Category Archives: Opinion

Patty LaRoche: The “Almost” Lifestyle

Several years ago, The Ad Council, the world’s leading producer of public service advertisements, produced a series of commercials for their “Don’t Almost Give” campaign. One such ad shows a homeless man curled up in a ball on a pile of rags. One ratty bed sheet shields him from the cold.

The narrator says, “This is Jack Thomas. Today someone almost brought Jack something to eat. Someone almost brought him to a shelter. And someone else almost brought him a warm blanket.” After a brief pause, the narrator continues: “And Jack Thomas? Well, he almost made it through the night.”

“A-l-m-o-s-t.”

Does your vocabulary contain a few “Almosts”? Mine certainly does.

I “Almost” chose a celery stick over potato salad at last night’s potluck.

I “Almost” called my hurting friend, but didn’t because she’d irritate me by gabbing on for hours.

I “Almost” didn’t fold my arms and mumble when the lady in the grocery store express lane insisted the clerk take her 40 items instead of the 20 allowed.

I “Almost” complimented my pipe-cleaner-look-alike friend on her weight loss.

I “Almost” helped my husband clean out the garage yesterday.

Almost. Almost. Almost.

Unfortunately, not all Almosts are inconsequential. Some of you know what I mean.

You “Almost” read to your child at bedtime.

You “Almost” went an evening without a drink.

You “Almost” kept your promise to pray fervently.

You “Almost” rejected the porn sight on the computer last night.

You “Almost” stopped before sending an ugly text.

You “Almost” made Jesus the Lord of your life.

Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: Akrasia.

Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. From Genesis to Revelation, we learn of characters that were guilty. Adam and Eve. Noah. Moses. Abraham. Saul. David. Rarely do we meet a Biblical character who isn’t an “Almost” type guy.

Perhaps during this Christmas season, we all should be intentional not to demonstrate Akrasiastic behavior and instead, turn our “almosts” into actions.

Next week I will post some ways we can do that very thing, to honor Christ as central to our life story, to bless others and, in return, receive the greatest blessing of all.

Patty LaRoche: Dealing with Customs’

Every day, thousands of people cross the border between the United States and Mexico with no problema. Passports are checked, a few questions are asked, and sometimes the driver is told to open his/her trunk. Within minutes, cars are leaving one country and entering another.

My husband Dave and I understood the protocol.

Sort of. Entering Mexico for an extended stay, drivers register their vehicle at the border, pay $600 for a windshield sticker and drive south, where they then may legally drive in Mexico. When they leave Mexico for the final time, they turn in the sticker for a refund. Easy enough.

Unless their names are Dave and Patty.

First, some background. This past summer while in the U.S., we sold the stickered mini-van. Dave removed the sticker so we could turn it in, register a different vehicle and enter Mexico. Once in the Customs’ office, we waited 30 minutes in the car registration line before explaining to the young gal what we were doing. She made no attempt to understand my Spanish. Or my Charades. Fortunately, a bi-lingual man came forward to interpret. The news wasn’t all that bad. We needed to drive around to the other side of Customs to a small guard shack where we would turn in our sticker.

Which is what we did. Which is where that guard said we needed the sticker AND the mini-van (something about the VIN number). Dave explained that we sold it. “You have to have it to re-register.” “But we sold it.” “You have to have it to re-register.” “But we sold it.” The agent sent us back to Customs. We now found ourselves in the miles-long, bottle-neck of Thanksgiving traffic heading into the U.S. We could see ahead to the cross-road we needed—the empty cross-road—but had at least an hour’s wait to get to it.

My typically-patient husband’s next question shocked me. “What do you think would happen if I drove over the grassy field to get back to where we started?” I told him the guards with the assault rifles would probably blow out our tires. Or our brains.

No problema. Putting the car into gear, Dave took off across the field. We were Bonnie and Clyde, had they lived another forty years. Fortunately, the guards were tending to more important things, like emptying out pick-up beds looking for illegal Americans. Or perhaps they were simply amused at two old fogeys bouncing along the moguled terrain.

Back at the car registration window, we waited in line, found someone who spoke English, and asked him to interpret to the cranky young gal. She didn’t care. No mini-van? No car registration. It finally was determined that we could register this car in my name but Dave could never, ever register a vehicle in his name until he presented the mini-van at the border. Ever!

I think this is a problema.

Sometimes there are systems in place with which we might not agree. Telling the Customs’ agents that we are really nice guys, listing our works in ministry, even showing gifts we are taking to the orphans would do no good. The protocol is in place, whether we like it or not. We should have figured out ahead of time what those rules are because now it’s too late.

Isn’t that the same with our eternal lives? The Bible makes it clear there is a protocol for getting into Heaven, and it has nothing to do with being really good guys or doing missionary work. It’s black and white and has no loopholes, no matter what I might think, no matter how much I might protest or try to explain why I didn’t spend some time on earth figuring this out.

In John 14:6-7a, Jesus explains this to his disciple Thomas. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. There will be a time when it will be too late. And that, as we all know, is a problema none of us want to face. Thanks to God and His mercy, getting into Heaven is a lot easier than getting into Mexico.

Patty LaRoche: Thankful for the Good and the Bad

My dear friend Frank responded to my Thanksgiving article in which I listed several things for which I am thankful. “Don’t forget good weather…and bad weather.” Simple message with a poignant prompt. I need to be thankful for everything because God many times uses the bad more powerfully than He does the good.

Then, this morning, my husband’s daily Baseball Chapel devotional, submitted by Arnie Knecht, titled “Thanksliving,” reminded me that this holiday wasn’t about a day of thanks; it was about a life of thanks. In Knecht’s words, “Thanksgiving is good. Thanksliving is better.” It is a lifestyle involving how we respond, knowing God “has saved us from a hopeless end and given us an endless hope.”

No matter what He uses to get us there.

Twelve of us were to share a Thanksgiving meal this year. We all are condominium owners in the same complex here in Mazatlan, Mexico, and over the years have become close friends. Deb and Jim offered their unit, and Deb led the charge in organizing things—including writing hysterical minutes when the women met to discuss the details. After all, it mattered whose oven had two shelves and whose had one, who owned a gravy boat and whose stuffing recipe was best. Jim purchased an additional table, and both were set a day ahead with linen cloths, fine china and crystal. Since Dave and I were the last two to arrive and were driving, we were given a list of grocery items the girls could not find in Mazatlan. Captain Deb was prepared for everything.

Except an emergency trip to the E.R. Thanksgiving morning. Deb had awakened her doctor-husband with severe abdominal pain. Because she was recovering from a recent car accident, Jim was concerned it was related. As they left for the hospital, we five wives met in Deb’s condo to create a Plan B for our late afternoon dinner.

Mary asked me to lead us in prayer for Deb and Jim. It was a precious moment of calming reassurance that we were sharing a special experience and gave us the teamwork attitude we needed. Sharon shifted recipe responsibilities as we assumed the duties originally assigned to Deb. Joyce offered her condo for the dinner, but Deb’s would still be the gathering place for much of the food preparation. Their units were ten floors apart but in the same wing, so the elevator became our best friend.

The men transported the second table, the extra chairs and all the place settings to Joyce’s condo, and we were in culinary business. What one couldn’t do, the other could. Sharon rolled out the pie crusts; Carolyn perfected the fluting before making a quick trip to the herb garden to pick fresh rosemary for the turkey. Three worked to skewer the turkey skin over the stuffing while another video’d the surgery. (Three chiefs, no Indians.) In between our assignment at Deb’s, we all returned to our own units to prepare our assigned dishes and then regrouped at Deb’s to make sure everything was covered. We spent the day laughing, cleaning up each other’s spills, comparing recipes and communing in sweet Thanksliving.

Deb’s trip to the hospital was not on our agenda, and when she returned home later that day, we all agreed that God had given us a treasured Thanksgiving memory. Had Deb not become ill, we all would have spent the day in our own condos preparing our dishes, our husbands would have watched football, and later we would have joined together for our meal.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Jim had asked my husband to say the prayer before our meal. Dave’s words were full of thanks, especially that Deb and Jim were home, and that God had done more than we ever expected.

He’s good at that, you know.

“Good weather…bad weather.” Thanksliving at its finest.

Patty LaRoche: Giving Thanks

Psalm 9:1– I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. On this Thanksgiving weekend, I thought it would be fun to list some of the things for which I am thankful. In no particular order, here they are:

 My husband, Dave. He loves me when I’m pretty unlovable.

 Veterans, police officers and fire fighters—the true heroes in our nation

 A home with 12 steps from my bed to the coffee pot

 Wearing white after Labor Day

 Time spent in my Bible

 Transparent friends who share their hearts and aren’t afraid to admit they mess up

 Butterflies, turtles and blue herons

 Salt

 Phone calls, not texts, from my kids (Feel free to forward this to my children.)

 Lumber yard employees who know what I want when I don’t

 Watching my grandkids play sports (or doing anything, for that matter)

 Indoor plants that survive my gangrene thumb

 Mascara

 My Monday morning Bible study group

 Mail delivery and trash collection

 Pickleball and the friends I’ve made because of it

 When a recipe turns out like the photo-shopped picture (I’m imagining here.)

 Yoga

 Extended warranties

 Mosquito zappers

 Smiles from people I don’t know (Thank you, Walmart greeters!)

 Stilwell lake neighbors

 Highway bumps that wake you up when you are leaving the road (Trust me, I know.)

 Lays’ Kettle Potato Chips—seriously the best!

 Indoor toilets

 Elastic waists

 Shared recipes (Thank you, Jara Martin and Julie Readinger.)

 Warm socks

 Laughter—the kind that takes your breath away and makes you snort

 Dancing to oldies’ music

 Inspirational movies (Hidden Figures is a must.)

 An oven timer that has saved me countless burned concoctions

 Horses—any kind, any size, any age

 Mazatlan, Mexico, and the friends we have made

 My Kindle

 Pizza delivery

 Game nights

 You, my readers

 And most importantly, Jesus Christ.

Patty LaRoche: Interruptions

“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 the 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 bad. Some news should not wait, like telling me my chicken enchiladas are on fire 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. 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.

It’s an interruption we can’t afford to miss.

Patty LaRoche: A Protest or Ungratefulness?

I see you…I see you, professional football player, as you kneel down during the playing of the National Anthem…I see you, with your arm raised in protest…I see you thinking you are doing something to unite people over social and racial injustice. I see you…

But, more than that, here is what I really see…

I see a man pushing the wheels of his wheelchair as he returns home from a foreign land unable to function as he once did, due to fighting to protect you as you kneel on the ground.

I see a young widow, dressed carefully in black, mourning the remains of her husband, hugging a coffin on the tarmac of an airport. I see that same woman clutching a perfectly folded flag to her bosom as taps is played at his graveside. I see her young son, tears streaming down his face, knowing his father would never come home again.

I see graveyards full of tombstones, here and overseas, with names of those fallen, with dates showing a much-too-early death. I see so many, from so many different wars and conflicts, crosses and stones. They are too numerous to count.

I see the sacrifices made, the hearts broken, the tears shed, the shattered lives all in the name of freedom… all in the name of that red, white and blue piece of cloth that you choose to protest.

Social and racial injustice? You who make millions of American dollars for playing a game in a country where you have more opportunity to make a better life for you and your family than anywhere in the world? Really? The hypocrisy of it astounds me.

First of all, if you really want to protest, give your money and time to make changes. Give to those less fortunate than you. Help those people get an education, buy them food and shelter. Show them opportunities to make better decisions. Teach them that they have a purpose in life. If you really want to protest injustices…

Protest the treatment of veterans, who have to wait extremely long periods of time for healthcare, who are living under interstate bridges in boxes, who are committing suicide. Today over twenty of them will take their lives out of hopelessness and despair.

Protest the people whose goal in life is to make sure an unborn baby doesn’t see the light of day. There will be around 3,500 of them today. There is no greater injustice than that.

Protest the loss of religious rights as some atheist complained so much that public prayer by a group of young players on an athletic field is not allowed.

When I see that flag, when I hear that song, when I sing those words, I give homage to those who died for this land, who continue to protect this land, who don’t know if and when they will ever see their loved ones again. Some say that they died for your freedom so that you can take a knee. I say they died for your freedom so you can stand proudly and be thankful that God has blessed you enough that you can live in a country of so much opportunity.

Go ahead…Go ahead and kneel…Go ahead and be ungrateful.

I am watching…as are millions and millions of others.

We don’t see a protest of unity… we see a protest of disgraceful ignorance.

Source: Anonymous

Patty LaRoche: Preparing for Death

Occasionally I receive an email that makes me laugh out loud. That was my reaction when I read the following:

Two 90-year-old women, Rose and Barb had been friends all of their lives.

When it was clear that Rose was dying, Barb visited her every day.

One day, Barb said, “Rose, we both loved playing women’s softball all our lives, and we played all through high school. Please do me one favor: When you get to Heaven, somehow you must let me know if there’s women’s softball there.”  

Rose looked up at Barb from her deathbed and said, “Barb, you’ve been my best friend for many years. If it’s at all possible, I’ll do this favor for you.”

 Shortly after that, Rose passed on.

 A few nights later, Barb was awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to her, “Barb, Barb.”  

“Who is it?” asked Barb, sitting up suddenly. “Who is it?”  

“Barb – it’s me, Rose.”   

“You’re not Rose. Rose just died.” 

 “I’m telling you, it’s me, Rose,” insisted the voice.  

“Rose! Where are you?”   

“In Heaven,” replied Rose. “I have some really good news and a little bad news.” 

“Tell me the good news first,” said Barb.  

“The good news,” Rose said, “is that there’s softball in Heaven. Better yet, all of our old buddies who died before us are here, too. Better than that, we’re all young again. Better still, it’s always springtime, and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play softball all we want, and we never get tired.”  

“That’s fantastic,” said Barb. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams! So what’s the bad news?”

 “You’re pitching Tuesday.”

You’re at least smiling, right? Maybe even chuckling. How can you not? Still, the message is sobering. What if you and I substitute our names for Barb’s? What if we were told that we had less than a week to live? If you’re like me, all my time would be spent on relationships, hugging longer and more intentionally, making phone calls that should have been made months (years?) ago, having deeper, spiritual conversations with those close to me, asking forgiveness of those I’ve wounded.

Last week, I attended the funeral of Tim Bloomfield. Tim woke up Tuesday morning, having no idea it would be his last. He and his wife Sheryl were going to run errands. He called his brother, ended the conversation with “Later,” and hung up.

But there was no “later.” And the same will be true for all of us. Every second could be our “latest,” bringing us closer to eternity. We must prepare, and no, I’m not talking about getting our arm in shape for the Heavenly softball match. I’m talking about what Jesus referred to as “the greatest commandment:” Love God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

And that, Readers, is no chuckling matter.