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.

Patty LaRoche: God of Miracles

“Who believes God performs miracles?”

The group of baseball players, attendees at the weekly Chapel service, all raised their hands.

“Who believes God can do a miracle in your life?”

Same response.

“Who believes God will do one right now?”

The athletes looked at one another, unsure of what to do. If they didn’t raise their hands, were they denying that this speaker had a special connection with God? If they did raise their hands, was the
miracle dependent upon their faith being powerful enough to make it happen?

The guest evangelist, sensing their confusion, removed a banana from a plastic bag and asked the crowd, “How many of you believe that God can split the fruit of this banana into thirds without
altering the peel in any way?”

The ballplayers were dumbfounded. After all, God could do anything He wanted, so He certainly “could” perform such a miracle. Slowly, the men raised their hands.

“Good,” the speaker continued. “I’m going to pray that God does just that. I’m going to ask Him to slice the meat of this banana into thirds without making a mark on the skin. How many of you are confident God will answer my prayer?”

Surely it was a trick. Or was it? No one moved.

The speaker spoke to their doubts. “You probably think I’m messing with you, right? To prove I’m not, I’m going to pass this banana around the room. Check it carefully. See if there are any external marks on its skin.”

Each ballplayer took his time studying the banana. No one could find any puncture or marking. While the players sat on the edge of their seats, the preacher took the banana, raised it high, and prayed for it to be cut into thirds when peeled. As he broke the top portion of the banana’s skin and pulled it back, one piece—approximately a third—fell onto the table. The same scene replayed itself as the skin was peeled further. Three pieces. Just like the miracle worker said.

My son Adam, a player in that room, phoned me from the clubhouse.

“Mom, I just saw a miracle.” He proceeded to tell me what had happened. Although skeptical—only because I wasn’t sure why God cared about a banana dividing itself into thirds—I was thrilled for my normally unexcitable son to be so pumped about what he had witnessed.

A few days later I relayed Adam’s story to my girlfriend. “Patty, that’s an old trick,” she said. “A threaded needle is pushed through the banana by working in a circular motion. With enough punctures, it creates a cut, and the skin heals itself so the pin marks can’t be detected.” I couldn’t believe it. The ballplayers had been deceived. My friend was as bothered by this evangelist’s tactic as was I.

I shared my findings with Adam so he could discuss what had happened with the chapel leader who organized the visiting speakers. I told him what bothered me most was that God doesn’t need any help in the miracle department. No tricks. No manipulation. Jeremiah 10:12 speaks to His authority: But God made earth by his power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding. His abilities are endless. For goodness sakes, He produced ten plagues to force Pharoah’s hand, provided manna for millions of Israelites wandering in the desert, saved Daniel and his friends from a fiery furnace, and made Himself man to redeem a lost humanity.

In retrospect, I hope the intention of the pastor was to excite his audience about God’s power and not draw attention to his own ability to be used by God. I feel bad that he was so desperate to prove God is still in the miracle business. On the other hand, I would like to think my girlfriend was wrong; there was no needle and thread and this man’s prayer was answered.

Yeah. I would like to think that.

I just don’t.

Patty LaRoche: Jumping to Conclusions

Sometimes the only exercise I get is jumping to the wrong conclusion. Read last week’s article if you doubt me. This week we will look at a scriptural passage with repercussions far worse than mine.

First, some background. God’s chosen people, the Israelites, don’t act chosen. For 40 years Moses leads these slow-learning twelve tribes as they wander in the desert, sin, repent, sin, repent, etc. And now it’s time to enter the Promised Land. The leaders of Gad, Rueben and half of the tribe of Manassah ask to stay behind on the East side of the Jordan River. The land is rich with valleys for grazing their flocks and seems ideal. Moses agrees on the condition they first cross the Jordan with the other 9 ½ tribes to help conquer the land of Canaan. Five years later the war ends and the 2 ½ tribes return to their homes and families.

All is well.

Well, sort of.

Before even dipping their toes in the Jordan River, the Easterners build a massive altar, perceived by their Western brothers as a clear violation of the Law which mandates only one altar for sacrifices, thereby insuring that each tribe doesn’t do its own thing in its worship of Jehovah. One altar (already built on the Western side). One faith. One death, if disobeyed.

I can hear the 9 ½ tribes now.

“Seriously? Talk about one-upmanship!”

“Yeah. So much for teamwork.”

“Well, they’ve done it this time. First we have to fight the Canaanites and now we have to go to war against our brothers. And I was soooo looking forward to a nap.”

But then, a voice of reason. “Maybe first we should tell them why we’re going to slaughter them. You know, give them a heads-up.”

A delegation is sent to confront the offenders. Made up of Phinehas, a priest and 10 high officials of Israel, they waste no time for their come-to-Jesus meeting (except, of course, it really is more of a come-to-Yahweh meeting because Jesus hasn’t been born).

Let’s pick up in Joshua 22:16. “The whole community of the Lord demands to know why you are betraying the God of Israel. How could you turn away from the Lord and build an altar in rebellion against him?” The tirade continues as the 2 ½ tribes are given a nonstop tongue-lashing for building a second altar to the Lord. Now it is time for the accused to speak.

“The Lord alone is God! The Lord alone is God! We have not built the altar in rebellion against the LORD. If we have done so, do not spare our lives this day… We have built this altar because we fear that in the future your descendants will say to ours, ‘What right do you have to worship the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and your people. You have no claim to the Lord.’ And your descendants may make our descendants stop worshiping the Lord.

“So we decided to build the altar, not for burnt sacrifices, but as a memorial…”

In other words, their motive is to unify, not divide, which always should be our goal when we don’t see eye-to-eye. So, what’s to learn from this story? First, even though it was far too accusatory, the opposition is given a chance to explain before the war trumpets are blown. Second, the response of the 2 ½ tribes, instead of igniting the fire (“How dare you talk to us like that!”), extinguishes it. We would do well to do likewise.

Phinehas and his now-happy-camper friends depart to tell the rest of the Israelites that there will be peace in the valley. (Someone should write a song with that title.)

All is well.

Well, sort of.

Patty LaRoche: Making Assumptions

“I have never learned anything with my mouth open.” So reads the sign on the office wall of our friend, Howard, who shared that ditty with us this past week. Although clever, I disagree. I have learned great lessons with my mouth open: mainly, that I can be a fool.

Like a few days ago. I was in Wichita, Kan., for a baseball tournament with my husband and three sons. For a week our lives were scheduled for us, thanks to organizers Brent and Jenny Hall and their adult daughter, Haleigh, who kept us informed of schedule changes, etc.

On Friday evening the family members were to meet in the lobby at 5:45 p.m. for a scheduled 6 p.m. bus departure to the ballgame. I was there. Alone. I texted my daughter-in-law, Jenn, who said the group text showed a time change to 6:30. She suggested that I ask Haleigh to put me on her group text so that I would get the announcements. That’s what I did.

Immediately my phone lit up with rapid-fire texts from the other wives. “Do you have an extra hat I can have?” “I will meet you at the game. Don’t look for me on the bus.” “Can I get extra tickets for friends coming into town?” You get the picture. Jenn suggested I ask to be removed from the group text. Good idea. I texted Haleigh to make that request.

On Sunday morning, I found out that friends from Fort Scott were coming to the game, and since Haleigh’s number was still in my contact list, I texted her to ask for tickets. Her response? “Sorry, but you were removed from this group. Maybe you should ask someone in the group to add you again!”

I read it again.

EXCUUUUUSE me? And what’s with the exclamation point?

I re-read the response.

Well, EXCUUUUUSE me again! After trying to get Dave as upset as I was (never happen), I responded. “I asked to be removed because I realized most of it wasn’t any of my business. I didn’t know I needed to be in the group to ask for tickets. No worries.”

Still, I stewed, waiting for Haleigh’s apology. I would have to tell Jenn so she never again suggested someone be removed from Haleigh’s elite little group. Before making that call, our son Jeff dropped by our hotel room. I sought his empathy, a waste of time since that male apple didn’t fall too far from that uncompassionate tree. “Mom, that doesn’t sound like Haleigh. What number do you have?”

Not the right one, as it turned out. The one I used was for the group text which sent out an automated reply to people outside the group. When Jeff gave me Haleigh’s private number and I made the call to the right number, she couldn’t have been more helpful. Jeff wasn’t finished. “Wow, Mom, why did you assume the worst?”

Because I’m good at it would have been the honest answer. Of course, I didn’t say that. I attempted to defend my actions, in which case both the tree and the apple would have none of it.

Relationships have been ruined when assumptions are made. Someone doesn’t answer my email or is short-answered with a text reply or doesn’t invite me to their dinner party or…

Proverbs 25:8 (MSG) simplifies the way I am to think when my feelings are hurt: “Don’t jump to conclusions – there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw.”

Otherwise, my assumption becomes my truth which leads to an ugly response which results in broken relationships…or, in one case, war.

Next week we will look at a Biblical example of how close that came to happening.

Patty LaRoche: The Problem of Hypocrisy

As the light turned yellow, he did the right thing and stopped at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman behind him was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection. While still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects. He said, “I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, giving the guy in front of you the finger and cursing at him. I noticed

the “What Would Jesus Do” bumper sticker, the “Choose Life”  license plate holder, the “Follow Me to Sunday-School” bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.”

Who of us Christians hasn’t been guilty of not representing Jesus the way he deserves to be represented? (I’m raising my hand here.) In truth, I’m pretty sure there are some people who know me well but have had occasions to wonder. Sadly, I have an incredible ability to recognize the same fault in others but dismiss it in myself.

Hypocrisy has been defined this way: “Someone who conveniently forgets his/her faults to point out someone else’s.” (Hand is still up.) In Matthew 7:3-5, we read how Jesus viewed this behavior. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Sadly, even though we work on our sin, read the Word, pray and intercede, we can still “lose it” when someone ahead of us fails to make it through a yellow light. Or keeps our little leaguer out of the lineup. Or passes us over for the company promotion. Or parks in a handicapped spot. Or…you fill in the blank. We ignore our God-given opportunity to exemplify Christ-like character.

Author Brennan Manning writes about the damage caused by such hypocrisy. “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Serious stuff, don’t you agree? We have no excuse. God has placed within us the Holy Spirit who uses yellow lights (our conscience) as warning signs. Our job? To put the brakes on our mouths and our actions before any further damage is done.

Patty LaRoche: Under His Wings

Stanley Jones tells a wonderful story of God’s love in his book, “Christian Maturity”: “A wildlife conservation officer drove past a grouse (a bird), in the center of the road, and he was surprised that she did not move when he swerved around her. He came back and saw in the meantime that six other cars had swerved around her, and still she did not move. When he came near, six little chicks ran out from under her wings.

“One of her wings was broken and her head was bloody. But she was saving others; herself she could not save.”

Psalm 36:7 reminds us that there is Another who provides winged protection in times of trouble. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. Ps. 118:8 takes it a flutter further: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.

Eighteen months ago, Judy, a precious friend in Christ with whom I had lost touch, began to phone and text me, asking me if everything was okay with my family members. In her prayer time, God continually brought their faces before her, telling her to pray. Recently she drove several hundred miles to come to my home, pray with me for my family and remind me of the spiritual battle going on around us. Judy’s in-my-face visit was to remind me to stay close to God by speaking blessings on family members so they would walk in Truth.

“Satan is seeking to control them and destroy their walks with God,” said my friend. It was real. It was intentional. It was alarming.

Later that week another Christian friend called to “catch up.” The conversation was light and funny until I shared what Judy had told me. Her response was solemn. “We all need to hear that. I don’t pray blessings on my son (who has walked away from his faith); I just complain about it.” My traveling friend’s warning had legs.

How many times had I tossed the token “bless the kiddies and the grand-kiddies” umbrella prayer into the clouds, hoping it would filter its way into Heaven? How many times had I dismissed the power of the “prayers” I was mumbling, not recognizing the power in conversation with God? How many times had I not prayed, ignoring the One whose wings cover me and my loved ones 24/7?

Like the grouse, the Lord put his broken life on the line so that we might be saved. In my case He didn’t stop there. He sent a friend with a wake-up call for me to take nothing for granted.

How much more did He need to do to get my attention?