Waiving Axes

An axe tumbled through the air and hit its target with a thud before clattering to the ground. Oops. So began an evening of axe throwing, a birthday celebration for a friend. It didn’t actually start there. Before axes could fly, we had to sign a waiver releasing the business of any liability—good idea, considering whose hands they were putting axes into.

I had to read the waiver out loud because my husband didn’t bring his glasses. Glasses certainly aren’t necessary to throw axes but are needed for reading the small print of a two-page waiver. The public reading of the waiver was so entertaining, even the employees were listening and laughing. Perhaps they had never read it themselves. I asked them if I could keep a copy—knowing immediately it was blog-worthy material. So here we are.

I will focus on just one paragraph and break it down for you. It starts: “I acknowledge that risks and dangers exist in my use of axe throwing equipment and my participation in axe throwing activities.” I knew this before we even arrived, which is why I had told the organizer of the activity that I would come but wouldn’t be throwing axes. I know my limitations. My friend, Nedra, who also shouldn’t be given an axe to throw, and I would be the cheerleaders for the evening.

“My participation in such activities and/or use of such equipment may result in my injury or illness or the injury or illness of my family, heirs, executors, administrators, and friends,” Hold on. I believe I could injure myself and maybe those with me (or worst-case scenario, the axe throwers in the adjoining cage), but my “family, heirs, executors, administrators, and friends?” My heirs? I hate to think about how that could be possible, but I’m afraid I might know what they are saying. If that’s not enough to make you walk out the door, I don’t know what is. I don’t even know who my administrators are, so I don’t see how my axe throwing can be responsible for injuries to them.

Then they get more specific about how my axe throwing could impact myself and everyone else, “including but not limited to bodily injury, disease from viruses, bacteria, parasites, fractures, partial and/or total paralysis, eye injury, blindness, heat stroke, heart attack, death or other ailments that could cause serious or permanent disability” I’d like to think that there would have to be a major incident or maybe a combination of axe catastrophes for these perils to come about. But when we’re talking about me, it could happen leaning over to pick up the axe. Let’s face it, I’m a mess.

“and may cause severe social or economic losses due to not only my own actions, inaction, or negligence, but also to the action, inaction, or negligence of others or conditions of the premises or of any equipment used.” Apparently, my axe throwing could result in lawsuits. No kidding. As I already stated, no worries, because I wasn’t going to be touching an axe. Nedra made pom-poms and cheers for us to do at a safe distance from the axes. There would be no attempt at cartwheels or lifts, so we were safe, along with our heirs, executors, and administrators.

That concludes one of fourteen paragraphs of all that could go wrong and releasing the business of any liability, even if death occurs. All of that for just a few hours of innocent fun.

Life is full of dangers. There are no waivers to sign, even though not one of us will be able to avoid death. It’s the only way out of this life. No matter how death comes about, even a crazy axe throwing incident, it’s not a waiver that will save me, but faith in the one who holds the keys to life and death. Because Jesus has already died in my place, I do not fear death. It will just be the first day of life without pain, without fighting sin, without tears, without worry, without illness, including diseases, parasites, blindness, heat stroke, paralysis, or heart attack, and without dodging axes. I hope my family, heirs, executors, administrators, and friends will join me there.

“but it [grace] has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10 NIV). 

Bullseye! sort of.
Birthday girl with her cheerleaders

Friends

Friends. When you have great ones, like I do, they make a huge difference in your life. True friends will laugh with you, cry with you, question your choices, hold you accountable, stick with you through thick and thin. Sometimes quite literally as you diet together and encourage each other’s healthy habits or sabotage them when you can’t resist sharing a six-scoop brownie explosion.

I can talk to my closest friends about anything and know they will love me. My friends have carried me through some very difficult times. There has never been a time I worried they would end our friendship because of something going on in my life. I can count on them. It only takes a text or phone call, and they drop what they are doing to help me. I know how blessed I am.

Last week I was reading in 1 Chronicles 27 and came across an interesting portion of verse 33. The chapter lists the names of King David’s officials and counselors, all very important men in his kingdom. Then, between Ahithophel, the king’s counselor, and Joab, the commander of the king’s army, we read, “Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.” That was unexpected. The name of his friend, squished between the king’s counselor and army commander. Hmm. It seems to me that would make his position of “friend” something special.

It made me smile. If someone was going to make a list of all the very important people in my life, it would definitely include my friends. But, believe it or not, I don’t have counselors, commanders, or even a guy in charge of my supply of olive oil (David had Joash for that). Maybe I should have someone in charge of my supply of olive oil. I am very picky about it and hate to run out. Although I know if one of my friends was going to my favorite olive oil store, they would ask if I needed anything. So maybe I do have someone for that. But I digress.

The bottom line is David had a friend, and he was important to him. Like my friends, I believe David’s friend was someone he could rely on in any circumstance. We have insight into David’s friendships because of the record of his friendship with Jonathan. We are told their hearts were knit together. They protected each other. They trusted each other. They loved each other. They cried when they were forced to separate. That sounds a lot like my friendships. Even though David had a number of counselors, he also had at least one close friend after Jonathan’s death. I find that comforting.

We all need a friend or a few friends to help us through life. They are there when we ugly cry. They call out our bad attitudes. They pray with and for us. They talk through tough decisions. They speak truth when we most need to hear it. They make us smile even when our hearts are breaking. In my case, they also make me laugh till I leak, which is one of their specialties. Friends help carry our burdens and make life a little sweeter. What a blessing it is to be knit together in friendship.

I’m glad God decided to list David’s friend as an important person. It reminded me how special true friendships are. I love all my friends, but especially Nedra, LouAnn, Susan, Terri, & Gerri. There, I listed them. (There are plenty more, but these ladies know too much about me not to be included here.)

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17 ESV)

Joy in Living Your Whole Life

My mom would turn 90 years old today, “if she had lived her whole life.” She coined that infamous phrase when talking about another relative who died young, and it continues to outlive us all.

I am remembering Mom today and all the funny moments we shared. The day she said, “Auntie Alma would still be taking that medication, if she had lived her whole life,” I had to pull the car to the side of the road, since I couldn’t see with my eyes squinted shut and tears of laughter running down my face. It wasn’t the first time, nor the last, we laughed together like that.

One of the things I am remembering is that she so easily laughed at herself. It took me quite a while to learn that valuable skill. But I’m right there with her now—mostly because I share her physical struggles, hearing loss, and questionable memory. She always said to me, “Wait until you’re my age.” Well, I’m there, and she was right. I’m in trouble.

I am remembering the times we giggled ourselves silly because she repeated what she thought I said, which wasn’t even close. Her good-natured yelling for help because she couldn’t open a jar with her atrophied hands. There were times she would start to ask me something and couldn’t get it out before collapsing in laughter. I’d squeak out, “Come on, Mom, stop it,” while grabbing my laugh-strained obliques. Most of the time, she had just forgotten what she was going to ask me, which tickled her. She did wonders for my core muscles. I’m going to try to remember her laughing as my own disabilities grow.

I want her joy, the kind of joy that laughs at the future (as in Proverbs 31:25 NASB). So, I have been praying for more joy. We pray for the all the other fruits of the Spirit: love, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, and so on. But I think sometimes we feel guilty asking for increased joy. Why? Joy is one of the evidences and outcomes of the Christian life. I think it should be one of the most-used words when describing a Christian.

And I’m not talking about peace or contentment, although they have their part in joy. Biblical joy, the way it is used most-often in the Bible, includes loud instruments, shouting, dancing, singing, and praising. There is almost always some sort of loud noise associated with joy. Nehemiah 12:43 says, “…for God made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” 1 Kings tells us that their joy shook the earth. Do you picture the faces of people experiencing that kind of joy with dower countenances, stoically declaring their joy? No, there had to be smiles, laughing, and dare I say it, happy faces. That’s the kind of joy I want—not dependent on my circumstances but on how great a God I serve.

So, I’m going to let the lesson of my mom’s laughter fill my soul today. I have already been out sledding with my grandchildren today. After all, you never know when you’ve lived your whole life.

Advent – The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Today’s the day! The wait has been excruciating. I have marked off the days as my anticipation grew to almost unbearable proportions. Like that old Heinz ketchup commercial, the anticipation will be “worth the wait.” For what am I waiting (not so patiently)? Our California kids and grands are coming to celebrate Christmas with us. We pick them up at the airport tonight. I’ll be anxiously waiting in the cell phone lot, keeping a close eye on the digital sign that announces the flights as they land.

Anticipation is what the advent season is all about—a time of eagerly waiting for the Messiah to be born. I love this season. I love the sense of anticipation. I love singing the carols, shopping for just the right gifts, making the special foods, trimming the tree, wrapping the presents, seeing the lights—all of it. I love all the Christmas concerts and live nativities and sappy Christmas movies. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, the weeks in between are my favorite time of year. For me, the anticipation reaches its crescendo, not on Christmas morning, but on Christmas Eve. The candlelight service is a beautiful time of remembering Jesus’ birth, that God sent His only Son to save His people from sin.

It’s a season of love, from exchanging gifts with those we love to seeing God’s love in giving the greatest gift of all. You might think the anticipation of Jesus coming to earth would end after all the presents are opened, the feast devoured, and the decorations put away. But this season of advent continues as we await Jesus’ second coming. Just as God promised the Messiah would come as a baby, he also promised Jesus would come again as Lord of all.

It could happen at any time. We don’t know exactly when. There’s no virgin waiting to give birth. There is no star over the place he will appear. There are no angels announcing his coming. There’s not even a digital sign to check his status every few minutes. One day, he will just appear in the clouds. Unlike his quiet, humble birth, his next coming will be with power and authority and a trumpet blast. There won’t be a smattering of shepherds and wise men who will bow before him, but every knee will bow when he comes as king of kings.

The preparations of this second advent are important and should be made with equal enthusiasm as his first—telling others of the good news of salvation, living out his Word, praying for his church and his return, and growing in love. And there are things reminiscent of the first advent season—singing songs of praise, gathering together as a family, sharing our gifts, and eagerly anticipating His coming.

So I ask myself, am I as anxious for his coming as I am for my grands coming? Does my heart flutter when I see one more sign that he will come soon, like it does when I see the sweet faces of my granddaughters sitting on a plane, ready for takeoff? Am I busy making preparations for his return? I can honestly say I am excited and eagerly anticipating Jesus’ coming. And I’m really thrilled it won’t be a short, holiday visit, but a trip that will last for eternity.

“At that time, people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send his angels and gather his elect…Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Mark 13:26-27a & Revelation 22:20b NIV)

A Bend in the Road

Oh no, not another detour. Just after we moved into our new home, a bridge near us was closed. The state has been replacing all the bridges that cross over the turnpike. It was our turn. It ended up not to be a huge inconvenience for us. For most of the project, there was at least one lane open.

As I crossed the bridge over the months the new one was under construction, I was interested in how the new bridge was going to connect to the existing road. It seemed to me there would have to be a pretty sharp bend in the road for it to work. As the bridge project neared completion, it really didn’t look like the road and the new bridge were going to join up. Cars were now using the new bridge, as the crews dismantled the old one. I kept thinking they really didn’t plan this well. There will be such a sharp turn in the road to get onto the bridge. I didn’t need a new reason to complain about how our tax dollars were being used, but here it was.

The day arrived to open the bridge completely. I drove up the road, expecting to slow down for the sharp curve, but it never came. I stayed straight on the road and sailed right across the new bridge and back onto the road on the other side without the slightest turn of the steering wheel. How did they do that? Just a few days ago, it looked like this result would be impossible. I remember seeing the old bridge next to the new one and how the new one didn’t connect to the road very well. But now, with the old bridge gone, and apparently some road work done I hadn’t noticed, the new bridge was perfectly aligned with the road.

How was this possible? It was because my perspective was not the perspective of the engineers and the road crews building the bridge. They knew the plan. They had the complete design and instructions. I only saw the steps as they came. I should have trusted that they knew what they were doing. But, of course, when it comes to Pennsylvania roads, I have been let down a time or two.

One day as I drove across the bridge, looking at the road and trying to figure out how they matched it up, I thought about how this bridge project is a good picture of God’s plan for my life. I don’t always see how God’s plan is going to work. I often think I’ve got it all figured out, and then God throws in a curve I didn’t see coming. How will this new bend in my road work out? It doesn’t seem like it will. But I don’t see the whole of God’s plan. I need to trust him. He is the master designer. There is never a flaw in his engineering skills. The twists and turns, the mountains and valleys he orchestrates turn out to be just right for me. And once his project is complete in me, it will be perfect. Until that day, I’ll keep trusting that his plan is better than my own—every time I cross the turnpike on that perfectly straight bridge.

“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:5-6 ESV)

An Old Message in New Ways (and free stuff)

My life has had some serious struggles. But God has used my experiences to help and encourage others. It’s a privilege to be able to serve others with what I’ve learned.

I spent the past week or so updating my website to better serve my audience. Those of you who have been subscribed to my blog will notice right away that it looks very different. I changed the cover photo to a sunset on Molasses Pond. I took that photo while sitting on the swing at our family cabin this spring. That spot, watching sunsets like the one pictured, is where I am most at peace in this world. That is why I wanted to feature it on my website. I hope when you visit my website, you feel the same peace taking in that view.

The other major change is a new page: Free Downloads. Click the Free Downloads tab on the home page, and you’ll find things I am offering for free to help you, your friends, your church or organization, or anyone who can use them. Right now, you’ll find three downloads, my article, “Keeping Children Safe: 5 Things Every Parent Can Do To Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse,” a brochure based on that article, and a brochure titled Hope for Survivors.

The brochures can be used in information racks or family resource areas or as handouts in parenting classes and survivor groups or as an invitation to a workshop. There is room on the back to include your church or organization’s info. You can contact me using my website’s contact form to set up a prevention workshop or to speak at your event or to facilitate creating a child safety policy or any other way I can serve you.

Thirty-three years ago, when my abuse became public knowledge and I read 2 Corinthians 1, that God comforts us in our afflictions so that we can comfort others, my initial reaction was “no way.” I never wanted anyone to know my afflictions, certainly not the abuse. But I realized that the ugly things in our lives have purpose. What was I going to do with that? I had found freedom from my past. How could I not want to share that with others in the same situation? My reluctant answer was, “OK God, use me however you want.”

Here I am, all those years later, having talked about my abuse in large groups as well as one-on-one for over thirty years, trying hard to use technology to better spread my message. I am technologically challenged, so this has been a stretch for me. But in order to best serve others, I need to learn to use technology, and I am thankful for those around me who are willing to help me when I’m ready to throw my computer out the window.

I hope you or someone you know will be blessed with what I have to offer. Keep an eye out for more downloads in the future. If you have an idea you’d like to see, let me know. And please share them with anyone who could use them. Thank you!

The Red Sea and Ocean Blue Cabinets

I was annoyed. When we moved into our new home in January, my goal was to have a kitchen in our in-law suite by mid-summer. Hope swelled when we ordered the cabinets in April with a two-week lead time for delivery. But then we learned they wouldn’t be ready until the end of June. Okay, they’ll be in by the end of summer. Summer was the goal and was still in play.

June came and went with no cabinets. A few more delays. Finally, on August 19, my beautiful ocean-blue cabinets were delivered. My annoyance grew. The water and drain lines weren’t in yet. My cabinets just sat there mocking me. They were there but unusable. Summer was waning. Pumpkin spice everything was on its way as soon as the calendar flipped to September.

So, when September 1 came around and the cabinets were not yet installed, my hopes were crashing. But before the first day of September ended, an uninvited guest arrived at our house, specifically in our in-law suite. Her name was Ida, Hurricane Ida. She didn’t just arrive—she forced her way inside. As our living space filled with water, Doug grabbed some boards from the garage and hoisted the cabinets onto them. We didn’t know when the deluge would stop, but at least it might help to get them off the floor.

For hours, we scooped, shop-vacced, and soaked up water. It never went deeper than two inches, just reaching the very bottoms of the cabinets. They were saved because they hadn’t been installed yet.

This week, I read the story in Exodus 14 of Israel crossing the Red Sea. It stuck out to me that they were passing by it when God said to Moses, “Come back and encamp there, facing the Sea.” Wait a minute. They could have been long gone, but God put them right where he wanted them so they would see how only he could save them. And he did.

Saving my cabinets was not nearly as miraculous. But all the time I spent being annoyed they hadn’t been installed seems pretty silly now—a lot like the Israelites complaints about being brought to the Red Sea to die. God was just setting the stage to show his timing is perfect in every situation, whether it’s saving his people in the midst of the sea or just a few ocean-blue cabinets in the midst of a hurricane. He is completely trustworthy.

“21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” Exodus 14: 21, 22, 31 ESV

Can’t Get Me!

My sister offered to do a photo shoot for my website at a local zinnia farm (four years ago this week). I took my granddaughter Emma along to get some pictures with her too. She loved all the bright flowers and being the center of attention. This photo is one of my favorites of us together. The farm was beautiful and a perfect location for photos.

This farm also had some animals living there. We wandered over to the barn area where we met a rather large sheep. My experiences with sheep have been benign, not like goats. Goats can be traumatic. A goat ate my hat when I was little, and I never forgot. And they always seem to delight in headbutting people. Sheep are usually more docile and easily intimidated. They are more likely to run off or even go stiff and fall over when startled. Not this sheep. Emma walked up to it, and it sized her up. The sheep took a few steps back, then charged, headbutting her in the stomach, knocking her on her butt. I thought she would be terrified, but she just laughed and walked away.

The sheep followed us around the barnyard. At first, we laughed about it. But its menacing presence became a constant threat. It tried several more times to knock Emma down, sneaking up on us from behind. Finally, we decided to move outside the fenced barnyard where the sheep couldn’t get to us. It worked. The sheep was not so scary with the fence between us. Emma even mocked it just a little, her sing-song voice squeaking, “Can’t get me.” We skipped away, hand in hand, with no fear that the sheep was coming after us.

Satan is a lot like that sheep. He tries to knock us down. He wants us to worry about where he is and what he’s doing, constantly looking over our shoulder. He can be menacing, making us run in fear. But, like that sheep, he also is penned in. He doesn’t have freedom to do whatever he wants to. He is limited to what God allows him to do. The Christian need not fear Satan or his schemes.

Sure, there times that he may get to you, causing you some fear or worry. Maybe he even knocks you down temporarily. But remember, He can do nothing outside of God’s control. They are not equals, dueling it out for control of the universe, like Darth Vader and the Jedi. We don’t need to route for God, hoping things go his way. Satan’s future has already been decided. God created him with a purpose, and that purpose has an end date. One little Word will fell him. Jesus has already defeated him. So go ahead and mock him just a little. He can’t get you.

“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3 NIV) “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20 NIV)

Just a Little Off

Rock climbing. It was supposed to be a day conquering the rock faces of High Rocks Park and rappelling back down, my favorite outdoor pastime. But as we rounded the last curve of the narrow, winding road that led to the entrance, we met an oncoming car, driving up the middle of the road. Doug pulled our little Plymouth Arrow truck as far to the edge of the road as he could. Just when we thought we had squeezed safely between the car and the edge, the right front tire slipped off the macadam onto the soft ground. The rest of the truck was still on the road. We were barely moving, but as hard as Doug tried to get the tire back onto the macadam, it was no use. The truck started leaning to the right. We were going over the cliff.

The truck flopped onto the passenger side with a loud bang. The next few seconds seemed to move in slow motion. There was a crunching sound as it rolled onto the roof. With three of us in the cab of the truck, I was unbelted in the middle, sitting on a folded sofa cushion stuffed in between the seats. That’s the way we did it in the early 1980s. I felt myself heading toward the windshield. Doug’s forearm struck me in the chest, slamming me back against the seats, just as the windshield cracked. Jagged lines spread across the windshield, and tiny shards of glass sprayed throughout the cab. The truck continued its downward roll with more popping and cracking. Would the truck stay in one piece at it plummeted to the bottom, ninety feet below? Would we survive?

The driver’s side hit the ground, and the truck came to a sudden stop with a jolting thud, throwing the three of us into a pile. With Doug on the bottom of the pile, he couldn’t help my sister and I push the passenger door open, which was now located above us. Then we heard voices outside the truck, “Are they dead?” The people from the Honda were pulling on the door. We pushed, they pulled, and finally the mangled door gave way. We scrambled out and sat on the side of the truck. The passenger of a passing car gawked at us and remarked, “Heck of a place to park.”

As we oriented ourselves, we realized the truck had only rolled three quarters of a turn. The undercarriage of the truck had come to rest against a tree.  We were about twenty feet below the road. We sat on the side of the truck taking inventory of the damage, to us and the truck. The truck was a total loss, but the three of us just had bumps and bruises (and a few concussions we would later learn). Someone had gone to the park office and reported the accident. We heard galloping. “The cavalry’s coming?” I wondered out loud. Not exactly. It was a medic on a horse. After checking us out and declaring us fit enough to wait for a tow truck, our hero on horseback rode off with my sister squished onto the saddle, arms tightly around his waist. What in the world?

We found where the tire had gotten off the macadam. It was just a three-inch drop. Why hadn’t it been able to get back up? Why did the truck roll over the cliff? I remembered this accident as I read about a Christian leader who has gone off track. I wondered how he had gotten so far from the truth. He had been ministering well for so long, but now, after decades of solid teaching, he was espousing things that were unbiblical. I realized it only takes a small turn off the narrow road before you can fall off a cliff. It was a good reminder that I need to constantly test what I’m hearing, reading, and teaching with the truth of God’s Word to make sure I stay on solid ground.

“You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you.” (Galatians 5:7-8 ESV)

Cicada Life

It’s quiet. Very quiet. Considering we live in the middle of nowhere, the quietness shouldn’t seem out of place. But for June and into July, our woods have been home to the emergence of the 17-year Cicadas. Millions of them. For a few weeks we were forced indoors. We couldn’t hear each other speak. Their incessant hum even drowned out the roar of the mower. I could deal with the noise coming from the trees, but then the buggers started leaving the trees. They were not expert flyers. It was like they just stumbled out of the trees and hoped to land on any flat surface. That flat surface was often our heads, arms, legs, whatever they could grab onto with their little spikey feet, scaring the bejeebies out of me.

But now, that has all changed. There are still a few broken-hearted stragglers humming away. But I am afraid they have missed out on love. It’s sad, really. This was their only chance, after 17 years of waiting and preparing. Their red, bulgy eyes must be filled with tears, as their calls for love go unanswered. Their carcasses are lying in the driveway, the patio, the pool, the deck. Their time on earth is very brief—at least the time they spend in sunshine. I suppose, technically, for an insect, 17 years is a long lifespan. But they only live above the ground for a few weeks, just long enough to find a mate and start the process over for the next brood, which will emerge in another 17 years.

Our lives on this earth are so much longer and fuller. I mean, we do more than just procreate, as great as that one aspect of life is. But in view of eternity, our lives here are likewise very short, no more than a speck in time. It’s what we do with this life that matters. By all means, procreate. But maybe try a different tactic than hanging out in a tree, making a lot of noise.  

Concentrating on the eternal just so happens to make our short time here even better. It’s a blessing to love our neighbors, care for one another, help those in need, rejoice always, weep with those who weep, share the Gospel, pray for others, give generously, and love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. These are things that will last long after our mortal bodies give out and turn to dust, like the last few cicada carcasses littering my patio. Their life is over, their job done, but ours is just beginning.

You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14 NIV)