Living Life

Jesus, Me, and the Kitchen Table

A Letter to James Patrick Riley

James Patrick Riley recently wrote an article comparing pastor Max Lucado and Donald Trump and making various accusations to anyone who does not support Donald Trump. I do not know either of these men personally, so cannot attest to either of their lifestyles. I am vaguely familiar with Max Lucado’s ministry, having read some books and have watched several children’s videos.  When I say “lifestyles” I refer to how closely they live according to the Scriptures and their relationship with Jesus.

What I do know is that the letter contains wrong definition of what it is to be a Christian and gross misuse of Scripture. So I will not defend or seek to vilify either person. My aim in this letter is to defend my faith and to correct some false comparisons and accusations.

  1.  After sharing that Max Lucado chose to speak out about Trump calling a lady a “bimbo” but ignoring Barack Obama’s pro-abortion stance, he then shared an example of Trump supporting the pro-life movement and how he has “embraced the politics of life.” Then the question Mr. Riley asks, is, Who is the real Christian here? The one who acts like it, or the one who puts on a polite show of neutrality?”

Just having moral behavior doesn’t make someone a Christian. There are plenty of unsaved people who are “good” people. True, as followers of Jesus our actions should be Christian in nature. However, a Christian is one who has asked Jesus Christ into their heart and made Jesus the Lord of their life. When that happens, then the right actions will follow. But just making the right choices doesn’t make anyone a Christian.

  1. “ I’ve been around church people all of my life.  Even at Stanford, where humanism was the prevailing denomination, I can tell you the religious spirit — whether it is lamenting “gambling” or shaming someone who didn’t recycle his bottle of Pepsi — brings out the worst side of human nature, and it brings ignorance into high relief.”   

Mr. Riley there is difference between a religious spirit, holiness, and legalism. A religious spirit is in operation is when someone is just going through the motions of going to church but without a relationship with Jesus. And it is true that many “church people” do have a religious spirit. It has nothing to do with “lamenting gambling” or other sins.

Preaching against sin does not “bring out the worst side of human nature or bring ignorance into high relief.” I was part of the Brownsville Revival in the late 1990’s. Evangelist Steve Hill preached against sin, and pleaded with tears in his eyes for people to get right with God. Night after night I’d watch as thousands ran to the altars and found forgiveness and salvation. I saw drug addicts instantly delivered of their addictions, putting their drug paraphernalia in the trash at the altar, and years later are still following Jesus. When people get right with God and get the sin out, they are more free than ever before!

And living a life of holiness is not legalism. Legalism is man-made rules of religion. Whereas followers of Jesus live according to the Bible, which is God’s law, meant to protect us, because God knows what’s best for us.

  1. Foul mouthed?  I’m guessing you haven’t read scripture with any real scrutiny, because when God gets angry, He doesn’t hold back.  His prophets call harlots harlots.  His Son called religious hypocrites, “white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.” “Vipers.”  ”Sons of the Devil.”

Hold up a sec! There is a BIG difference between vulgarity and how Jesus addressed the Pharisees. Nowhere in the Bible do you see the use of profanity. It is not a sin to get angry. And even in His holy anger, Jesus did not use profanity. And to accuse Jesus of being “foul-mouthed” would mean that He had sinned because the Bible says “allow no filthy communication to come out of your mouth”. So if He had been “foul-mouthed”, His sacrifice on the cross would have been meaningless! So no sir, Jesus was holy, as the Father was holy. And IS holy! Furthermore, in that day, if someone was a harlot, everyone knew it, It was their title. Even today saying that someone is a prostitute is not a curse word. It is not vulgar.

  1. “But even if you value a polite tongue, and that’s your virtue, don’t begin comparing that virtue to being courageous in the face of Islamic jihad.  I will take a foul mouth defender of life over a church-sitting coward any day.”

All I want to say here is while there may be many church goers who may not have the faith to stand up to Islamic terrorists should it come down to a decision of converting to Islam or confessing Jesus, there are hundreds of true Christians over seas who have paid the ultimate price, their lives, as they were given the choice to convert or die. This has been true whether it was Islamic terrorists or back during the times of persecution when Christians who wouldn’t deny Jesus were fed to the wild beasts in a coliseum.

  1. “And I would ask you to look to your Bibles again. God uses some pretty gritty characters to work His glorious and sovereign will. Jacob was a trickster who lied to his father. Abraham had wives and concubines.  Samson kept a harlot.  Solomon had hundreds of concubines.  Peter betrayed Christ.  Saul of Tarsus, was a murderous wretch. You actually know all about that, but when you see a flawed man, in the flesh, you act just like a stoning torch mob, and you won’t even admit it.”
  • Jacob was a trickster. The Bible doesn’t approve of what he did. Just because he did it doesn’t make it right. As a result he had to “wrestle with God” and he came out with a limp!
  • Abraham had wives and concubines, true. But as the popular objection goes, “that’s Old Testament.” It was lawful back then to live this way.
  • Solomon’s concubines led him away from God and that led ultimately to splitting the Kingdom!
  • Peter betrayed Christ, but then he repented, and he did not ever do it again!
  • Yes, before he was saved, Saul did persecute and kill Christians. But after his radical conversion to Jesus, he became one of the most powerful Apostles, and ultimately was beheaded under Nero, for the sake of the Gospel. We don’t hold people’s past sins over their heads after they have repented.
  • I will say here, that when I see a “flawed man” my instinct is not to stone him to death, but rather to pray for his salvation!
  1. “But you and Max Lucado don’t like his (Trump’s) style.

      Your priorities are all mixed up, just like the people who killed Christ.”

There is NO comparison between Jesus Christ, spotless Lamb of God, and Donald Trump. It matters not whether you like him or not. He is not God. And saying that if you don’t support Trump, you are as bad as the ones who killed Christ is putting them on the same level. We are in an age where politicians are literally worshipped.

If Donald Trump was the most righteous man who ever lived, he could not turn this nation around. The only hope for our nation is for America to once again turn to God and repent of our sins, especially for the millions of babies we have sacrificed on the altars of convenience. Say nothing of our pride, how we’ve snubbed God in the face by taking His definition of marriage and changing it to meet our preferences, then using the sign of His covenant to never destroy the earth by flood again (the rainbow), and using it as the banner for the LGBT movement. By the way, I’m not a “hater.” I’m a lover of God, and His ways are best.

I don’t know if Trump is a Christian or not. But if he is not, then I pray for his salvation. And if elected, he will need the favor of God on him to help turn this ship around.

I urge you, Mr. Riley, to get out your Bible and read it cover to cover so that you may rightly divide the Word of God should you refer to it. And, may you repent for your blasphemy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Come to the mercy of God though Jesus. It is not too late, but time is running out. May you find forgiveness and salvation.

Original article HERE

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Deeper…

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“I have kicked up the dust and the dirt on the narrow road
I have had to let go of some hurt to hold on to hope
I’ve watched the sunset before the promise came
I have waded through waters wide and walked through the flame
And I can say

Every valley made me lift my eyes up
Every burden only made me stronger
Every sorrow only made Your joy go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper

I will run like I’m out to win, and finish the race
For every battle that’s sure to come I will be brave
I’ve got my heart set on every word You say
And no matter what lies ahead You’ll make a way
And I will say

Every valley made me lift my eyes up
Every burden only made me stronger
Every sorrow only made Your joy go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper

Every mountain is making me a climber
Every giant is calling out a fighter
Every heartache only makes Your love go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper

Thrown down but not defeated
I’m worn out but not giving up
I’ve hit ground but even at rock bottom
I’m just getting started, yea, I’m just getting started”

When I first heard this song it resonated within me. I think it may very well become my life song. As you read the lyrics, I pray that you will be blessed, strengthened and encouraged to know that through Jesus Christ, we can not only sing these words, but live them. No matter what you’ve been through, no matter how long the road may seem – there is HOPE and VICTORY!

The song is “Deeper” by Meredith Andrews

You can listen/watch here on YouTube.
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Life is Different Now

It’s been over 3 years since the accident that caused me to be paralyzed. At first, I was so accepting of it all… I think the reason I could accept it so easily is that I KNEW I was going to be healed. And I still have faith for this. But I admit, some days it is easier than others. Some may think it was the phase of denial in adjusting to a disability. Maybe that was part of it, too. But when you go from being able to walk one minute to not being able to, there is no denying it! When you start to get up out of the bed only to realize you are stuck, reality has just hit you upside the head!

Life is different now…  And each person with paralysis has their own unique experience, I’m sure. And it’s true that I still have some adjusting to do. The way I experience life in every avenue is different now. Here are some examples:

Going to the store: I have to carry my own shopping bag so I can put my items in it while I’m shopping. It probably looks like I’m shoplifting! I can only get as many items as will fit into the bag. I love stores like Brookshire’s that have the rolling carts with a long handle on them. And they don’t put them in the front where everyone will get them.

Getting Gas: I can pump my own gas, but it’s kinda tough. My biggest fear in doing this is that someone will (again) run over my ramp. I’ve learned to put it up AS SOON as I get out of the van! If I was not in a power chair there is no way I could do the gas thing independently. And even though gas stations have a “handicapped” procedure like honk your horn and someone will come out to you, it doesn’t work. The attendants are busy and they did not come out the one time I tried it.

Work: I work in a 5 story building. My office used to be on the 4th floor with the other consultants. My employer accommodated me with a large office on the 1st floor all to myself. It is awesome! Enough room for my wheelchair and my things. One of our custodians raised my desk to a good height for me. My work day is flexible. All of this is so appreciated. But I’m not allowed off the 1st floor unless I get permission. That way they can make sure there are enough people around to carry me out in case of a fire. I really appreciate the concern for my safety, but at the same time this is very isolating. I seldom get to see any of my coworkers. Sometimes a new hire is made and I don’t even know who they are until the staff meeting. And then I don’t see them enough to remember who they are when I do see them. There are a couple of them who are both thin and blonde that I can’t tell apart. I miss being able to be with the others. But it is what it is until it’s not. Travel is also a problem. I can’t go out of region to meetings. I don’t have anyone to help me with medical routines while I’m gone and I can’t afford to pay someone the extra it would cost. This is also very isolating because in my field we are a close-knit group. And I know so many people and miss seeing them.

Sleep: I sleep on one side or the other all night. My husband turns me every 2-3 hours all night long. This is necessary to prevent pressure sores. My arms get sore sometimes and keeps me awake. I try not to turn more often because I don’t want to wake him up before it’s time to turn the next time.

Daily life: We had to start having a care-giver come to help me in the mornings and night. So now, no matter what we hve to get up at the same time unless I call to get a later time on the weekends. But we like her a lot. She has been very helpful and I’ve gotten to know her over these pst few months. I don’t get to go anywhere at nigth unless I can be home by 7 or 8:30 every night. 7 some nights, 8:30 the others. It is very limiting. There are lots of ministry activities we can’t attend and other events, too.

Health: Some days are better than others, but the days when I feel anywhere as good as I did before paralysis are few and far between. I never know how I will feel until I wake up and get going. Sometimes I feel “fine” and other times I am either sleepy and can’t stay awake or I am in severe pain. UTIs are a constant threat and I usually end up taking about one antibiotic a month.

So all this sounds pretty dismal, right? But here’s the silver lining you’ve been hoping for!

Spiritually: Things have never been better! I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be! Praise God! I am so much stronger because of all that has happened to me. The Lord IS near to me and I thank Him for that, because I could not make it if He wasn’t. That is no lie.

Friends: I have found out who my true friends are. They are the ones who come to see me or call and check on me, who help when they can. They are the ones who pray for us and hold us up. It is definitely true that you find out who your real firends are when something goes wrong.

So I have not given up on my healing. I know that what my God said is His Word is true. I know He will do what He said He will do. He is not a man that He should lie. So it is a matter of His timing and prevailing in prayer. Prayer is the key. God wants us His children to pray. That is how He partners with us to get things done on this earth! So if you want to help, then please PRAY without ceasing with us.

So life is diffeent now for the good as well as the challenges we face.

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Remembering Jennette

pinkribbonOctober.  Breast cancer awareness month never really meant anything to me until 2004.  Unless someone you are close to has battled or is battling breast cancer, it might just seem like a nice idea to remember and honor those who have it or who beat it and to honor those who have passed away from it.

Jennette and I met in the 1990’s at Stephen F. Austin State University where we were both studying to be teachers of the visually impaired.  And we both had visual impairments.  I can remember many nights of staying up past midnight working on our assignments for braille class.  The rule was that if you made even one mistake while broiling, you had to start over, because points would be deducted.  That’s because if a person who is blind can feel the mistake in the braille, it makes it very hard if not impossible for them to read.  So there were many late nights with lots of pizza and Coca Cola!  I met Jennette’s parents when they would come to visit on the weekends periodically.

After graduation several years went by before our paths crossed again. I had been teaching in Mesquite, Texas when I accepted a consultant position with Region 8 Education Service Center in Mt. Pleasant. As a consultant in visual impairments I get to work with the teachers in the surrounding schools. It just so happened that Jeanette was teaching in one of the Region 8 sichools. She found my number and told me that we would be working together. As it turned out the house we rented was just a few blocks away from hers!

One sunny afternoon not too long after we had moved in, the phone wrong and it was Jennette. She had found a lump on her breast and it was malignant. She requested prayer as she was scheduled for a lumpectomy. Jennette’s parents have been missionaries all their lives. And they were already scheduled for a missions trip the week of her surgery. I’ll never forget how bravely she told them to go ahead with their trip. She had a friend from church who would drive her to Dallas and stay with her. So her parents courageously left her in God’s hands as they went to share Jesus with others.
I kept her in my prayers and really thought this was the end of the battle. After all, she was just 32 years old.

Jennette was no stranger to challenges. She spent several years as a young child on the mission field in Africa. She had to learn to speak Africans. It was hard and she didn’t like it . But learn, she must. Also because of her poor vision she couldn’t drive as an afult. So as an itinerant teacher she had to hire drivers.

At the time of her diagnosis we did not have a cancer center. Jennette’s mom Joyce, drove her to her chemo sessuons in Longview, an hour away. The treatment made her nauseous. And after the second one she lost all her hair. It fell out in huge clumps in the shower.

Jennette loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. She did specials at church and even recorded an album. Jennette could be anywhere and just break out in song. I loved that about her! No matter how bad things got she never lost her faith, nor her song, nor her smile. One of her favorite songs that she sang at church is “My Redeemer Lives” by Nicole C. Mullens.

The timelines are kind of foggy since her battle was son long. But the cancer spread to one of her lungs. She was in the hospital for nine days following surgery to remove the mass. Later it spread to the other lung and she had to have that mass removed as well.

Each year in the spring our professional organization, Texas Association of Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (TAER) holds its annual convention. After these lung surgeries it seemed that Jennette was getting back on her feet again. She was able to go to the conference this particular year and we shared a room. Jennette had brought her MP3 player with her loaded with over a 1,000 songs. As we sat on the side of the bed in the room one night, she played a song for me by Mercy Me called, “Gotta Keep Singing.” I couldn’t hold back the tears as I listened to the lyrics. It described her so perfectly. Being in a hospital room, feeling nothing but pain, wanting out so bad… but “I gotta keep singing, gotta keep praising Your Name”…. I don’t remember anything else about the conference. I learned from my dear friend how to cling to the Lord and let your fait shine even through trials. Hmmm… maybe the Lord was beginning to prepare me for my struggle – not with cancer but with paralysis and living with only the pictures and memories of my girls, knowing I’ll see them AND Jennette again one day.

By this time she had been battling for several years and taking chemo pills and radiation on and off. It was after this convention at some point the doctors discovered a large mass on the occipital lobe of her brain. I took my girls and we sat at the hospital with the family on Good Friday while she had surgery to remove the mass.

It was getting really tough for her to keep working. But she loved her students so much and was so dedicated to them that she kept on going even if it was just a few hours a day. “They need me” she would say. I think she also needed them.

Even though they successfully removed the tumor from her brain, another one appeared – and it was huge. This time they decided to “blast” it with a big dose of radiation. Seemingly, all that did was disburse it into 16 smaller pieces. So chemo, different than all the ones she had had before was administered. It was tough. But the tumors started shrinking…. but it wasn’t enough.

Jennette had to make the decision to take a disability retirement from teaching. It was just getting too hard for her to walk around. I remember going to her classroom where the students would come for their lessons with her and helping her clean it out. I was standing out by the car with Joyce. And for the first time, Joyce let me know that she thought Jennette might not make it. She said they had enjoyed 39 years and were just hoping to see the 40th.

At some point all the chemo just stopped working and there was nothing else the medical community could do for her. So they sent her home and she was placed on Hospice.

I went to see her at home. It was weird seeing my friend in a hospital bed in her house. It was so hard to see her that way. By this time she wasn’t really coherent much of the time. She didn’t want to eat. Her mom had to feed her. Nurses having to change her. She was dependent on others for everything.
But I stayed a long time… probably too long… may have worn her and her mom out. But we had a great time just talking and remembering past times.

On July 1, 20111 the girls and I were getting ready to attend our town’s annual fireworks display when word of Jennette’s passing came. She had won her battle. The fighting was over. That evening as we were attending the festivities a rainbow appeared in the sky just before dark. I’ll always remember it. It was if Heaven was happy to have received another singing angel.

I dreaded the funeral. She was too young to die. In the church the first few rows of pews were crowned one of her hats she had worn. This was so special because she always picked out the cutest hats – she had joy in picking them out. I went up to see her in the casket. She was beautiful and all dressed in purple with a hat on! Purple was her favorite color, and now it’s mine, too!
As the ceremony began, it was nothing like any funeral I’d ever been to before. It was truly a celebration of her life, not a mournful occasion. People told stories or shared things they loved about Jennette. There were lots of tears, of course, but we knew she was at happy and free of pain and earthly cares.

I still have the blankets she crocheted for my girls when they were babies.
And one day our families will be reunited in Heaven with our Lord Jesus. He is our Hope!

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It’s Fair Time!

The weather is cooling off and the leaves are falling from the trees.  And we are beginning to see the trees changing colors to shades of autumn.  Towns both large and small are ringing in the fall with fall festivals and fairs. I used to be a regular attendee at our local county fair. The girls and I would go and ride the ferris wheel and all sorts of other rides.  Oh and the games we would play trying to win the biggest stuffed animal! Tokens, tokens, and more tokens….

On Saturday Richard and I with our friend Harriet went to the Titus County Fair, the same one I’ve gone to for years, but have not been to since the fair of 2012, the last one me and the girls attended together.  I wasn’t sure how it would be…. bringing back all those fond memories…. but it was good, in fact it was great!  Of course I thought about them and which rides they loved.  But you know, the Lord gave me an extra amount of grace for the day.  Of course I missed them being there with us, but it was not a sad time.

I had a new wheelchair experience… getting across the hoses that ran all across the ground supplying electricity to all the rides.  Wobble, wobble, bump, bump! But I managed to get over them, although it shook me around a little! Before long I was caught up in the sights of brightly colored banners and signs, the smell of local flairs including Mexican food, barbecue, cotton candy, and funnel cakes!  Refreshing lemonade was a welcomed treat even though the Texas heat was kind of mild – thank goodness!

But this time at the fair was different in more than just one way.  We went in to the civic center to scope out the vendor booths and to see the exhibits.  There are all kinds of contests each year for people of all ages to compete in, including the art contests (photography, painting, etc.), horticulture (growing large fruits and vegetables, canning various produce, etc.), quilt contests, crafts, paper crafts, and so much more!  I had never before taken time to really see the art exhibits and the others.  What a treat I missed!  And not only that, had I visited them with a more careful eye, I would have know that there were art contests for children even at their young ages.  Richard, Harriet and I spent quality time admiring the various arts versus standing in lines waiting to ride rides.

Our last stop before leaving was for funnel cake.  There simply can’t be anything more greasy and calorie-laiden than funnel cake! But it is OH SO GOOD!  Well and when you only eat one a year, is it really that bad?  I think not!! I must say that I was intrigued by seeing things such as fried Snickers, Oreos, etc.  Wow, I might have to try one of those next year!

Below are some pictures of the girls at the 2012 Titus County Fair.  What a great time they had.  One picture is of Chloe steering a pink car, one of Emmarie steering a bus of some sort, and then one of them at the car with all their winnings, including Emmarie wearing a big red squid hat!  They are smiling from ear to ear and that puts a smile in my heart.  I can only imagine the sights they are seeing from Heaven.  10378554_10202586228206859_2741856445174346047_n 10689520_10202586231566943_6406144314788048111_n 550953_3613709831330_1064456078_n

Richard, me, and Harriet at the Titus County Fair.

Richard, me, and Harriet at the Titus County Fair.

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