All posts by Patty LaRoche

Quinton By Patty LaRoche

The day after my granddaughter Amanda’s wedding in Las Vegas, Dave and Nikki, her parents, worked a charity golf tournament for Quinton Robbins, the twenty-year-old family friend who had been murdered in the Las Vegas concert massacre last year. Since his death, Quinton’s parents have determined to keep his memory alive. His friends have done likewise.

On the side of the large hill in Henderson, Nevada, Basic High School classmates painted a gigantic “Q” beside the “B” that, for years, has served as a source of pride for the students. Should you visit that area, it will not be uncommon to see Quinton’s logo– a Q, antlers, a fishing hook and #3 for his sports jerseys’ number–on the rear window of several vehicles.

Joe and Tracey, Quinton’s parents, started a “Random Act of Kindness” tribute in their son’s name by creating 3” x 2” cards to be shared. (See insert above.) The cards went viral. People at dry cleaners, movie theaters, gas stations and restaurants would “Play It Forward” (“Play,” not “Pay” because of their son’s love of sports) and leave Quinton’s card for individuals behind them. They, in turn, would post on Facebook how they had been blessed.

At one In-N-Out, a restaurant where Amanda worked, twenty-eight cars in a row participated! Can you imagine what fun the attendant had, sharing with each car at the drive-through what number they were? “Sir, you are the 11th in line to keep this going.” “Ma’am, you are the 19th to play forward.” “Folks, you have just put an end to 28 people blessing others. Not cool!” (Okay, that didn’t happen, but I bet it crossed the employee’s mind.)

We all had a big laugh when Dave, our son-in-law, shared his experience about paying for the lone woman in the car behind him at a drive-through. After all, what could one person possibly cost? Thirty-seven dollars, to be exact. Either she was really hungry, or she was carrying out for her entire family. Whatever the reason, Dave said from that point on, he would put a cap on his contribution.

In spite of the Robbins’ desire to bless, the pain of Quinton’s death continues. At Amanda’s wedding, everyone understood when Tracey and Joe left during the groom’s dance with his mother. Still, they press on, creating scholarships in their son’s name. They are a testimony to the truth of Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

When adversity strikes, we long for our tears to evaporate, our disappointments to fade, our suffering to vanish. None of that can happen without God’s provision to meet those needs.

Joe and Tracey refuse to let their son’s death stifle their commitment to be used by God. They respond to their personal grief by knowing the day will come when, thanks to Jesus, they will be reunited with Quinton in Heaven. After all, who paid it forward more than our Savior?

I am inspired to follow the Robbins’ lead and continue their Play It Forward memorial. Perhaps you will be inspired to do the same.

God On Television by Patty LaRoche

God has made a resurgence on television. I first noticed it on one of my favorite singing competitions, American Idol, where this season several contestants shared that their singing roots were in church. Home videos were proof. Many were vocal about their faith and gave God the glory for their abilities. I prayed for them to be the last ones standing.

When Kyla Jade sang the Christian song “How Great Thou Art,” only a few notes into the melody, the live audience erupted in applause. Their standing ovation seemed endless. No one booed or stormed out in protest when God was being celebrated. I had proud goosebumps.

As the contestants were eliminated, five were left. Alone in the green room before their performances, they were free to do whatever they wanted. When they came onto the stage, Ryan Seacrest, the show’s host, questioned how they had spent their time. More spontaneous applause followed their answer: “We were praying.” And so was I, praying that their futures may continue to be testimonies to their love of God.

American Idol was not the only show where faith was expressed. This year’s shortened competition on Dancing With the Stars showed off the talents of athletes. One of them, Jennie Finch, was a softball pitcher (whom I have admired for years). She and her dance partner, Keo Motsepe, had learned the difficult choreography, but a few days before the show’s airing, Finch was convicted the song’s lyrics were not ones she wanted her children to hear. In her words, “I want to glorify God out there, and that just wasn’t a great choice for me to do that.” Motsepe was forced to choose another song and re-choreograph the dance. One of the judges commended Finch for sticking to her convictions. I needed pom poms.

And how about Britain’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markel where God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit were mentioned several times! (Yes, I set my alarm for the opening television coverage.) My prayers were that everyone who watched would be touched by the sacredness of the occasion and want to know more about this holy Trinity.

The same day, when the news stations turned to the live footage following the tragic, Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting, five community leaders spoke. All acknowledged that prayer was the answer. Thank you, Jesus.

More recently we were given first-row television seats to Rosanne Barr’s firing from ABC following the disparaging remarks she Tweeted about Valerie Jarrett (a beautiful woman, in my opinion). The public scorn was fast and furious but ultimately brought Barr to her knees where she Tweeted about her Jewish faith, asking God to help use this “bad experience” to move her to a place where she can help the hopeless.

“These [are] the four steps in repentance: admitting you were wrong, making restitution, asking forgiveness from those u have hurt & at last, cracking open your heart in deep sorrow and remorse, where tears flow.” For Barr, even those comments produced no standing ovations. No one reminded the naysayers we all are sinners and fall short of God’s glory. The skeptics were out in droves, questioning where this faith has been during Barr’s long, public career and praising ABC for acting swiftly. And although I must admit her apology elicited no proud goosebumps for me (perhaps a little judgmental?), of all the television personalities whose faith has been exposed, I think Roseanne Barr needs our prayers the most.

Micromanaging Children by Patty LaRoche

Why is it that we try and keep from our kids the very thing that made us successful, our failures.” (anonymous)


You obsess over your child’s homework. And his diet, as if a hotdog for breakfast will doom him to a life of obesity. You interfere in childish skirmishes and insist your little angel is right, even if six witnesses disagree. You expect at least three phone calls a day when Princess enters adulthood. And every time Bubba loses a job or a wife, the Welcome Home banner is draped across the threshold of his childhood home where his clean bedsheets await.

Helicopter parents, hovering to micro-manage, please stop!

Many of this generation are babied, protected and entitled because the only location good enough for them is Easy Street. My plea to you is simple: Let your children struggle. Stop masking your kids’ mistakes by refusing to allow them to suffer consequences for their behavior. In my day (yes, when dinosaurs roamed the earth), parents believed their role was to grow independent children. Taking a few knocks was part of that process. No more.

Drake, my grandson, holds the local high school record for being penalized during his basketball practices this year.

Failure to bring tennis shoes? Run a few sets of stairs.

Being late? More stair laps.

Forgetting tennis shoes AGAIN? Add more laps.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

When it became apparent Drake had mastered the stairs but failed to elicit the desired rehabilitation, he was assigned the towel drill. Placing his hands on a towel on the floor, he ran from one side of the gym to the other in that bent position. In fact, he performed that drill so many times, when baseball season rolled around, he was the best-conditioned player on the team.

His parents laughed with each escapade. It never crossed their minds to complain or to rush to school with that forgotten pair of tennis shoes to cover for their child or to ask for a private meeting with Coach Young. Yea, them.

Recently, Fort Scott celebrated when eight wounded veterans caravanned through town. School children were given an opportunity to be dismissed from class so they could wave flags and cheer for the soldiers. They, like many of the rest of us, came together and showed our appreciation for those who fought to give us the freedoms we all share.

One mother felt differently. She was livid that her young child had to stand in the rain waiting for the caravan to arrive and drove to the site where his classmates were waiting, insisting he get in the car while she berated the adults who were there with the other kids.

Really? REALLY? I wonder if it dawned on her that those soldiers probably spent more than a little time in the rain, protecting our homeland. What message did she give her child about honoring the real heroes of our nation? (Not to mention, for goodness sakes, when we were little, we played in the rain.)

In the book Weird, author Craig Groeschel reminds us that our greatest priority as parents is to gradually transfer our children’s dependence away from us until it rests solely on God. To raise boys and girls who do not idolize their dads and moms; instead, they honor the only One who truly knows what is best for their lives…which probably includes not a few lessons about consequences.

Helicopter parents, please let God be God. Land that runaway plane of interference, turn off your blades of privilege and let your children’s failures be their lessons. Before it’s too late.

God’s Ways Are Higher by Patty LaRoche

I asked God to stop the rain, to allow a rainless window of only an hour so people would attend the parade for the Combat Veterans. I texted prayer warriors. And every half-hour, I checked the radar. 100% chance of rain. Not to worry—meteorologists have been known to make mistakes. Besides, God’s decrees overrule anything weather forecasters predict.

Right?

Right.

Only this time, God didn’t intervene. As the Fort Scott police and sheriff’s officers lined up at the airport, no one complained about getting wet, and when the soldiers exited the plane, one of the officers told all of the staff to remove their hats—the hats that would somewhat protect them from the rain– in honor of those they were meeting. So, they stood there, hats over hearts, they, our own local heroes, saying thank you to their fellow protectors.

Leaving the airport before the caravan, I drove through town, praying harder for the rain to let up, and if that didn’t happen, that people would forego the bad weather and support the troops. I couldn’t help but tear up, seeing our American flag draping between two firetrucks on 10th and National. Friends congregating nearby with a huge, homemade banner. Houses sporting the Red, White, and Blue. Community College students lining the median on Highway 69. School children waiting in the rain with flags and posters. (Thank you, Mr. Beckham, school administrators and teachers for making this happen.) Civil War reenactors sitting atop their horses while carrying American flags and saluting these national champions. And then there was the mother of a veteran, waving pom-poms, alone at the end of Wall Street, jumping and cheering.

Small town caring at its best.

Still, God did not stop the rain.

The day after the parade, I spoke with Jenn, my daughter-in-law who, along with Adam, her husband, worked tirelessly to organize this event. When I asked her what the soldiers’ favorite part of the day had been, she did not hesitate. They all agreed. “That people would stand in the rain for us.”

Get that?

It was the rain that blew them away (thankfully, not literally).

At that moment, it dawned on me. Who wouldn’t eagerly leave school or their job or organize a yard get-together on a sunny day for such an occasion? But our citizens refused to let bad weather prevent them from saying thank you for the enormous sacrifices these men made for us.

God did not stop the rain. No doubt because Isaiah 55:8-9 is true. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I need to remember that.

Rain or shine.

Left behind by Patty LaRoche

Grandma, is that a fanny pack you’re wearing?”

Yes, Mo, it is.
“You’re really wearing a fanny pack?” (Underwear on my head could not have embarrassed her more.)

It’s easier to travel without lugging around a purse.”
Jenn, Mo’s mother, intervened. “There’s nothing wrong with a fanny pack, Mo.”

Mo’s eyes widened. She was embarrassed. This grandma wasn’t cool.

We were in Ireland celebrating Jeff, my oldest son’s, St. Patrick’s Day birthday. Fortunately, I was prepared for the “sleet and snow” forecast for our seven-day trip (four in Ireland and three in Scotland).

Galoshes, poncho, umbrella. Check

Sweatshirts, under layers, coat, gloves, winter hat. Check

Swimsuit—in case our hotel had a jacuzzi and to further embarrass my grandkids. Check

Jenn, her children Drake and Mo, and I decided to brave the sleet and take the Dublin city bus tour. There were a few problems locating the starting point, like how our map was confusing and every passerby I asked spoke French or Chinese. When we finally spotted the “Easy-On-Easy-Off” bus a block away, I began sprinting to make sure we weren’t left behind. No doubt my attempt at running was not a proud moment for my grandkids. Must have been the fanny pack…or the multiple layers of clothing I was wearing…or perhaps a combination of the two.

Waving like a wind-up toy, I scampered towards the bus, alerting the driver we needed to board. As we neared, the driver opened the door and hollered for us to hurry up. What do you think we are doing? I wanted to answer and had I any breath left, I might have. Leading the charge, I collapsed into a seat in the middle of the bus. My family followed.

The driver–paid to pretend he likes tourists–wasn’t a fan. He turned and asked to see our tickets, tickets that we should have purchased a few blocks away and not here at a traffic light that had turned green but because some crazed grannie and her family were running straight towards the front of his bus neither this driver nor those behind him made the green light. Mo and Drake were mortified.

I didn’t care. I did what I had to do. We would not be left behind. Which is never fun. And sometimes, eternal.

Chances are unless you were born in the last decade, the words “Left Behind” ring a bell.

Left Behind is a series of 16 best-selling religious, fictional novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, dealing with the end times. People were fascinated by the books, as proven by the 80 million copies sold, and for many, it was the first time they realized the seriousness of the end times. Why? Because too many Christians are embarrassed to share the truth of Scripture. Jesus wasn’t. In Matthew 24:40 he simplifies what will happen when the end comes: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.”

Husband and wife will be shopping at Walmart. One will be gone. One, left.

Two friends will be driving on the freeway. One will be gone. One, left.

People will be worshipping in church. Some will be gone. Some, left.

The determining factor? The way they have glorified God by loving Jesus and each other. It won’t matter what color, what race, what gender. It won’t matter how many miracles they performed or what church they attended, and it certainly won’t matter if they are wearing a fanny pack around their waist or underwear on their heads.

In spite of what their grandkids think.

Holy Yearning For More by Patty LaRoche

We celebrate Easter this Sunday because Jesus died and was resurrected so that you and I can spend eternity with him. In Matthew 18:2-4 he lays out the blueprint for what we need to do.

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them (his disciples). Then he said, “I tell you the truth unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (bolded lettering mine)

The somber words lack loopholes. If you and I want to get to Heaven, we must be like children: vulnerable; needy; dependent. Gary Haugen, author of Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian, writes that these aren’t adjectives most Christians use to describe themselves. The majority—and I include myself here—are cut out for a “more muscular” approach to the life of Christ.

Haugen’s book was recommended to me by my son, Adam. On page one, the author speaks of his college experience when he read John Stuart Mill’s 1859 essay “On Liberty.” In explaining why words lose their meaning, Mills used the example of Christians who have the ability to say the most wonderful things without believing them. I get it.

Take the words we say, for example. “It’s better to give than receive.” “Judge not, lest you be judged.” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Haugen questioned how differently he would live his life if he actually believed those things. (I would add “If we lived like the Resurrection is real.”)

He ultimately would find out. Rejecting the safe, easy path, Haugen instead would yield himself to God’s calling and give up his job as a prosecutor at the Department of Justice to start a non-profit organization determined to rescue helpless individuals. As founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), Haugen has spent the majority of his adult life rescuing young girls trapped in the sex trade industry, abused orphans and widows, and slaves (yes, actual slaves—more than 40,000,000!) tortured while laboring in work mills. Through some of those projects, Adam came to know this remarkable man.

Rarely do I recommend a book, but this is an exception. Page after page, I could insert my name in Haugen’s pre-conversion lifestyle description:

  • I prefer safety and security and too often will miss the adventure instead of gambling on the unknown.
  • I would rather be an adult than a child “where I can still pull things together if God doesn’t show up.”
  • I do not have set times for prayer. (Haugen models his organization’s dependence on prayer after Mother Theresa’s who couldn’t imagine doing her work for more than 30 minutes without prayer.) When Adam joined Haugen at his headquarters, he was amazed when an 11:00 A.M. bell rang, all work stopped and everyone prayed. Why? In Haugen’s words, “We don’t do this so much as a matter of discipline but out of desperation.”

Haugen’s book is a call to action for Christians who know there is more than words, who feel a sense of disappointment in the way their life is turning out, who want their life in Christ to be more significant, more vivid, more glorious. He calls it a “holy yearning for more.” I call it “making Jesus’ Resurrection real.”

If those words describe your heart’s cry to serve God more authentically, Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian is a great place to start.

 

 

Oneness By Patty LaRoche

Blondin was a 19th-century acrobat, famous for his tightrope acts 160 feet above Niagara Falls on a rope which was over a thousand feet long. His feats varied from being dressed in a sack to walking on stilts to pushing a wheelbarrow full of potatoes to riding a bicycle. One time he stopped in mid-section and cooked an omelet on a small portable stove. At one exhibition, Blondin asked his audience, “Do you believe I can carry a person across the falls in this wheelbarrow?” Of course, the crowd shouted that yes, they believed! Then he posed the question, “Who of you will get in the wheelbarrow?” Of course, no one volunteered. Dave, my husband, and I were invited to our son and daughter-in-law’s house to help plan an upcoming camping adventure for a group of high school baseball players. Adam and Jenn had purchased 30 Bibles for the two-day event. The theme? Trust. Adam asked four coaches and two close friends–Curtis, a Special Forces Operator, and Zach, an Army Ranger (who would leave three days later for his 11th deployment)—to help. The teens, divided into two teams, would follow a map to specific locations where they would be given assignments to find a locked box with instructions as to what they were to do next. In order to get the code to unlock the box, they were assigned Biblical parables or selected verses to read as a group. They would radio to the adults their interpretations of the passages. Among other benefits to the athletes, it was a unique way to show them that answers to life’s problems could be found in the Bible. As we adults discussed the best way to organize the event, the subject of “belief” came up. True “belief.” Not just believe that George Washington was our first president, but the kind of belief that changes our hearts. The kind that makes me confident about jumping into a wheelbarrow to cross Niagara Falls, trusting completely in the one pushing. As it turned out, in 1859, Blondin’s friend and manager, Harry Colcord, showed such confidence. He was strapped to Blondin’s back, and the pair set off across the tightrope. As they reached the halfway point – the most dangerous section of the rope – Blondin said to his friend, “Harry, you are no longer Colcord; you are Blondin. Until I clear this place, be a part of me – mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we shall both go down to our death.” Harry trusted his wiser, more experienced friend, and carefully the Great Blondin continued along until at long last the pair safely reached the other side. God invites us to do the same. To become one with Him. The parable in John 15:5 explains how this works. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” In other words, there is a oneness that is necessary for Kingdom work to be accomplished. Two are joined and move in sync. Sever the two and death will occur. I can think of no greater feeling than when I am “one” with God when I trust (believe) I am moving according to His desires and not mine. As for trusting Blondin to be my partner? No way. But God? He can carry me across life’s tightrope anytime He wants.

A Parent’s Love by Patty LaRoche

Beth Guckenberger spoke at our women’s retreat this week. I wanted to adopt her, except she is married with 10 children (adopted, foster and biological, combined). Her talk was about God’s faithfulness in the mission field where she and her husband, Todd, work with Back2Back ministries.

Fresh out of college, Todd and Beth had headed a youth mission team to Monterrey, Mexico, where they found themselves painting a church the same color it had been when their team painted it the year before. Frustrated and with only one day left before returning to the states, the young couple grabbed a taxi, asked to be driven to a local orphanage, and soon found themselves on the porch of a rundown building.

They introduced themselves to the children’s guardian and asked if he could use the help of 20 teens, $200 and some prayers. So began their passion to serve the orphans in Mexico, an involvement that led to their attempted adoption of two young sisters, but after months of paperwork, they were denied. (More on that next week.)

Fast forward a few years to when Todd, Beth, and three-month-old daughter settled in Monterrey. In the fall they returned to Ohio where Todd was a principal at a Christian school and their Mexico orphanage fundraising efforts were taking off. In their absence, a young woman volunteered to live in their Monterrey home to help with some caretaking duties.

No sooner were they back in the states than Beth received an emergency call from the Monterrey caretaker. One of the young orphan girls had been hit by a truck. Within three hours, Beth and baby daughter were on a flight to Mexico, leaving her husband a note on the kitchen counter: “Headed to Monterrey. Will call tonight.”

While there, Beth received a phone call that a three-month-old Mexican boy was available for adoption. Beth called Todd who flew to Mexico to join her to meet their baby son. Even though he had “pretzeled legs, bent arms that would not unfold curled hands and mold on one side of his face,” the adopting couple called him the “most beautiful baby ever.”

Returning to Ohio, intense therapy began, but their young son cried nonstop. A trip to a neuro-surgeon was not good news. Antonio was in the “severe” category of spina bifida. He probably never would talk or walk or be able to care for himself. Todd and Beth needed “to be prepared for the worst.” The news, although devastating, was more reason to pray.

One day when the occupational therapist visited, Antonio was on the floor with a toy. His sister grabbed the toy and went to the other side of the room. Antonio wailed. Beth retrieved the toy and took it back to her son. After an hour of observing this behavior, the therapist told Beth that she was making it too easy for her son. As long as she did everything for him, he would not have to do anything on his own. When the therapist left, Beth sat on the kitchen floor, crying out to God while Antonio lay on the living room floor, crying for his mom.

But then Antonio’s crying changed. Beth walked into the living room to watch her disabled son wiggle-crawl toward his sister on the other side of the room. When he neared the couch, he clutched its skirt bottom and pulled himself up. By now, Beth was on the floor a few feet away. Antonio turned and walked toward his mother.

Beth shared that it wasn’t a normal crawl, pull or walk. Still, it was a far cry from what she ever expected. She quickly loaded the two youngsters into her car and sped to her husband’s school where Antonio showed his dad what he could do. “You know what I’m going to do now, don’t you?” asked Beth.

I’m pretty sure I do,” answered Todd.

(Next week I will share with you the rest of Antonio’s story.)

Practice Your Faith by Patty LaRoche

My brothers and sisters, practice your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ by not favoring one person over another.  For example, two men come to your worship service. One man is wearing gold rings and fine clothes; the other man, who is poor, is wearing shabby clothes.  Suppose you give special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say to him, “Please have a seat.” But you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor at my feet.” Aren’t you discriminating against people and using a corrupt standard to make judgments?

 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Didn’t God choose poor people in the world to become rich in faith and to receive the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?  Yet, you show no respect to poor people. (James :2-1-6)

If you were to meet Jorge in a dark alley, chances are you would grab your pepper spray or concealed weapon and run for your life. His scowling face, pot-marked with years of hard living, cigarette, alcohol and drug damage, as scary as it is, belies his tender spirit.

He is my friend.

I met Jorge here in Mazatlan, Mexico, five years ago when I first joined a group that bi-weekly travels to the dump to feed the scroungers (their words, not mine). Jorge was our bus driver. I was terrified of him. We met again when I volunteered to help with a Bible study for youngsters who live in squalor in the outskirts of Mazatlan. Again, Jorge drove the van. Observing his love of children and dedication to spreading the gospel with his puppet ministry gave me a new vision of who this man is. As an accomplished guitarist, he also led (leads) the praise and worship at our church. It wasn’t long before I realized he is the heart and soul of the majority of ministries at La Vina Church.

For some reason, the two of us connected. Maybe it was because every year I take him clothes that Dave no longer needs or wants. Maybe it was because I have been pretty faithful in helping his ministries. Maybe it was because God just knew I needed to be smacked for being so judgmental when I first met him.

About twenty-five years ago, Jorge was a serious drug addict, derelict, alcoholic who played his guitar nightly in the brothels. (That’s not all he did when he was there.) From the minute he woke up until he crashed at night, Jorge was addicted. Year after year. Then came the evangelist’s tent revival. For five days, Fred Collum, himself a recovering addict, shared his testimony and gave a call for anyone who wanted to make Jesus the Lord of their lives to come forward.

Jorge showed up drunk on Fred’s last day, staggered up the aisle, barely able to stand, and then made an about-face, zigzagging his way out of the tent. A few weeks later, Jorge met Fred on the street and introduced himself as the drunk man who showed up at his final revival. Fred reached into his pocket to give Jorge some money but was stopped by Jorge’s words: “I don’t want your money. I want you to know that I was too ashamed to come to the front that night, but I went home, got on my knees and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. Since then, I have not had any cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.”

So began a friendship between the two men as together they started what now is the largest English-speaking church in Mazatlan and the one known throughout the state for its feeding centers and Bible ministries. Six days a week, Jorge drives a bus or van to a colonia to minister to the poorest of the poor. His life is all about blessing others. For me, my friend blesses me every time we are together.

But my biggest blessing? That Jorge never chose to judge me.