All posts by Patty LaRoche

Mental Illness by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Dylan Bennett recently was arrested for the murder of his parents, former NFL player Barry Bennett and his wife, Carol. Last December, Barry told the Todd County Sheriff’s Office that Dylan had expressed thoughts about killing his parents while he was in a mental health treatment facility.

The problem of mental illness is escalating. Research shows that one in five people will face some sort of mental illness or brain disease in their lifetime, one in fourteen live with major depression and one in six with an anxiety disorder. It is a potential cause blamed for Connor Betts’ murderous rampage in Dayton, Ohio, as he had posted on his Twitter bio that he was going to hell and not coming back. Who in his “right mind” would brag about such a claim?

Last year I wrote about Agnes, a mentally ill woman I tried to help in Jacksonville, Florida. She knew enough to show up at the homeless shelter to eat but not enough to bathe, change her clothes or make sense when she spoke. The shelter knew her well, but the supervisor told me that there are some people who are “too far gone” to accept the kind of help to get them off the streets. Agnes is one of them.

An article written by Kimberly Amadeo entitled “Deinstitutionalization, Its Causes, Effects, Pros and Cons” claims that because of the closings of state hospitals, 2.2 million severely mentally ill patients receive no psychiatric treatment. Nearly 200,000 of those who suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are homeless, and more than 300,00 are in jails and prisons. Others like Dylan Bennett are released too soon or not adequately treated.

I know two families who have attempted to have their sons committed to institutions but were told that until they were an actual threat, nothing could be done. Psychiatric hospitalizations ended after three days, and judges, by law, could not order their adult children to stay in treatment, even though research indicates that a combination of that and medication has the greatest chance of helping those in need.

The Church has remained silent on the subject, even though our pews are filled with individuals that no pot luck or mission statement can fix, and counseling them to “pray harder” or “have more faith” only heaps condemnation on their emotionally-damaged spirits. For years, mental illness was blamed on sin, but we now know that is not typically the case. Granted, there is drug-induced mental illness, but much is caused by the interconnections of environment, genetics and brain abnormalities. The real tragedy is that many sufferers fail to reach out because they feel judged and rejected. Where is the Church?

I recently read a sermon series by Rev. Tim Ahrens of the First Congregational Church in Columbus, Ohio, entitled “Mental Illness: The Journey In, The Journey Out” which, when delivered, filled the pews to overflowing. He asked that we speak to these people, not as “crazies,” but as people with a mental challenge. “Just as I don’t say about a person with MS or cancer that they ARE ‘MS’ or call them ‘that cancer person,’ so I should not label someone as schizophrenic or depressed. Always a person first. Always!”

The apostle Paul gave us advice on how we can reach out to those suffering around us. He writes of his own mysterious illness (guesses range from his eyesight to depression): “Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.” (Galatians 4:14)

May we come alongside these hurting individuals and be that welcoming angel.

Christians have a responsibility to care for the vulnerable and not shun those who suffer. They need us to open our eyes and fight for change. They need our presence. They need our prayers. They need our grace.

Be Kind by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Be kind.

It takes so little effort.

While visiting my friend Robin last month, we ate in a delightful restaurant and engaged our young waitress, Jeanise, in a conversation about her life. No big deal.

To us, at least.

To her, it was a very big deal. At the end of our meal we were stunned when a waiter came over with a flaming Crème Brule, a gift from our waitress. When Jeanise returned to give us our check, we asked what had prompted her generosity and were told “because you were so kind to me.”

Her words reminded me of a time when I was eating in a diner with my son, Jeff, in a ski area in Colorado, and I struck up a conversation with our waitress. At the end of our meal, she said, “Thank you for being so kind to me.” I asked why I wouldn’t be, and she said, “Most people aren’t.”

Why wouldn’t people be kind to those serving them? Why wouldn’t people be kind to those not serving them? Why wouldn’t people be kind all the time? Kind isn’t hard. Kind is…well, kind. It is giving with no ulterior motive, no desire to get something in return.

My husband, Dave, recently was introduced to Wayne, a restauranteur who previously owned several restaurants. Dave asked how he was so successful, and Wayne said that he treated his employees well, especially his dishwasher (not the answer Dave expected, for sure). Wayne shared that people typically compliment the manager or chef, but he wanted those who never are recognized to be valued.

Being kind is no trivial matter. Perhaps that’s why Paul’s letter to the Colossians listed kindness as one of the ways “God’s chosen people” are to clothe themselves. Dr. Laurence M. Gould, president emeritus of Carleton College, recognizes its importance and shared his thoughts with this statement: “I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I don’t think our civilization will end that way. I think it will die when we no longer care.”

If you’re like me, you love stories in which people go the extra mile to show kindness. Ginger Keith, whose two-year old daughter, Vivian, is being treated for leukemia at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, told the Today Show that a group of construction workers spray-painted “Get Well” on a beam across from her two-year old’s hospital window. At All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, Fridays have become days of celebration. The young patients are brought to their windows and encouraged to dance (with parents, nurses, or alone) along with the dozens of construction workers who line the floors of the high-rise they are building across the street while a DJ on the roadway between the two buildings blares upbeat music.

Kind isn’t costly. A smile. A wink. A touch. A hug. A word. A listening ear. A prayer. I’m not sure there are many other things as inexpensive that offer as many rewards…not just for the receiver, but also for the giver. Why not give it a try? As someone once said, “Kind people are my kinda people.”

Robin by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Recently I spent three days in Charlotte, North Carolina, with my friend, Robin, who makes me laugh like no one else I know. No matter if we were walking, shopping, eating (too much) or just hanging out, our conversation almost always turned to Jesus. (And yes, many times Jesus and laughter existed on the same timeline.)

Robin constantly seems to be in the middle of a predicament in which God blesses her unexpectedly. Sunday was no exception. Her husband told us about an after-church street fair that “stretched for several blocks.” We both love craft shows where booths line the curbs and you can find anything from yard ornaments to fresh tomatoes to crazy-fun jewelry.

Since Robin is as directionally-challenged as I am, I set my phone GPS on the location, and off we went. About six blocks from her house, Robin put on the brakes. “We aren’t going to get on a FREEWAY, are we?” Yes, we were. Her jolting U-turn, accompanied by “I CAN’T DRIVE ON THE FREEWAY!” let me know that I would need to look for an alternate route.

When we finally did arrive, I noticed the perfect parking spot and told Robin, “We won’t get closer than this.” Her answer shouldn’t have surprised me. “I CAN’T PARALLEL PARK!”

You’re not serious!” I said. “What can you do?” Her answer cracked us both up. “Well, I’ve gotten us this far, haven’t I?” Mind you, this is the same person who drove herself into downtown Charlotte a few weeks ago to listen to a band. When the concert ended and she tried to exit the indoor parking facility, the bar (that prevents cars from leaving until the driver pays) would not go up. Thirty minutes after she had alerted everyone but the F.B.I., a parking attendant was sent to fix the problem. Apparently, Robin was sitting at the entrance where you get your ticket and not the exit where you pay. Need I say more?

Anyway, after finding an easier parking spot, we walked around a bend and up a hill, dodging dozens of bikes and strollers as we did. The first booth was occupied by an elderly man with a cassette player, singing “New York, New York” off-key while reading the words from his I-phone. Not exactly the excitement we anticipated.

Six small tents later—two selling snow cones and the other four handing out health information—the booths ended. I stopped a man walking our direction and asked if there were more up the hill and around the bend. He said the booths were scattered for a few miles and questioned what we were looking for. “Crafts and jewelry and things like that.”

This is a bikeathon and a walkathon,” he responded. “There aren’t any crafts here. Just booths with water and some things for kids to do like chalk painting and bubble blowing.” I turned to Robin and said, “Yes indeedy, you’ve gotten us this far, haven’t you?”

All the way home, driving, of course, on back streets, we laughed, a blessing that exceeded any craft expectations. It wasn’t the only time that day that being in the wrong place was the right thing to do, as we found out later that evening. Robin and I exited a downtown Charlotte restaurant and walked towards our parking garage, my friend insisting that we turn left a block before I thought we should. Soon we passed a homeless man crouched against a building, trying to light a cigarette while clutching a box of cereal. A few steps past him, Robin said, “I can’t go on.” I said that was smart because we were on the wrong street. “No,” she answered. “Did you see how skinny that man was?” (I had not; my priority was to find the garage.) We turned around, gave the man money and hugs, and Robin told him that God loved him. He answered that he wasn’t “a religious person,” but he “sure” was grateful.

See?” Robin said. “We weren’t on the wrong street after all. God wanted us here to meet that poor man.” She was right. I mean, maybe my sweet friend can’t drive on a freeway or parallel park or find a craft fair, but she recognizes God’s presence when I miss it. I think we all know which is more important.

Appearances by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

 Jesus is not happy with the Pharisees. He calls them whitewashed tombs, beautiful (“righteous”) on the outside but “full of hypocrisy and wickedness” on the inside. (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV)

When Dave and I first toured the Florida subdivision where we now rent, I envisioned Aunt Bea taking cookies to a neighbor and Opie fishing in a nearby pond. Aside from the Key West-style homes and the pristine landscaping, what impressed me most were the front porches—welcoming, friendly, a return to a once-upon-a-time era when neighbors sat together and caught up on each other’s lives. Rocking chairs, swings, and padded loveseats all seemed to say, “Come on up and chat a while.”

As it turned out, these didn’t.

For six months I have ridden my bike or taken long walks a few times a week, all hours of the day, expecting to find owners relaxing on their porches or strolling through their All-American, Norman Rockwell neighborhood. Two times (2!) I have found porch-sitters…both who ignored me until I greeted them first. When I meet up with dog-walkers, they speak only if I mention their cute canine. No one has asked my name or started a conversation. What am I to make of this? I mean, such a waste of these charming, inviting porches!

Dave says I’m to make nothing of it. It’s their home and they can use whatever part of it they want. No one has to talk to me if they don’t want to. The way they choose to live their lives is their business. I tell Dave that they probably are all sad people who never learned how to make friends, don’t know Jesus, and I probably should take them cookies. That’s what Aunt Bea would do. Then I reconsider. I know these types. They’ll accuse me of lacing them with arsenic or marijuana. Dave says I am making way too big of a deal out of this.

I tell him that I think our neighborhood is an excellent example of “what you see is not what you get.” It appears inviting, but isn’t. Jesus gave us a great picture of that when he addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. (See Scripture above.) Remember, the Pharisees were the spiritual leaders, esteemed, pious Jews who knew “The Law” and insisted that everyone live accordingly. They looked the part and played the part and probably even had “Honk if you obey God” humper stickers on their camels, but their outer appearance defied what was going on inside them. Had Aunt Bea been alive during Jesus’ day, I’m convinced that she would not have been part of the Pharisees’ social registry.

Earlier in Matthew 23 Jesus calls it like it is: Everything they (the Pharisees) do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long. (Side note: phylacteries were small cases containing Scripture that these religious leaders attached to their foreheads; tassels were a grouping of loose threads hanging at the hems of their clothes–reminders of the commandments God gave to Moses). To the Pharisees, wide and long meant bigger and better.

Let’s face it. Appearances can deceive. We can paint it, enlarge it, decorate it, even suspend a “Welcome” banner from it, all which reveal nothing about what’s inside. But isn’t that true of all of us? Could Jesus call me a “white-washed tomb” for expecting others to meet my front porch expectations but not working harder to meet theirs? Could I be that hypocrite? Could Dave be right after all? Could this be a problem that a few chocolate chip cookies could solve?

I think it is. I’m just not sure how long I have to sit on my front porch, waiting for someone to deliver them. But when they do, I’ll invite them to “come on up and chat a while.” After all, you have to start somewhere.

I think Aunt Bea would be proud.

Hurricane by Patty LaRoche

Expecting to have no internet service, I am writing this a few days ahead of Hurricane Dorian’s projected arrival near where Dave and I are living in Florida. Yesterday I went to Costco to buy water…as did, it seems, a few thousand other people. Signs in the parking lot gave the bad news: “Out of Water.” So was Walmart. So were all of the grocery stores. Apparently, most people took this warning more seriously than I and shopped early. Today when I ran errands, I was amazed at how the lines at the gas stations circled the block, even though there was no regular gas to be had.

We are learning a lot about being prepared. As you can see from this picture, we installed the hurricane shutters necessary to stop flying debris. We were instructed to back our car into the garage door so the door doesn’t shake, thereby letting in wind and water which can lift the roof off the house. WHAT? We expect to lose electricity, but I must admit I’m not very creative when it comes to making meals without the use of a refrigerator, stove, microwave or toaster. Dave and I will fine-dine on Tostitos, bean dip and tuna fish.

I told Dave we should have rented on a top floor of a high rise, but yesterday the Weather Channel told those residents to evacuate because wet beach sand gets carried into stair wells and elevator shafts and makes it impossible to leave. Guess I’ll be happy to be where I am…three miles from the ocean in a two-story condominium where I can go upstairs if the bottom floor floods…unless, of course, that little roof-lift thing happens.

Good friends have called and texted, offering prayers and warning us to evacuate. Advice from them has included putting our important papers in waterproof containers, filling our bathtub with water and our washing machine with ice. We need to keep our devices charged (grateful for car phone chargers, when we lose electricity).

All of this involves preparation, and as I watch people scurrying around as the clock ticks away, there is an urgency like I have never seen. Living in the Midwest our concern is tornadoes, but we are not given a few days (more like minutes) to get ready. Let’s face it. Tornadoes or hurricanes, when we realize our lives are at stake, we get serious with our planning.

As we should. Still, there is a more critical call for us to be ready. 1 Thes. 4:16-18: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Talk about an evacuation! A day is coming when no amount of scurrying can help and our eternal destiny will be set, depending on how we have prepared by knowing Jesus and glorifying God. In that split second when Jesus returns, I wonder how many will wish they would have taken his message more seriously when they had a chance.

Maybe this should be a warning for all of us.

Gary Sinise Foundation by Patty LaRoche

While biking in our subdivision the other day, I came across this construction site. A group of donors are making it possible for Sgt. Stefan Leroy and his wife to have a new home. I later Googled Sgt. Leroy and found this article posted on the Gary Sinese Foundation website:

On June 7, 2012 while deployed in Afghanistan, Stefan and his platoon were clearing improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Suddenly, two IEDs detonated and Stefan rushed to aid those injured by the blasts. While carrying an injured soldier to a Medevac helicopter, Stefan was struck by a third explosion. He lost both of his legs immediately.

Stefan was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he spent over a month in the hospital. He spent two years learning to adapt to his prosthetics, drawing strength from his friends and the other amputees at the hospital. Sixteen months after his last surgery in September 2014, he ran the Boston Marathon. “Stefan’s current living situation does not accommodate his wheelchair, causing him stress in his day-to-day activities. The Gary Sinise Foundation looks forward to providing Stefan with a specially adapted smart home to ease his daily challenges.” Actor Gary Sinese, most known for his performance in “Forrest Gump,” started this foundation to make dreams come true for our defenders, veterans, first responders and their families. His website claims that over 1,000,000 soldiers have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan “bearing the mental and physical wounds of war.” Thanks to donations to his foundation, fifty-seven homes are completed, and twenty more are under construction. I rode back to the site to talk to some of the workers. Everything in this house will be wheelchair-friendly, from wider doors to lower sinks. The painters praised the efforts of Mr. Sinese who used his public platform to help those in need. When I got home, I looked further into what drove this incredible man to give so sacrificially. I was excited by what I found. Speaking at a Knights’ of Columbus dinner, an organization with which he has partnered, Sinese said this: “When I think about the life and sufferings of Christ, when I think about the stories of the extreme hardships and heavy burdens that our military men and women and their families were willing to, and continue to bare, I can’t help but think about this verse: ‘For greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’” If there is a better motive for sacrificial giving, I don’t know what it is.


Pruning by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Hurricane season is nearing, and we who live in Florida are being prepped with expert advice. The latest came from our trash removal service via the neighborhood newsletter. Apparently keeping our yard vegetation trimmed is key. We need to “thin out foliage so that wind can flow freely through branches, decreasing the chance of uprooting trees or plants.” That small step will prevent damage to cars, houses and people. Two years ago, according to the article, because of Hurricane Irma’s vegetative debris left on the ground, it took three months and cost more than $30 million to collect and dispose of all the waste.

Fortunately, Dave and I are renting in an area where the yard work is handled by professionals. That probably saves our neighborhood because my dear husband loves to prune (i.e., shred). He, a snip sniper, believes that plants and bushes need to end up basically at ground level so they can “start over.” Butchering more shrubs than I can count, Gardener Dave claims that his method will help the plant grow, bear better fruit and improve its appearance…which, given 30 or 40 years, is a possibility. Don’t get me wrong. I know that pruning is necessary, but it should be purposeful, not random from a Paul Bunyan wannabe who lights up at the thought of tinkering with an axe.

In the June update of “The Spruce,” the author calls pruning “tough love…(which) keeps (plants) healthy and encourages fresh, new growth and renewal.” Lopping off those sprigs or limbs keeps them from sapping the energy of the healthy part of the plant (you know, the part Dave has mutilated). If not pruned, the dead spreads and kills the entire plant.

Jesus knew all about pruning and used that analogy when instructing his disciples (and us) on what is necessary to thrive. I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2).

Pretty simple. If we are fruit-bearers (bringing glory to God by discipling others), He, as the grand gardener, prunes to increase fruitfulness so the storms of life won’t leave irreparable damage in our lives. Pruning might mean we lose wilted relationships, superfluous possessions, unimportant status, lifeless habits, etc., but if that temporary loss causes us to rely more on God and less on what we think we need, we will bear more spiritual fruit.

One way God prunes is through His word, the Bible, where we learn of behaviors that sap our energy and keep us from maturing in our Christian walk. Removing the undesirable sin- branches frees us to grow. Hebrews 4:12 explains the importance of allowing the Bible to dictate how we live: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The questions remain: What in your life needs to be pruned? Perhaps there is something that creates a drain on you, and even though “good,” it is not “best.” Aleasha Morris of “Leadership Vision” wrote of the benefit of spiritual pruning: “Finding and removing what chokes our life can help us to breathe deeper, spread wider, and grow higher than we ever thought possible.”

Sounds like a plan to me. I just pray it doesn’t take 30-40 years to get there.

Shootings By Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Two recent shootings have evoked a range of emotions from shock to rage to blame to guilt to grief. I get it. This is America! We should be able to go to Walmart or a restaurant or a concert or a movie or a mall or a softball practice or a nightclub or a festival or a church or a synagogue without looking over our shoulders, hoping some crazy person doesn’t pick us out as target practice.

The day after the massacres, I was listening to Christian radio as the hosts were discussing this tragedy, explaining that this is a fallen world and sin is rampant. I wondered if their “catch all” answers, albeit truthful, might come across as insensitive to the immeasurable sadness people feel during times like this. Do we Christians appear uncompassionate when our spiritual clichés ignore the depth of despair caused by such evil acts? If loved ones struggle with God during times like this, do we jump on such opportunities by evangelizing? I pray not.

We of faith know that the “Why’s” of hurting people are not too big for God to handle. Those grieving should be free to question without us pontificating about how Satan causes evil or by throwing out Christian platitudes as a means to dismiss others’ despair. Saying “It must be God’s will” or “God just needed another angel in Heaven” fails to recognize the pain felt by not only those left behind but also our Heavenly Father when evil prevails.

Wrestling with God during these painful times does not prevent Him from being in control, but Him being in control does not negate others’ pain. Lives are now changed because people were in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” Twenty-two died in the Walmart massacre, including a young couple shielding their two-month old baby, a couple married 60 years, buying a blow-up bed for visiting relatives, and a grandfather helping his granddaughter raise money for her soccer team. Today I received word that the sister of an owner where Dave and I live in Mazatlán, Mexico, had just left our complex and driven to El Paso. She was one of those killed. Nine were murdered in the Dayton shooting which involved college students, a young man celebrating his birthday and parents with young children.

Senseless. Sickening. Sin-based. Yes.

What are we to take from this? Pastor/author Rick Warren addressed the best way to handle grieving people in his sermon series following the suicide of his adult son. His advice? “Show up and shut up.” He called it “the ministry of presence” and reminded his congregation that the Biblical story of Job shares that his three friends left their homes to sit in silence with Job for seven days.” Warren’s counsel? “The greater the grief, the fewer words needed.”

Be there, he continued, and don’t wait for an invitation. Find a need and fill it. Warren said that his Muslim neighbor “showed up” every week, mowing his (Warren’s) yard, but saying nothing. Friends came with meals and a hug. No one recited scripture.

So, what’s the Christian to do? After all, we know the Truth, the same Truth that will set us free. Still, I believe that we are to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and unless told otherwise, that means we are to support those hurting by praying, listening, understanding, filling a need…and wait for a later, better time to share about the role of sin in our fallen world.

Prodigal Son by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Juan” grew up poor in a Mexican village, learned the dining business, and ultimately opened an upscale restaurant in Mazatlán. It has become a frequent, fine-dining establishment for many of my friends. Last January he sent his daughter to live on a goat farm in England. He “had it” with her “Princess mentality” and decided to bring her down to earth with a lesson in humility.

Juan and his wife met several years ago when she was visiting Mazatlán from London. They married, and along came “Princess.” Without realizing how they were catering to her every desire, both parents became alarmed when their seven-year old daughter began insisting she was “entitled.” Their years of doting on her had backfired, and now she lived in a parenting world they had created but abhorred. Designer clothes. No chores. Only rich friends. Hours in front of the mirror. Mani’s and Pedi’s upon demand. Inability to apologize. Pouting when things didn’t go her way.

In other words, a spoiled brat.

Even more alarming, Princess’s three-year old sister was beginning to mimic her older sibling’s behavior. The parents were soon to have two prima donnas on their hands. After talking, taking away privileges and grounding, Hector and his wife made no headway.

The answer? Make a phone call to the mother’s relatives in England to ask if Princess could spend six months there, living and working among their goats. Their prayers were answered when the relatives agreed. Mom and daughter left soon after.

Sometimes drastic measures are necessary. Sometimes those measures are the greatest demonstration of love.

A famous Bible parable is the story of the Prodigal Son. A man had two sons, the younger one demanding his share of his father’s estate. His wish was granted. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So, he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.

For a little background, pigs were considered unclean animals. (Still are, in my opinion, but gosh! I do love bacon.) Jews were forbidden to touch pigs, yet this once-privileged son had sunk so low, he was living in their porky sties, watching them eat better than he was. Pig Heaven this was not.

The Biblical tale has a teachable ending. Son #2 came to his senses, returned home and apologized to his father who was waiting for him with open arms. There are many lessons in this parable, not the least of which is how the son represents those of us in sinful rebellion who find ourselves living in less than God-honored conditions. All the while, our Heavenly Father wants nothing more than for us to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness so he can shower us with His love.

Like the prodigal son’s father, Hector is praying his daughter will return home with a new heart. No doubt, God loves his request. After all, He’s in the business of changing people. Author Rick Warren said it well: “God changes caterpillars into butterflies, sand into pearls and coal into diamonds using time and pressure. He’s working on you too.” If He can do it to caterpillars and sand and coal, He certainly can do it for Princess…and for me…and for you.

Crankiness by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Prov. 16:24)

Last week, I wrote about heeding warning signs, especially those given to us by God dealing with choosing the right mate. It took no time at all for Dave to make me crazy. All I asked was for him to look up the definition of a clove of garlic—and yes, I should have known the answer. Bulb or clove, which is which? My brain simply refused to go there. (Sometimes it does that. But that’s a story for another time…provided I can remember it.)

Anyway, I was chopping garlic; Dave was sitting at the kitchen table, playing a word game on his phone. My recipe called for two cloves, but the “bulb-clove” thing confused me, so I asked for help. My sweet hubby needed to finish his game because he was being timed, and I guess he was going to win a kajillion dollars if he won, so I waited patiently. Then he started.

Patty, did you know that garlic is related to the onion?”

Lovely. What is a clove?”

Did you know it comes from the genus Allium?”

I don’t care where it comes from, Dave. What is a clove?”

Here’s something interesting. It helps medically. Did you know that?”

Did you know that I’m about to bang my head on the cutting board?”

Patty, you’re really cranky, but I’m serious. It’s recommended for gout, snakebites, scalp ringworm, earaches, stomach aches, hemorrhoids…”

That’s terrific, but unless you are getting a PhD in garlic, all I need to know is the definition of a clove.”

Wow! It helps treat heart disease, enlarged prostate, chronic fatigue, stress, and…”
“Dave, if it’s recommended for stress, I’m going to suck down this whole thing just to get me through this conversation.”

It was then I left Dave, excitedly rattling off all kinds of garlic gobbledegook, and walked into the living room where my computer is located, googled “clove of garlic” and found my answer. As I stopped chopping and tossed my two cloves in with the other ingredients, sweet hubby was still sharing his research.

Do you want to know how to get rid of garlic breath?”

Do you want to know how to get rid of a wife, because you’re getting close.”

Gosh, Patty, I thought you’d find this interesting.”

About as interesting as swallowing a bowling ball.”

Cranky, cranky, cranky.”

As I write this, I think of wonderful Christian couples who never would have a conversation like this. Their words are bathed in prayer, and they purpose to edify each other. From the minute sweet hubby said, “Did you know that garlic is related to the onion?” they would have stopped chopping and shown interest. They would have asked for a handout and memorized the spreadsheet. They would have put the other person’s feelings first. I know that’s what God wants me to do. I know that time is short and I won’t have Dave forever (unless, I guess, we eat a whole lot of garlic).

Proverbs 16:24 gives us advice to guide our talk: Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. I need to memorize that scripture. Kind words benefit soul and body.

Then again, I could just chomp on a clove of garlic. If Dave’s lucky, maybe it remedies crankiness.

Warning Signs by Patty LaRoche

Our neighborhood here in Florida is filled with warning signs. The alligator notice posted above is one block from where Dave and I live.

The “cart” sign hangs on a wall outside our local supermarket, and a neighbor’s front door holds the “I’m happy…don’t ruin it” sign. None of us are unfamiliar with notices of caution, but how about this one? “Removing consumer labels from pillows is punishable by fines.” When I was young, I feared the pillow police would show up at my door if I tore off one of those scratchy tags. (Tell the truth; you did too.)

Humorous signs now are the norm. “Children left unattended will be given a Red Bull and a puppy.” “Do not cross this pasture unless you can do it in nine seconds because the bull can do it in ten.” “Stay off the tracks. They are only for trains. If you can read this, you’re not a train.”

Most warnings, however, are not laughable. We heed them…or we pay the consequences. Especially ones God has given us. Every book in the Bible cautions us about what our bad choices can do to us…and to others. Our problem is that sometimes we don’t take the warnings seriously, if we read them at all.

For example, God gave strict instructions on how to choose the right spouse. I have Christian friends who chose their mates only after much prayer, seeking God’s wisdom because of the decision’s lifetime importance. (I wasn’t one of those people, I admit, but God blessed me in spite of myself.) With the divorce rate in the U.S. nearing 40% (one site said that every 13 seconds, there is a divorce in America), many couples—Christians included– are choosing to split.

In Judges’ chapters 13-16, we read of a tragic story in which a young man disobeyed God’s marriage order, and it cost him his life. You’ve probably heard his name, synonymous with what NOT to do in choosing the right mate. Samson. For starters, he refused to listen to his parents’ warning. I have known three sets of praying parents who convinced their children that they were marrying the wrong person. All now are happily married in a union blessed by their father and mother and are grateful for the wisdom in their parents’ concerns.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying all parents know what is best for their children. Many times wedges are drawn when personalities clash with future in-laws as they circumvent God’s best with their attempts to break up a relationship. Children need to recognize the difference in motive. They need to pray for God’s wisdom.

That did not enter Samson’s mind. Worse than not heeding his father and mother, he disregarded God’s advice and lusted after a beautiful Philistine woman, a no-no to any God-fearing Israelite, much less a young Nazarite (set apart from birth to honor God) like Samson. Suffice it to say, Samson ended up being captured and blinded before dying, thanks to the sinful woman he chose as his wife.

Readers, I think I have this figured out. Messing with an alligator might be much safer than messing with an ungodly spouse.

Wimbleton by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Wimbledon, the most impressive of all tennis tournaments, is over, and I am sad. For two weeks, Dave and I record the matches so we can watch them together when he gets home from work. Seeing English nobility in the “Royal Box” is thrilling, and everywhere the camera pans, there is no shortage of excellence, including the ball-boys and ball-girls. These are no ordinary ball retrievers.

Over 700 teens apply, and after a written test, 250 are selected and train for five months to perfect their skills of tossing, catching, and rolling the tennis balls as well as learn how to “present” the towel to the sweaty athlete. They scurry like jackrabbits to nab errant balls and return to their assigned position where they stand like robots. Perfection is expected.

The code of professionalism extends to everyone. This year, Serena Williams (the best female tennis player ever!) was fined $10,000 for damaging the grass practice court when she frustratedly threw her racquet to the ground. Three players were fined when the umpire found their coaches giving advice during the match. Bernard Tomic was fined his entire $56,000 prize money when the umpire determined he had not “tried hard enough.” (If fans are going to pay big bucks to watch this level of tennis, they deserve to get their money’s worth.)

This year, Dave and I were especially excited when Saturday’s women’s final round involved Serena Williams (U.S.A.) and Simona Halep (Romania), two of my favorites. I watched the match live that morning but recorded it for Dave who would pick up Chinese food on the way home from the ballpark and we would view it together. (I would need to gag myself not to disclose who won.) It didn’t matter. As Dave left the locker room, one of the other coaches shared the news: “Hey, Roachie, could you believe Serena got crushed?”

So much for our Wimbledon picnic. Dave opted not to watch the game.

Sunday would make up for it. Roger Federer would take on Novak Djokovic (whom I rooted against because he rudely rolled his eyes at one of the ball handlers). Once again, I DVR’d the event, joining the almost-ten million fans who watched on their televisions. Following church, Dave and I would hold our Wimbledon picnic and watch Roger win. I was on the edge of my chair the entire time. Four hours into it, they were tied when Dave’s phone buzzed and he blurted out, “This can’t be right. This lists the years Djokovic has won Wimbledon, and 2019 is listed. How would they know?” I stared at him. In shock. “Because England is five hours ahead of us. That’s why we record it,” I reminded him.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Dave just did to me what the other coach had done to him. My day was ruined. The suspense was gone. I now knew the ending. Dave immediately moved to the kitchen so I could sulk alone…which I did well, thank you very much. But then something changed. I found myself relaxing. The “highs” of Federer’s aces and “lows” of his errors were gone because I knew the results.

For most things, life doesn’t work like that…which probably is a good thing. None of us know how our day/week/month/life will turn out. All we have is this moment…except, that is, where the Bible is concerned. From the beginning to the end, we are given the full picture of how life plays out. God created. Satan interfered. Jesus saved and will return again to open Heaven’s doors for all who make him Lord.

Granted, there are earthly, daily, unpredictable issues for all of us (like people who disclose tennis results prematurely), but we can relax and not get too concerned about our “highs” and “lows” when we know the outcome of what really matters. Jesus wins. Satan loses. And we all know that in eternity’s case, the stakes are much higher than those of a tennis tournament.