All posts by Patty LaRoche

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?

Air Travel by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

If ever I doubted where I stand in the Skyways caste system, the major airlines have gone to impressive lengths to make it clear. They accomplish that with boarding labels, starting with the most elite and ending with commoners–like me. One airline takes it one step further and uses two rugs—one “blue” for passengers with status, and one “green” for the underlings–leaving no doubt where we stand (literally).

I know the rigamarole and loiter as close to the red, velvet, rug-divider-rope as possible, so that when my group is called, I might have some chance of squeezing my overhead bag into the space hogged by those who ignore the flight attendant’s announcement that only one item goes there. Other carry-ons are supposed to go under the seat in front of them, leaving foot space for individuals with a size-six shoe or less (perhaps if I cut off my toes).

Take American Airlines’ hierarchy, for example. The first blue-carpet group called is for passengers needing special assistance (I could fake it, but who wants to risk that kind of a sin 35,000 feet above sea level?) and passengers with kiddies under two years old (You know, the howling ones inevitably seated next to me).

While they board, Concierge Key holders of the airlines’ “elite” credit card line up. They are followed by Group 1 made up of first-class passengers, active duty U.S. military members (who, in my opinion, should get free flights and deserve special treatment), and business class passengers. Group 2 includes Platinum credit card holders, One World Emerald members (no idea what that means), and business class passengers who have paid extra for their seats. (Think every seat three or more rows from the restrooms.)

Group 3 is for Platinum Pro and Platinum credit card holders and one more jewel: the OneWorld Sapphire member. The Group 4 Boarding group continues with the Ruby members, the Gold AAdvantage members, AirPass members, premium economy passengers, American Executive cardmembers, and passengers who have purchased priority boarding, although I fail to see what the priority is, considering three-fourth of the plane seats now are taken.

Are you seeing a pattern here? The more people who are given elite status, the more obvious it becomes that those remaining—guess who—should thank our lucky stars not to end up on the wings. One time, I watched an elderly woman walk forward and wait on the blue carpet. When the agent looked at her ticket, she was told to backpedal five steps, circle the dividing rope and enter on the green one. I cringed as I watched her face turn the color of the velvet. She and I both laughed when I approached her and said, “So, take that!” The agent, mind you, did not find my comment as funny.

Group 5, also called “Preferred Boarding” for lack of a more fitting term like “Cubic Zirconiums,” is for basic economy tickets, Eligible credit card members, and Eligible corporate travelers. Somewhere between Group 7 and 9, the five of us remaining passengers board and take a seat located in the bowels of the plane by the restrooms.

Now, I get the different groupings. Some people paid $1000 for my $200 one…which is why their perks include a buffet of drinks and appetizers while the rest of us settle for a thimble-sized bag of 4 miniature pretzels and three sips of coke, not to mention we annoy our seat neighbors when we ask them to move their legs so we can cross ours.

The truth is, I poke fun at the airlines’ attempt to honor its passengers because my identity does not come from where I sit on a plane. It comes from where I stand by knowing Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:10–For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

For me, those “good things” include me walking by all the passengers seated before me and praying they know the same.

Prostitution by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

According to my husband, sometimes my instincts lean too much toward drama and not enough on common sense. Last month, his theory was validated. After sitting through a two-day seminar on sex-trafficking offered at our Jupiter, Florida, church, it was apparent that without this education, my impulse to save someone in danger probably would get me tortured.

For example, one video we watched—filmed late at night by a New York, undercover cop–showed a street prostitute angrily confronting her pimp. With arms flailing, she held nothing back and turned to storm off, her pimp not far behind. Suddenly a group of five men sprinted towards her. Yea, I silently cheered. You, Mr. Pimp, are going DOWN!

Not even close. The quintet quickly joined her pimp, encircled her, and, instead of protecting her, began threatening her. At that point in the video, I knew what I would have done. I would have stormed into the middle of the gang, ripped the men’s heads off, buried their bodies in shallow graves in the woods, grabbed the girl and taken her to my home.

That’s what Dave means about me lacking common sense.

The prostitute, now cowering and covering her eyes, immediately lost confidence and gave up. I about came out of my chair, just watching the video. Our leader asked what we saw. One of the police officers in our group responded that he noticed two of the pimps carrying guns (something I failed to see). A psychologist answered that the reason the girl covered her eyes was because of a hidden rule among pimps: if a prostitute makes any eye contact with another pimp other than hers, her pimp will beat her up. A social worker shared that there is an unwritten code among pimps: they defend each other against the prostitute as a way of showing their girls what will happen to them, should they choose to defy orders.

Oh my gosh! No one came to her aid. The poor girl was trapped. Defenseless. What led her into such a position? Statistics say that between 80-90% of all prostitutes were sexually molested as children. Was she one?

This disgraced girl, emboldened for a few minutes, now felt worthless. What horrible fate awaited her later that night? We trainees then were warned that the next photo was not for the faint of heart. We cringed when we saw a picture of a prostitute in her hospital room, the apparent target of either her pimp or her john (the man who solicits a prostitute).

Ironically, the first day of our seminar, the news broke about the prostitution/sex-trafficking sting here in Jupiter. Ten spas were involved and 300 arrest warrants were issued. You probably heard about it, as an NFL owner and company CEO’s were among dozens being served arrest warrants for their participation. Although soliciting a prostitute is only a misdemeanor, local sheriff William Snyder said he believes women in the spas were supplied by human traffickers with ties to China and New York. Numerous services (including our church) now will spring into action to help rescue, restore and reform these women.

As I shared with Dave what I learned at the seminar, how I now grieve for instead of judge these prostitutes, our discussion soon turned to how God must view the pimps and the sexual deviants who promote such evil practices. What happened in their lives that they view women with such disgust? And then it dawned on me: They too need to be told about Jesus. Did I have the same empathy for them?

No, I did not. Not even close. Amazingly, God does. In 2 Peter 3:9, we read, “The Lord…is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Get that? “All.” Including these sexual deviant thugs.

Obviously, there are many spiritual lessons I still need to learn.


Excellence by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:6)

Last week, I wrote about cheating.

No sooner had I sent my article to my editors than came the news flash that parents had jumped through some pretty expensive—not to mention, illegal—hoops to cheat their kids’ way into college. Coaches accepted bribes to add “athletes” to their rosters, “athletes” who never had played a day of the sport.

Meanwhile, teens who actually had dedicated their lives to the activity—and had much better grades– but could not afford the pay-out, were denied.

This morning, Dave, my husband, forwarded me an email he received from the Florida Marlins’ upper management. Motivational articles are sent daily to the coaches, and this one, written by Jon Gordon, compared success with excellence. His take? Stop comparing and start pursuing, advice these cheating parents and students probably wish they had heeded.

Dave has coached professional baseball for over 30 years, and more times than he can count he has counseled players who question why someone else is promoted when they are not.

I get it.

Actually, this is the week of spring training when players are told they don’t quite measure up and are released or are designated to the minor leagues. How does one not compare? Gordon calls it “a trap” and writes that it happens when we focus on someone else’s gifts, talents and purpose versus our own. He says our greatest competition is not someone else, but ourselves, advice Dave has given on multiple occasions.

Jack Nicklaus is one of Gordon’s examples. “He simply focused on playing the best he could play against the course he was playing. While others were competing against Jack, he was competing against the course and himself.”

The author then addresses Apple’s approach with the iPod, iPhone and iPad: “When they created these products they didn’t focus on the competition. Instead they focused on creating the best product they could create. As a result, rather than measuring themselves against others, they have become the measuring stick.”

Gordon ends his article with this: “We have a choice as individuals, organizations and teams. We can focus on success and spend our life looking around to see how our competition is doing or we can look straight ahead towards the vision of greatness we have for ourselves and our teams. We can look at competition as the standard or as an indicator of our progress towards our own higher standards. We can chase success or we can pursue excellence and focus 100% of our energy to become our best… and let success find us.”

The public shame accompanying the college cheating scandal has the potential to define the character of all involved. What a sad legacy! But what are we to learn from it?

Hopefully, a lesson in misplaced priorities. Hopefully, a lesson in entitlement. Hopefully, a lesson in envy. Hopefully…(the list is endless).

The all-too-common outcome of overbearing parenting would reverse if fathers and mothers used Proverbs 22:6 as their guiding principle. “Train up a child in the way he should go…” To understand that life can be tough. To be grateful for the gifts God has given him. To think of others before herself. To celebrate others’ blessings. To love God above all else.

Then again, perhaps it is the parents who need to learn these lessons first.

Cheating by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

For over thirty years, Carol taught in a Catholic school. We were together last weekend in Florida where she shared stories of how she would catch her students cheating. One such experience could not have been scripted with more ingenuity. Carol explained that sometimes students were required to attend a mid-morning mass. Periodically, my friend served as a eucharistic minister. She assisted the priest by distributing the host into the hands of the communicants who would walk forward at communion time, place their hands together, palms up, so the servers—like Carol– could place the wafer into their hands.

On one such occasion, several of her 8th-grade students began squirming when they ended up in her line. As they held open their hands, Carol knew why: cheater notes were scribbled on their palms.

BUSTED, and of all places, in CHURCH!

Proverbs 11: 1-3 (TLB) reads as follows: The Lord hates cheating and delights in honesty. Proud men end in shame, but the meek become wise. A good man is guided by his honesty; the evil man is destroyed by his dishonesty.

Even though God “hates cheating,” according to a recent survey, only six percent of students say they never have cheated. That means that 94% have, yet who of us isn’t applauding ever so slightly that these frauds were caught ink-handed, as if that sort of mitigates our own deceitfulness.

The fact is, most of us—Christians included– cheat in one way or another. Perhaps it’s that little income tax thing. Or maybe our sales clerk fails to charge us for an item, and instead of returning it to pay what we owe, we chalk it up to “her fault” and celebrate our freebie. A few weeks ago, I was shopping and found an empty jewelry case in a pocket of a blouse. I returned it to the jewelry counter and was told that “this happens all the time.”

Someone always pays when we cheat. The honest student whose paper, graded on the curve, now suffers because the cheaters get the A’s. Our government bears a financial burden when we fail to pay what we owe. The buyer of our car is stilted when we neglect to reveal our vehicle’s shortcomings, and our employer loses when we take “just a couple of extra minutes” for each lunch break. In my late teens, I worked as a nurse’s aide at Mercy Hospital. Although most of the aides were dedicated, one always hid in the utility room whenever a bed pan was involved, leaving the rest of us to do her work. Not cool.

Cheating always costs someone something. Especially God.

As sinners, we cheat. We cheat God out of what He deserves, whether it be praise or money or time or love. We make mad dashes for temporal pleasures and feel-good possessions, but fail to ask if these things pull us away from God. We cough up a buck for a homeless person and pat ourselves on our backs or consider grace before meals ample, with no consideration for what swindlers we are.

Unlike those 8th graders, I’m not sure we even are concerned when we come before God, our hands open in prayer as our black sin-marks are revealed. Could it be that we’re so used to cheating that we fail to realize the price paid by God’s own son for those sins? And could it be that we have lost sight of the grace that covers our transgressions?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time we squirm just a little.

Friendship by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)

Real deal” friends are rare. Recently, Michael Robinson, an NFL analyst, was asked how he decided how many tickets to leave for family and friends when he played in the 2012 Super Bowl. He answered, “If they weren’t there to help me move into my dorm my freshman year of college, they won’t be there when I’m at the Super Bowl.”

Interesting definition of a friend, don’t you think? The internet has hundreds of clever quotes on the subject. These are five of my favorites:

  1. My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life. Lee Iacocca
  2. It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emmerson
  3. A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down. Arnold Glasow
  4. I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. Thomas Jefferson
  5. My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake. Aristotle

The other day I was in an outlet store trying on clothes. I stepped outside my dressing room to look in the three-way mirror on the end wall. Gal-pals were in dressing rooms next to each other. One opened her door and asked for her girlfriend’s opinion.

Oh, please, NOOOOOO, I said under my breath. Back bulges were puffy scallops, and gold Lamé fabric jaundiced her overly-revealed body parts. Horizontal stripes were no help. Surely her friend would tell her so. Instead, this is what she said: “You go, Girl. You look F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!”

I wanted to bang my head into the mirror.

That, Readers, is not the kind of friend I want. Proverbs 27:6 agrees: Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”. True friends wound when necessary. They speak truth and do not use flattery as a tool to keep things running smoothly. They challenge you when you need to be challenged. My husband and I have traveled a lot, and from that has come life-long friendships, causing my definition of a friend to be this: She and I pick up right where we leave off, no matter how many days/weeks/months we have been out of contact. No guilt is allowed. We just consider whatever time we have together as a blessing we probably don’t deserve. We also empathize—not in a fake sort of way– with each other’s struggles, and celebrate—not in a fake sort of way–with each other’s successes.

Sounds good, right? But it still falls flat. “Real deal” friends do more. Ephesians 4:15 reminds us that the end goal of friendship should be God and his glory. Bestest buds share Jesus.

Atheist Penn Jillette (known for his Vegas magic show) recently spoke about his respect for Christians who proselytize. “How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Ouch! Even he, an atheist, realizes that the real deal shares the Real Deal. According to Penn, failing to do so is hateship, not friendship, and it certainly should make us ask ourselves one question: What kind of friend am I?

Sarcasm By Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)

She passed me in Walmart, but not before I had time to read the logo on her t-shirt: “Member of the National Sarcasm Club.” Directly under that title were these words: “And what makes you think I need your support?”

As pithy as it was, I couldn’t help but think…Not something I would care to flaunt.

Not that I don’t sometimes find humor in sarcasm.

Especially when God uses it. Remember Job? The one who started out wealthy and healthy and surrounded by a huge family? When all of that was taken from him AND his friends and wife suggested God didn’t have his best interests in mind, Job began questioning. Now it’s God’s turn to respond. In Job 38: 20-21, He asks Job if he knows where light and darkness reside and then adds, “Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” The chapter is loaded with God’s crafty comments to Job, basically meaning, “I’m sorry. I seem to have forgotten which one of us created the world.”

Most sarcasm, however, isn’t God-clever, like the time Henry Ward Beecher, in the middle of an impassioned sermon, was interrupted by a drunk man in the balcony who began crowing like a rooster. Instantly Beecher stopped, took out his watch, and remarked: “What? Morning already? I wouldn’t have believed it, but the instincts of the lower animal are infallible.”

See the difference? God loved Job and was reminding him that He had everything under control, so Job need not worry. Beecher was using mockery to degrade his parishioner. James Denney, a Scottish theologian, once said that it is very hard to show that Christ is magnificent and that I am clever at the same time, a test, in my opinion, Beecher failed.

Sometimes sarcasm lightens a tense moment, but we must always use discretion and ask how it might feel to be the recipient of such cynicism. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves(Phil. 2:3). As we all know, there are cruel people waiting for a chance to verbally pounce. Their goal is not love but one-upmanship. . One person wrote, “I love sarcasm. It’s like punching people in the face but with words.” Do you find humor in that? I don’t, even though I am the first one to laugh at skillful sarcasm (always intended to make the other person smile, not wince). For example, if you watched the pre-show for the Super Bowl, you heard Larry Fitzgerald comment about ex-quarterback Kurt Warner’s role as radio commentator for the game. “Everyone always said he has a face for radio.” Warner, sitting beside his old teammate and best friend, loved it. The aim was humor, not hurt. The take away from this is that the line between “real” and “joking” isn’t all that thick, and making someone feel less than God desired, as we all know, is never, ever funny.

Snobs by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

There were five BMW’s, six Mercedes, two Porsche’s, one Bentley and two Jaguar’s in this lot,” said Dave after looking for a parking spot here in Jupiter, Florida, where he and I are living for a few months.

And don’t forget,” I added, “our 2005 Toyota pick-up.”

People were impressed,” laughed Dave.

The other day I returned a shawl to a local department store. It had been purchased to be worn over a sleeveless dress at my son’s wedding last month…and had I lost the 20 pounds necessary to zip up the dress, it would have worked out splendidly to cover my trembling triceps. Since that depressing weight-loss-thing didn’t happen, I was forced to wear a different dress—one with long sleeves—that resembled a parachute more than something classy.

Handing the shawl to the lady at the cash register, I laughed as I shared that same explanation when she asked if anything was wrong with it. She stared at me like I had asked permission to break her kneecaps.

Perhaps she is having a bad day, I told myself.

Apparently, a lot of people in this part of the country are having bad days.

My girlfriend Alice and I went to lunch last week. Our waiter was gruff and there only to get a tip. When I told Alice he was a snob, she agreed.

Perhaps he is having a bad day,” I told my friend.

Probably not,” she answered. “You’ll get used to it.”

I’m not so sure. I don’t do well with hoity-toity people…until, that is, I have to face facts, come off of my high horse and ask myself if I could be a slice of that snob pie. After all, Christians are not exempt. Do we, for example, subconsciously place the pastor on a spiritual level superior to the church custodian? Do we praise the soloist with the flawless vibrato while ignoring the couple who faithfully hand out bulletins week after week? Do we whisper excitedly when the millionaire walks through the church doors but ignore the mentally-challenged woman who ambles to the front for prayer?

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (James 2:1) There is a story about how (then) Governor Ronald Reagan and Nancy sat in the same seats when they attended California’s Bel Aire Presbyterian Church. One morning, when they were late, two college students occupied their seats. An usher came down the aisle and asked the students if they would move. They did, and the Reagans were brought in and seated. To his credit, the pastor got up from his place on the platform, walked down to the college students and said, As long as I am pastor of this church, that will never happen again.” He understood James 2: 2-4 (ESV): For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

I cannot fathom favoring one person over another, at least not until I honestly search my heart and wonder if my attitude towards rude department store personnel and waiters is my way of setting myself, in some snobbish, judgmental way, a notch or two above them.

Surely not, I tell myself.

I’m WAY above that.

Interruptions by Patty LaRoche

I don’t mean to interrupt people. I just randomly remember things and get really excited.” I saw that plaque in a diner and knew exactly what it meant. If I don’t share my thoughts immediately, they will be gone…immediately. Still, I force myself to refrain because it’s downright rude to interrupt. I mean, how many times have you been telling a story when someone one-ups you or changes the subject and takes over the conversation? Without ever asking you to finish yours? I-R-R-I-T-A-T-I-N-G!

A newly-purchased sign, hanging in my step daughter’s kitchen, counters that quote.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?” Nikki purchased it, hoping a relative gets the point.

And no, I am not that relative.

I’m really not.

On the day of last year’s eclipse, I was at my friend Marti’s house. She was watching her granddaughter, Isabel, and was explaining the solar phenomenon to her. As Marti and I talked, Isabel exploded with random thoughts. Each time, Marti gently told her granddaughter that the adults were visiting and she needed to wait her turn. Isabel tried to be patient, and then she did what every well-mannered child does when she can wait no longer—she raised her hand and waved it frantically. Her behavior was delightful.

Many adults could learn from her example.

Of course, we all know that all interrupting is not always bad. Some news should not wait, like telling me that my grandchild is playing with matches or the neighbor’s dog is chewing on my patio furniture. In reality, life is all about interruptions, isn’t it? Henry Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian, wrote, “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered my interruptions were my work.” I get it. Most of my articles are based on something happening I wasn’t expecting. Our life’s narrative is constantly being rewritten because of interruptions. In the past year, several of my friends have found that to be true. Cancer. A hurricane. An unexpected pregnancy. Divorce. Bankruptcy. Care of an elderly parent. Addiction. Mental illness. Death. The Bible is jam-packed with interruptions. A young girl’s life was interrupted to be told that she would bring the Messiah into the world. Jesus was constantly interrupted by evil spirits or arrogant religious teachers, moments that gave him an opportunity to remind his listeners of grace. Judas interrupted Jesus’ celebration of the Passover with his disciples and again with his prayer time in the Garden, all leading up to the incredible sadness after Jesus’ death being interrupted by the life-changing news that his grave was empty. And for those whose lives are based on that resurrection, there remains one final interruption for which we must be prepared. We find it in Thessalonians 1:16-17: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Now, that’s an interruption we can’t afford to miss.

Australian Open by Patty LaRoche

Three times a year I live vicariously by watching professional tennis tournaments on television: Wimbledon; The U.S. Open; and the Australian Open. The seasoned veterans give me hope when they pummel the young upstarts. I even enjoy the fairly predictable interviews following their matches. Thank the crowd. Give credit to the “talented” opponent. Address how hard they worked to get this win.

At age 32, Rafael Nadal of Spain currently is ranked #2 in the world. A couple of his accomplishments include 17 Grand Slam singles titles, the second most in history for a male player, and a record 33 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. In other words, he plays better than I do.

Following his semi-final win, he said something like this: “I wake up every morning thinking about what I need to do to be a better tennis player, either on the court or at the gym.” This morning, in my prayer time, those words kept replaying in my head. Do I wake up every morning thinking about what I need to do to represent Christ better? To give unselfishly. To take better care of my body. To speak loving words.

I must admit, the last one is difficult for me. Actually, they all are, but that’s for another article. My mouth was put to the test while texting five friends during the Chief’s game against the Patriots. Diana, my disabled friend from Tulsa, watched the broadcast from her wheelchair. Her text comments demonstrated her sweet, Chiefs-defending attitude.

Is it me or are those Patriots gigantic guys?”

Brady’s front line looks like huge walking trees.”

When a timeout was taken to review a play in which the Chiefs scored a touchdown after a Patriots’ return specialist appeared to touch the ball, my friend immediately commented: “It looks deflected.” I, Miss Negative, disagreed. The officials concurred, I am not proud to say.

After the Chiefs lost, Diana had one final remark: “I’m just so disappointed for our guys. They played so hard against a team that seemed to get almost every break.” (Notice she said “for”’ our guys, not “in” our guys.)

Compare Diana’s remarks to mine:

This is ugly. We can come back but have to stop leaving so many holes for the Patriots’ offense.”

Mahomes (the Chief’s quarterback) seems nervous.”

A penalty for lining up in the neutral zone? That’s something you learn in flag football.”

I ended with this: “Sad to say, but the Patriots just outplayed us.” And then, realizing how negative I was, added, “We’ll get ‘em next year.” My other girlfriends chimed in that the refs made bad calls and the rule for coin tosses in tie games needs to be changed.

They were true fans. I was not. Ask Dave. He managed to sit in the same room with me while I ranted, buried my head under a pillow and yelled at the television set. My husband’s only comment was that Tom Brady is a strong Christian and I should take that into account…which I did not.

So, today is a new day. I can learn from my bad attitude and dwell on what is important, like thinking of ways to represent Christ better to everyone I encounter. Before I do that, however, I’ll just take a quick break and turn on ESPN2 to see how badly Serena Williams, my favorite female player, destroyed Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals last night.


It had to be the umpires. Yes, I’ll go with that. (See? I learn from my mistakes.)

Mariott’s Buffet by Patty LaRoche

Omelets cooked to order. Crispy bacon and zesty sausage. Tasty spinach quiche with homemade crust. Oatmeal topped with our choice of walnuts, brown sugar and cran-raisins. Cantaloupe and strawberries and kiwi, oh my! Dave and I chose to splurge on an all-you-can-eat Marriott buffet because we would be leaving the hotel that day and moving into our rental home. Celebration time!

We had been in Jupiter, Florida, for three weeks, and while we looked for an apartment to rent, the Florida Marlins, Dave’s employer, paid for our hotel room. Every morning at 6:00, Dave left for work. Some days he ate a cold bagel; other days, a banana or an apple. When he arrived back at the hotel around noon, the first thing we did was find a nearby restaurant for lunch, and trust me! Diners in Jupiter, Florida, are much more expensive than in the Midwest. (Granted, I could have eaten at the Marriott restaurant after he left for the ballpark, but that’s just not the kind of selfish person I am.)

Save your comments, close friends.

Back to the buffet. Dave and I agreed that the spread was one of the best ever, but then we realized we had not asked the price of our meals. Not smart. When the waiter handed my husband the bill, Dave appeared perplexed, not horror-struck.

I think they made a mistake,” he began. “The word ‘COMP’ appears at the top, and $8.95 is scratched out. This meal has to be more than that for one person, let alone two, and I have no idea what the ‘COMP’ is all about. We’ll figure it out when we leave.” Dave signed our room number and his name, tipped the waiter and we left.

Check-out time. As Dave loaded the truck, I went to the front desk to settle our account and was told our balance was zero.

My husband and I both had your buffet this morning, so how much is that? I asked.

It’s $18.95 per person.”

No wonder it was so good, I told myself. “Well, that should be added on.”

The Marriott representative smiled. “The Marlins paid for it.”

I didn’t understand and asked how the Marlins knew we were going to eat there this morning.

They probably didn’t, but that was part of your room package. The Marlins covered a meal every day you were here. They didn’t tell you?”

Uh, no. No, they didn’t.”

I couldn’t wait to share the news with Dave. Here we had been offered a freebie feast, but we hadn’t take advantage of it because no one bothered to share the good news with us. No one had given us a chance to “take it or leave it.”

Although the parallels aren’t exact, there is a spiritual application here. We Christians know that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6); we know that eternity is a gift that was paid for with his blood (Hebrews 9:14); and we know that we are to feed God’s people with that “Good News,” the Gospel (Mark 16:15). The only thing it costs us is a little time and the potential for rejection. (Heaven forbid it cost us monetarily.)

Like the Marlins, if we fail to share that news, we are denying others an opportunity to “take it or leave it.” The Marriott’s buffet was temporary, but God’s is everlasting and one no one can afford to miss.

God Provides by Patty LaRoche

We would move to Jupiter, Florida, for a year. Dave would work as the rehabilitation coach for the injured Miami Marlins’ pitchers. We would rent a lovely, furnished, two-bedroom condominium near the ballpark, buy two bikes, swim, play tennis and find a church on fire for Jesus. That was the plan…which wasn’t quite as do-able as it sounded.

Apparently New Yorkers migrate to Jupiter during the winter months, booking their rentals a year in advance. (Who stays behind and shovels Buffalo’s sidewalks is what I want to know.) Unless we spend Dave’s entire paycheck (not to mention, I would need to get a waitressing job), we were out of luck. We were going to have to settle…for Plan B.

Asking for a covered parking spot? Perhaps a shady tree would do.

A washer and dryer in the unit? Laundromats are fun places to witness about Jesus…you know, captive audience and all that.

Furniture? For $1,100 a month, we could rent the “middle” package… the one with cardboard cones supporting the coffee table.

A pool and tennis court? Hahahahaha

Maybe we could buy something small. Like a fixer-upper. And not fixer-upper it.

On one apartment-seeking drive, we saw an older beach home with a “For Rent” sign in its front yard. I immediately called the realtor’s number and was told it had just rented…for $20,000 a month. I started laughing. “Did you say $20,000 a MONTH?”

I know,” he answered. “But it is on the beach, and it has a 100’ pier.”

Is that pier plated with gold?” I asked. Dave told me to hang up.

My husband noticed an “Open House” sign at a trailer park and pulled into its entrance. The owner was a sweet little lady who carried a bottle of Pine Sol around as she proudly showed us her home. At least it would be clean, I told myself. It was furnished, had a carport and a washer and dryer. Never mind there was no pool or tennis court or workout room OR that it wasn’t even for rent, and for $220,000, we could move in at the beginning of February.

One realtor offered us a furnished unit that apparently had been decorated by someone on a very tight budget—like, oh say, $100.00. It did, however, have a pool and a workout room and a tennis court. Oops! Check that. The tennis court was filled with construction materials because each unit was being rebuilt due to water damage from poorly-designed roofs. Ours already had been rebuilt, we were told. This was to be good news. Dave said we had no choice.

Yes, we did. We could jump off a gold-plated pier.

This morning, right before Dave accepted the contract on that unit, I had this crazy idea to phone the church Dave and I attended last Sunday and asked if they knew of anyone who might help us. They did. Her name is Rhonda; she is a church volunteer and also a realtor. She contacted me, I explained our predicament, and the first thing she said was, “May I pray with you?” And pray she did! She called on the name of Jesus and let loose! I was driving at the time, but had our truck had a sunroof, I would have been transported to Heaven. It was glorious!

And guess what! Within 24 hours we were signing the lease on a cozy duplex with not just a single garage but a double one. In our latest email correspondence, I wrote this to Rhonda: “How does God do it? Amazing.” Her response? “RIGHT! He always blows me away. I have been especially on fire since we prayed! Honored to be a witness of His Grace.”

Me too, Rhonda. Me too.

Ephesians 3:20-21– Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Emphasis: mine)