Category Archives: Opinion

Oops! Moment

Have you ever had an “OOPS!” moment? You know, when things don’t go exactly as planned? My husband and I had a few of those on our recent six-day drive into the heart of Mexico. Howard and Joyce, our Mazatlan friends, invited Dave and me to join them for a sight-seeing, shopping 1000-mile loop. Howard would drive. Dave would be on alert for road signs (frequently hidden behind trees or appearing only when rounding a sharp curve), warn Howard of topes (large, unmarked speed bumps) and pray. All of that came in handy. Without it, I fear this might be my obituary and not my weekly article.

The OOPS! road detours caused multiple delays and directional guessing games to find our hotels. More than once, we were back where we had started, all the while looking for a gas station when the warning light came on in Howard’s car. OOPS!

We were to spend nights in Tlaquepaque, Guanajuato and Zacatecas. Guanajuato, known for its underground roadways created from the old gold and silver mines. was a special thrill. Upon entering the city, Howard pulled to the side of the road and picked up Moises, a Mexican “guide” who navigated us through the archaic tunnels, pointing in the direction we needed to drive. Without him, we would be in Nicaragua. We tipped him well after he carried our heavier suitcases the two blocks from the parking lot up the cobblestone streets to our hotel.

Our rooms were ultra-contemporary, and the city beamed with entertainment. With its traveling minstrels, an orchestra performing in the nearby park, five Mariachi bands and performers doubling as statues, there was no end to the talent we saw.

The following day, per my request, we headed to Leon where over 100 leather stores boasted of their hand-made wares. Soon I found the eight-dollar wallet I wanted and we were on our way to Zacatecas where, according to Howard, the tourist attractions were unrivaled.

With no signs to the “Cuota” (toll road), we ended up on the Libre, the free, winding-until-you -throw-up, traffic-jammed, two-way road. Big OOPS! Our three-hour trip to Zacatecas took six. Once we arrived at our hotel, a converted bull ring, it was too late to tour. We would need to cram more in the next day, but OOPS! Not so fast. We learned that a bridge had been damaged by an overturned semi-truck, so we needed to cut our trip short and return the way we had come instead of completing our loop. We had traveled all day NOT to tour this city.

I’ve decided that our journey last week was kind of like life, except our OOPS! had no lasting effects. Many do. We plan our daily-weekly-monthly-yearly schedules and have our lives pretty well figured out until we are derailed by the unexpected. The OOPS! moments that change our directions: unfulfilled dreams; investments that go South; illness; divorce; a friend’s betrayal; a natural disaster; death.

Luke 12:16-21 is a parable about a rich man who had a plan. With no place to store his abundant crops, he tore down his barns and built bigger ones for his surplus grain. Pick it up in verse 18. “And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’

 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’”

In reality, my OOPS! moments were just “oops” moments, temporary detours which meant nothing in the scheme of life. Missing God, however? Now, that’s an OOPS! decision none of us can afford to make.

Patty LaRoche

 Last week we looked at 1 Kings 13: 1-22. A “man of God” had obeyed God, prophesied against idol worship, and was invited to an older prophet’s home for dinner. The man of God explained that God had commanded him not to eat or drink, but the second prophet told a little white lie: an angel had assured him the rules were changed and this was acceptable.

Then the bomb falls. During the meal, God spoke to the lying prophet, clarifying that this disobedience would lead to the man of God’s death far from home. (Read last week’s article to get all the details. Better yet, read the scriptural passage.) Pretty harsh, don’t you think? I mean, how was he to know this was a lie?

Well, if we read between the lines, there were clues. The old prophet lived in one of Israel’s centers of idolatry. Legitimate prophets didn’t do that. Too, he allowed his children to attend Jeroboam’s idol worship when he had to know this violated God’s decree. At least he should have scolded them for betraying the one, true God. Had he been in good standing with the Lord, he himself would have protested King Jeroboam’s sacrifice to the golden calf instead of waiting for another prophet to do the dirty work. But the man of God wasn’t blameless. All he had to do was ask God if this vision was true or not, but, instead, he believed the lie and joined the old prophet in Idolaterville for a meal and a drink.

Of course, easy for me to criticize. I’m not the one who was hungry, thirsty and tired. Pick up the story in verse 23. The lying prophet offered one of his donkeys to the man of God who went on his way where he was met and killed by a lion. People passing by traveled to the old prophet’s city and reported seeing the dead man with a lion and donkey standing nearby. When the old prophet heard of it, he said to his sons, “‘Saddle the donkey for me,’ and they did so. Then he went out and found the body lying on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. The lion had neither eaten the body nor mauled the donkey. So, the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, ‘Alas, my brother!’  “After burying him, he said to his sons, ‘When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones.

 For the message he declared by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.’” (Which, of course, it did.) In this case, a little lyin’ led to a bigger lion, one that attacked the man of God who was barely out of Dodge. Just hours earlier, he was God’s miraculous hand to deal with false worship at the Altar of Bethel, but then he was seduced into appeasing his temporal pleasures.

I imagine many of us would have done likewise. We forget there is an enemy roaming this planet whose job is to seduce. And he does it well. We ignore our Holy Spirit warnings and believe whatever satisfies our desires, justifying it all as “harmless.” “Just one more drink.” “A quick peek can’t hurt.” “R-rated movies mean nothing.” “Only a few more dollars on our credit card.” “The church can live without my tithe.” “What’s the big deal about a little white lie?” When we get to Heaven, we might want to ask the man of God about that one.




Patty LaRoche: The Prophet’s Error, Part 1

When I first read 1 Kings 13:1-34, I was frustrated. With each additional reading, I became more frustrated. God gives so many people second-and- third-and-fourth chances, but this poor guy gets one. And it’s not even his fault. Well, not much. He just lets down his guard for one teensy, weensy minute.

Throughout the entire chapter, this prophet is referred to as a “man of God.” No name. Just “a man of God.” Obviously, he’s done something right. As the story unfolds, this man of God travels from Judah and confronts King Jeroboam who is setting up worship at the altar at Bethel, defying God’s decree that there would be only one altar—in Jerusalem.

The man of God is there to rain on Jeroboam’s idol-worship parade and prophesies that one day a descendent of King David named Josiah will sacrifice priests on that altar. (This came true 340 years later.) For proof, “the altar will split in two.” As one who hates David’s dynasty, the enraged king points to the prophet and commands his attendants to arrest him. Immediately the king’s arm shrivels up and the altar splits apart. This is no minor detail. Proper ritual required the sacrificial ashes be disposed of in a “clean” place (Lev. 4:12; 6:10-11). Contact with the ground nullified the sacrifice. Big trouble for the king.

I can only imagine Jeroboam’s horror. He begs for the man of God to intercede to the Lord to restore his hand. God answers his prayer.

So far, the man of God has lived up to his name.

In return, the king invites the prophet to his palace for a meal and a gift. The man of God answers the king, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’”  The man of God obeys and takes another road home. Clearly, he desires to follow God’s directive.

Word spreads, and an old prophet in the area hears from his sons about the miracle at the Altar of Bethel. He saddles his donkey, chases after the man of God, finds him under a tree and invites him to return for a meal. The man of God reiterates what he has told the king.

The old prophet answers, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (But he was lying to him.) So, the man of God returns with him and shares a meal.

Do you have the same questions I have? How was Prophet #1 to know he is being deceived? Why did Prophet #2 go to such efforts to seduce this man of God? Was it so he could brag to his friends that a celebrity had been in his house?

Trust me, there are no answers to these questions. All I know is, at this point I’m really ticked off at Prophet #2.

Let’s pick up in verse 20: “While they were sitting at the table, the word of the LORD came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God, “This is what the LORD says: ‘You have defied the word of the LORD and have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.’”


No apologies. No “I’m so sorry.” No “I’ve really screwed up this time.” No “Lord, take me in this man of God’s place.” Nothing (except prophesying his visitor’s doom).

See why I find this frustrating?

If you’re needing a little more frustration, just wait until next week when we will look at the rest of the story.

Patty LaRoche: The Need to Pray

In 1952, Albert Einstein was delivering a lecture on the campus of Princeton University. A doctoral student asked the famous scientist, “What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?” With considerate thought, Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer.”

F.B. Meyer, author of The Secret of Guidance, might have consoled Einstein with his writing: “Prayer is, for the most part, an untapped resource, an unexplored continent where untold treasure remains to be unearthed. It is talked about more than anything else, and practiced less than anything else. And yet, for the believer it remains one of the greatest gifts our Lord has given us outside of salvation.”

Still, the majority of Christians reject this miraculous resource.

For the past few years I have used a power tooth brush. Built into it is a little timer that shuts itself off after two minutes. Flossing adds another minute. Gargling and rinsing, a few seconds more.

From beginning to end, no more than four minutes is used…the same amount of time most Christians (according to statistics) spend in prayer. If that isn’t tragic enough, most of those five minute prayers are spent asking for something. No wonder our faith remains powerless. We expect the Creator of the universe to stay on call to meet our every desire, ready to jump when we order Him to, yet our teeth get the same attention He does.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I recently read a story of a minister observing a young boy kneeling in church praying fervently, repeating the words “Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo.” The preacher approached the boy after he finished his prayer and said, “Son, I was very pleased to see you praying so devoutly, but tell me, why did you keep saying “Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo”? The boy answered, Well, you see sir, I just finished taking my geography test in school, and I have been praying for the Lord to make Tokyo the capital of France.”

The story is a perfect illustration of how we use God. “Here’s my list, Lord. Don’t take too long to answer.” Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “It is clear that he does not pray, who, far from uplifting himself to God, requires that God shall lower Himself to him, and who resorts to prayer not to stir the man in us to will what God wills, but only to persuade God to will what the man in us wills.”

Oh my, the cry is desperate! Even Jesus, giving the disciples an example of how to pray, used the phrase “Thy will be done” while speaking to his Father in the Lord’s prayer. It has nothing to do with “my” will. We need to learn to pray to accept what God has for us, good and bad. Does that mean that we don’t petition God to hear our pleas? Absolutely not. It simply changes our focus from “Me” to “Him.”

Mother Teresa’s life-changing message resounds with confidence: “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

Perhaps Einstein just needed to know whom to ask.

Patty LaRoche: The Gift of Giving

Last week I wrote about Akrasia, the state of acting against our better judgment. We “almost” do the right thing but then come up with a kajillion excuses as to why we shouldn’t follow through. During this Christmas season, I have come up with 15 ways we can be a blessing to others. I can think of no better way to turn our “almosts” into action.

  1. Give a compliment, especially in crowded lines where nerves are frayed.
  2. Call the Customer Service Line listed on your receipt and take time to give an employee credit.
  3. Donate blood.
  4. Shop local. Adopt a family and deliver presents for them to open on Christmas day. Once a month, surprise them with a gift card, movie tickets or a bag of groceries on their doorstep.
  5. Find a neighbor with a need and meet it. Trim their tree. Shovel their snow. Weed their garden. Wash their windows.
  6. Speak to a school counselor to obtain the name of students in need. Adopt that student anonymously and meet his/her needs during the school year.
  7. Serve at a homeless shelter or volunteer at a nursing home.
  8. Have your children run cold drinks out to your garbage man, postman or school bus driver.
  9. Bake goodies for the local police and fire department…once a month.
  10. Surprise a homebound person with a pizza.
  11. Pay for someone’s gas (hint: better a Volkswagen than a semi-truck).
  12. Offer to take down the Christmas lights for the elderly or a single mom.
  13. If you know of a wife, mother, or family of a soldier serving overseas, come up with ways you can fill their loneliness and meet their physical needs.
  14. Give a gift of sponsorship to feed a child, provide clean water for a community, rescue a child from sex slavery, or whatever it is you or the gift receiver are most passionate about.
  15.  Share what Christmas is really about.  If you do nothing else on this list, do not neglect this last one.  Believe it or not, lots of people know only that Jesus was a baby, there was no room in the inn and the angels sang.  That’s about it.  They don’t know why He came.  They don’t know who He came for.  You need to share with them the truth.

Luke 19:10  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

It will be the best gift you ever can give.

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.”


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.