All posts by Patty LaRoche

Mental Illness by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

My friends, Sue and Jessica, are finding their faith stretched. Sue’s mother, Edith, shows signs of mental illness. So does Jessica’s son, a victim of drug-induced schizophrenia. The emotional roller-coaster ride upon which my dear friends ride is grievous. One day, the mentally ill individuals are kind and trusting; the next, they are paranoid and accusatory. My friends constantly are looking for verbal weapons to combat the struggle.

A few minutes ago, I hung up from a phone call with Sue. Her elderly mother last month was told that she has only a few months to live, so my friend and her husband, John, traveled to her home in Texas to help clean up the mess created by her hoarding and inability to handle her finances.

After years of not being allowed in her mother’s house, time was up. Things were worse than expected. Unpaid bills and stock reports piled in heaps amidst hundreds of magazines and newspapers.

It was obvious that John needed to acquire a power-of-attorney to protect his mother-in-law. Edith signed the documents. Which lasted about two weeks. Sue’s mother then began accusing her only daughter and husband of taking advantage, stealing her gold coins and documents from her safety deposit box. The details aren’t necessary.

Sue wept as she shared the latest allegations, all unfounded. No amount of reason could change her mother’s decision…until, that is, her mind flipped into a loving, understanding, accepting perspective. Once again, John could have the power of attorney…until, that is, Edith trumped up more reasons to negate her judgment.

Jessica’s son, filled with guilt over past regressions, remains hopeless and unable to see how God wants to turn his badness into goodness. (God’s good at that, you know.) I shared with Jessica of pastors who had turned from their evil ways to lead growing, dynamic churches, after repenting and admitting their failures, and I asked that she share that with her son.

Mind and Soul Foundation documents that 25% of Christians suffer from a form of mental illness, yet most are ashamed to admit their issues. Both of my friends understand the complexities of dealing with dysfunctional loved ones and are continuing to love and support their mentally-ill relatives.

Still, loving the unlovely might be the most difficult challenge we all are asked to do.

God is our example of how to pull it off since He never gives up on us.

As Christians, we are to be mindful of damaging things we say to those who suffer from mental illness. “Surrender your infirmity to God.” “You can will this away.” “God is testing your faith.” “Jesus is calling you to repent of your sins.”

Psychologists question why we would ask such things, citing how we wouldn’t say that to a cancer victim. (Sadly, I have heard those “helpful” messages expressed to people with physical illnesses.)

Sometimes, no words are the best words. Merely practicing the ministry of presence might be the most powerful weapon on which we can rely.

Guess Who Is Coming to Dinner? by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Joan’s neighbor invited Greg and Joan and another couple over for dinner. They live in an affluent suburb of Kansas City, and ever since the neighbors moved in, Greg and Joan have attempted to make small talk but found the new residents rather odd. Perhaps this was a break-through, a chance to see that their first impressions were wrong. Greg asked what they could bring for dinner but was told it would be catered, so they were to bring nothing.

My friend Joan shared with a group of us what happened when they arrived for dinner. The visiting foursome were brought into the kitchen and told to help themselves. On the stove was one covered pot. They were to use the tongs and grab one of the six hotdogs boiling in the pot. Six buns lie on a paper plate, ketchup and mustard were in their squeezable containers, and small bags of potato chips lie nearby. All were given water to drink. That was it: wieners, condiments, buns, chips and water. I’ve been to dinner at Joan’s. She puts her best palate forward when hosting guests. Appetizers are stunning, both in presentation and taste, and meals are feasts. Joan said that she and her husband avoided eye contact with the two couples for fear of bursting into hysterics. They looked for ways to praise the meal but could think of none. I mean, what do you say? “Your caterer really knocked herself out this time.” “Goodness, these must be Nathan’s all-beef wieners. Yum.”

The one-wiener-per-person miserliness was not nearly as objectionable as the conversation which centered around how the hosts had met. When the wife first was introduced to her (now) husband’s mother, the mother commented that she was shocked her son had a girlfriend because she “always thought he was gay.” Joan said the host showed no reaction, assuming this was not the first time he had heard his wife reveal that information. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

Joan and Greg are Christians and know that they are to love the unlovely. They realize that they need to be sharing Jesus with their unpleasant friends because very likely, that’s what God planned when the couple moved in next door. Since that night, however, she and her husband have avoided their neighbors. Our guilt-ridden friend questioned if they should reciprocate the dinner invitation in hopes of enlightening their neighbors to what real hospitality looks like. Still, she admitted, the food was the least of their concerns.

What made that woman divulge such private information about her husband in front of strangers? And how do those strangers then respond to such a comment? None of us had answers except that we Christians all live by the command “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And since this is a literal neighbor, well…ignoring them doesn’t seem to be a viable option. Joan shared that she is praying about the matter, but when we pressed her, she admitted that she is praying that her neighbors move. Although we all know God can’t be pleased with such a petition, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t be doing likewise.

 

Pray For Our Leaders by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

I recently returned from my annual trip with five sorority sisters. This time, things weren’t quite as funny as they usually are since we ended up in the E.R., concerned that one of the girls had a blood clot. (She did not.)

While waiting for her ultrasound, I noticed a man in the waiting room wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat. I thanked him for his service; several people followed. “John” was there because of the extensive damage done to him by Agent Orange. His explanation of how the veterans of his era were mistreated upon returning home was interrupted by the technician calling his name.

The next time we had a chance to visit was when my girlfriend and I left the hospital. There was John, leaning against a pillar, trying to catch his breath. We walked him to his car, thanked him again and said goodbye.

Three days later, on the day of the U.S.-Afghanistan pull-out, I met an Afghanistan veteran, the nephew of one of my girlfriends, who shared that he wept when he heard the news. “I carried a burn victim from his armored car after driving across an I.E.D. while on patrol, and I had friends who came home without legs or arms. And for what?” he questioned. I had no answers, but I knew that if I were the loved one of a soldier who had sacrificed life or limb or sanity for that cause, and now we weren’t sure we could even rescue those who had helped our military, I would be grieving.

But what if grief is not enough of a response? As I write this, I am watching television to see the madness of hundreds (thousands?) of Afghani civilians scrambling to get to the airport. Carrying only a satchel or small bag, they appear desperate. At a press briefing, an Afghani journalist fights back tears as she asks the Pentagon spokesman what will happen to all of the women who finally can hold a job and not be mistreated by their husbands. She dons her face mask, a flag from her country that she left 20 years ago, the same time our country went to her native land’s aid, and implores our leaders not to abandon what has been accomplished.

My friend emails that his military buddy has spent the night in hiding with three Afghans who worked as interpreters for the U.S. They and their families (a total of 14) have just safely arrived at the airport. Is there any room for them in my friend’s hometown?

I think of myself, sitting in the comfort of my air-conditioned living room, every thirty minutes moving a sprinkler around my yard (Heaven forbid my grass turns brown!) while watching on television as our leaders explain how necessary this ending is. And yes, I get that we should not stay in another country forever. I get that 20 years should be enough time to train a militia. I get that no more lives should be lost.

Still… Should these evacuees come to our area, will I help? Really help, not just talk about it? I’m sure that’s what Jesus would have me do. Please, Readers, let us not put our heads in the sand and fail to be moved with compassion. If ever there was a time to be in prayer for the decisions our country’s leaders make, this is it. It’s the least we can do. Actually, it’s also the most.

 

RSVP Part 2 by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Several years ago, Nicole Contos was scheduled to be married in a Manhattan church.

She showed up, 250 invited guests showed up, but the groom didn’t. He took off for Tahiti, the intended honeymoon location. So, there she was with a $100,000 reception and no wedding. What did she do?

She did the same thing the king in Matthew 22 did when his son’s reception didn’t turn out as planned. She said, “The food is ready, the drink is ready. We’re gonna have a party. And she did.” Last week, we looked at Jesus’ parable of a wedding ceremony in which a king’s invited guests opted not to come to his son’s marriage feast and killed the servants who came looking for the no-shows. Not a smart plan, since the king had an army at his disposal and sent it to annihilate the killers. (Not exactly a memorable marriage moment.) The parable doesn’t end there, however. The king then sent word for anyone and everyone to come and fill the seats for the banquet, and come they did.

Every down-and-out, every castle cast-off, came running.

But this is where the story turns wacky. The king, checking on his guests, noticed a man “who did not have on a wedding garment.” When asked why, the guest remained mute. “Then the king said to the servants, ’Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14). A little over-kill, perhaps?

Tell me your heart doesn’t ache for the poor man. I mean, perhaps he had no fine clothes. Did his last-minute invitation come with a “formal attire” heads-up? Did everyone else have time to run home, sponge off in the Jordan River and don sequined togas?

I’m guessing not.

So, why is this guy singled out? Commentators write that none of these eleventh-hour invitees would have had appropriate clothing. The king would have supplied the guests’ apparel; all they had to do was to put it on. But this guy wouldn’t even do that much. He decided to come on his own terms instead of submitting to the king’s wishes.

Jesus’ point is well taken. The Jews—listening to Jesus as he spoke– had plenty of opportunities to R.S.V.P. favorably to God’s invitation to follow His commandments. God even sent His son, Jesus, but most of the Jews refused to believe that he was the Messiah. They said they would obey. They didn’t.

We’ve all met them. God has invited our neighbors, friends and relatives to be a part of His kingdom feast, yet they choose to remain spiritually sloppy. Most can’t find the time to participate, and many who come fail to completely submit. But are we just as guilty? Do we daily respond to God’s prodding, to serve Him before ourselves, to maintain the same enthusiasm we had when we first answered His call, to live up to kingdom standards? “Many are called but few are chosen.”

The choice is ours to make.

R.S.V.P. by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Répondez s’il vous plait. Simplified, we use “R.S.V.P.” instead of the French words meaning “Please reply.” The courtesy extended when one sends such a response can make an event go smoothly. The discourtesy extended when one fails to respond or disregards the invitation’s intention can cause chaos.

This past weekend Jeff, our oldest son, was married on a mountain top in Colorado. Because of Covid, only 30 people were permitted at the wedding site, but 120 were allowed at the reception. Part of the invitation included other activities that week such as an Olympic-style competition and a golf tournament. R.S.V.P.’s were critical for teams to be organized ahead of time. Colored headbands and wristbands had been ordered to indicate team membership for the eight Olympic events, and foursomes were designed around fair competition for golf. Most invitees took their responses seriously. Others, not so much. “Sorry, Bro, but I can’t make it today” (sent 30 minutes before the games began). “I’ll be an hour late. Hope that’s not a problem.” (Of course it was a problem.) “I’m bringing along a buddy. Please put him in my golf foursome.” “I know I said I couldn’t come, but things changed, so I’ll be there.” These were just a few of the replies that caused inconveniences. Some failed to respond but showed up, and others responded as coming but failed to show up. One team ended up with one person instead of the eight required to compete. Jeff’s brothers had to redesign teams because of last-minute cancellations, causing the entire Olympic events to start an hour later than scheduled. Sooooo unfair to the teammates who were there on time! If you’ve ever been in charge of organizing an activity that depended on people showing up, you know how frustrating it can be when they fail to take their R.S.V.P. seriously. You spend hours and hours getting everything ready. You work hard and are excited about what you’ve got planned. But then eight arrive instead of the 25 you counted on. Jesus had plenty to say about invited guests who fail to show up. In Mt. 22, he compared Heaven to a wedding banquet a king prepared for his son. Invitations had gone out ahead of time, but when the ceremony started, there were no-shows. Twice the king sent out his servants to find the guests, reminding them that the food was ready, but they had other plans. Some “seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.” The enraged king dispatched his army to destroy the murderers and burn their city. Fortunately, nothing so dramatic happened at Jeff’s weekend of activities, but Jesus took this snub very seriously. Let’s pick up in verse eight where his parable points to the Jews who, denying Jesus, were replaced with the Gentiles: Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. And everyone lived happily ever after. Ummm…maybe not. Next week we will look at one man who chose to come, but on his terms. It was an R.S.V.P. with eternal consequences.

Francis Chan by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

After years of watching Francis Chan’s sermons on line and following his transformation from leading a mega-church to evangelizing in China to starting living room churches, I recently had a chance to meet him. Between speaking engagements in the Kansas City area, he, a few missionaries, and their families were at my son Adam’s ranch, enjoying the peace and quiet of Midwest country life. Since my Zoom Bible study for the past 22 weeks had dealt with his book Crazy Love, I couldn’t wait to share how much he impacted our group. Our conversation was light and fun, centering around his wife and children, some details of his ministry and the experience he and his team were having in K.C. Somehow the conversation turned to my trials in raising three sons, and the group of adults seemed amazed that a teenager as challenging as Adam could turn out to be so kind and gracious. (Only by the grace of God.)

That’s when Adam told Francis that I had been in the Bible study based on his book. He questioned who led it. I told him. He brought out his phone and asked how to spell the leader’s name. Strange, I thought, but I spelled “Frank Guidara” and added, “He’s the one who organized the Zoom call.” Francis checked his phone and said that he didn’t have that name in his accounts. “Is there another name the study could have registered under?” I was becoming alarmed. “Dale somebody led it. I don’t know his last name.” Alarm was morphing to panic. “Most are Vietnam vets and their wives,” I added, trying to give some credibility to our little group. Surely he wouldn’t charge a fee to a group of retired, military heroes!

No one in my group had mentioned paying a registration fee to use Crazy Love for a Bible study. I was throwing a whole group of Christians under the bus, the longer I talked. “I’m just kidding. We never had a Bible study,” I said, trying to add some humor to this ridiculously awkward situation. Everyone laughed, but then Francis continued. “That’s just so strange that there doesn’t seem to be any registration for your group.” All eyes were on me, and although I usually appreciate it when that happens, this was different. It was then that Lisa, his wife, turned to her husband. “Since when do people have to register to use your book?”

Francis started cracking up. “I’m just messing with Patty. Of course, no one has to register to do a Bible study!”

He had me. Everyone—even Francis’ close friends—started laughing. And so did I. The evangelist said that if I could raise Adam and find delight in his antics, I must have a good sense of humor. Somehow, he understood me, and I loved it. And I loved his realness. The same man who once confronted his congregation, expressing his fear that the majority of them were lukewarm Christians who would never make it to Heaven, could have turned this time into a stern sermon, or at least could have asked for my take on his thought-provoking book. Instead, he brought levity into the conversation.

I need to learn from Francis. Everything doesn’t have to be a “Heaven or Hell” lecture or have a spiritual message. Sometimes we just need to bring joy into our exchanges so that others will want to hang with us which, in turn, will reveal the reality of who Christ is in us. No doubt, that is a huge part of Francis Chan’s ministerial success.

 

How To Bathe the Cat by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

 

  1. Thoroughly clean the toilet.
  2. Add the required amount of shampoo to the toilet water and have both lids lifted.
  3. Obtain the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom.
  4. In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids. (You may need to stand on the lid so he cannot escape.) CAUTION: Do not get any part of your body too close to the edge, as his paws will be reaching out for any purchase he can find. The cat will self-agitate and make ample suds. Never mind the noises that come from your toilet; the cat is actually enjoying this.
  5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a “power-wash and rinse” which I have found to be quite effective.
  6. Have someone open the door to the outside and ensure that there are no people between the toilet and the outside door.
  7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.
  8. The now clean cat will rocket out of the toilet and run outside where he will dry himself.

Sincerely,

The Dog

My cat-owner friends might not find humor in these instructions. That’s because a kitty lover’s idea of cat-care can be radically different from a dog’s idea. It’s all about perspective.

Perspective has a Latin root meaning “look through” or “perceive.” Our perspective is the way we see something, and if based on our biases, can really mess with how God wants us to view His creation. We all know that different perspectives have been known to destroy nations, ruin marriages, cause financial ruin, lead to addictions and incite volatile political arguments.

One Bible story calls attention to perspective. The Israelite soldiers viewed Goliath with fear and trepidation, thinking he was so big he could not be killed, but the young shepherd boy, David, trusting in God alone, saw the giant as a threatless pest who was so big, he couldn’t be missed.

I fear that most of us view some of our perspectives as “giant” differences without taking time to see how God views them. All people are made in God’s image. Should I see others only from my biased (white, Christian, female, conservative) perspective, I will have a narrow comprehension of who God is, and that is the problem. In all candor, it’s my problem.

Recently, for example, I was visiting with a manager of a large company in California. He recently had undergone “sensitivity training” where he learned that there are 53 identifiable genders he needs to understand. (“Healthline” has identified 64. I looked them up.) My first reaction was NOT “I need to understand how God views these distinctions.” It was more like “That’s soooo out of whack!” And since Jesus’ greatest commandment is that we are to love, as a Christian, my perspective cannot permit me not to love those who view things differently than I, no matter how out of whack I think they are.

Mushrooms by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Horrible, disgusting mushrooms have found a home in my yard.

This, after hiring a landscaping crew to come in four times a year to do whatever landscapers do to keep our grass green and somewhat weed-free.

These mushrooms prevent me from keeping up with my neighbor, the one to the south who last year sodded his yard and installed an irrigation system. Without fail, sprinklers come on in a watering pattern that keeps his grass worthy of a Better Homes and Garden cover photo.

I have zero chance since I am our sprinkler system. I purchased two sprinklers for the days in which it did not rain, and while joined to their 100-ft. hoses, I drag them around the yard, spending hours a week trying to keep my grass green and happy

You can imagine my horror this year when I returned from Mexico to find unwanted demon-guests (aka mushrooms) leeching off the decaying nutrients in my soil.

When no local business offered a solution, I made phone calls to experts and was told that the shrooms no doubt had thrived because of the rain.

“As soon as the sun comes out and the rain stops, they will go away.” Whining to experts has accomplished nothing.

I have spiked the area around the little imps and filled it with liquid detergent. Two gallons of Dawn later, the parasites had turned black and stank horribly. (Stink, stank, stunk…yes, that is correct.

) But then they resurrected in another area, including the edge of my neighbor’s pristine yard, and I felt responsible.

No doubt they had spread their underground mushroom spore-filled gills into Never-Never-Neighbor-Land and now might overtake the entire neighborhood.

I have dug them up and bagged them for disposal. I have doused them with a vinegar/water solution and have treated them with non-soluble fertilizer.

Still, their bothersome bouquets proliferate.

It’s no coincidence that this morning’s Bible reading is in Romans where Paul addresses our sin nature. Several chapters are spent on the entanglement of sin and how easily we continue doing what we should not do instead of understanding that as Christians, we are to move toward holiness.

You know, instead of continuing to feed our souls on rot.

Sin comes natural to us, and like mushrooms, if unchecked, works its way out in thoughts, words, and deeds. If we do not kill the decay upon which our sin is relying for nourishment, it can take over our lives.

The apostle Paul was direct when asked if it’s okay to ignore sin (since we are covered by grace). He used three words to answer: “By no means!” We have to do everything we can to correct all ways we do not reflect Jesus Christ.

In other words, just like the death of the mushrooms is the Sun, the death of our sin is dependent on the Son of God.

I just need to spend as much time with Him as I do the annoying pests in our ground.

Read the Fine Print by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Always read the fine print, from beginning to end.” Great advice from my lawyer-friend. My son is getting married mid-July. Finding a dress to wear for a mountaintop wedding has been a nuptial nightmare, especially since the bride’s mother already has found the perfect ensemble and emailed me a picture of it. The fact that she is a size 6 and I am…well, not, is somewhat disconcerting. (On another note, I am convinced we all will be size 4’s in Heaven.) My friend Marti has been on an internet mission to help me find something stunning. Two days ago, she came across a site that offered an array of sharp, flowing outfits, designed to hide the inner-tube that has, thanks to menopause–and possibly chocolate chip cookies– inexplicably surfaced around my waist. I selected three “hopefuls.” As I was placing my order, intending to return whichever two I did not want, I continued scrolling and was not happy with what I read. The dresses came from China so, in order to return them, I would pay 50% of their cost, plus shipping. Too, there was no real guarantee on the date they would arrive in Kansas. That was the end of that. There is no end to the “Read the fine print” warnings. Fancy-schmancy resorts have been known to hide extra costs in their small print. A $1500 trip can easily turn into a $2000 one based on what the company fails to reveal in its ad. My husband, Dave, recently had a charge of $74.46 for a product he had ordered two months previous. Come to find out, he did not read the fine print from beginning to end: “Approximately 3-4 weeks after your first order is shipped, and approximately every 12 weeks thereafter, you’ll be sent a new 90-day supply of _____.” My Luke Bryan tickets, purchased last year with insurance protection, ended up not protected “should an epidemic occur.” Of course, that was printed on the 244th (wee exaggeration) page of the insurance policy which I did not have four hours to read. There definitely is a benefit to reading to the end, even if it takes a magnifying glass to do so. After home economics teacher Donna Andrews booked her vacation to London, she read the travel insurance policy completely, and that’s where she discovered that it pays to read the fine print. Literally. As the first person to do so, Andrews received a $10,000 prize. It was an effort by Squaremouth to improve travel insurance literacy by encouraging customers to review the entire policy. Squaremouth estimates that less than 1% of travelers who buy travel insurance read all of their policy information. “We’re working to change that,” says Squaremouth CEO Chris Harvey. I love that the Bible has no fine print add-ons. There are no surprises, no “Oops! That really didn’t happen, but it’s a great story, don’t you think?” superfluities. Nowhere in small lettering is anything like “There really is a hidden cost to following the Savior.” That’s because what you read is what you get. Jesus walked on water. He healed the blind. He cured crazy people. He scolded religious leaders. And his disciples, chickens who went into hiding upon his death, turned into fearless, outspoken leaders following his resurrection. Jesus changed history. Forever. And ever. From beginning to end.

Respect by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Romans 12:10: Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

When my two brothers and I were young, our widowed mother insisted that we refer to adults as “Ma’am” or “Sir.” Should we ignore that rule, we would be the recipient of her raised eyebrow, a look for which I was the intended target on multiple occasions. Years later, when I taught in the Texas school system, any “yes” or “no” always was followed by “ma’am.” Always! Imagine my shock when I began teaching in Fort Scott and, on day one, asked a question and was told “Yep.” I almost hyperventilated.

Today, Respect is in short supply. Oh, there are positions—such as the military– that insist on it, but rarely do we see it in action unless it is used to accomplish personal goals.

Dave, my husband, receives daily requests for autographs because of his career in professional baseball. Many times, the same person impersonally sends baseball cards on different dates and writes a simple “Please sign these and return them in the SASE.” One person has sent the same, two-page, hand-written letter at least ten times, but yesterday Dave’s baseball card was a photocopied one that he had signed months ago, only this time the sender tried to erase Dave’s ink signature and asked him to sign over it. Seriously bizarre.

A few days ago, Dave received the most respectful request for an autograph he remembers ever receiving. Hand-written front and back, “Evan” shared that when he grew up, he and his friends played baseball whenever they could, and when Dave became famous for throwing his high curve, “the LaLob,” the group of boys spent hours trying to duplicate the pitch. But then he shared a story about his desire to teach his sons the thrills that come from playing sports and obtaining autographs. The first baseball card he handed his son, the youngster ran his finger across it, thinking it to be a digital screen that would change as he rubbed it. The father realized that this might take more work than he had anticipated.

Evan wrote about a time our son Adam was rehabbing with a minor league Atlanta Braves’ team where the writer and his family were living. Typically, he said, big leaguers who were there to rehab scamper out of the stadium to awaiting cars following those games, but Adam remained behind to sign over 100 autographs, even staying for some stragglers to find pens and paper. Evan thanked Dave for raising such a respectful man who had stayed humble. (Inexplicably, Dave was given all the credit. An oversight, I’m sure.)

Evan took the time to make his letter personal, and yes, I realize there was something in it for him, but he could have done a lot less and received the same autograph.

We respect others when we listen to them, affirm them, defer to them, are polite to them and thank them.

I try to do those things but know I have much room for improvement.

John 6:3-5 demonstrates how seriously Jesus takes a lack of respect. Jesus is being berated for being a nobody. “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us as well?” In other words, “We know this man’s family. Not exactly upper crust. And his career as a handyman certainly doesn’t warrant any accolades.” Then Jesus speaks to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own household is a prophet without honor.” So, except for a few minor miracles, Jesus “could not perform any miracles there.” Wow! Because the crowd showed Jesus no respect, he was unable to bless them.

How a few kind words could have made a difference!

As we go about our week, let us show everyone we meet they are valued, even if there is nothing in it for us.

Prayer Chain Negatives by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of God.” The movie The Shack was recommended to me by several Christian friends. Others pointed to its lack of Biblical truth and refused to watch it. I opted to focus on its elements that line up with my personal faith. The quote written above was one of those moments.

A marriage counseling couple from Detroit came to visit my husband and me. Our friendship began in the late ‘70’s and has continued to this day. They shared how difficult it is to reach others for Christ who choose to host a never-ending pity party. Just recently, after eight years of off-and-on meetings with one particular couple, our friends told the husband and wife that they would continue to pray for them but could see them no more.

Eight years?” I asked. “I wouldn’t last eight sessions. Did you give them homework and ideas for things they were to work on?”

The answer was yes, every meeting, but nothing changed. Our discussion turned to John 5:6 where Jesus approaches a paralytic and asks, “Do you want to get well?” I’ve written articles on this verse before, and our friends said this couple was an example of individuals who do not.

If you are involved in a prayer chain, chances are you have been introduced to these types of people. I’m not trying to be insensitive, but week after week, year after year, their names appear, their symptoms varying from illness to work issues to family disputes. Tom Ehrich, an Episcopal priest and writer for “Religion News Service,” called complainers “narcissistic.” “Whining makes me the center of everything,” he wrote. A little drastic, in my opinion, because at least these people are seeking prayer. What’s wrong with that?

Nothing, until that becomes their identity. I have two friends whose lives are relentless trials and setbacks, yet they never complain and continue to trust in God’s goodness. If they add their names to a prayer list, things are pretty bad. But let’s face it, some people don’t want to do their part to get well.

Do you remember the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? Lazarus exited the tomb bound with graveclothes and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to the witnesses, “Loose him, and let him go.” Simply being raised from the dead was not enough. Lazarus needed to be unbound. The victim mentality allows Christians to remain in graveclothes that keep them wrapped up in their circumstances. They have made a declaration of faith in Jesus Christ but choose to attach themselves to defeat, refusing to change their focus to 1 John 4:4: He (God) who lives in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world.

These grumblers suffer from spiritual amnesia, rarely following up with thankfulness by crediting God for pulling them through their difficulties. That’s because their “rescuer” is people or a prayer chain or, like in my friends’ counseling experience, someone else willing to listen to the wife’s litany of gripes. (And yes, if you are wondering, that marriage ended in divorce.)

My heart aches for people who choose to focus on their misery. Most of the time, my prayers for them have nothing to do with their circumstances but all to do with them seeing how their complaints have become their label. Look again at the quote from The Shack: “When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of God.”

The remedy comes in Colossians 3:2: Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Claire by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

When Claire was twelve years old, she visited Mazatlán with her parents who own at the same condominium complex as Dave and I.

Unlike us, however, they own a sprawling penthouse on the top floor where they stay when their busy California schedule allows. I met Claire at a get-together for all the owners.

To make small talk, I asked how she was. “Stressed,” she sighed. Since this is not a normal answer for a pre-teen, I asked if she was serious. She was. “And what is there to be stressed about?” I pressed, trying not to laugh. Primarily, it was her strict school schedule, plus some extra-curricular activities. Her communication skills were well beyond her years.

That was seven years ago. Claire is in Mazatlán this week, and I am learning that her maturity probably was attributable to her intelligence. She is a computer major at USC and scored a perfect 36 on her ACT. Most of her high school classes were Advanced Placement ones, and she is a bookaholic. Name a book; she has read it and can summarize it for you.

Last night her parents and two other couples came over to play Marbles and Jokers, a game introduced to Dave and me three years ago. Typically, people do not catch on to the game’s strategic moves before the third round, at which point they are addicted. We started at 2:00 in the afternoon and played until 9:00. Girls against Guys, and had the men not table-talked non-stop (I’m over that now), we girls would have won more than one game.

Claire and her boyfriend showed up around 8:00. She skimmed the instructions, asked a few questions and was ready to play. Now, NOBODY is ready to play M&J that quickly… NOBODY, apparently, except Claire. Dave and I have played with nuclear engineers, CEO’s, CPA’s, RN’s, Cyberwar specialists and Silicon Valley gurus, none of whom have understood the nuances of the game that fast.

Early on, Claire directed her mother to try an advanced strategy that beginners don’t use. Claire was the first of the eight of us to get her marbles into her home base, while we, her teammates, labored over which move to make and straggled around the board. Her brain clearly worked at a level I didn’t understand but certainly appreciated.

Over the next several days, it was not uncommon for several of us to be involved in marathon M&J games. Claire never lost. Which meant, of course, that we girls didn’t, either. She was a great one to have on our team. Teammates, as we all know, make a difference.

There’s another, however, a “must have” on our team, who is a total game-changer, and that’s Jesus Christ. No one has the wisdom to direct our paths and who pulls for our success like he does, and unlike Claire, there’s nothing in it for him.

Romans 8:34 tells us that he intercedes for us, so not only did he die in our place, but he continues to cheer for us to overcome sin and live a faith-filled life. I can’t imagine how many times a day he’s muttering to himself, “Come on, Patty. Nope. Don’t do that. Nope. Don’t say that. You can do it. I have confidence in you.” And then he turns to his Father and asks that I be forgiven because chances are, whatever he was pulling for me not to do, I did.

Jesus waits patiently for us to join his team. The winning team. Why would we choose anything else?