All posts by Patty LaRoche

Win As Many As Possible by Patty LaRoche

A few months ago, a former classmate and I ran into each other downtown and began discussing our upcoming high school reunion, a conversation that somehow turned into how little we knew about each other’s families, even though we had attended school together for twelve years. She remembered that my father had died when I was young (eight-months old), but not how he died. My knowledge of her family was not much better, for even though we had been best friends in grade school, all I remembered about her dad was that he worked for the railroad and had no sense of smell. “We were so into ourselves,” she said. And I agreed.

Two weeks ago, my high school graduating class celebrated its 50th reunion–which makes no sense, considering I am only 30 years old. (I’m funny.) Anyway, because this was such a special event, a committee of us locals spent several weeks preparing for the celebration, and with our Class of ’68 graduating survivors nearing 165, we counted on large numbers.

Save the Date” postcards were mailed months in advance, but by the registration deadline, only 23 graduates had responded that they would come. Ten of those were on the committee. This was not what we expected. A second email was sent, followed by personal phone calls. A total of 55 registered. A few classmates had health problems that prevented them from attending, but our committee was saddened by those who said that high school was not a good experience, and they had no intention of reliving those years.

Again, not what we expected.

At one of our organizational meetings, we questioned the “Why’s” of such responses. Our committee members had run in different crowds and been involved in various activities during our school years. Two had boyfriends, their primary focus. Still, high school held fond memories for all of us. At one point in our conversation, we questioned if we could have done more to help others have the same kind of experience. I mean, none of us had been unfriendly, but had we been selfishly focused on ourselves?

The answer was obvious.

So, here it is, decades later, and several former classmates still carry the wounds of those years. And even though we cannot turn back the clock and soothe their hurts, we can—and should—learn from this so that today, whatever our circumstance, we become aware of those we encounter who need a kind word or an invitation for a cup of coffee or an opportunity to be valued. Instead of surrounding ourselves with those with whom we are comfortable, maybe it’s time to meet that neighbor who keeps to himself or the cashier at the local convenience store or even an old classmate with whom we have lost contact.

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19 are a fresh reminder of what our daily objective should be. “Though I am free, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” In Paul’s early years, he was all about himself. Unlike our committee, his primary focus was to intentionally hurt the Christian community, but once he met Jesus, he cared only about others.

One day, a Heavenly reunion will be held. We Christians carry the invitations for neighbors and pew-mates and random encounters to “Save the Date” as well as the responsibility to follow up with reminders of its importance. None of us want to be the reason someone rejects this eternal opportunity.

What to do?

The answer is obvious.

Miss God’s Will For Your Life? By Patty LaRoche

Sometimes I question if I missed God’s will for my life. What if the choices I made were not God’s best for the Kingdom? I mean, what if God really wanted me to become a lawyer who would fight for those who had been incorrectly incarcerated? I do like to argue and to be a hero, so maybe that was the direction I was to take. Or what if I should have been a horse trainer? How could someone love horses like I do and not use that passion? Then there always is the paramedic profession. Granted, I once performed the Heimlich on a lady who, as it turned out, wasn’t choking, but perhaps I could redeem myself.

Do you ever waste your time with such senseless questions? Paul, a “servant of God,” certainly had the opportunity to do just that. In Acts 16: 6-8, Luke writes this:

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.  When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.  So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.

Did you catch it, or did you blow right past it like I did the first dozen times I read it? This is not a leisurely stroll on the local jogging trail. Historians write that Paul’s journey involved thousands of miles of walking, all while trying to figure out what God wanted him to do. I’m frustrated, just thinking about it. Then we come to verse nine:

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Hooray! Celebration time! Finally, a clear direction from God. Strap on your worn-out sandals, Paul. God has plans for you and your friends to tell others about His Son. You soon will be able to sit around a few campfires and share your faith!

Uh, maybe not. Time (perhaps weeks) goes by with no clear opportunity. In fact, the only significant occurrence in scripture is the appearance of a fortune teller who keeps irritating Paul and his companions. No doubt his nerves are a little frayed when he says to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” Which it does.

Good, spiritual move, Paul… until that is, the locals take exception to this exorcism, drag Paul and Silas before the city officials, strip them, “severely” flog them, bind them in chains and throw them into the inner dungeon of the prison. Now, if I’m Silas, I’m going to be looking for a new BFF, and if I’m Paul, I’m going to be throwing a hissy fit to God. And I’m definitely going to be questioning if I missed God’s call on my life.

Not on their eternal radar.

Verse 25-26: And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed.

Read the rest of Acts 16. Because of this incarceration, the jailer (and his family) become Christians, and soon a solid Christian community is formed.

We, like Paul, never know how God is using us, but one thing is for certain. No matter what our circumstances, no matter what job we have or the spouse we have chosen or where we live or what problems we are dealing with, God can use us. And if our life isn’t working out like we originally thought it would?

Paul has the answer.

Praise God!

Fake Money by Patty LaRoche

With Dave asleep and my ten-dollar-missionary-money due at this morning’s Bible study, I needed to retrieve my emergency stash from its hiding place. Imagine my surprise when I found not only a ten-dollar bill but a onehundred-dollar one as well. It was Christmas in September! I happily stuffed the money into my purse, headed to the Bible study and placed my $10 in the missionary collection.

Following that meeting and returning home to organize my day, I could hardly wait to share with my (now) awake husband about my windfall. This was happy news for Dave. He asked if I would exchange that bill for five-twenties. No big deal. It all spends the same. Dave handed me the twenties, and I gave him the $100 bill. He paused, rubbed it with his fingers and immediately appeared to lose his happiness. Holding the bill close to my face, Dave pointed out that I had missed one teensy, weensy matter, like the faded words “Play Money” stamped next to Benjamin Franklin’s picture. (And yes, if you are wondering, there was a certain “I think you have done this intentionally and find this funny” tone to his voice.)

Which was ridiculous. This was not Monopoly money. These bills were made to look real, and other than their size, thinness and that nearly invisible “Play Money” wording, could fool anyone…well, except Sherlock Dave.

Thankfully, I had not tried to pass my counterfeit find off at Price Chopper, the top of my errand list. But then it dawned on me. What if my $10 missionary payment also was play money? And what if next Monday, Billie Jo Drake, our Bible study leader, held it up and asked if anyone in our group was missing a fake, ten-dollar bill? Yikes!

When Dave realized that I was clueless (Save your comments), he seemed stunned that I had made such a careless mistake. (Seriously? We’ve been married 45 years. He should be used to this by now). Still, my immediate problem was not my husband; it was having to admit to Billie Jo that I was an idiot. My happiness, like the Play Money wording, was fading. Could I somehow avoid this phone call? Pride sure wanted me to.

I reminded myself that little things like repenting to Bible study leaders is minor compared to acknowledging my failings to God, even though He knows about my sins (and yours—you’re not off the hook here) before I even commit them. Which, when you think about it, should make contrition rather easy. And it would be, were it not for Pride.

Blame it on Adam and Eve. They were the ones who originally disobeyed and hid from God instead of repenting, and since Pride worked so well in the Garden of Eden, maybe that is why Satan relies on it being just as effective today. But there is hope! Even though erring is part of our sinful condition, repenting is a privilege of our Christian condition.

It’s true. God doesn’t bang His head on a table when His children mess up. He knows what we are going to do before we do it. All He asks is that we ask for forgiveness.

It was time to call Billie Jo and…Gulp… try to explain what I had done. She was gracious, checked the bills and told me that none were phonies. I thanked her (and Jesus) and hung up. Hubby wasn’t quite so understanding. He stood there with his hand outstretched, expecting me to give back his twenty-dollar bills and definitely not happy that he had been had…proving my point that no one is exempt from Pride.

Gracie by Patty LaRoche

Gracie loved putting on her sunbonnet, grabbing her decorated basket and picking strawberries in her backyard. When her parents, John and Erin, learned that their precious two-year-old, Downs syndrome daughter had leukemia, their time spent in the Houston hospital almost equaled that of caring for their other two young children. Little did they know, that was as good as it would get. Still, the parents’ faith did not waiver, as Dave and I witnessed when we became a part of their weekly Bible study. On one of Erin’s middle-of-the-night runs to the emergency room with Gracie, an inattentive nurse left the mother-daughter pair alone for hours in the examination room. By the time Erin was allowed to take her child to the oncology floor, Gracie’s heart stopped. Doctors worked for twenty minutes to revive her, but Gracie was left with a severe brain injury.

Many encouraged John and Erin to file a lawsuit. After much prayer, they chose instead to ask the hospital for free access to bless the families of the other oncology children on that ward. The hospital agreed. His Grace Foundation was formed, and money raised went to providing support, gifts, meals, and parking for the parents. That program continues today.

Fast forward fifteen years. Now living in Georgetown, Texas, Erin visited Brookwood, a community of disabled adults in Brookshire, Texas, and was determined to create such a place in her area. In 2011, Brooktown in Georgetown (BIG) opened and began to provide meaningful work, a sense of belonging, dignity, and respect for adults with functional disabilities.

Gracie was enrolled in the public school. Wheelchair-bound, on a feeding tube and unable to talk, she became the delight of the other 3,000+ students in her school. As a senior, she was voted Homecoming Queen, an event carried by major news stations. (See insert.)

 

Last week, when Gracie’s color changed and her perpetual smile disappeared, Erin took her to the E.R. where a cat scan showed no problems. Gracie was sent home, but that night, when her breathing slowed, John and Erin drove their daughter back to the hospital. This time, the news was not good. Gracie had sepsis. Emergency surgery came too late.

Family members were called. Gracie’s sister was two hours from returning to her missionary job in Africa. Others were within driving distance. They praised God when they all made it to the hospital in time, and after singing hymns around Gracie’s bed, Gracie died.

Her aunt, Mollie, penned these words to God in her blog this morning: “I am convinced she (Gracie) had the benefit of enjoying a preview of heaven at three when she had no heartbeat for 20 minutes. I think she saw glorious things she simply could not un-see. Although Gracie returned to us without language we could clearly understand, she never needed words to worship You. After her experience with You “outside” her body, Gracie’s exquisite response to even the mention of Your name was unbridled bliss…I want to be more like Gracie. I want to be fully dependent on You experiencing the unbridled bliss of Your presence. In my utter weakness, please be my boundless strength.”

I pray God does the same for all who mourn the loss of this precious young woman.

I

Bonkers by Patty LaRoche

 

San Francisco has once again made the news. And no, I am not talking about the homeless people using the sidewalks as their personal restrooms; the City Commission is working on a solution to that. I’m referring to its new “No-Shame Dress Code” for its public- school students. August 24th’s USA Today reported that the school district has adopted a policy loosening its clothing code so that students can…well, loosen theirs.

Before going bonkers like I did, be comforted that the school board members have mandated that certain items must be worn: bottoms; tops; shoes; clothing that covers genitals, buttocks and nipples. Okay, go bonkers. Ask yourself, like I did…

Have any of these decision-makers read 1 Timothy 2 which addresses dressing with modesty and self-control?

New to the list of clothing students may wear are midriff-baring shirts, pajamas, and halter tops/ strapless tops. Still, there are restrictions: no bathing suits, visible underwear or clothing with pornographic messages are allowed. At least, not for this year.

Steven Fong, the district’s chief academic officer, spoke about the benefits. “We believe these changes will reduce inequitable and unnecessary discipline and help us maximize learning time. Districts across the country are adopting similar revisions for similar reasons. We are excited to be moving forward with a such a student-centered approach.” Other areas are getting on board. California’s Alameda School District “rejects the idea that certain students’ bodies are distracting and therefore must be monitored and covered.”

Bonkers! Bonkers! Bonkers!

According to this article, “Opponents of strict dress codes say punishing students for their clothing is a form of shaming that can result in body-image issues.” The answer? Let students pretty much wear what they want.

Get that? Enter a classroom with your belly hanging over your belt and a cleavage-showing strapless top, and your body-image is going to be “validated” by other students? I have news for these rules-makers. Body-image issues will be magnified, not minimized.

The way people dress is a major indicator of how they feel about themselves, not to mention, preparation for future employment. Try walking into a Walmart interview in your pajamas and tell me how that works for you. In my opinion, if San Francisco really cared about “validating” its students, it would require school uniforms. You know, where everyone looks relatively alike, thereby reducing the competition to one-up each other and actually meeting Fong’s goal to “reduce inequitable and unnecessary discipline and help us maximize learning time.”

I am so thankful I live in an area where a school dress code is in place, where school board members give teachers one less ambiguous issue to discipline, where a moral code dictates policy instead of relying on a “student-centered approach.” (You know, where mature adults know when and when not to acquiesce to students’ wishes.)

I pray that Christians in San Francisco rise up and make their voices heard and recognize this dress code solution is a dangerous slippery slope (knowing those slides never seem to move in the direction of morality).

Maybe it’s time they even go a little bonkers.

Cruise by Patty LaRoche

My college sorority friends and I decided this, our 50-year reunion, would be “special”: We would take a cruise to Alaska. What we did not anticipate were the awaiting challenges, like how Carol broke her tooth the night before our trip but decided Orajel and pain killers would dull the ache. For the first four days, that seemed to work. Unfortunately, it was a seven-day voyage.

Since Diana is wheelchair and walker-dependent, she brought along her therapist to share her handicap-equipped room…which was anything but geared for a handicapped person. Seriously. How can a “Handicap” room be too small to accommodate a wheelchair?

Six of us spent our first night in Seattle. For $238 a room (thankfully, split between three of us), we experienced a night in a nasty hotel. Nasty, as in bugs and scalding water. Regardless, we refused to let that dull our excitement for this once-in-a-lifetime trip!

Morning #1: we were awakened by a text that Diana had fallen and was being gurneyed to the ship’s infirmary. She returned in a medical boot to protect her broken foot. Because this was her “good foot”—the other one cannot support any weight—it took six of us using a lift sheet to transfer her to a wheelchair and, whenever her feet swelled, back to bed. There would be no sightseeing or shopping for our dear friend.

Morning #2: Juneau was our first stop where we had paid extra for an excursion to two sites: one to watch whales and the other to view the Mendenhall Glacier…which I imagine is quite spectacular, had it not been for the endless rain and thick fog. Still, from inside our whale-viewing boat where we were protected from the elements, we learned much from our marine biologist guide who demonstrated the intricacies of the humpback, using her seven-inch plastic replica. Diana’s two daughters (who also were on the cruise) weren’t even that lucky; they had booked a helicopter Iditarod dog excursion, but because of the weather, their trip was canceled. They stayed behind to care for their mother.

Morning #3: due to unusually rough waves, two of the girls ended up in bed, sea-sick. I attempted the treadmill.

Use your imagination.

Morning #4: We docked at Sitka and were bussed to the small village where we saw a thirty-minute, all-women, Russian dance troupe. For clarification, these were neither Russian nor professional but were volunteers on their lunch breaks. (This time, an upbeat imagination is required.) That night on the ship we danced to a fantastic “Oldies” band but had to stop when the rough seas caused us to lose what little balance we have left. Following that hour of excitement, three girls had to ice their knees and could walk only short distances for the duration of our trip.

On Day #5, the fog lifted and we were able to sit outside on the large deck and play dominoes. At that time, everything was put into perspective. One of the girls began sharing how the ice packs had not helped her hurting knee. Diana spoke up–you know, the Diana in the wheelchair who can’t walk. “Every time I start to feel sorry for myself, I thank Jesus because I know so many people have it so much worse than I do.”

Here is a woman who loves God passionately, who, because medicine was incorrectly prescribed for her now lives in a residential facility, who had to give up her job, who chokes when she eats, whose shoulders and legs have atrophied, yet she reminded us that things weren’t nearly as bad as we made them out to be.

And if that isn’t a “special” message, I don’t know what is.

Those People by Patty LaRoche

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my experience while working alongside Misty, the kitchen director, in a homeless shelter. Referring to the ones she served, Misty reminded me that any one of “us” could end up like “them.”

She is right, of course. Every one of us, if broken enough, is vulnerable. That message was reinforced a few days ago when I ran across sociologist Brene Brown’s TED talk which addresses this heartbreaking issue. “Most of us are one paycheck, one divorce, one drug-addicted kid, one mental health diagnosis, one serious illness, one sexual assault, one drinking binge, one night of unprotected sex, or one affair away from being “those people”—the ones we don’t trust, the ones we pity, the ones we don’t let our children play with, the ones bad things happen to, the ones we don’t want living next door.”

Possibly some of you readers have no idea what Brown is talking about. I do. And so do many of my friends who are praying for a loved one who is making destructive choices: to drink too much; to “shop-‘til-they-drop”; to have sex with multiple partners (I am witnessing to one such person now); to refuse Christian counseling; to click on porn; to ignore the needs of their spouse and children; to turn their backs on God.

The list is endless.

Last week I wrote about “Agnes,” a homeless woman I encountered who spends much of her day on a bench near the ballpark where my husband works. For over a month I have tried to help her. Her only possession seems to be a ragged Kleenex which she uses to dab the sweat from her brow. She doesn’t want water. Or food. Or clothes, even though the pants she wears (every single day) have an 18” hole in the back of them. She doesn’t want a ride to the new, $20 million women’s shelter located two miles from where she hangs out. So, when all my offers failed, I called a police hotline and was told an officer would pick Agnes up and take her to the shelter.

The next day, when Agnes’ bench was empty, I celebrated, only to be disheartened within 24 hours when she was back at her usual spot. When I stopped to check on her, she told me that her credit cards “are in a red window” and she “can’t get them out.” On one visit, she shared that she and her “group are fine.” I questioned what “group” she meant, and she said, “They are here.” I left, frustrated and sad.

Because of Agnes and the dozens of homeless who live in my neighborhood, I volunteered to work at the nearby homeless shelter (Aug. 18 article). There were two interviews before I officially was vetted, and at my first meeting I described Agnes to the director and asked if she knew her. She did. Her answer should not have surprised me. “Some people are so mentally ill, they don’t want to be helped. The volunteers can’t make someone take a shower or change clothes or come to a class on how to find a job.”

All she has to do is ask,” I was told.

Which, when you think of it, is all I had to do—to ask if I could help.

Homeless Agnes by Patty LaRoche

Last week I wrote about working in the kitchen at a homeless shelter. Please allow me to introduce you to “Agnes,” the one responsible for me volunteering. Almost daily, as I walked in the direction of the Jacksonville, Florida, ballpark, I found her reclining on a park bench or pilfering through trash. She, a homeless lady, sported no bags or shopping cart (like most who live on the streets) and always had on the same dirty, torn, ill-fitting pants and top. The first time I passed her, she was asleep, her head supported on the curved metal armrest with not even a piece of clothing to soften her “pillow.” It appeared painful.

When she is awake, we speak. To my “How are you doing?” she responds, “I am fine, thank you.” A pleasant lady. In the beginning, I would move on. After all, three blocks away is a homeless shelter which feeds, clothes and sleeps “those” people.

A few weeks ago, Marti and Elaine, two Fort Scott friends, came to visit. After dining out, we left with two large portions of pasta which we decided to share with the homeless people in my area. My first stop was Agnes, the bench lady. I pulled over to the curb. This was our conversation:

Good evening. Would you like some food?” I began.

It will break my teeth.”

Oh, no, it’s pasta. It’s soft.”

I can’t because my teeth will break.”
“It’s like spaghetti, only in the shape of bow ties.” (No idea why I added this tidbit.)

I don’t want it. It will break my teeth.”

Are you sure? It’s really good, and it’s really soft.”

I’m supposed to be at Burger King.” (This was not working out the way I intended.) Telling her good-bye, I ended with “God bless you.” She repeated the phrase.

My next stop was an elderly, frail lady walking down the street. “Would you like some food? It’s pasta and it’s really good.”

I would like juice. Do you have juice?”

No, no juice. Just food.”
“Thank you, but I’m not hungry. I just want juice.”

And I would give you that, if I were a drive-by cantina, I say to myself, wondering how many more of “those” will reject my offering.

Then it dawned on me. I was lumping all “those” homeless men and women into a single category: people who don’t turn down handouts. Jesus never would see them that way. He would view each of them as individuals with distinct likes and desires and issues. How dare I categorize “those people” because they live on the streets!

On a walk yesterday, my husband and I encountered several homeless people. Some were sleeping. Many were slumped on curbs. Most looked sad. I told Dave that I would love to bring them back to our condo and offer them a shower and a meal. He said they might kill me. (He always says that.) The sad thing is, he’s right. And that’s the problem. How do I know which are mentally challenged? Addicts? Sociopaths? Perhaps they are just individuals choosing to reject societal standards or are there through no fault of their own. (The movie The Pursuit of Happyness was proof of that.) Stereotyping them is much easier than figuring this out.

Continuing my food drive, within one block I found two wheelchair-bound men who were thrilled to accept the pasta. I expected to feel better about myself.

I didn’t. That was, however, my turning point…which is what led me to volunteering at the homeless shelter…which is where I met Misty…which is where I realized, I really am one of “those” people.

But By The Grace of God, Go I by Patty LaRoche

They’re not cases. They’re people. I wish everyone would remember that.”

Misty shared that with me shortly after I arrived to work alongside her in the kitchen of a homeless shelter here in Florida. She has been employed there for five years after interning while earning her pastry chef degree. I saw a lot of Jesus in her.

Tonight’s 200+ “guests” all were treated with dignity by this amazing young woman. Anyone wanting seconds was given seconds. Thirds? As long as the food lasted. One elderly man wanted milk instead of iced tea, so Misty ran to the cooler to find a carton. She said that the “personal touch” means the world to these people which is why she calls most of them by name.

One woman caught my attention when I showed up mid-afternoon. A box of donated tennis shoes had been placed on the veranda, and this elderly lady had taken a few pair. She spent the next two hours at a picnic table, redoing the laces, setting them aside and then starting over. Then she walked to the trash can, leaned over it and brushed her teeth. According to Misty, she is a regular.

Alongside me in the kitchen were three men who live at the shelter. Bob is a grandpa, LaShawn is trying to break a cocaine habit, and Kenta appeared to have a chip on his shoulder. Misty said his negativity is “part of his journey” and that she, too, had been bitter before she turned her life around.

Between prep duties, I heard her story. As a youngster, she lived for five years in a car with her mother. Because of that, she knows first-hand these homeless people are not just “cases.” Born with a cleft palate that was fixed shortly after her birth, Misty’s permanent teeth were so jagged that the Shriners offered to pay for her mouth to be fixed. The process had started but then her drug-addicted mother “dropped the ball,” so it never was done. By the time her dad intervened and got custody, Misty was twelve.

In high school she joined ROTC and found a place where she excelled. Once she graduated, she tried to join the Army and then the Navy, but both needed proof she could function with her repaired cleft palate and crooked teeth. I told her that made no sense. You don’t shoot a gun or fly a helicopter with your mouth. Misty laughed but said that in the year it took her to prove her “disability” was not a psychological disadvantage, both military operations were cutting back and taking only the cream of the crop. She did not fall into that category.

LaShawn has been at the shelter only one month. We talked about his three sons and how he works two jobs to pay child support but has not seen them in a “long time.” After LaShawn’s “baby mama” turned to drugs, he followed, never realizing how hard it would be to quit. I said I had no idea what that battle must be like, that I admired him for fighting the fight and He had much to win, especially in his role of daddy. He agreed.

Several hours later, as LaShawn washed dishes and I swept, I told him I thought the corn from supper was growing out of the floor because it kept appearing in spots I already had swept. His hearty laugh made me realize we have the same sense of humor. At the end of our shift we hugged, and when I showed up to work there a few days later, his “Hi, Miss Patty” was yelled at me from across the courtyard. I had made a friend.

By the grace of God goeth I,” I said to Misty while removing my apron and protective cap. I hope I never forget her response. “I know. I keep reminding myself that I am one paycheck, one poor decision, one illness, one turn at bad luck away from ending up just like them.”

Aren’t we all?

Corrie Ten Boom:Attitudes Are Contagious by Patty LaRoche

We all have met Christians whose circumstances determine their moods and ultimately, their faith. Happy or cranky, both attitudes are contagious, and both are indicators of a person’s relationship with God. If ever someone refused to let her situation control her faith, it was Corrie ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place.

Imprisoned in a concentration camp during Hitler’s reign, Corrie sought to find blessings in her horrific conditions. “Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings,” she later wrote. “It’s something we make inside ourselves.” Along with her sister, Betsie, she was forced to sleep on straw-covered platforms in a filthy barracks where the plumbing had backed up. The stench was unbearable, and then fleas infested the area.

Corrie asked Betsie: “How can we live in this place?”

Betsie prayed aloud that God would show them how. This is what Corrie wrote about their conversation that followed:

“ ‘Corrie, …in the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was First Thessalonians,’ I said…

“‘Oh yes: …Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances…’

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances! That’s what we can do.’”

At that point, the two sisters began to make a mental gratitude list: they had been assigned together; they were able to sneak their Bible past the inspectors; and because the room was crammed, when they spoke of Jesus, many heard of him.

Corrie’s writing continued. “Thus began the closest, most joyous weeks of all the time in Ravensbruck…In the sanctuary of God’s fleas, Betsie and I ministered the Word of God to all in the room. We sat by deathbeds that became doorways of heaven. We watched women who had lost everything grow rich in hope…We prayed beyond the concrete walls for the healing of Germany, of Europe, of the world.”

Betsie died in that prison, but Corrie went on to write dozens of books about her experience. Many of her quotes depict her incredible faith in tough times. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

“Jesus did not promise to change the circumstances around us. He promised great peace and pure joy to those who would learn to believe that God actually controls all things.”

“In order to realize the worth of the anchor we need to feel the stress of the storm.”

“The school of life offers some difficult courses, but it is in the difficult class that one learns the most.”

“If God sends us on stony paths, he provides strong shoes.”

“You can never learn that Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have.”

Few of us have encountered trials comparable to those Corrie and Betsie suffered. Their decision to find blessings in filth and fleas modeled Romans 5:3-5 (ESV):…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The lesson is life-changing. When we accept the tough times and move beyond our own selfish desires, motives, and pleasures, when instead we seek to love God and bless others, we produce our own happiness. And like I said, happiness, like crankiness, is contagious.

The choice is ours: If we are to be a carrier, which do we choose to spread?

Pride By Patty LaRoche

James 1:19-20My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

When I am involved in a disagreement (argument?), the common denominator in every one of them is always…well, me. Or you, if you are the one involved. Actually, the root of all my problems is me. Or you, if you are the one involved. Think about it. All of us live on a continuum somewhere between gratitude and entitlement with most of our teeter-totters heavily favoring the entitlement side. Maybe not the government-handout entitlement, but just that part of our self-esteem that somehow thinks WE matter most. People should treat us special. Good things are due to us. After all, we work hard. Most people don’t hate us. We’ve never murdered anyone. Surely we deserve some perks for our efforts. Um-hmm. Keep talking.

Pride at its finest.

I imagine it’s thoughts like this that prompted atheist-turned-Christian C.S. Lewis to call pride the “root of all sin.” He’s right. Who of us doesn’t stubbornly want our way? I try not to, but usually, I’m right, so it’s hard to back down. And yes, I am kidding (sort of). Whoever wrote the adage “You can be right, or you can be married” understood the difficulty in two disagreeing people working toward compromise. Pride makes us want to be right. Like I said, we are entitled.

Lord, help us!

Fortunately, He does, and He used Paul to write to the Romans to explain how we adjust on our temperamental teeter-totter. The first eight chapters give us clear instruction that we are saved by faith. The next three chapters are about God’s mercy that we don’t deserve.

Then we hit Chapter 12: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Notice the first word of verse one: “Therefore.” In other words, “Because of what you have just read about God’s mercy and provision in the first eleven chapters, it’s time to do something. For starters, change your stinkin’ way of thinkin’. Stop putting yourself first.

I know that’s possible, but sometimes it is really, really hard.

While I am writing this article, my phone is on hold with Frontier Airlines. For thirty-five minutes I have been listening to classical music while I stew because, after a month of phone calls (always being told they have “higher than normal hold times,”), they disconnect me. My emails have been answered with an “automatic reply,” promising a response within seven days. Not happening.

The problem? The airline canceled Dave’s flight to attend our granddaughter’s June 8th wedding, offering instead to put him on another flight that would get him there seven hours AFTER the wedding started, AND since they have no reciprocal agreements with any other airlines, that was “the best” they could do. Are you feeling my frustration?

And yes, I know that how I handle this phone call (if I don’t die first while listening to Bach) will indicate my level of pride. Will I chew out some poor, underpaid customer service agent or “renew my mind” and be a witness for Christ?

You will be pleased to know that during this incessantly long delay, I am praying for some Godly intervention. I’m pretty confident I know what my choice will be.

False Advertisers by Patty LaRoche

I am a sucker for false advertising. When I die and you come to my estate sale (which will be held even if Dave survives me because he will be thrilled to get rid of my collections), you will see for yourself. Let’s start with recipe books. I have never seen a cookbook I did not like. Even if ingredients can be purchased only in Bangladesh, if the photos appear tasty, I buy the book. The problem? No dish I ever have made even remotely resembles the cookbook picture of how master chefs–and photo-shopping–make it appear.

Television gadgets target me. Zucchini shredders. Mosquito electrocuters. Bunion erasers. Microwave bacon dividers. Roto-rooter snakes. Canvas deck covers. Flashlights that illuminate all of New York City. Any pizza with stringy cheese. It’s all about the way the goodies are presented. Rarely do they measure up.

And how about books? Against my wishes, Dave bought me a Kindle so I (he) would not have to lug 200 pounds worth of books when we travel. I resisted, but once I gave it a chance, I was hooked. Then I signed up for BookBub. Every day three or four books are offered at super cheap prices. Unfortunately, few match their reviews or covers. Even Christian books disappoint. History books are way too…well, historical (and assume I already know a lot more about the past than I do). Occasionally I buy a humorous book. So far, they have all ended up in my “deleted” file. Surely I’m not the only one who wants funny without profanity and sex!

Then there are games. You know, the ones with covers that show loving families leaning in at the kitchen table, everyone laughing, making a lifetime memory. We can be that family, I used to tell myself, and we could be if even one of my kids could have been trusted as a banker or realtor or deck dealer. Or if one, unnamed son wouldn’t have tossed the game pieces to the ceiling or delighted in screaming “50 card pick-up” if there was the slightest chance he might not win. Or if I would have accepted “IT IS A WORD. IT IS A WORD. I DON’T CARE IF IT’S NOT IN THE DICTIONARY. TGKSU IS A WORD. IT IS. IT IS. IT IS.”

This past week, I drove seven hours to (among other things) check out a potential 2018 family Christmas gathering spot—a houseboat with photos that boasted a gourmet kitchen, a top-deck jacuzzi, its own small beach and enough room to sleep 12. I had all but clicked on the “Reserve Now Before It’s Gone” button before deciding to see it in person. Risking my life to walk on its pier, I actually strode past it, wondering how such a “condemned” boat hadn’t fallen apart and sunk, before realizing that was the one offered for rent.

False advertising at its best! And then my Scripture reading today shows that Jesus himself abhorred fakeness, only in this case, the finger wasn’t pointing at cookbooks or the television or books or games; it was pointed in my direction.

Matthew 23: 27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Notice that Jesus calls these naysayers “Hypocrites,” the word for Greek actors who placed a mask over their face to pretend to be someone they weren’t.

And because Scripture says we are all sinners, I assume you join me in the list of the guilty ones. We attend church, smiling at all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, after having just barked at someone in our family. We sing worship songs after sharing gossip about one of God’s children. We fail to share the gospel but have no problem wearing a decorative cross around our necks.

We look the part on the outside but need a major overhaul on the inside.

False advertisers should take notice.

I guess, in reality, that includes me.