All posts by Patty LaRoche

Journeys by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Proverbs 10:21 The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.

We sat at circular tables, approximately 50 of us in all, each with a leader assigned to steer discussions and keep us from rambling. These groups are designed to indoctrinate us in the beliefs of the church Dave and I attend here in Florida so we can be plugged in as volunteers. Every weekend of each month a new “Journeys” group starts, four in total. In April I attended week one and two but was not here the last two weeks of the month. That meant I took the week-three class in May at which time I continued with a new group of people.

Our assignment after week two was to go online and take a test to determine our top three spiritual gifts which we would reveal to our tablemates. That third meeting we were allotted 10 minutes in which to share our findings, a countdown clock visible from where we sat. Sheila, our leader, started with me and asked (1) what I found out, (2) if I was surprised by my results, and (3) if I agreed or disagreed. My answer time: 30 seconds (yes, even I am shocked).

The woman to my right was next. She had not taken the test because her life was “a mess” and she didn’t “have any free time to work on it.” For two minutes, she shared some of the details of her messy life. Sheila was empathetic but encouraged this woman to please take the test. It would be helpful for her to know in what areas God had prepared her.

Bob spoke up. He thought it foolish to ask us to do anything on line because some people might not have a computer. He, of course, did, but did not take the test because he was protesting. Couldn’t Sheila just give him a hard copy? No, she couldn’t, she explained, because the questions were computerized so as to reveal our top three gifts. She was not equipped to determine the results.

Bob thought that was “ridiculous.” After all, he knew his gifts; his “main ones” were compassion and listening. (Surprise!) Sheila shared that sometimes we might think we know what our gifts are but that our ideas aren’t necessarily God’s and Bob might be pleasantly surprised by what he found out if he took the test. Unnecessary, he said. He “knew” his gifts. (Bob’s time: 5 minutes)

I’m not sure what happened next except Bob’s neck veins started to bulge. He turned and whispered something to “messy-life woman” and stared at his notes, fuming. Sheila moved on to the next couple who actually had taken the test and were excited about their results. Hospitality was #1 on their list, and since they love having people into their home, they considered this verification. (Time: 2 minutes)

That’s when Bob erupted, slammed his study guide down, grabbed his things and stormed out of the room, disrupting the class and loudly expressing his disagreement with the volunteer at the door. I stared at Sheila, looking for a response. Nothing. Not even an eyebrow-raise. Impressive. She smoothly moved on to the next two people at our table and was told–yet again–that they had “forgotten” about the test (which actually was fortunate since we now were out of time).

When class was over, I stayed to tell Sheila how much I respected the way she had handled our group, especially Bob. She had “represented Christ in such a loving way while still holding Bob accountable.” Too, she had not gotten upset with those who did not do their homework. Leading, I thought, had to be one of her gifts.

Oh, you have nooooooo idea,” she answered. “I was biting on my tongue the entire time to keep from saying something I would later regret.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Well,” I told her, “Maybe that’s the best spiritual gift of all.”

Turtles by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

I’ve never given much thought to turtles. Granted, I might think about them when I stop my car to help them reach the other side of the road, and I think of them when I see one smashed on the highway…which I seriously do not understand. I mean, how hard is it to avoid a turtle? Just move your steering wheel a teensy tiny bit, Turtle Torturer. It’s not like it’s an elephant, for goodness sakes.

Montana, my granddaughter, visited Dave and me in Florida last week. Yesterday we visited a “turtle sanctuary” where wounded turtles are treated. From the tiny ones (you know, the ones we purchase and stick in a cantaloupe-size fish bowl and then dump when they become a nuisance) to gigantic 300+ pound ones (there typically because they have been hit by boat propellers or have swallowed large hooks when accidentally nabbed by pier fishermen), they all were being treated in the sanctuary hospital and were on individual plans to heal.

I learned much from our tour guide and was in awe of how God’s design of these reptiles took so many details into account. For starters, pregnant female sea turtles return to beaches where they themselves hatched years before (sort of like a sandy trip down memory lane). The trip is laborious as they seek a nesting spot in the sand high above the sea level mark. (Freshwater turtles like we have in the Midwest will choose moist soil.) Using her back flippers, the mother sea turtle spends one-to-three hours laying up to 100 eggs in a tunnel she created nearly 18-inches below the sand surface. She then drags herself back to the ocean, never to see her babies again. (I think that’s very, very sad.)

We learned how the hatchlings use a temporary tooth to break from their eggs and how they move as a group at night to the ocean (for sea turtles) or leaf litter (for freshwater turtles) which helps the little critters avoid waiting predators. We were told that years ago, when people began to study sea turtles, they noticed that hatchlings would emerge from the sand at night; attracted to light, they would move the wrong direction (“disorientation”) toward street and home lights. None survived unless rescued. (I also think that is very, very sad.)

Now, to protect these animals, laws regulate that during hatching season here in Florida, all street lights and parking lot lights must be turned off. Homes recently built near hatching areas are required to install “turtle protection” windows (tinted to reduce light projection). Because of those changes, baby turtles rely on the reflection of the moon and stars on the water (God’s design). No longer are they fooled by fake light.

We Christians know what that’s like. Sometimes we become “disoriented” and follow one who masquerades as light: Satan (2 Cor. 11:14). You know, the one who works overtime to make us believe we are okay right where we are because we marched down an aisle and asked Jesus into our heart, so grace will cover our sins. But read Jesus’ words found in Matthew 7:21: Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Oops! Sounds like there’s a little more to this, doesn’t it? So, what is God’s will? Simple (well, writing and speaking about it is, but doing it? Lord, light our way). We are to love. We are to see all people as Jesus sees them. Only by relying on Him is that possible. He makes that clear in John 8:12: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

Unlike turtles (of whom only 1/10,000 survive—another sad thing and hopefully one turtle torturers will remember), God wants us all to spend eternity with Him. It’s our choice as to which light we will follow.

Fourth of July by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

In 2002, when Richard Rodriguez was captaining a commercial flight, his lead flight attendant informed him that a soldier’s remains were in the cargo area. Rodriguez asked to meet the soldier’s escort. The captain later wrote of his experience. A perfectly dressed, young, army sergeant entered the cockpit and said, “My soldier is on his way back to Virginia.” After telling the escort that he had the toughest job in the military, Rodriguez and his co-pilot stood to shake his hand before the escort returned to his seat. About 30 minutes into the flight, the lead flight attendant called to say that the father, mother, wife and two-year old daughter were also on the plane. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that their loved one was in before they took off. They were going to have to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia. The father of the soldier shared that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment was difficult and asked if it would be possible to be outside by the cargo door to watch him being taken off the airplane. Captain Rodriguez listened to the plea of the flight attendant and responded, “I’m on it.” He immediately contacted the air dispatcher, and two hours later, received this text: Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now, and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft. The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal, where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks.” Rodriguez wrote that after landing, when they checked in with the ramp controller, they were told that all traffic was being held for them and a team was in place to meet the plane. The captain recognized there was only one problem: when the seat belt sign went off, all the passengers would stand and prevent the family from exiting. Rodriguez asked permission to stop short of the gate to make an announcement. Upon receiving approval, this is what he said: “Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking. I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. Also on board are his father, mother, wife and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you.” When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap. Moments later, more passengers joined in, and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words of “God Bless You,” “I’m sorry,” “thank you,” “be proud,” were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane. They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one. Rodriguez concluded with this: “Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them; I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.” For the courageous men and women who fight for our freedom–too many times losing their lives in the process–thank you. May we remember them and their families this Fourth of July and every day.

 

Transgender Teacher by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

The transgender issue has created a new set of challenges, as politicians, religious leaders and school administrators scratch their befuddled heads over what needs to be done. As soon as one mole is whacked (i.e., the use of public restrooms), another rears its non-gendered head and decisions have to be made. The most recent mole involves Mix Steel, as “they” wish to be called.

Stay with me.

Mix Vica Steel, formerly Mr. Vince Busenbark, a science teacher at Allis Elementary School in Wisconsin, received permission from his principal to show a video of him “coming out” (transitioning from male to female) to every K-5th-grade child. Only after children came home from school upset did parents learn about this incident.

In the video, Busenbark reads to the children They Call Me Fix, a book which includes dialogue like this: “BOY or GIRL? Are you a boy or a girl? How can you be both? Some days I am both. Some days I am neither. Most days I am everything in between.” At the video’s conclusion, Busenbark said, “And now, let me introduce myself anew. I am going to take my wife, Stella Steel’s, last name, and I am going to use not mister, not miss, but ‘mix.’ So, you can call me ‘Mix Steel.’ And for my pronouns, you can call me ‘they,’ ‘them,’ and ‘their.’”

They” then suggested that people who disagree with “their” transgenderism are motivated by “fear” and “hate” and depicted those folks as ghostlike, scary people. On Busenbark’s Facebook page, “they” said the purpose of showing every student the video was so that “all [the children] can know who I am and who I am becoming.”

Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty law firm, claims the teacher violated district policy and the constitutional prohibition against schools enforcing any kind of “orthodoxy.” “It is outrageous that school administrators would allow a male science teacher to expose children to propaganda that promotes confusion about basic biology and to instruct students to address him by a false name, title and pronouns,” Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said. Liberty Counsel is demanding all public records be made available so they can find out why parents were not alerted and refers to this as “inappropriate activism in the classroom.” In an interview, Staver’s question “How do you unring that bell?” was, in my opinion, well-founded.

Immediately, an article appeared defending Mix Steel’s video and claiming that since no sex-ed was involved, no parental reply was necessary. “I happen to think that the teacher showed excellent judgment in her explanation. It reflects the real-life struggle of trans folks… Furthermore, the kids are learning a valuable lesson about tolerance and diversity which applies to the child with a physical deformity or the student with a learning disability or the kid with mixed-race parents or the kid with gay parents.”

Ummm, seriously? Comparing disabled children who did not choose that path to someone who opted to transgender is preposterous. Also, disabled people, mixed-race or gay parents do not have days in which they are “in between.” Nor do they show personal videos, claiming those who have issues with them are motivated by fear and hate. Could one not say the same of Mix Steel who offers those who disagree no respect? Where is “their” concern for the rights of malleable children when “they” force the children to call “them” by a neutered name? (Trust me, I’m driving myself nuts here.)

In response, one involved parent wrote on Facebook, “I’ve had to sit down with my kids and explain that what they heard is flat-out wrong and incorrect. We will be kind to others, but we WILL NOT be involved in adult games of make-believe. Shame on those that support this!” Pay attention, Readers. It’s just a matter of time before our communities are going to have to choose which mole we want to whack.

Giftedness by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Ask a pastor to name his greatest frustration as a church leader, and typically the answer will be people who complain but never step up to make a difference. One woman blogged that her father pastored a church in which a member approached her mother, saying that the pastor and his wife should put curtains in the nursery. The writer’s mother, knowing the complainer was a seamstress, said, “That sounds like a great idea. Why don’t you get on that right away?” The windows never got curtains.

As the body of Christ, we all have a role in the church. Tithing is necessary to keep the church functioning, but Scripture makes it clear we all have been created for different purposes beyond that. Look at what 1 Corinthians 12: 14-20 says about our giftedness: … the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.   In verse 27, Paul summarizes what he has just written: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. Last year when I pulled up to the front of the church I attend in Fort Scott, a middle-aged couple was re-landscaping the area around the entryway fountain. The day was hot, the work laborious, but when I thanked them for volunteering to take on such a task, they shared that it was their gift and they were glad to help. I was grateful for their generosity, knowing that it definitely is not my gift, since anything green, flowering and of the plant kingdom dies rapidly when I add my black thumb to help. Unfortunately, there are those who never volunteer. Too many times the comment “Don’t you think we ought to…?” really means, “Don’t you think YOU ought to…?” (You know, too many chiefs, not enough Indians.) There was a time I volunteered for everything…even gardening. “No” was not in my vocabulary because I was all about earning grace points, pleasing God, no matter how out-of-my-area-of-expertise the task was. Dave, my husband, constantly asked me to put on the volunteer brakes, but, for goodness sakes, there was a need, and SOMEBODY had to meet it. When I really began to understand the meaning of the verses in 1 Corinthians, I realized that I was denying someone else the opportunity to use his/her gift instead of focusing on where I should be utilizing my talents. For most people, that is not the issue. Churches are full of Sunday-only pew-sitters who never volunteer. Here in Florida where I will live for the next few months, the church I attend is determined to “plug in” all of its 14,000 members somewhere. Four classes are scheduled each month to introduce newcomers to the church dogma, to test people’ spiritual gifts, and to offer places where those gifts can be used. From parking lot attendants to equestrian experts to members of the sex-trafficking team to prayer warriors, the seemingly endless list recognizes the need for everyone to contribute. If you are curious as to where you have been spiritually gifted, there are dozens of tests on line. And here’s the cool part: where God has equipped you is probably something you love to do…which is why, not surprisingly, gardening was found nowhere on my list.

Victoria by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Face it. Embrace it. Defy it.” That motto has become the driving force for Victoria Arlen who, at the age of eleven, slipped into a vegetative state from which survival was unlikely.

Arlen shared her story in her new book, Locked In. “My back and side ached, so doctors took out my appendix,” she wrote. “Then my legs began giving out. My foot dragged. Within two weeks, I lost all feeling and function in my legs. Next, my hands stopped working. I couldn’t control my arms, couldn’t swallow properly, or find the right words when I wanted to speak.” Arlen says she was “slowly slipping away” from her family before “everything went dark.” Two years later, she woke up but couldn’t move. She could hear the conversations going on around her—including doctors claiming there was “no hope”– but had no way of letting anyone know. After three years, she was diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders that caused swelling in her brain and spinal cord. Arlen’s family refused to believe the prognosis and set up a hospital room in their house. In December 2009, after four years in a vegetative state, Arlen made eye contact with her mom. Unbeknownst to her parents and twin brothers (they are triplets), Arlen had been writing screen plays in her head, practicing her times tables and listening to Good Morning America. More importantly, she constantly dialogued with God, promising if she was given a second chance, she would “not waste a single moment.” Over the next year she gained more control. “Raw sounds became words, became sentences. A twitch of my index finger became the wave of my hand. The ability to swallow pudding eventually led to me mowing on a steak.” The wheelchair became her legs, after being told she would be paralyzed from her belly button down for the rest of her life. Her brothers disagreed, and remembering what a “water baby” their sister was growing up, threw her into the pool. “I was terrified,” she wrote. “But it was a turning point in my life. It was the ‘jump’ I needed to get back to my life. When I was swimming, I was free from the chair. And to my surprise, I was still good. In the water, I found freedom — and my confidence.” Arlen’s difficulties were not over. After missing five years of school, she went back in 2010 and was surprised that she was bullied for being in a wheelchair. Instead of quitting, that fueled her passion to dig into her studies and graduate…and swim. At age 17, Arlen made the USA Paralympic swim team and competed at the London Games, bringing home three silver medals and a gold in the 100-meter freestyle and setting a world record in the 100-meter free. On March 3, 2016, six years after waking up, six years after working up to six hours a day learning to walk, Arlen, strapped into a harness above a treadmill, took her first step. You might know her better as a 2017 semi-finalist in the hit show Dancing With the Stars or as a television personality for ESPN. Both Victoria and her mother, Jacqueline, say all this tragedy happened for a divinely-appointed reason.  “I wouldn’t choose this life,” Victoria said, “but I wouldn’t change it…I think there’s a lot of people going through different things where you feel like your whole world’s imploded and you feel like you lost it all, whether it’s physical, emotional, whatever you’re going through…If I can be that beacon of hope for people that need it the most through dancing and through our storytelling, then I’ve done my job.”

And how does Jacqueline hope Victoria’s story “impacts the world”?  “Bring them to Jesus!” she exclaimed.  “That’s what we want to do, to bring them to find God’s light and love, to give faith and hope, and to realize that all is not lost.  That you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  That’s what we really want at the end of the day. I pray we all can say the same.

Church Splits by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10)

Denominational splits might have been much fewer had churches put Paul’s advice into practice. Researching this topic, I was shocked at some of the petty arguments leading to denominational divides:

  • Which picture of Jesus should hang in the foyer
  • If a weed eater should be purchased or not
  • If “deviled” eggs should be served at the church dinners
  • If cranberry/grape juice instead of grape juice is a communion substitute
  • Whether or not to add stall dividers in the women’s restroom

No doubt it was issues like these that led to the joke about a rescued man who had lived on a desert island for years. His liberators questioned why he had built three huts. “Well, the first one is my house, the second one is my church.” The obvious question followed: “What’s the third hut?”

Oh, that’s where I USED to go to church!”

Sometimes instead of church splits, there are mere rifts:

  • A three-hour meeting over whether or not to buy a new vacuum cleaner followed by a vote to determine which church members should be allowed to use it
  • A quarrel over replacing a worship song with a Bible reading/ singing verses 1-3 instead of 1,2 and 4
  • A squabble over where the pastor stood outside to greet the people after church
  • A 45-minute spat at a women’s group meeting over whether dinner rolls for an upcoming church supper ought to be sliced horizontally or vertically
  • A remodeling project in which an elderly man didn’t like the idea of recessed lighting and referred to the scripture about not hiding our light under a bush

One church elder wrote about his experience: “One time in our church staff meeting (9,000- member church in a very affluent suburb in North Houston), a 25-minute argument ensued over how many hot-dogs we should order for the 4th of July service celebration: ‘Should we order 1,200 or 1,500?’ There was a food bank/kitchen literally three blocks away that would gladly take the excess. But we had to argue over 300 hot dogs for 25 minutes … because, you know, they’re so darned expensive and ‘we have to be good stewards.’”

Typically, churches do not split over trivial matters. The most common splits happen over financial or doctrinal issues, members who have a sense of entitlement instead of service and dissenting church-goers who move from church to church, sowing seeds of discord. Nevertheless, they all leave in their wake hurt feelings and un-Christlike attitudes.

Imagine what would have happened had Paul’s appeal been practiced from his day forward. I think we all know the answer to that.

Post Office In Jupiter by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

“Well, I told you not to do it like that and you did it anyway.” A very irritated postal worker here in Florida was not pleased with a co-worker. After she repeated that statement two more times, my mission, when I got to her station, was to try and ease the tension. In the meantime, I would enjoy the Lady Gaga music over the speaker system and be thankful I safely had ridden my bike the two miles to get there without getting run over by some maniac driver.

On my turn, I began by saying how much I enjoyed the music. Her snarky silence let me know that she couldn’t care less. She applied the extra postage I needed while I quietly hummed along to “Shallow.” I gave her a ten-dollar bill; she told me that she did not have change and needed a credit card. Because I biked there, I didn’t have my wallet, I said. “Well, I don’t have change,” she replied, loudly and rudely. Since the line behind me was rather long, I was in hopes a Good Samaritan would offer change. Nope. (You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy, I told myself, which has become my mantra here in Jupiter on multiple occasions.)

I will just stand over here and wait for all these other people to be helped. Perhaps then you will have change.”

Forget it,” she barked. “Just take all of my change. Then I won’t have any left.”

Looking at her nametag (Ms. Khan), I continued. “I’m sorry, You’ve been open only 10 minutes. I’m surprised that’s all the money you have left.”
“Forget it.” And with that, she handed me $8.46…which might have been the perfect time to join Lady Gaga in song:
Tell me somethin’, girl, are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more? Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?

Then again, perhaps silence was a better option.

As I exited, she began shrieking at the woman behind me who didn’t bring the right change either. I turned to hand the poor lady some of my money just as she pulled out a credit card that prevented Ms. Khan from jumping over the counter and poking her eyes out. Once we both were outside, she shared how she had reported “that rude clerk before” and encouraged me to do the same…right then. Emboldened by this lady’s courage, I went back inside. No supervisor was available. I was given a phone number to call.

Over the next couple of days, God began to change my mind. This clerk was rude for a reason. Perhaps she was having marital issues or financial issues. Perhaps she just didn’t like Lady Gaga. Today I returned to the post office to show Jesus’ love to a hurting soul. With no line and only Ms. Khan working, the timing was perfect. Thank you, Lord.

I began. “Ms. Khan, the last time I was in here, you were rude not only to a co-worker but also to me and another lady who encouraged me to report you. I chose not to do that but to speak to you in person.”

I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

You informed a lady working at the counter next to you—long brown hair and glasses—that you had told her not to do something and she did it anyway.”
“I have no memory of that.”

Well, I do. You said it three times, and she appeared terribly embarrassed. I later thought that perhaps you were going through some difficulties. Sometimes I’m unkind when times are tough, and as a Christian I wondered if maybe I could pray for you.

I’m not going through anything except I’m fasting twice a day for my religion” (I’m guessing Muslim), “and no, I don’t need your prayers.” And that was that.

As I turned to leave, she left me with these parting words: “Besides, I’m just loud.” I wanted to remind her that there is a difference between loud and rude. Lucky for her (and probably for me), silence was the better option. I think I’ll pray for her anyway.

Iron Sharpens Iron by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

The United Kingdom’s Eric Liddell was the athlete who refused to run on a Sunday in the 1924 Olympics. Chariots of Fire was the movie made famous by his story. If you watched it, you might remember Liddell’s notable line: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Later, when asked from where he drew his strength, he answered, “The secret of my success over the 400 meters is that I run the first 200 meters as hard as I can. Then, for the second 200 meters, with God’s help, I run harder.”

In 2016, On Wings of Eagles was released, depicting the rest of Liddell’s life as a missionary/teacher in China who refused to leave as the Japanese advanced, staying behind to continue his work after sending his pregnant wife to Canada with their two daughters. Liddell was captured and ended up in a Japanese internment camp.

After watching the movie alone one evening, I knew it was one I wanted Dave and my visiting friends—very academic, total history buffs– to see. After viewing it, we discussed the history of that war and the inhumane treatment the Japanese inflicted on their prisoners. I learned more than I wanted to know.

Then one of our friends questioned why more of Jesus was not illustrated. Liddell’s faith and love of the Bible were apparent as he sacrificially protected and offered hope to his fellow prisoners, but omitting the redemptive story of forgiveness and the Cross was painfully absent. She questioned why screenwriters are so afraid of offending their audiences and consequently stop short of crossing the Jesus’ line, that showing the Olympian teaching the young children Bible stories was not enough. Liddell’s faith was so strong, surely he shared Jesus with his fellow prisoners. So, why was that not included? To her, it was a representation of how our world-view is changing which led to an exchange about laws before Congress that are hell-bent on leaving God out of everything.

I said that I was pleased to see any faith characterized, and even if it lacked boldness, it was evident throughout the movie that Liddell was a prayer warrior who relied on God for his strength as he set up church services, schooling, and sporting activities for the children, as well as cared for the sick. Our talk continued as we discussed how Christian movies now are far superior to those produced a few years ago.

That conversation was revisited this past Friday when Dave and I had dinner with Gene and Carol Kent. Carol was here in Jupiter, Florida, speaking at a local church for Mothers’ Day. I shared the interchange we had had the previous week with our other, mutual friends. Carol asked if we had seen Unplanned, a bold, new release based on the memoir of Abby Johnson who left Planned Parenthood to be an advocate against abortion. Carol shared that she recently had attended its premier with Solomon, the writer of the Unplanned’s screenplay, who happened to be at Carol’s house helping her finalize her latest book. At the premier, Carol stood up before the movie began—an atypical, bold move for her, she admitted– and introduced the screenwriter to the audience. At the end of the movie, Carol was thrilled that Solomon got a standing ovation.

I love these kinds of exchanges, where Christian lives intersect with various perspectives and experiences and where sometimes we might have to agree to disagree. Most of the time, I am keenly aware that we are not “iron sharpening iron” but more like “iron sharpening rusty, tin can, but I always leave these conversations knowing that my faith has been strengthened because God has been honored in what we had to say.

Now, if I could just do that all the time…

Martha, Again By Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Last December I wrote about the Biblical account of Mary and Martha, sharing that I am a Martha personality (the woman who was frustrated because her sister sat at Jesus’ feet while she prepared the food). This past week I stepped even closer into understanding her aggravation when our friends Jack and Lael came to visit Dave and me here in Florida. Their family friend, Spencer, portraying “Scar” in the touring Broadway production of Disney’s Lion King, was performing 30 minutes away. He was able to get us discounted tickets.

About a week before their visit, Lael called and asked if Spencer could hang out at our house the day before we saw his performance. It had been years since we all attended the same church in Texas, so when he arrived shortly before lunch, I was surprised to see a mature, good-looking young man instead of a much shorter, scrawnier teen I remembered.

While in the kitchen finishing lunch preparations, I could hear some of the conversation in our living room. Dave, Jack and Lael were asking about Spencer’s Broadway connections and experiences. HELLO! I am the theater person. I am the one who would kill (okay, wound) to soak up information from someone who actually had “made it” in New York. Occasionally Lael would saunter into the kitchen to see if I needed help, but a real martyr suffers in silence, so I told her to go back to her friend, that I was fine.

I wasn’t.

I heard words like “audition,” “theatre schedule,” “Scar’s mask,” “choreography,” all reminding me that I was missing out on information that would energize me and give me insight into the field that I loved. I never would have an opportunity like this again. (Actually, I wasn’t even having it this time.)

When enough was enough, I marched into the living room and announced, “I now have renewed empathy for Martha when Mary got to sit at the feet of Jesus and take in all he had to share. Not that Spencer is Jesus, but I want you all to know this is really, really hard.” Everyone—especially Spencer– cracked up.

Over lunch, Spencer patiently answered my dozens of questions. I wanted details. What did he do in his audition that the other 30 did not? What other roles had he played? Which was the most challenging? How long did it take for the makeup artist to create his character and how many costumes did he have? I hung on his every word.

But the best was to come. Spencer invited us backstage following the matinee performance we attended the following day. I almost hyperventilated. First, we met the man who tended to the puppets between shows. With a Masters degree in puppet design, he demonstrated the hand levers that worked Zazu, the bird puppet. Spencer’s head mask was next. Strapped to his finger was a tiny control with buttons that regulated its large movements. Backstage was insane with its organization of the costumes, scenery, props and animal mechanisms. When Lael invited Spencer to grab something to eat with us before his evening show, he said he would love to. (No doubt to answer my remaining questions, I told myself.)

Lion King’s next stop was Miami, only two hours away. I thought about going again, but this time had been up close and personal. Miami would not be.

I knew the difference. So did Martha. Her house guest wasn’t just anyone. It was Jesus who might not return to their home again, and she was missing out on hearing the Good News from the One who knew it best. I understood her pain. I could relate! My time with Spencer taught me a powerful lesson, one I won’t ever forget.

Next time, I will order pizza.

A Worker Not Ashamed by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Let’s face it. Sometimes being a bold witness for Christ is kinda hard. No, not kinda. It is. Last month, for example, Dave and I went to a Mexican restaurant. The only available seats were at the bar. Dave sat at the end, and I sat next to him with an empty stool on my other side. When an inebriated man sat beside me, ordered two beers and started slurring questions, I tried to be Christ-like. “Are you a Hillary fan?” he began. “No, but I’m a taco fan,” I answered. Next question: “Are you a Christian?” When I said I was, he yelled excitedly, “Me too!” Trying to high-five me, he almost fell off his barstool. (Dear Lord, all I wanted was a taco.) Whenever Dave and I tried to talk, my bar buddy would interrupt. Rude. But we are called to love rude people too, right?

Last week I wrote that we are called to disciple others. I imagine some of you immediately had heart palpitations at the mere thought of sharing your faith. I get it. I pray for witnessing opportunities, and then Satan reminds me that I’m about to look like a fool. Then I think of the people I personally have prayed for, people who have opted not to give Jesus a chance, and how I ask God to send others into their lives so their words might have an impact. What if others ask the same, and I am that “other” person they have prayed for?

There are hundreds of ways to share Jesus Christ. For starters, we need to pray for opportunities to tell our story: We were lost. We were found. We are saved. Our life has never been the same.

The best way to witness our faith is to live it out (even if it involves drunks at taco stands). Sometimes it’s not about that person at all; it’s how others watch what is going on. In our couples’ Bible study, “Helen” shared that she and her husband went to a boat show the previous weekend. She watched a dirty, homeless lady walk into a coffee shop and stand in line. Helen felt compelled to give her some money (something she admitted she never had done before), approached the woman, handed her the money and followed that with a hug, telling her God loved her. Within the hour as she and her husband were checking in for the show, the ticket-taker stopped her and asked, “Were you the one who just hugged that homeless lady back in the coffee shop? I saw you do that and thought how I never take that risk but need to.”

Someone once said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” Start by being a good listener. Everyone has a need or a hurt. Sometimes we physically can offer help, but one thing we definitely can do is offer to pray for them (and then, of course, pray.) The other day I was outside when a middle-aged woman walked by with two dogs, one on a leash and the other in a stroller. I commented on her dogs (a GREAT way to start a conversation, I have found), and she shared that at 4:00 that afternoon, the strollered dog was being put to sleep. This was their “last walk.” I was touched by her story and told her I would pray for her. At 3:57, I began praying. The next day when I ran into her, she told me how much my offer to pray meant to her. It was a start. Dave and I have a friend who eats out a lot, and at every meal, he tells the waiters/waitresses that he is getting ready to pray a blessing on his food and asks if they have any prayer requests. Most of the time he is told no, but occasionally he is given an opportunity to share Christ. I know shy people who leave gospel tracts on shelves in supermarkets, gas stations coffee shops, trick-or-treat bags, Christmas cards, etc. The opportunities are endless. We are told in Scripture that we have a responsibility to share Jesus: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2Timothy 2:15) We all have a “best.” My approach might not be yours, but one thing is for certain: saying or doing nothing is not an option.

What Is In Your Tank by Patty LaRoche

 

Patty LaRoche

If you’re not hungry for God, you’re probably full of yourself.” I wish I made that up, but I didn’t. Thank you, Pinterest.

While in Florida, Dave and I are attending a church that has called for a 21-day fast leading up to Easter. Eight-foot wooden structures are placed throughout the building, and church-goers are encouraged to write their prayer requests and/or what they are giving up.

I particularly love the one above, top, and imagine siblings are the targets. Some others posted fasting from social media, Netflix, “my toys” and even beer.

In Scripture, we are told to “fast and pray.” I get that. I believe in it. The first time I attempted to get closer to God by fasting, I went to bed that night with a migraine that no elephant-stomping-on-my-head could rival. My second attempt, liquids-only, wasn’t much better. Although I didn’t quite hit the serial killer mode, it did not escape my notice that my children disappeared the minute they heard my footsteps…or heard my moaning from hunger pains. My solution? Blending. Don’t waste your time. There’s something just plain nasty about pureed roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, biscuits and apple pie.

Anyway, the church here has encouraged us to use the time we fast to hunger for God instead of what we are giving up (in my case, junk food and eating after 5:00 P.M.—Don’t judge me; you have nooooooo idea). The lead pastor is going on the Daniel diet (all fruits and vegetables), and his wife is juicing for two meals a day. Some in our Bible study group are fasting from sweets or their Ipads or anger or judgmentalism. For all of us, we are to be pursuing ways to draw closer to God.

Fasting encourages us to use the time denying ourselves physically/emotionally to fill our tanks spiritually. Yesterday, I watched a video of some gas thieves in Australia who used their mouths to siphon gas out of an R.V. Poor guys chose the wrong holding tank and ended up sucking from the sewer line. Although disgusting, it was a great reminder of garbage in, garbage out. What we take in, good or bad, is all we have to share.

Emptying ourselves of whatever prevents us from filling our lives with God will help us replace the bad with the Great as we refuse to settle for anything less. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus tells us how: If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. Just as God loves us individually, denying ourselves is no one-size-fits-all formula. My potato chips and popcorn might not be a temptation to you, just as your brownies or cheesecake don’t appeal to me. The one thing we have in common is we all need to be filling our spiritual tank with a lot of God because that’s the only way we will be overflowing with something good to give.

And so, dear Reader, I will ask you the same question I asked myself: What’s in your tank?