The Burn Piles" of Afghanistan, and our many Veterans and Service Members who will suffer until their own deaths, the effects of "The Burn Piles."  One of my strongest held convictions is that every American owes a debt which can never fully be paid to the Service Men and Women of this country, and their families, who have stood in the gap for us all.  They never make the political decisions which send them away from their families to conduct war on behalf of the United States, but they go where they are sent, and they do what they are commanded, and they pay the price for the protection of our liberty.  Never should the benefits and promises made to those who serve be compromised, reduced, withdrawn, denied, or held prisoner by bureaucratic paperwork designed to deny the cost of benefits due, as long as possible, from those who have honorably served.  With a heavy heart, I must report personal experience and observation on a mass scale of just that disgrace being perpetrated against those to whom we all owe so much.  I will continue to stress that fact in every place where my voice has access, upon every opportunity I have to do so.  Further, I make a daily commitment to create opportunities, and I demand daily to communicate to as many people, authorities, politicians, and news media outlets, the facts and evidence of such betrayal of our Veterans and Service Members as I have personal knowledge of.

Such a priceless heritage and privilege is found in the liberty afforded every citizen in this country. Personal potential can be realized in the fertile soil of the precious life giving nourishment of true liberty.  There is always discontent in our country in one area or the other, or in many areas, and the expression of that discontent, and the call for change is always protected by our laws and constitution, even when dishonesty and dishonest people attempt to prevail against it. Even though justice is never perfect in America, it is continually sought and striven for.

The quality of the personal liberty of the citizens of our country is exceeded no where else in the world, nor has it in history ever been exceeded by any other government.  My birthright, and by that I mean the blessing of the geographical location of my birth being within the United States, is not something which I earned, deserved, or paid for.  I never had to go through any process or paperwork, study anything, prove myself, or undergo deep personal investigation... neither, I might add, did Mr. Donald Trump.  I have paid however, my own very personal price for the protection of liberty in our country.  Though it is not as much as so many family members of those who serve in our military, and comes so short of what Service Members themselves have given, it is one of the things I am most proud of accomplishing under significant duress and personal challenge.  I am so grateful for my own experience in sacrifice, because of the realization it has brought to me of the true price of liberty and its' protection.  The experience has afforded me a much more accurate knowledge of the depth of sacrifice those who should be our most honored, too often must bear.

Being from a family of proud military service, with much personal experience in what the exact cost of the liberty afforded to the citizens of our country entails, I certainly do not wish the security of our borders, against threats of any nature, to be compromised by any act or failure to act.  However, there is a growing sea of humanity, "longing to be free."  They are doing so because the lands of their birth are places where tyranny reigns and rules and consequences for even calling for personal liberty are met with a cruelty incomprehensible to the good people of our world who know the privilege and blessing of freedom and liberty.  Many of us would really rather turn a blind eye to this knowledge, which after all, is not presently clearly and overtly threatening their own liberty in a tangible, daily manner.  A large portion of the world's inhabitants who live in the priceless inheritance of true personal liberty, have never given a thing which could be noted as a personal sacrifice.  Many are arrogant and feel a great sense of entitlement to their inheritance, and of no obligation to the rest of the "have nots" of our world.  The failure of those who were not born in the United States, or some other country where freedom has been bought and paid for by the blood and sacrifice of their patriots, is viewed by these arrogant people born in entitlement, to be their own hard luck.

The problem with their stance is that the world is a smaller and smaller place every day.  The inhabitants of planet earth are now more "connected" than ever before.  You and I know more about the daily lives of people living in China, and any other country of the world, than has ever been "knowable" before, and they know more about our lives as well.  A swelling sea of people living in unthinkable oppression, now has access to the information which allows them to know what they are missing in their own countries of birth, as well as what the blessings are of those born in the lands of the free.

Many people argue that those living without personal liberty should shed their own blood, and purchase the liberty they desire for themselves in their countries of birth.  That is never so easily done as it sounds in rhetoric.  Frequently in times in history personal liberty has been obtained by the immigration of the oppressed to a land "of opportunity."  Unless you are Native American, that is how your own personal liberty first became the source of the rich inheritance you now possess, and by personal obligation, stand guardian of.  That is the reason why politics, which is so very distasteful for most Americans, must be the bitter pill that we all partake of with fierce diligence.  It is so much easier to throw up our hands in despair, to bemoan the state of affairs, or worse yet, ignore it.  That is why often we are all tempted to ignore our rights to elect our country's leadership.  Perhaps we should consider revoking the citizenship of every person of voting age in the country who fails to perform this civic duty... That might wake some of those almost 60 percent of our citizens, who for one reason or another, fail to vote in our country's elections. The surest threat to our inheritance is apathy.

As those of us who live in countries where liberty is embraced are coming to understand more fully, the activities of criminals and tyrants will eventually affect those of us living in liberty.  This happens because they are determined, and willing to sacrifice themselves, and all others who oppose them, or in any way stand between them and their goals.  The oppressed have an even clearer understanding of these facts and for them, fleeing to the lands of the free is not optional, it is imperative, and a matter of living or dying.  

Now presents itself a true problem to the people who live in the lands of the free.  I see it as a two option problem, either we must make provision for those who are coming by the hundreds of thousands, or... criminals and tyrants must be brought down, and countries must be occupied until effective governments can be established in those countries. Only this action has hope of stemming the flood of humanity longing to be free.  Either of these two options bears great costs, and sobering long term obligations.