Category Archives: Opinion

Patty LaRoche: Given the Choice

On my recent girlfriend reunion at Hilton Head, Diana, our handicapped friend, was accompanied by her two adult daughters, their friend Jenny and her two daughters: Alice, five, and Hazel, six weeks. We six “grandmothers” doted on the two little girls, marveling at Jenny’s mothering skills, especially since she had been on her own since she was 15. Parenting had not been modeled to this young woman.

On our third day, Diana rode her motorized scooter to the girls’ suite. She returned to tell us that Alice was in “time out,” but Jenny let Diana visit with the youngster after sharing that Alice had not obeyed. Apparently Alice almost had been hit by a golf cart that ferried customers along the boardwalk on which they were walking. Alice had ignored her mother’s instructions to stay to the right.

Diana asked Alice to explain why she was in trouble. Repeatedly jabbing her index finger at her head, she said, “I sometimes don’t listen.” After a short pause she added, “It’s just really hard, you know.”

We six could relate. With months since our last get together, most of the time there were two or three conversations at the same time. Alice was right. Listening is hard.

Another incident occurred the next evening when youngsters were given glow-in-the-dark necklaces. The following day at the pool, Alice loaned hers to her playmate who did not return it. The next day, Alice’s new friend was wearing the necklace. When Alice said that she wanted it back, the young girl replied that Alice had given it to her. A girl squabble ensued with the other mother insisting she give Alice back her necklace.

Once Alice placed it around her neck, Jenny took her aside. “Don’t you think it would be nice for you to give it back? We can get you another necklace.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Alice answered firmly.

Jenny continued. “Well, I want you to sit here and think about what you just said. I will be back to talk to you when you have time to reconsider what you should do.”

To no avail. Alice insisted it was her necklace, so she should not give it back.

Before walking away, Jenny gently responded, “I want you to know that was not the answer I had hoped you would give.”

We grandmothers were in awe and admitted the outcome for our children would have been far less loving. Jenny was teaching Godly principles. Without getting upset or raising her voice, she gave her daughter choices, with clear direction that what Alice had decided was not the best option.

God does the same for us. He gives us choices. We either obey or not. There is no middle ground to His instructions. Love Him above all else. Love our neighbor as ourselves. Don’t lie, covet, dishonor parents, or steal. Make Jesus the Lord of our lives.

It is up to us to decide if we will listen to His instructions, but should our choice be not to obey, God’s advice probably would be no different than Jenny’s: “That is not the answer I had hoped you would give.”

If that doesn’t help us change our minds, I don’t know what will.

Patty LaRoche: Warning Signs

While my sun-lover girlfriends headed off to the South Carolina beach, I, forbidden by my dermatologist to suntan, strolled into the woods for a walk. The isolated path was canopied by trees, and with a light breeze, I would walk for a couple of hours. You can imagine my surprise—actually, no you can’t—when I rounded a corner and was greeted by this sign: “Do Not Feed the Alligators.” Yes, ALLIGATORS! As in “flesh-eating reptiles.” With no intention of becoming an alligator appetizer, my saunter turned into a U-turn sprint.

For the past eleven years, my five college sorority friends and I have traveled together. This year, the alligator year, we went to a resort in Hilton Head—one which caters to physical disabilities because Diana’s handicap has made our usual, annual reunion to Mexico too difficult to navigate.

Diana is an example of one who ignored initial warnings that her medication (doctor-prescribed) was harmful. Irreparable damage resulted. Her legs function only for a few, painful steps with a walker, and she needs constant periods of rest for her swollen feet.

Diana is not the only friend who paid no attention to warning signs. Two months ago, Frank, a friend in Mexico, mentioned several times to his wife that he was having severe headaches. When she tried to talk him into returning to their home in Canada so he could be seen by his doctor, Frank refused. I was there the night he collapsed. The stroke he suffered has left him completely disabled.

We all have had our fair share of warning signs, and the older I get, the more I take them—well, most of them—seriously. A mole with irregular margins. Bruises on a child at Walmart. A friend who talks too much. Ministry requests outside my area of expertise. And certainly, “Do Not Feed the Alligators.” Sometimes, however, I ignore the most important ones: the ones that deal with temptation.

The Bible is full of stories in which warnings went unheeded. Take Samson, for example, the Nazarite who had taken a vow never to cut his hair (which controlled his unparalleled strength). You probably know the story. If not, please read it in Judges 13-16.

What started as a simple look turned to lust as Samson dallied with Delilah, a Philistine woman and enemy of Israel. Goaded by Delilah to reveal the source of his strength, Samson ultimately shared his secret; as a result, Delilah trimmed his tresses, and Samson was captured, blinded and forced to grind grain for his enemies. While in prison his hair grew, and along with that, his strength returned. He died while destroying the temple of the Philistine god, Dagon, killing thousands of Philistines in the process.

Samson ignored sign after sign, never changing course, until his death. He had judged Israel for 20 years and on many occasions had demonstrated his faith in God, but once he turned away from what he knew to be right, his downfall was imminent. I consider it a solemn warning. The slippery slope into a spiritual landslide begins gradually.

Have you been there? I have. By dismissing warning signs, I feed my temptation. Think about it. Every addiction started with “One.” One cigarette. One profane word. One “little white lie.” One drink. One juicy piece of gossip. Or, like Samson, One “look.” Should we ignore the Holy Spirit’s check on our spirit, it becomes much easier to nurture the sin and pull away from God.

We’d be better off feeding an alligator.

Patty LaRoche: Dining with the Dirty

Charlie Brown was upset his dirty friend Pig-pen received the same party invitation he did and told him so. “Good grief! You didn’t even change clothes! You’re not going to Violet’s birthday party looking like that?!!”

Pig-pen looked down at himself and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Charlie Brown threw his hands in the air and said, “What’s wrong?! You’re a mess, that’s what’s wrong!! They won’t even let you in the house, Pig-pen! They’ll bar you at the door!”

Pig-pen said, “Oh, I don’t think so…¨

Charlie Brown raised his voice: “Of course, they will! You won’t be welcome at all! Your appearance will be insulting.”

Before Charlie Brown could finish his words, the door swung opened and there stood

Violet. “Well! Pig-pen! Come on in! How nice to see you! How nice of you to come.”

From behind his back Pig-pen brought out a gift and presented it to Violet who gushed, “Oh, thank you! You shouldn’t have!”

As Violet held the door open, Pig-pen turned around, closed his eyes, thumbed his nose at Charlie Brown and declared, “The present was clean!”

Seeing past unloveliness is not easy, except, of course, when we want others to see past our unloveliness. The Bible gives us the biography of a tax collector named Levi. You might know him as Matthew, as in the “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” quartet. Few were as hated as tax collectors. After all, they were the ones who bid on districts to own the rights to tax the people as they saw fit. The government expected “X” amount each year, and any “profit” went to the collector. Many were corrupt, but more importantly, the Jews despised them because they were collecting taxes for the Romans, the chief oppressors to Israel. Tax collectors were therefore considered as traitors and sinners, no different than prostitutes, gamblers and thieves.

Along comes Jesus. He, like Violet, sees not the dirt. He sees the present, the someone who matters, the someone who needs to know him, and he encourages Levi with two words: “Follow me.” Not as easy as it sounds. Levi probably makes a good living. To walk away from his secure job means someone else will pounce on his position, and chances are he never will get it back. And for what? To follow a man who noticed him.

Hidden in these scriptures are some real nuggets. Levi immediately throws a party (my kind of guy!) and invites his friends to meet Jesus. Matthew and Mark record that the guests at his banquet were other tax collectors and sinners. Rejects hanging with rejects. Levi wants them to meet the one he has chosen to follow. His attitude is not one of haughtiness; it is of compassion, just as Violet’s was…just as ours should be. But is it? Like Levi, “Come meet the one I’ve met” should be our first priority.

But there’s another nugget here. Jesus came to the party! To a banquet filled with imperfect sinners. Get that? Jesus chooses to hang with the riff-raff. He doesn’t first sit down with Levi and lecture him on the spiritual laws of salvation. Levi doesn’t have to meet Jesus’ standards as a first-step towards their friendship. Jesus accepts him and his friends as they are, in spite of how they appear to others. Jesus sees past the unloveliness.

The people just like Pig-pen.

The people just like Charlie Brown.

The people just like you and me.

Patty LaRoche: A Tongue that Glorifies God

Talking to your grandchildren has to be one of the sweetest blessings on earth. This conversation? Not so much. My text to Logan, my college-student grandson, began with this: “Hi Logan. I’ve been thinking about you. How are things going?”

Within a few seconds, he responded: “Who tf is this?”

“Tf”? “TF”? Perhaps it was a typo. Yes, that’s it, and an embarrassing one at that. Cell phones are known to do that. An apology would be forthcoming. “Mammy,” I answered.

Within seconds I received his answer: “Whay T”

Perhaps his fingers were off by one key. I checked. They would have to be off by an entire keyboard for this to make sense. Maybe a friend had his phone. But why would he pick friends like this? My mind splattered into worry-overload. There was only one explanation. He’s on drugs. Oh, dear Lord!!! This sweet, Christian boy/man had succumbed to the temptation of the Colorado (i.e., marijuana is legal) state and was stupiding his brain cells.

I texted, “What???” and immediately received his answer: “Whats (sic) your name?”

He was too stoned to recognize his own grandmother. I needed a Xanax.

“Okay. Is this Logan Green?” my fingers groaned.

Answer: “no its not who tf is this this is logan Haughton.” (sic)

“Lord, have mercy,” I said aloud. I read this not a few times, and, having no clue who “logan Haughton” is, answered: “I am Logan Green’s grandmother. So sorry I bothered you. Obviously this is a wrong number because my grandson would never use tf.” Then, re-reading my critical, self-righteous remark, added, “God bless you.”

His answer was a shocker: “Its ok I was confused for a sec God bless you to.” (sic)

This conversation was not over. Now it was my turn. “You have made me curious. I have no idea how your number ended up in my phone book, but I appreciate your blessing. Do you normally answer with a “tf” response?”

“No,” he texted, “im (sic) a son of god! I was just really scared kida (sic) just because I didn’t know who was texting me”

“So you’re a Christian?”

“Yes.”

Now it was this grandmother’s turn to share some of her ageless wisdom. “Oh, I am so glad to hear that. Please know that everything you say and write needs to be a reflection of your love for the One who paid a great price for your (and my) sins. Never forget that.”

Logan’s reply? “Ok thank u for sharing that”…to which I responded, “I will pray for you, Logan Haughton, for the rest of your life.”

Our texts ended with Logan writing, “Thank you soo much.”

Once I made the correction in my contact list, I had a sweet text conversation with my real grandson, Logan Green.

He has no idea how close I came to jumping on a plane to Colorado to smack him upside his head.

Patty LaRoche: Drawing the Line

“Don’t touch each other. Don’t even think of touching each other.”

We had just pulled out of the church parking lot and these were threatening words to my sons, Jeff and Adam, ages 4 and 3 years respectively, who were engaged in a finger battle in the back seat of the car. They creepy-crawled their fingers to an imaginary line separating them. And then they attacked. What started with fingers ended up in a slug fest.

I pulled the car over to the side of the freeway, got out of my seat and walked around the car to the side where Adam was sitting. Reaching across Adam, I drew an imaginary line between the two boys. It came with a warning: “Do NOT even think about crossing this line. If you do, you will be spanked.”

Returning to my driver’s seat, I put on my blinker and pulled onto the California freeway, tilting my rearview mirror and craning my neck to see what would happen next.

Jeff started. His index and middle finger wormed their way to the “middle line.” Adam did the same from his side. My sons were within one-quarter inch of each other, a standoff of fingers, ready to strike.

And then it happened. Jeff crossed the “line” and attacked Adam’s fingers, twisting them into a knot. Adam wailed.

I pulled off the freeway, unbuckled Jeff’s seat belt and spanked him. Today I would be facing jail time. The point is, once the words were out of my mouth, I needed to follow through. If not, all future threats from me would become no more than pointless ramblings. It was one of the few things in parenting I tried to do God’s way. Ecclesiastes 5:5 warns us: “It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.”

Our government recently saw the devastating consequences of meaningless words.

In 2013 Bashar Al-Assad, President of Syria, used chemical warfare against his citizens. He had been warned that “crossing that red line by using chemical warfare would bring about catastrophic consequences.” The difference between the warning Jeff and Adam received and

Assad’s warning was that I meant it. President Obama did not.

A few weeks ago, Syria’s dictator dared us again. To him, our “red line” was an idle threat. But this time, it wasn’t. After Assad used chemical weapons on innocent children, President Trump ordered an attack on two of the Syrian chemical airfield locations.

I know that what I did on that California freeway pales in comparison to what President Trump did, but empty words are epidemic in this generation. How many times do we hear parents threaten—even using the “1-2- 3” countdown—and then do nothing? Friends share the juicy news they promised they wouldn’t. Commitments to volunteer at church are cancelled for an invitation to golf or a shopping spree.

Too many times, promises aren’t followed and threats are hollow. Matthew 5:37 gives us Jesus’ perspective on such words: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” There are no pinky promises, no crossing our fingers, no I swears, no “Just kidding” and no crossing over on the line on the seat.

You say it? You mean it.

End of discussion.

Patty LaRoche: Tennis and To-Do Lists, Follow Through

In our tennis match this morning, my husband and I were partners against two other men. Right after I hit the ball into the net, Dave made a suggestion.

“Patty, follow through.”

“Okay.”

Five shots later, this time into the fence: “Patty, you still aren’t following through.”

“Okay.”

“Did you know that most power comes from your follow through? Watch baseball players hit. Their bat doesn’t stop when it hits the ball.”

“Well, maybe when the tennis ball hits my racquet, that’s enough force to stop my swing. Have you ever thought of that?”

“Patty, that’s not true.”

Ignoring the fact that I’m married to Roger Federer, I answered: “Maybe in my world, it is. Maybe I’m just too delicate to hit with power… you know, too fragile.”

And since there isn’t a delicate or fragile bone in my body, we both crack up.

Still, Dave is right. I don’t follow through.

But neither does he.

(I can’t help it.) Oh, maybe in tennis he does. But there are more important things than sports. (Did I just say that?)

Dave makes lists, scads of them, believing that just writing the words is somehow fundamental to the task’s completion.

  • Buy muriatic acid to get the rust off the tile.
  • Buy Gorilla Glue to fix the rip in the couch.
  • Buy duct tape. For something…anything. You can’t have enough.
  • Think of other things needed to fix other things.

Most of us have at least one area in which we don’t follow through, don’t you agree? Get on that treadmill…now turn it on. Resist second-helpings on that molten lava cake. Apologize for poisoning the neighbor’s dog. Send that thank you letter. (Yes, letter, not email or text.) Allow only ten minutes per day on Facebook. Call Mom. (Feel free to forward this last one to my children.)

The list is endless, I know, but there’s still an area where our follow through is much more critical. Author Lisa Morrone wrote about it. “In our spiritual lives our follow through—or lack thereof—can markedly impact the power with which we live and the course of direction our lives take.” Paul said it best. Acts 20:24 ESV But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

We start our walk with God and then sit down, sidetracked by circumstances or setbacks or laziness, and stop short of completing our spiritual journey. The simplicity of Colossians 2:6 is profound: Repent, seek the Lord for further direction, and keep going. Get that? Keep going. Follow through.

And yes, in case you are questioning, it’s on my list.

Patty LaRoche: The Darkest Hour

Submitted by Patty LaRoche

He is on track to revolutionize their country and become its king, but then he is executed, this man who gave sight to the blind, calmed the storm, taught them to pray and showed them unconditional love. A movement so full of life has come to nothing. Their dreams? Crushed.

Their hopes? Now hopeless.

Still, in their darkest hour, a few hang in there.

Their fearless devotion does not end at his death. When the majority of his disciples duck and run, a handful stay with Jesus through the crucifixion and after. Although the Gospel accounts differ, we can piece together some highlights.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus team up to remove Jesus’ body from the cross and anoint him with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe. They wrap his body in a clean linen cloth and carry it to the nearby tomb. “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes.” Their plan is to return after the Sabbath to complete what Joseph and Nicodemus began. Luke 23:55-56

Jesus’ faithful are determined to bestow on him an extravagant love.

Take Mary Magdalene, for example, the one whom Jesus saved from demon-possession. In her darkest hour, she refuses to desert her teacher. “While it is still dark,” she and a few other women head to the garden tomb where Jesus’ lifeless body lies on a rock slab. It matters not that a stone the size of a Volkswagen covers the opening or that the tomb is heavily guarded by Roman soldiers. Extravagant love moves forward, no matter how dark the circumstances. Finding the stone rolled away, Mary tears off in a sprint, and upon finding Peter and John, says, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.”

The disciples lace up their sandals, pull up their tunics and rush to the tomb to see for themselves. Finding it to be true, they disperse, probably to alert the other disciples.

Meanwhile, Mary stays outside the tomb, weeping. Overcome with hopelessness, she looks inside and sees two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been. They ask why she is crying. “They have taken my Lord away,” she replies, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She then turns to see a man standing nearby. Supposing him to be the gardener, she says, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”

In her darkest hour, Jesus calls her by name. Recognizing her Lord, she cries out in Hebrew, “Rabboni!”—which means “Master.” It’s not a “Whew!” moment; nor is it a “Well, surprise, surprise!” reply. Mary’s heavy heart has been restored! Jesus tells her to inform the disciples of what has happened. That will wait. She falls at his feet. It is the Lord. He is not dead. He is risen! The extravagant dark has turned to extravagant light.

Hope. Is. Restored.

It’s the same hope offered to us in our darkest hour. Jesus wants to meet us as he did Mary– in moments of our discouragement and grief, so that, like Mary, we will know our Redeemer lives. Know. Not guess, not question, not presume. Unlike Muhammad. Unlike Buddha. Unlike every other religious leader who died and stayed in the ground. With Jesus, there are no grave remains to visit. His grave is empty.

He is the Hope in which you and I can be sure.

As my friend Joyce once said, “If Jesus can die extravagantly for me, surely I can live extravagantly for him.”