Terrorism: Overcoming Fear with Faith

This past week, the topic of conversation nearly everywhere I went, was the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris. The horror of what happened there and in other places–Lebanon, Nigeria, and now Mali, is beyond belief. How can this happen? How can a Do not be afraidgroup of people have consciences seared to the extent that they believe what they’re doing is heroic? They believe killing “infidels” and then killing themselves brings ultimate glory to themselves and their god.

In contrast to those horrific events, Randy and I, our two sons, Chris and Jeremy, and granddaughter Lucy traveled to Ohio a couple of weeks ago to celebrate my mother-in-law’s life. Lucy, who is 3-years old, has the innocent, carefree outlook on life that children her age enjoy–and they should! I loved hearing her giggle when we played hide & seek in the hotel room. Where could Lucy be? She tried her best not to wiggle and give away her hiding place under the comforter of the king-size bed. Of course, we knew right away where to look. That lump under the covers was a give away–but we searched in the closet, behind the curtains, and even in the bath tub. When we finally “found” her, she shrieked with delight. Observing life through a child’s eyes is so refreshing–especially when life is heartbreaking.

Lucy experienced some panic, though, when we went through airport security. Her favorite stuffed animal, a giraffe named “Safari”, also had to go through security. This was Lucy’s worst nightmare. We had to pry Safari out of her arms so the giraffe could be inspected by the security agents. We promised Lucy that Safari would come through on the conveyor belt. She was inconsolable until she saw her stuffed animal. Then came the series of 3-year old questions…Daddy, why did they have to take Safari? He explained that we have these security procedures for safety. Sometimes there are bad people who try to bring things on the plane that could hurt others. After many more whys, Lucy seemed to accept her dad’s explanation. On our return flight, she placed Safari in the tub along with our other belongings to be checked by security. No problem this time.

I’m a lot like Lucy. I want to ask my Heavenly Father why? Why are there bad people who hurt others? There aren’t easy answers. We live in a broken world where evil is a reality. As much as I’d like to pretend it isn’t so, it’s impossible to ignore the facts. Flawed people follow flawed teaching. They become blinded to humanity–innocent people who are husbands, wives, parents, brothers, sisters, friends–all enjoying life–a meal at a restaurant, a soccer game, a concert in Paris, only to be shot at, wounded, or murdered. Our world has become an increasingly dangerous and violent place.

How do we cope with the uncertainties and dangers posed by terrorists? I continually look to the Bible for comfort and hope. The phrase “do not fear” appears at least 365 times in scripture. That’s significant! Psalm 46 offers this encouragement:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

The God of the Bible, who I choose to believe, promises never to leave us or forsake us. He is our refuge and strength, the One who never changes, no matter what happens around us. The pastor at my mom-in-law’s service said there are no free passes through the valley of the shadow of death. None of us escapes walking through difficult, even heart-wrenching times. But this promise assures us we will not walk alone. Your rod and your staff they comfort me, says a familiar passage from Psalm 23. We don’t have control over terrorism, but we do have control over where we will focus our thoughts. When fear threatens to wrap its icy fingers around my heart, I will remember the verses that emphatically say: Do not be afraid!

How are you coping with the escalation of terrorism?

 

 

 

 

You Are Enough: Overcoming Negativity

Wanted-Gods-Heart-for-You-By-Holley-GerthI recently enjoyed some coffee time with a few girl friends at the delightful 3 Bears Cafe and Quilts in our small town. It’s the kind of place where you feel good just being there, surrounded by bolts of bright-colored fabrics and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Our conversation focused on what was happening in our lives. As I came away from our time together, I thought about how each of us has struggled  with a negative opinion of ourselves. The “voices” that tell you you’ll never be good enough to attract a caring, kind man, you’re too stupid to ever amount to much, you’ll never be able to change in a positive way. One friend told how her 8-yr. old grandson already considers himself a loser! How sad that he’s decided this so early life.

At one time or another, we’ve all heard about the power of words–how they can have a positive or negative impact–especially when we’re vulnerable as children. Even though we can’t control the words that others may hurl at us, we can learn to deflect them. We can sidestep them–evaluate whether what is being said has any truth. Then we can focus on God’s truth of who He says we are instead of being influenced by others’ opinions. We can believe we are enough.

When I was a third-grader, I had an emotionally unstable teacher. As I child, I didn’t have the maturity to evaluate her comments, to temper them, and be OK with myself. Instead, I spent that year in her classroom terrified of her anger. We students didn’t know who the unsuspecting victim of her wrath would be on any particular day. On at least one occasion, it was me. One June day, I sat at my desk long after all my classmates had finished their math tests. My clammy hands felt sticky on the desk. The blank test paper told the story. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

Mrs. Miller (name changed to protect the not-so-innocent) glared at me with her hands planted on her hips. What don’t you understand? Student struggling

Uh-I don’t know, I stammered.

What don’t you understand? Mrs. Miller screamed at me. She picked me up out of my desk and shook me, trying to force out an answer.

By this time, I was hyperventilating. I don’t remember how I got free from her grasp. All I know is I ran out of the classroom without looking back. I pedaled home on my bike at lightspeed. I refused to go back to school that afternoon. In between sobs, I tried to explain to my mom what had happened. I had bought the lie: I was stupid. School was no  fun. I had to be on high alert because of a teacher’s emotional outbursts. Math was difficult through most of my school career.

The following year, I had a patient and compassionate teacher. She was surprised by how shaken I was when asked to go to the blackboard to solve a math problem–a story problem–the worst! She wrapped her arm around me and assured me I could do the math. With encouragement, I found the classroom to be a safe place where I could learn and grow.

It isn’t easy to move beyond the negative, critical voices we’ve all experienced. To believe we are enough, that God designed us to be unique, beautiful creations. I really like the graphic by Holly Gerth inserted above. Yes, we are imperfect and flawed. Some of us can’t do math. But we’re loved through it all if we can only dare to believe. And the best part is that we don’t have to apply to be selected as a recipient of God’s love. He has already chosen us.

Here’s what the Creator of the Universe says about you:

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3

I will strengthen you and help you. Isaiah 41:10

I have called you by name. You are mine. Isaiah 43:1

I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16

I rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

You are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31

I will be with you always. Matthew 28:20

I have called you friend. John 15:15

I chose you. John 15:16

Today’s Assignment: Begin to believe YOU ARE ENOUGH!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unassuming Heroes: Wildland Firefighters

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Firefighters kept the blaze from reaching the town of Twisp. Community Covenant Church, pictured here, is safe thanks to their efforts. (photo, courtesy of The Seattle Times)

When we moved to the Methow Valley in North Central Washington almost 20 years ago, my husband Randy and I were naive about the risks of wildfires. We purchased some property in a high risk fire area, not thinking about the implications of building a home in the forest. We later sold that property so we could be located closer to town–in retrospect, a wise decision from a fire safety perspective.

In the years since we came here, we’ve experienced a number of wildfires. Usually, fires have burned in the wilderness, miles away from residences. We’ve witnessed spectacular mushroom-cloud smoke plumes and have been inconvenienced by smoky air. In 2001 the Thirtymile Fire impacted our community when four young wildland firefighters lost their lives. The reality of how dangerous these fires can be and how quickly they can explode hit us hard. Then last summer, we experienced the Carlton Complex Fire, the largest in Washington state history until this year. The fire decimated 250,000 acres and burned more than 350 homes. Our friends and neighbors are still recovering from that trauma.

We’ve all been on edge this summer with the extreme drought conditions and high temperatures we’ve had since June. A few weeks ago, fires erupted in the resort community of Chelan, an hour away from the Methow Valley.  Many homes were lost. Then last week, on what seemed like a normal Wednesday, sirens sounded about 12:30 p.m. The radio reported a fire had broken out a few miles outside of Twisp, a town 10 miles south of where we live. My heart froze. No longer could we be in denial about the destructive potential of these fires.

By 5 o’clock, both towns of Twisp and Winthrop had received evacuation orders. A line of cars traveled the only road out of the valley. A large fire-filled cloud grew to enormous proportions on a nearby ridge. I raced home from work, wishing I’d packed our evacuation box the night before like I’d told myself to. I should be ready, just in case…

The “just in case” was happening. Fortunately, I’d made a detailed evacuation checklist last year. It was helpful and calming to refer to it as I ran around the house gathering important papers, photo albums, pictures off walls, clothes, toiletries, Kosmo’s dog food and supplies–and Kosmo! When you survey the contents of your home, you realize you can’t take much–only a few things. Plus you don’t know if you have much time. Do you have the luxury of deciding should I take the jeans or shorts? What jacket should I take? And shoes? Don’t forget to wear them out the door! Looking back now from a safer perspective, I can better evaluate our evacuation process. I realize I forgot important things and took others that didn’t even make sense.

In the end, you realize the stuff doesn’t matter. Of course, it’s a huge loss for those whose homes have burned, a loss that shouldn’t be minimized. But the unfathomable pain that overshadows any material loss is the deaths of three young firefighters who became trapped on Wednesday afternoon in the extreme fire conditions. A fourth firefighter remains in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. We heard the tragic news as we evacuated. We are heartbroken with the rest of our community. And grateful beyond words for the bravery of firefighters, thousands of them, who put their lives on the line to protect us, our homes, and communities. As a group, they’re quite unassuming. They don’t think of themselves as heroes. One firefighter told me he was just doing his job, it wasn’t a big deal.

Oh, but it’s a very big deal for us. Without the vigilance and expertise of those who know how to fight these massive fires from the air and on the ground, our towns could have burned. Whether or not they realize it, these men and women are our heroes. A huge thank you hardly seems enough to express the gratitude that overflows in our hearts.

 

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Your Marriage

I heard the news that a young couple in our community is getting a divorce after only one year of marriage. What went wrong? All I know is this is a tragedy. I remember the wedding announcement we received with their bright smiling faces, their eyes so filled with love for each other.

Being silly at Lucy's birthday party!

Being silly at Lucy’s birthday party!

I want to tell them, “Don’t give up! Your story isn’t over yet.” In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say: “Don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle.” Sometimes 5 minutes can seem like an eternity, but when the miracle comes, you don’t want to miss it.

My husband Randy and I are celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. When I look back, I remember the tough times we faced in our marriage. It seemed hopeless. Struggling with Randy’s alcoholism loomed like a never-ending problem with few solutions. In retrospect, it was 5 minutes. The miracle of Randy’s sobriety and the years we’ve enjoyed since then, have truly been a miracle worth waiting for.

Life Lessons From a Dog Named Kramer

I knew the day was coming, but I didn’t expect it to arrive so soon. “Soon” is relative, because 15 years can seem like a long time or pass by in a blink. It’s the blink side6 I’m experiencing today. We said goodbye to our faithful canine friend, Kramer, two days ago. The years had taken their toll and Randy and I couldn’t bear to watch him struggle. Nights had become nearly impossible. Kramer paced incessantly through the house, getting stuck behind furniture or in corners, not seeing well enough to find his way out. Our hearts ache as we try to adjust to life without him. Anyone who has had a long-term relationship with a dog will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Kramer came into our lives on a July day in 2000, just before our 30th wedding anniversary. We drove two hours to the breeder’s home. We’d planned to only “take a look” at the Jack Russell Terrier puppy who bounded up to meet us. It was love at first lick. And then we were driving home with the unexpected 3-month old pup passenger curled up on my lap. We decided he was our anniversary gift to each other.

And what a gift he’s been! Our lives were turned upside down and our hearts inside out with love for this little guy who we christened as “Kramer.” He needed a Hollywood name since Randy and I owned a video store in our small town. Every day, Randy packed up Kramer and his puppy paraphernalia and took him to our store, much to the delight of our customers. “Is Kramer in today?” they’d ask expectantly.

When Kramer turned one year old, we celebrated with a party at the store. Kramer secretly told me he wanted a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting which was a big hit with his guests. They brought dog biscuit gifts and even called on the phone to wish him a happy day.

Kramer enjoyed stardom in our town’s annual ’49ers Days Parade. We drove the parade route in Randy’s old ’89 Lincoln Town Car festooned with Kramer banners and balloons. Children lining the one street through town squealed, “Look, there’s Kramer!” Randy and I tried not to let it get us down that no one seemed to notice us.

As we grieve our loss, I’m reminded of how much we learned from Kramer’s terrier traits.

  • Live every moment to the fullest!  Kramer lived at”turbo speed,” throwing himself wholeheartedly into  quests for chasing chipmunks, digging holes to hunt for mice, or attacking the garden hose while we attempted to water the plants or wash the car.
  • Don’t ever give up!  We marveled at Kramer’s tenacity and what one small dog could accomplish. One day, he was intent on capturing a chipmunk that was hiding in an irrigation pipe. “Great,” we thought. Kramer was occupied and we didn’t have to worry about him for a while. Only problem was that after several hours of tussling with the pipe, he literally wore off the black part of his nose! Our vet assured us it would grow back.
  • Love without stopping! What we’ll miss most is having this sweet dog with bright brown eyes filled with pure love, greet us at the end of every work day. No matter what kind of day we’d had, it was always better because Kramer was there to welcome us home.

I can’t help but think that God sent him to us at a time when we most needed him. As Randy and I stood by his grave the other day, I realized how far we had come in 15 years. We had learned volumes about what really matters, the value of persevering, and how to love each other well. In this sad moment, we had leaned into the pain together. We stood with arms draped around each other, praying a farewell prayer to our faithful friend. Even though our lives will never be the same, we are grateful for God’s special anniversary gift to us and memories to last the rest of our lives.

I’m looking forward to being the Keynote speaker at this event!

Date: March 14, 2015
Time: 09:00 a.m.-02:00 p.m.
Event: Olympic Cluster Spring Celebration
Topic: "Bear One Another's Burdens"
Venue: Christ Lutheran Church
Location: Belfair, WA
Public: Private

New Hope for Marriage Women’s Retreat

I’m excited about the NEW HOPE FOR MARRIAGE women’s retreat I’m co-facilitating with Christie Miller. We have a few spaces available for the Feb. 20-21 date. Know someone who is discouraged in her marriage and needs some new hope – new energy – and a new plan? This is a great weekend opportunity. Small, private, encouraging!

For more information: www.nwspeakers.com

Be a Burden Bearer

When I was 33-years old, I slipped on an icy sidewalk and fractured my knee cap. Ouch! I never dreamed how much something that looked like a simple “skinned knee” could impact my life. In an instant, I had been sidelined. It was as if God had grabbed me and said, “You, Deb. Time out. You’re benched until further notice.” I had an inkling that I’d been hiding

from my emotional pain. The reality that my husband Randy was an alcoholic lurked in my thoughts. But if I stayed busy enough, I could  avoid the truth that was too painful to confront.

I spent weeks on the couch, my leg in a huge plaster cast from my ankle to my thigh. I couldn’t run away–even if I wanted to. Instead, I had a front row seat to observe what was happening in my marriage–and it wasn’t pretty.

A friend had told me about a Christian counseling practice in Seattle called Burden Bearers. She encouraged me to call and make an appointment. I remember the day my friend loaded me and my crutches into the backseat of her Ford Pinto, my bulky cast propped on the console. She drove me to my first counseling appointment at Burden Bearers–an important step on my journey toward healing.

A burden bearer was exactly what I needed–and what Jesus commands us to be for others, like my friend was for me.

     Galatians 6:2 tells us:  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 

It’s true that sometimes we feel too weak and overwhelmed to carry another person’s burdens. That’s when God sends people to help us. Since my knee injury, I’ve had many opportunities to help someone else who’s carrying a heavy load. It’s usually in an area where I’ve also walked and learned and grown–and experienced God’s faithfulness and mercy.

I love the story from the book of Mark, about the paralytic man who is carried to Jesus on a mat by his four friends. They’re convinced Jesus can help him. When they can’t get close enough to Jesus because of the crowds, they take matters into their own hands.They climb up on the roof and make an opening so they can lower their paralyzed friend down –right in front of Jesus. That took some boldness. I probably would’ve said, I guess we aren’t going to see Jesus today…and resigned myself to that. But these friends were determined. They were desperate to help their friend. We will get him to Jesus–no matter what! These friends are burden bearers in every sense of the word.

So what does it mean to come alongside someone in a time of need? How can you be a burden bearer?

  •  Be Available

          You don’t need all the answers or a degree in counseling. You need to be willing to listen and offer support. Let your friend know she isn’t walking this road alone. Sometimes your quiet presence means everything.    

  •  Be Bold

           Be a “roof ripper,” as a friend of mine described the actions of the paralytic man’s friends.  Step out of your comfort zone. Send the note or email. Even better, make the phone call. Offer to be a burden bearer.  

    • Be Compassionate

    It’s easy to get caught up in our daily routines and not be aware of others who are hurting. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, said:

                        Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God. 
             
             And then help me do something about it. Take action. Get beyond my own self-centered  thinking. Lord, help us be connected with others so we’ll know when there’s a need.   

    Our world is filled with hurt and pain. You don’t have to look far to find opportunities to reach out to others who are struggling. I can hardly imagine where I’d be today if I hadn’t had friends who came to carry me through some tough times. I am so grateful for the opportunity to pass this comfort on to others.

      Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 

      Who is in your life who needs a burden bearer?
                                                                                            
       

    After the Firestorm: Finding Out What Matters Most

    The view from our house on July 17, 2014

    I’ve never been so happy to turn a calendar page as I was at the end of August. I flipped the page from August to September, breathing a guarded sigh of relief. Our world has been rocked by the firestorm that blew up on July 17. During the summer and early fall, wildfires are part of life here in hot, dry north central Washington. We’ve seen the mushroom-cloud smoke plumes that tower skyward. We’ve witnessed hillsides burning in the distance. The Thirtymile Fire in 2001 seemed relatively insignificant until it raged out-of-control, killing four young firefighters. I remember the somber gathering held at our local high school gym where we paid our respects. This heartbreaking tragedy  caused the forest service to re-evaluate firefighting protocols.

    But this year, the Carlton Complex Fire became the largest fire in Washington state history, burning more than 250,000 acres. Long-time residents say they’ve never seen anything like it. Unlike other fires, this one destroyed homes–more than 300 at last count. These are friends and neighbors who have lost everything. I can’t imagine where you begin to start over. The fire, ignited by a lightning strike near Carlton, traveled more than 25 miles in less than 8 hours to burn hundreds of homes near Pateros. People barely had time to evacuate. It’s nothing short of a miracle that no lives were lost that night and in the following days and weeks.

    We were without power and water for 10 days in the area where I live. Others “camped” without electricity for almost 3 weeks. Everyone has been affected by the stress of living on high alert–not knowing if and when you’ll have to evacuate or if a new fire will be ignited by lightning or something as random as a tire rim from a flat tire creating sparks. And if the fires weren’t bad enough, mudslides caused by heavy rain and flash flooding several weeks later, washed out roads and destroyed more homes. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the devastation.

    Yet in the midst of  disaster, you can’t help but notice the bright spots. I think of the hardworking heroes who have given so much to our communities…the firefighters who relentlessly dug fire lines in 100 degree weather, the local PUD joined by other utility companies who worked 16-hour days to get the power on, Red Cross volunteers who came to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on. Community centers and schools were transformed into shelters staffed by volunteers. Almost immediately, donations of supplies poured in. A statement said they couldn’t accept any more donations. There simply wasn’t room.

    A benefit, “Blues for the Burn,” was sponsored by the organizers of the popular summer Rhythm & Blues Festival. More than 400 people enjoyed an evening of music and dancing. Many came from out-of-town, wanting to support the beautiful Methow Valley and those who have lost so much. All proceeds went to our local food bank/charitable organization, “The Cove,” who will distribute the funds. I’m amazed and moved by the generosity of our community.

    In September, I had the privilege of helping at a fire relief clothing event sponsored by The Heart of CAbi Foundation and Independent CAbi Consultants. More than 90 women who had lost all their personal clothing in the fires or mudslides came to “shop” for brand new designer clothing–except they didn’t need any shopping dollars. CAbi, a clothing company, donated 1,000 items of clothing. Each woman who attended went home with at least 10 free new outfits. I stood by to offer coffee, muffins, scones, and sandwiches–but most important, I listened to their stories of loss, gave hugs, and even helped dry some tears. 

    It seems like disasters, whether natural events, or tragedies like 9/11, tend to draw people together. Suddenly we’re shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to help and encourage others wherever we can. Even though I pray we never have another summer like this one, I’m grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve received–and for this reminder:

    The things that matter the most in this world, they can never be held in our hand. –Gloria Gaither
      
    I’ve had a first-hand glimpse of this through those in our community who are bravely moving forward after losing so much.