Category Archives: Opinion

Patty LaRoche: Forgetting the Past

Isaiah 43:18 (NIV): “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

I’m not sure there is better—or more difficult—advice.

If your mind is like mine, it chooses to cleave to the past like contact paper to fingers, even though by dwelling on the injustices done to us, we will miss out on what God has for us now. That’s because our brains cannot dwell on two things at once. We are incapable of reliving our past and our present at the same time. Get that? Incapable.

My mind has a tendency to love history, and no, not the “Name the presidents in order” kind of history. The history to which I’m referring is that which happens when Dave and I disagree. It can be something as simple as him telling me that it’s frustrating to wake up to dirty dishes in the sink. I now have a choice: I can make a mental note to never go to bed without cleaning up, or I can thank him for sharing with me what he is feeling and promise to never, ever, ever do that again.

OR…

I can tell Dave that (a.) dirty dishes have no eternal repercussions, (b.) since there’s nothing wrong with his hands, he is perfectly capable of taking care of the dishes if they bother him so much, or (c.) he has a critical spirit that needs addressing because this is not the first time he has found fault with something I have done. And then I will replay whatever has happened over the past, say 43 years, that I have found irritating. (When it comes to remembering these details, I have a photographic memory.)

You can guess how well this all works out. I just have the hardest time remembering that my past is not my destiny.

Unless, that is, I choose to live there.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians gives a better suggestion. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (3:13b-14 NLT)

The challenge of the past is not to see the mistakes of others. It is to train me to remember my mistakes so I can work towards becoming the kind of person God wants me to be. Where I was once selfish, I now can be tender-hearted and other-oriented. Where I was once angry, I now can be loving and kind. Where I was once lackluster about my sin, I now can be pained by how I have pained God.

The truth is this: my heart will not change if I cling to my past. I am to deal with it honestly and then displace it. An old Peanuts cartoon has Lucy standing in the outfield of Charlie Brown’s baseball diamond. As a fly ball sails toward her, she remembers all the other times she’s dropped the ball. And she drops this one, too. Lucy calls out to Charlie Brown, who’s standing on the pitcher’s mound: “I almost had it, but then my past got in my eyes!”

And I assure you, Readers, if we want to “receive the heavenly prize,” that is a ball we cannot afford to drop.

Patty LaRoche: The Greatest Tragedy

Thank you to all who took time to text, email, Facebook or stop me in person after reading my story of Quinton Robbins who died in the Las Vegas massacre. Quinton’s life had an incredible impact on those who knew him, and the outpouring of love brought tremendous comfort to his family and friends.

Every evening following the shooting, Quinton’s friends hung out at the Robbins’ house to share memories of how he had made them laugh, how he guilted them into paying for boat gas, even though he never gave that money to his dad (who actually filled the boat tank) and how he defended anyone being talked about behind their back.

One evening friends showed up with popcorn and an orange drink concoction because those were two of Quinton’s favorite snacks. My granddaughter, Britney, and her good friend from college purchased a wooden picture of deer antlers, signed it “Forever In Our Hearts” and had all of their friends autograph it—no messages, just names. Thirty of the closest friends organized a paper lantern send-off following the high school football team’s halftime tribute to Quinton. Nikki, my step-daughter, daily took food. One special gift was a huge basket filled with every possible snack, dips, gift cards to restaurants, and loads of Kleenex.

The theme of last week’s article was “This is a fallen world and bad things happen.” My friend texted me with a different perspective.

Was Quinton saved? Did he know Jesus as his personal Savior?

I read between her lines.

Had any of our relatives (or me) ever shared the truth of the gospel, even though it ran contrary to his family’s denominational beliefs? How did we impact Quentin’s life story?

My friend’s exact words were as follows: “Gun control may have its place, but Son control does not. Isn’t it time we stop trying to control Him and let Him be who He really is—Lord and Savior?”

She is right.

If you have time, please Google “Where Is God in the Midst of Tragedy? by Hope Church in Las Vegas,” a church which had several members impacted by the shooting. My grandson texted me after last Sunday’s service to tell me how he was touched by the sermon, so I listened on line to Pastor Vance’s message about the evil in this world. He concluded by saying that the cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest act of sin and injustice the world has ever witnessed…God clothed himself in humanity and we nailed Him on the cross.

“Yet God, in his sovereignty, has taken that moment of evil and has demonstrated love like no one has ever witnessed. In this life we may never have answers to this Las Vegas tragedy. But when we see God, we will see it differently.”

None of us are guaranteed enough breath even for today. If we know our friends’ passions for food and drink but not where they stand with Jesus, what becomes the end of their story?

And just as importantly, what becomes of ours?

Patty LaRoche: Asking ‘Why?’

Dave and I are in Las Vegas this week. Yesterday we took a break from helping Dave’s daughter Nikki care for her husband, Dave, who had major knee surgery. We went property-hunting and met with a realtor who spent several minutes assuring us of the safety in this area. “Casino owners will not tolerate ANYTHING that will cause tourists not to come here. They run the show. They run the government. You can’t find a safer place to live.”

Comforting thought.

Only he was wrong.

The phone call came in the middle of the night. Quentin, our grandson Logan’s best friend and one we have known since the boys were little, was killed by a crazed lunatic who opened fire during the final song of a Country Western concert held on the strip here in Vegas. Quentin and his girlfriend were dancing near the front of the stage when the “popping” started. When the singer, Jason Aldean, ran for his bus as bullets sprayed the stage, Quentin pushed his girlfriend to the floor and lay on top of her. During the 15-second break in gunshots, Quentin got to his knees to seek a way of escape. It was then that a bullet entered through his shoulder and exited near his hip. He was dead within minutes.

Quentin wasn’t supposed to be there. His girlfriend and her roommate had tickets, but when her roommate decided not to go, Quentin was offered the ticket. As a huge fan of Jason Aldean, he was thrilled. His story is one of many to be shared over the next several days as 60+ families will be organizing funerals for loved ones who, just a few minutes before being shot, were having the time of their lives. Questions will be relentless:

What turns someone into a monster capable of killing so many innocent people?

How can one person get ahold of so many assault weapons?

Do we blame the guns or blame the shooter?

Are we safe to go anywhere in public?

And the elephant in the room…Why?

Nikki’s family went over to Quentin’s home this morning. A tearful Nikki asked what she could take or say to help comfort his family. I told her what I tell everyone: Hug them. Cry with them. Pray for them.

Today Logan and I had a sweet conversation about Quentin. He was a high school JV basketball coach and avid golfer who was attending UNLV to become a dentist while working full time for the recreation department. He was the quarterback for his adult flag football team and played slow pitch softball once a week. He was quiet and unassuming and a great guy.

So much to offer…so, why?

Because, doggone it, this is a fallen, broken world (and yes, I hate that that is the answer). Death was not part of God’s original design. Life was meant to lead to life until eternity. Instead, it is a curse set in motion when Adam and Eve sinned. Death makes us hunger for things to be better; it makes us long to live in a place where true restoration happens and the last enemy—death—has been defeated.

The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther lost a son. His wife Katie shouted at him, “Where was God when our son died? Martin replied, “The same place He was when His Son died. He was there watching and weeping.”

Just like He was last Sunday night.

Patty LaRoche: Spiritually Irrelevant

“Too many Christians live spiritually irrelevant lives.” Surely the article wasn’t talking about me. Surely it was talking about people who just stand on the Kingdom sideline, waiting for someone to come along and invigorate their love for Christ. Surely it was referring to those who remain in the same rut, year after year, as their journey to holiness remains stagnant. Surely it was addressing believers who have no quiet time with the Lord, who own no prayer journal, who only occasionally read the Bible.

Surely.

But then the article went on to question if Jesus is as much a part of our everyday talk as our latest golf game or the Chiefs’ game-winning interception or our granddaughter’s solo in the choir contest. Do we faithfully intercede for those who seek our prayers? Do we do anything other than maybe tithe our 10 percent and call it good? Do we seek to share the gospel every day?

Joining the sideline crowd here.

Every day? E-V- E-R-Y day? How about once a month? That wouldn’t be bad. Twelve people a year would hear what a difference Christ makes in my life. And those twelve would tell another twelve and…how awesome would that be?

The problem is, I can’t make even that claim. How different would Heaven look if we all lived a “spiritually relevant life”! What if we started today?

What if we just started?

Edward Kimball started with the thankless job of teaching young boys in his Sunday School class. More times than not he wanted to quit, but when one young man seemed confused about the gospel, Kimball went to the shoe store where he was stocking shelves and confronted the teenager in the stock room. That young man was Dwight L. Moody.

Kimball recalled being nervous… “putting my hand on his shoulder, I made what I felt afterwards was a very weak plea for Christ. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him, and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was. It seemed the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, and there in the back of that store in Boston, D. L. Moody gave himself and his life to Christ.”

Through Moody’s ministry, thousands came to Christ. One of those was Wilbur Chapman who became an evangelist. It was he who preached to Billy Sunday, a professional baseball player who gave up his career to join Chapman’s team and later himself became an evangelist. A scholarly, dignified gentleman named Mordecai Ham was converted at one of Chapman’s meetings and began his own evangelistic team. So “spiritually relevant” was he that he rented a hearse and paraded it through the streets advertising his get-togethers.

Ham traveled to Charlotte, N.C., where teens decided to disrupt one of his meetings when they heard he had spoken of them skipping lunch to visit a house of prostitution near their school. Billy Frank, a classmate, decided to go only to watch the disturbance. Intrigued by Ham’s message, Frank returned another night and was converted. Billy Frank eventually became known as Billy Graham, the evangelist who preached to more people than any other person who ever lived, including the Apostle Paul.

It started in a shoe store. It ended with a world-wide explosion.

As for “spiritually relevant lives,” I think theirs was a slam-dunk.

Surely it’s our turn to give it a try.

Patty LaRoche: God Does Not Show Favoritism

The teary-eyed, African-American woman turned from the fast-food counter in San Bernardino, Calif., her takeout bag in hand and young son standing by her side. “I have never, ever felt so disrespected in my entire life,” she said to me. I looked around.

Good grief! I thought. What have I done this time?

“I’m sorry,” I responded, not a little embarrassed. “Is there a problem?”

She explained—loudly—that she had handed the cashier a $20 bill at which point the young gal held the money above her head, examining it carefully before announcing it “clean.”

“I watched the other three cashiers take $20 bills, and none of them checked the bills. It was an absolute disrespect to my color. This is 2016. I’m married to a white man, an attorney, and I’m going to call him right now and file a complaint. My son has read about this type of prejudice, but he’s never seen it. I feel so disrespected.”

“Do you think there’s any chance this is just a coincidence?” I asked.

“No,” she said, looking at me like I had just crawled out of a dumpster. “It’s obvious she thinks that because I’m black I’m using counterfeit money. I’m going outside to call my husband.” I turned to Dave, my husband, who was pretending not to hear our conversation. “She’s really ticked,” I told him.

“I didn’t notice,” he said, staring at the menu board.

Typical.

Dave and I were driving to California last year when we (correction: when I) observed this woman’s wrath. I suggested we wait in our car for her husband to arrive, just in case I was needed as a witness to a crime. Dave started the engine and skedaddled out of the parking lot.

I don’t know if the customer had a legitimate complaint, but let’s assume she did. Let’s assume the gal behind the counter was prejudice against blacks. Let’s assume none of us would have behaved like that. After all, as Christians, we love everyone…right? We can’t possibly have a prejudiced bone in our judgmental little bodies, now can we?

The Bible spends several chapters addressing personal prejudices, especially the ones between the Gentiles and the Jews. Even Peter was guilty—until the Lord forced him to face his bigotry when He orchestrated events to bring together Peter and Cornelius, who, from childhood, had been taught to disrespect (despise) each other. To Peter, Cornelius was a leader in the hated Roman/Gentile military whose job it was to oppress the Jews, and to Cornelius, Peter was from the opposite side of the camel tracks, a low-life Jew.

Until God got involved.

He did the unpredictable. God put in motion two events: He sent an angel to Cornelius who instructed him to send his soldiers for Peter; and He gave Peter three visions making it clear the Jews now could eat “unclean” Gentile food (a big No-No in Mosaic Law). Things were imploding on both fronts.

The end of this story is probably more optimistic than the San Bernardino one. At Cornelius’ home, Peter preached the “Good News” to Cornelius, his family and friends, and they committed their lives to Jesus and were baptized. Peter’s words (written in Acts 1:34-35) summarize the event. “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

The result? We Gentiles (non-Jews) are fellow partakers of the promise in Jesus Christ, all because two men were willing to do things God’s way and not their own. I would guess the San Bernardino outcome might have been drastically different had both women chosen to do the same.

Patty LaRoche: Worry Versus Worship

A few years ago, my girlfriend “Sharon” came from Florida to spend some quality time with her widowed mother who lived on a small farm outside of Fort Scott. Since her mother was a homebody and didn’t venture far from her garden, Sharon planned to take her mom shopping and treat her to a few of the local restaurants.

My friend flew into KC on Sunday. Wednesday found her at my house in tears.

“Mom” couldn’t leave her house on Monday because that was the cleaning day. Tuesday was for laundry and ironing and Wednesday for canning. Sharon offered to help but was told her mom needed to do it alone so it was done right. To add insult to injury, the “Is there something wrong with my cooking?” question caught my friend off guard.

Mom’s schedule dominated her life, and not even her daughter’s visit would dissuade her from altering it. Of course, Saturday “would have been fine” for a lunch out, but since Sharon had booked an early morning flight, she obviously had “not taken” her mother’s agenda into account. It was a miserable week.

Sharon’s mother died two years after that visit, but my friend has not forgotten her mother being so locked into her agenda that she could not set aside time just to “hang” with her only child. The Bible shares a powerful message on what Jesus thinks of people who cannot make time for relationships. Luke 10:38-42 is a familiar story but one worth revisiting.

Company’s coming, and not just any company. This is Rabbi Jesus and his friends, and Martha, the restless hostess, is almost ready; the house is free of cobwebs and the dirt floor swept, and there will be no shortage of food or drink. Still, the pressure is building. If there is something to stew about, Martha will find it. Not her sister Mary. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, soaking in all he has to say.

One worries.

One worships.

What a difference!

A preacher at my step-daughter’s church expounded on that message with these words: “The presence of Jesus was part of Martha’s plan, but it WAS Mary’s plan. If Martha had time, she was going to be with Jesus. If Mary didn’t have time, she still was going to be with Jesus.”

Don’t skim his words. Read them again. The pastor ended his sermon by asking which one represented us. “Do we merely include Jesus in our schedule, or is our schedule designed around time with our Savior?”

Jesus modeled priorities. No one has ever been busier than he, yet he never appeared harried. He was all about people. The gospel makes it clear as to where we start. If we want a stress-less, worry-less, stew-less schedule, we must make time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Martha’s regimen had no eternal benefits. Mary’s did.

So, the question remains: Do we want Busy, or do we want Blessing?

Patty LaRoche: A Work in Progress

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. (Philippians 1:6, AMP)

God is not finished with me yet.

(Insert the “Hallelujah” chorus!)

And He isn’t finished with you either.

Of course, in my case He is running out of time since I’m slightly (ahem) over the half-century mark, a fact that confronted me the other day as I was organizing some family photos taken when the kids were young. What should have brought great memories made me sad. Babies had turned into adults, some with grown babies of their own, but no one had changed as much as I had. What happened to the thick mane, the trim body, the sagless eyes, the single chin? It didn’t help when this week my fifteen-year-old grandson, Drake, told us his height and weight and Dave shared, “Those were Grandma’s measurements when we got married.”

Drake got a kick out of that.

So did Dave, if you know what I mean.

Now, as I creak out of bed in the morning, rely on an occasional Aleve to calm the joint pain caused from pickle ball, and have to wait for my knee’s permission to navigate the stairs, I still have it a whole lot better than it will be in a decade when I will have even less hair, more aches, sags and chins.

(Delete the “Hallelujah” chorus!)

I’ll be honest. It’s much easier appreciating what I used to be and not what God sees in me now. I see a flawed, finished work as opposed to a work in progress. In reality, I negate the beauty of the work God has done—and is doing—in my life. What a waste! Look at the scripture above. None of us will be flawless until “the day of Jesus Christ.” Perfected beauty is nonexistent until we see God face to face. Where we are today is where we need to be so He is able to continue His work.

No matter what a mess we are physically, mentally or emotionally. God continues to paint on our life’s canvas. Can you imagine someone having the gall to criticize Michelangelo’s partially-completed painting of the Sistine Chapel half-way through his four-year project? I’m betting that viewers, privileged to watch him at work on scaffolding 68 feet above ground, were in awe of his masterpiece and told him so, even though he, the master painter, probably yelled from above, “Just you wait!” Nevertheless, to the observer, the finished frescoes would have taken their breath away. In their eyes, how could it ever be more spectacular?

God sees us as Michelangelo saw his Sistine project. Our Creator can transform our complaining view of our earthly bodies if we stop fighting him for the paint brush and appreciate what strokes he is perfecting now as he continues to make us a reflection of His eternal glory.

We are, in reality, a work in progress.

And I don’t know about you, but that makes me smile.