Where Did America Go?

Kathy Curry ©

AmericaI remember America, an America that was vibrant, that was strong, that was respected.  It was not the least bit unusual people who disagreed politically to agree on America.  No matter if people were Republican or Democrat or Independent the uniting factor was a love of country.  We cannot say that now.  Our young people hate America and would sell her and what she stands for in a heartbeat.  Are they stupid or hateful?  No, they have never learned about her, they have nothing to go on except news from MSNBC or CNN or worse yet, Twitter or Facebook.  The little bit of history they have learned has been revised to the point that you would not even recognize the country being discussed as America.  That is the saddest thing of all, our young people are being taught a lie so those who do hate this country can have their way.

I remember John F. Kennedy.  Yes, he had an “interesting” personal life and did things that Jackie, his wife, did not deserve.  Insofar as his presidency was concerned, he stood up to the USSR, he was about to get rid of the central banks which is probably what caused his death, we had what was called “Camelot” at the White House.   Jackie had a much-needed refurbishment done and once it was complete, I think her televised tour was one of the most-watched TV shows of the time.  The White House was the site of so many social soirees, but to they brought honor to America and representatives from other countries were given the appropriate respect, never forced to enter by the back door or sit in the corner as Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu was treated under the present administration.  Our country, whether one agreed with JFK or not, was run with dignity and strength.

I remember America.  An America where we were proud to march in the Labor Day or Memorial Day parade.  Showing respect for the flag was automatic and people were proud to put their hand over their heart.  During this time, men and women were proud to have their patriotism seen.

I remember America when it was acceptable to disagree with another individual and not be called racist or bigot because of a personal conviction.  I remember when boys used the boys room and girls used the girl’s room.  I remember when personal privacy and honor were respected.

I remember when boys respected girls and did not view them as sexual repositories for their own misguided passions.  I remember when something called “The Ten Commandments” was a strong moral guide in this country.

Today, in America what was once valued as right and proper is now reviled.  What was once right is now wrong, what was once wrong is now right.  America has lost her way. lost her identity.  America, I hope we can find what was once you and help you to come back.

Mourn America

Some months back I wrote the first part of “Sorrow” but then lost it.  Today, while looking for something else, I suddenly had access to where that and several other stories are.   Thank you, Jesus! 

You have read “Sorrow” now read this one.  If you are willing to slog through them both, please let me know which one you like better!

Katy Curry©

Her smile was grim as she remembered how she waved in tatters over a continental army striving for freedom from British tyranny.  She took pride in those leaders; Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin.  She remembered the words penned in the Declaration of Independence:

                           “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness;”

She thought of what it had meant to the men who had rebelled against England, what it cost them, their families.  She considered how her country had been founded, in the hearts and minds of pilgrims searching for religious freedom,  from the blood and sacrifice of patriots who fought for freedom.

It had taken an uncommon amount of commitment, bravery, blind faith, and heroism to withstand the deprivations of cold, lack of food, lack of supplies, clothes or even shoes; but they stood, they stood tall and brave.   She flung the tear off her cheek, raised herself straight and proud and encouraged the eagle to scream in pride and glory.  There was more of that document, more that reminded her of the responsibility the founders and all the citizens had assumed.

“WE, THEREFORE, the REPRESENTATIVES of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES;… And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

She saw the oath to God for the honor of what they were to do and saw how God had looked after and blessed those early Americans.  A song came softly on a drift of breeze…softly at first

“God Bless America!  Land that I love!

Stand Beside her, and guide her …..”

The words slipped away.  She tried to reach for them .

“From the mountains…to….the…”

They were gone!

A stealthy foreboding shadow had crept over her; its clouds had blocked the sun.  The angry black clouds boiled up in a fury that rumbled ominously with thunder and struck out angry slivers of lightning.  In those dark and menacing clouds and angry slivers of lightning she saw an evil try to rise, it was trying to strike down what those brave men had stood freedom, for her land, and won.

This darkness, this evil came in the shapes evil usually does; pride, greed, love of self.  There had been small skirmishes here and there with this evil that would destroy the land, they grew and grew until men and women were bought and sold like so much cattle.  It grew as states would raid and kill as a way to force new states to accept a title of slave or free state.  Then came that grave day, the day the tall man was elected.  South Carolina was the first to leave, others soon followed.  The result was the most destructive 5five years of battle, of death, of pain that a land could stand.  Brother fought against brother, father against son.  The tall man had tried to bring peace but died before he saw success.  The truth of his words rang out:

“Four scores and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

,, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

This man of honor and faith reminded the land and reminded Old Glory that this country, this land, this United States of America was a “new nation, conceived in liberty.” and dedicated to the equality of ALL men.  She thought of that last sentence, he honored the dead and their devotion on both sides; urged the country to resolve that these men, Confederate and Union, would not have died in vain.  That THIS country, THIS United Stated of America, UNDER GOD, should have an NEW BIRTH of Freedom and that the government OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE should not perish from this earth.

His words reminded her of the Declaration of Independence, was it there?  What had it said?  Oh, yes.  That all men were created equal and that all were endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, such as the right to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness.

She had watched while the stars on her field of blue had grown, taken joy and pride as she watched the people grow into the wonderful words they had struck.  For the words of the Declaration, the words of the tall man — those were words a country HAD to grow into.  The full import of those words, the full responsibility of those words would continue to be learned and understood and implemented for years and years, or would they?????

She watched with pride as her land came to stand for right and might.  How her people would come to assist others around the world to fight against evil and injustice.  She stood so much straighter as people streamed to her borders from other lands in search of that freedom offered to any who would come and work hard and become Americans.

The wars came and went, she saw the horror of mustard gas, of the boxcars and ovens, the torture of men, women, even children.  She saw how evil tried over and over to raise its ugly head, to destroy her land.  She again stood proudly as that evil was defeated.  Her men and women came home.  Years went by, but something happened; people started to forget.  Evil had learned, it was stealthier in its attack.  No more broadsides, not for a while.

A chill went through Glory as she felt it sink, into the lives of Americans.  It had been a time of plenty, a time of economic growth, job growth, a time of comfort.  Her people, lulled into a false sense of security., relaxed their watchfulness.  Evil assured them, “No more can hurt you, just be happy, you have won and you did it, you can relax.  You have fought hard and are tired; so rest….sleep, sleep,…”  Well, the people did sleep.  They let their sense of entitlement take over; they forgot their Creator; they forgot what it takes to keep a land safe.They became selfish and greedy.  She tried so hard to wake them up but the evil, the darkness just smiled and continued being patient, advancing, retreating, then advancing again.  It gave up ground on some fronts, gained on others then went back and took back the ground it had lost.  It chortled once in the words of a man from another land “I once said, “We will bury you,” and I got into trouble with it. Of course, we will not bury you with a shovel. Your working class will bury you.” (Nikita Khrushchev).  Still, the people took no note.

Glory waved, worked to inspire, but the people could not be awakened from their malaise.  Little by little, supposed rights” took away the very words of the constitution.  First, God was denied, then a word was coined that took away the humanity of a baby, fetus.  Then came the “right ”  of a woman to her body.  Evil deluded the people.  Evil said, “Sex is good, why should you not enjoy?  Why should only those who are married have so much fun?”  Thus the crushing war on a woman’s sexuality began.  Birth Control, sex ed classes, legal abortion.  No longer is there a right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness,” Old Glory moaned.  “Now we extinguish life before it can enjoy life or liberty.  We take away the liberty of young women through the ideas of sexual freedom, they are forced to think they must.  Evil has taken away every protection.”  Evil’s grimace of a smile became wider, the blood of innocents stained its sharp teeth and dripped from the side of its awful ugly terrifying grin.

As the dank slumber deepened evil became more bold.  People looked not to the words of one who came to warn, the words that said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”  (John F. Kennedy) Evil killed him, He had so little time to make his words a part of the land, their meaning, their great import was lost.

Other attacks came, a weak government, too weak and frightened to rescue hostages, somehow, for a while a hero would arise to beat that evil back and Glory remembered the pride of Reagan, the simple greatness of Bush.  She remembered when evil attacked again, with a boldness she would never have believed.  Over three thousand lives were lost that day, that September 11th.  The people seemed to wake up, but they had been in their drugged state for too long.  They were not used to a true fight, they did not have the stamina, they were weak.  They heard evil’s words and again closed their eyes.  They slapped at the responsibility, and the cry of the trampled people.  The clouds that adorned evils head grew thicker and blacker.  Evil continued to whisper lies to the people, Lies they wanted to hear, begged to hear.

Glory looked around.  The horror overtook her, the stench from the drug of the malaise reached her, she reared back in disgust and lifted her hand to her mouth, “Scream Eagle, Scream!  Scream at what they have done!  Scream to wake them up! Scream to call them back.”

Eagle screamed.  He screamed through the mouths of the stalwart few who had not succumbed to evil’s lies.  He screamed through song and prayer and praise, he screamed until he could scream no more.  “Glory, it is up to them.  I can do no more, I am used up.”

Glory understood.  She herself was tattered and torn.  She and Eagle looked over the broken land, the broken people, and tears of grief rolled down their cheeks.  She looked upward to the heavens, through the ones who were not asleep, she inspired prayer.  Prayer poured forth from the lips of those still awake.  Pray for our leaders, pray for our people, pray for an awakening.”

Glory waved high and proud in my yard this morning.  proclaiming what was once and what could be again, if only the people in her land would awaken.

 

Sorrow

Eagle tear

K. M. Curry ©

She was desperate, out of breath, confused.  Another round of fire just barely missed her as she banked hard to the right.  For years, hundreds of years she had enjoyed a good relationship, now, in the same words they used to say to welcome her, they cursed her and tried to eradicate her.  Her heart broke; shattered into a million tiny pieces.  She would forgive them if only she knew what was wrong.

Finally, she spied a tall tree that provided some cover.  She needed time to rest, to plan.  She dive bombed the tree and scattered all the birds that had been sitting contentedly in it.  She then flew with them for short ways hoping it would draw the people off.  She was winded and had to rest.

After she landed and got some of her strength back, she began to inspect her perch. .  Fluttering in the breeze on a flagpole next to her perch was a flag.

“Hello, Eagle.”  The flag opened a conversation.  “ I am ‘Glory,’ what do you go by?”

Eagle straightened up trying to look her best.  Not many of her kind had been lucky enough to meet a flag.  This meeting was, indeed, a great honor.  “I am  ‘Sorrow;’ “   she responded.

“Interesting name, but fitting given the circumstances,” replied Glory.

“Can you tell me what is going on with the people?” Sorrow inquired.  “I have always had such a good relationship now I must hide.”

“You are wise to stay out of sight.  There is a movement among the people.  The leaders of it include the President himself, and then others who have names people like to follow, like Clinton, Reed, Roberts, just to name a few.”

“I was warned about Reed and Roberts but the others, I thought they had sworn an oath to protect and stand my what we represent.  I simply do not understand…”

Glory and Sorrow stopped their conversation as cries came from below.  Sorrow spied the goings on first and began to hiss and scream in anger and fury.  “Sorrow, what is it you see?”  Glory asked.

“They have another of your kind, your sister.  A man is stomping her, trying to grind her into the road.  Another, oh no, I, I cannot watch!  Another has lit it ablaze!  I must go! I must try to help her! ”

“Wait, Sorrow, do not go.  That is my sister, ‘Stars and Stripes.’  If you go down you will only be hurt or killed yourself.  As much as my heart breaks…”

Screams from Stars and Stripes rose in bone-chilling horror and Glory could not continue.  Finally, the screams died out as Glory’s sister was no more.

Glory did not flutter in the wind; she hung like a tired dishrag.  She grieved for her sister and for the country both of them represented.

“Glory, I am so sorry you have lost a sister; I wish I could have saved her.” Sorrow whispered softly as a tear fell from her eye.  “How did things come to this?  I do not understand.”

Flag was quiet a moment and then began:  “Years back, the people signed a document that started:

‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’

They had just come through a terrible war for independence and were trying to set up their government.  The creation of a republican democracy was a unique experiment, and the civilized world was waiting, watching for this fledgling government to fail.

She almost fell in the mid-eighteen hundreds when the war called ‘civil’ began.  Father fought son, brother against brother.  Again, it almost destroyed the country, but the people reunited and she regained her strength.   But hatreds and rivalries went on and hated groups and supremacist groups formed such as the KKK  and later on the Neo-Nazis.  They caused great sadness for those who were the object of their biases, but as a whole, the country moved forward.

Apologists for the minority groups, such as blacks, rose and at first, their cause was good and just.  Jim Crow laws and double standards were struck down; civil rights apologists became more interested in power, money, and fame.

The success of the country allowed the people to relax.  The state had taken over education, medicine for the least able, offered welfare for those who could not provide for themselves.  The people began to move away from a reliance on God or adherence to His laws and precepts.

Once they began to move away from God, their downward spiral began.  Oh to be sure, there were some shining moments and here and there were pockets of a revival of faith in God and patriotism; especially right after Pearl Harbor and then after the Twin Towers.   In spite of this, people were listening to those who said what they wanted to hear rather than what they needed to hear.

The success of the country allowed the people to relax.  The state had taken over education, medicine for the least able, offered welfare for those who could not provide for themselves.  The people began to move away from a reliance on God or adherence to His laws and precepts.

Groups claiming to do a public service did a huge business in abortions and selling baby body parts. Women,  pressured into accepting these lies were their rights, defended the barbaric practices.  Others wanted special rights depending on skin color, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.  After a while, this country became almost the opposite of what it’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution described.  New reinterpretations of the Constitution,  were explained to the people by claims that these are “living documents” and as such can be altered with the times rendering them useless for guiding the country and the party in power got to set the rules rather than the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Sorrow, the eagle, looked at “Glory” the flag, and there were tears in Sorrow’s eyes.

“Why do you cry?” asked Glory.  Things change, people change.

“Yes,” Sorrow murmured.  “Things change, but the people have given up a priceless gift that they will never get back.  They have given up the blessings this land has known for over two hundred years’ they have given up their freedoms that so many fought and died for, and they have given up their future.”

Glory was quiet for a moment and then said, “There was once a man named Khrushchev.  He was from Russia, then known as the USSR.  He was famous for banging his shoe on the table.  He said that the communists would conquer America from within.  I think his exact words were:

‘We will take America without firing a shot … we will bury you!

“We can’t expect the American people to jump from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of Socialism until they awaken one day to find that they have communism.

“We do not have to invade the United States; we will destroy you from within.’”

“I fear he was right.”

Sorrow bowed her head in agreement, and that one tear turned into two and three and four.

“May what was the miracle of America rest in peace.  I must leave this place, Glory.  I fare you well.”

“Good luck, Sorrow, perhaps you will find a better place.” Glory responded wishing she too could leave this place of anger and hatred.

SMILE! BE HAPPY!

THUMBS UP

Katy Curry©

When I first met my husband I worried about this and that, pace the floor and he tried to calm me.  He said: “Babe, all your worry is advance interest on things that probably won’t happen.”

Tell me, what will worry do for you?  Will it save your job or keep you up so you are not at the top of your game at work?  Will it cause you to lose weight or eat emotionally and put on those extra pounds?  Will it help you with your relationships or cause even more problems with those you care of your preoccupation with what might happen?  Worry saps your strength, your looks, causes premature aging, makes you grumpy and warps your outlook on life.

Do you see what I mean?

SO, to avoid worry what sage words of advice are there?

The best advice

is to keep your priorities straight.  God, Family, Job. First comes God.  Yes, God.  You see, He puts things in perspective.  His Words are pure wisdom and easily found. The most well-known advice is Proverbs 3:5-6.  That tells you what to do, but you have to keep reading to find out how.  What did that passage say again?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

The only way you can submit to God is to read His Word.  It isn’t hard, just a little at a time.  The advice in there about honesty, money, work, attitude is the same advice these motivational gurus hand out with a worldly spin and get right from people hungry for the magic key to health, wealth, and happiness.  It is all right there for you!

The second priority is family.  You may wonder why it isn’t first.  Without the peace of God, without the wisdom He gives you, you will mess up.  I guarantee it.  Even with in family there is a hierarchy.  You must put your spouse first and as a team you put the children first.  Your children need to see that unity of Mom and Dad.

As humans we are all selfish, we get tired, worn down, feel unappreciated, don’t know how many times we can say the same thing, we get frustrated!  Learn to take it all to God.  Lay it at His feet and you will often find answers present themselves in short order.  They may not be the ones you want, but have the humility to accept them.

The third part of the priorities is your job.  Once you have that open communication with God, you have your home in order; once those priorities are taken care of you are free to concentrate on your job and have the distractions of problems on the home front or problems with bills.  You can focus all your attention on your work.  This leads to further success.

Please don’t take this as a promise of no problems.  There are always hills or high points in life as well as valleys or challenges.  You will still face your fair share.  But, if your priorities are right, you will know where to turn in time of joy and in times of sorrow.  Give Him praise for all, He will hear your prayers and grant you what you need.

I leave you with Jesus’s own words:

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.    Matthew 6: 28-34 NIV

Attacked

Julie was her usual effervescent self, giggling at something her friend Hanna texted as she opened her laptop.  She pulled up Face Book ready to catch up with all the news of the day.  Her face morphed from its customary smile to a look that resembled the pain she felt.  As she stared at the screen she felt as if she had been punched everywhere at once.  She could not believe what she was seeing.  One after another the messages were filled with epithets, vile suggestions, and charges that she was a whore, pure filth, worse than a dog, and on and on.  She was warned not to show her face in school the next day if she knew what was good for her.

The devastation eclipsed her heart and her soul.  Her depression was such that she could not eat or sleep or even pray.  She would not come down to dinner, she skipped youth group at church and skipped school the next day.  Julie felt totally alone lost, who could she go to?  The things on Face Book that were now coming on her E-mail were even worse than at first.  Boys started to write her describing unspeakable things they would do to her because she “wanted it.”

She finally dragged herself down Friday night after her father threatened to break down her door if she didn’t open it and join the family.  The sorrow and brokenness she felt was evident in her dull, tangled copper hair, her pasty complexion, lowered eyes, and down turned mouth.  She sat at the table, a broken child.  She would not look at anyone and they had to put the food on her plate.  Mom had made her favorite, spaghetti.  She did try to sip some water.  She desperately needed the water, her lips were chapped and cracked.

Julie just sat there, her heart and spirit breaking.  How could she tell anyone such horrid things?  Now she was getting phone calls that told her she was a waste and the world would be a better place without her.  Why didn’t she just die.  Messages came across her computer; DIE, JULIE DIE!

“Julie, honey, won’t you try to eat just a little?  You must be so hungry.”  Mom coaxed.

Julie’s downcast head barely nodded and she picked up her fork and tried to take a small amount of the pasta.  She choked and gagged.  Mom jumped up.

She started to sob at the table, Chris, her older brother, left unnoticed, and went up to her room.  He opened her computer and as he read what she had been subjected to, his anger exploded.

“Dad!  Dad!  Come up here, quick!”  Chris called, fury in his voice

As her dad read the messages on Face Book and then on her email, then they listed to the voice mail on her phone and the text messages everything became clear.

They called the police and their pastor. They would go to the school the next day.
Pastor looked everything over and sat down in a corner of the living room with the broken girl.
“Is this why you skipped Youth Group Wednesday night, Julie?” he asked gently
“Uh-huh.” She sobbed.
“Julie, do you know that you are none of the things that those children wrote?
“I-I guess,” a dejected and dispirited  Julie hiccupped “Some of them must be true, so many people said them.”
“Julie, look at me,” Pastor said. He waited until he held her gaze. “You are none of those things. Satan has targeted you to hurt you. Are you going to let him win?”
At that her head snapped up.  Julie was not one to turn down a challenge, or to accept defeat when it was thrown in her face.  That indomitable spirit was still inside her and it reared up.   “This is from Satan?” she asked incredulously.
“You are the very opposite of those words. I do believe that this is a demonic attack; you have been on fire for God and it has been catching. I think Satan was very anxious to quench that fire in your soul.” Pastor responded.
“Do I have to go back to that school? After what they wrote?”    She dreaded the thought of seeing those kids again.  If they would  write such awful things what would they do to her face.  Fear swirled in her belly.
“You know, God talked about that. In Proverbs He called such people fools. In Romans 12: 19-21 it says not to take revenge but to do kindness to them. You will heap burning coals on their heads and they will be convicted. They will be made the fools and you will store up crowns in heaven. You let your heavenly Father take care of these kids, Julie. You are blameless. You can return to school when you are comfortable and hold your head high.”
Pastor continued.
“Would you like to do something right now that will help you heal from this attack?”
Julie nodded enthusiastically. The sooner she could begin to put this behind her the better. She was taken aback at his next words.
“Let’s pray for them.”
“Pastor, you want me to pray for the people who said these horrible things?”
“What did Jesus do after they had beaten Him and nailed Him to the cross?”
“He asked His Father to forgive them.” Julie said quietly.
“So He set the example for us, don’t you think?” Pastor asked?
They bowed their heads and began to pray. Julie started praying and those prayers were led by the Holy Spirit. When they had finished Julie’s heart was lighter, the joy she had had was sneaking back.
“Mom, can I have some of that ginger ale you mentioned?” Julie asked. “Come to think of it, I am starved, can I have some spaghetti?”
It was a couple of weeks before Julie returned to school, but she returned with a stronger conviction of her faith and maintained her joyful effervescent demeanor. She had given a horrible situation to God and He had healed her.

Her parents finished the police reports and contacted Face Book.   The next day they were down at the school and had a meeting with the principal, Assistant Principal, and Guidance Counselor.  Students were pulled out of class, and the steady hand of justice prevailed.

Julie did see a psychologist with regard to her experience, but she found her greatest help was with God.

Parents:  This is a fictional story.  Usually things do not turn out this well, this quickly.  All too many precious young people have been driven to suicide because of the vicious words and actions of their peers or others.  Monitor your child’s cell phone and computer.  You will not be popular for doing it but it is for their own safety in more ways than one.    Protect your child, your teenager.  Remember, Privacy is a teen’s enemy.

Shaadi’s Change

It was a glorious morning  and Shaadi was on her knees offering the Salaat.

“Allah is Greatest.  Praise my Lord the Great.   Praise my Lord the Most High.  I bear witness that there is no God other than God.  Praise be to God who has never begotten a son, nor does He have a partner in His kingship, nor does He need an ally out of weakness Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.”

Her prayer finished, she rose to her feet, walked to the window, and pondered the heaviness in her heart.  Morning Salaat should bring joy to her heart but instead she felt a heaviness and anything but a joyous spirit.  She turned and pulled a Bible out of her nightstand and opened to a favorite part: Psalm 16

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;  apart from you I have no good thing…”

“Shaadi!”  Her ten year old sister, Nayyer burst in.

“Nayyer!  “Haven’t I asked you not to burst into my room like that?” scolded Shaadi.

“You’re reading it again, aren’t you!  Read some to me!”  Nayyer begged.

Shaadi closed the bedroom door quickly.  “I will if you promise to keep it a secret.  Papa must never know!

Nayyer nodded her promise.  The idea of a forbidden book was too exciting for words.

“This is my favorite part, it makes my heart soar, Shaadi told her sister; her voice barely above a whisper and finished reading Psalm 16.  When she finished her eyes were shining with joy, the heaviness she had felt after her Salaat was long forgotten.

“Nayyer, you see why I love these words……..” Shaadi’s eyes grew wide with shock and not a little fear when she saw her father standing in the doorway.

In a soft voice that hid the fury raging inside him he commanded.  “Shaadi, give me that book of lies.”  His hand was held out and his eyes were steel.  A sob caught in Shaadi’s throat as she walked toward her father with downcast eyes and placed her greatest treasure in her father’s hand.

“Nayyer, you will leave this room.  Shaadi, you will remain.  I suggest you offer prayers of confession to Allah and hope you can be forgiven for this sin.”

The door shut and Shaadi heard the lock turn.  She was locked in her room!  A prisoner in her own home!  She did pray, as her father suggested, but not to his god, Allah.  She prayed to the God of the Bible.   She prayed for mercy, safety, rescue.

“Why would He listen to me?” she thought.  “I am not even a Christian and a female at that.”  She had forgotten one of the biggest lessons her friend, Moriah had taught her.  Jesus loved her just as much, as anyone else, she would be a bridesmaid to Jesus once she came to a saving knowledge of and belief in Him.

Sometime later her door opened.  Her mother and father were both standing there.  Her mother’s eyes were downcast. Tear tracks streaked her face. She carried a tray of water, dates, grapes, bread and cheese and carefully placed the food on Shaadi’s desk.  Her father, Farookh, addressed her formally.

Shaadi Yasmin Tavannah, you have sinned against Allah and your family.  After much prayer and conference with Imam Yosef it has been determined that you will marry.  Your sin has been forgiven as we believe you have been left to your own devices for too long.  With a husband to care for, you will not have time to be curious about forbidden things.  Your husband has been chosen for you and you will be introduced to him tonight.  You will be wed in two weeks.  Your future husband’s name is Sargon Zamani.    After your wedding it is Sargon’s wish the two of you return to Iran.   You will lack for nothing as he is most successful.  You will live like a princess and should consider yourself very fortunate; Allah has looked upon you with great mercy.”

Shaadi’s mother took a step toward her, arms outstretched but Farookh stopped her.  She ran from the room sobbing.

Farookh continued  “My child, I love you; but your actions cannot be overlooked.  I do this to save you.”

Shaadi fell to her knees, eyes on the ground tears splashing all about.   Farookh closed her door softly.  His heart was heavy but he had done all he could to protect Shaadi.  He walked into his den and in curiosity, he picked up the Bible and turned to the Psalm she had been reading.  He felt his heart soar in his chest.  He turned to the New Testament and began to read the Gospel of Matthew.  He marveled at what he read and his heart told him the words were true.  On the inside of the cover there was a name and phone number.  He dialed the number.  “Hello, Pastor Flynn?  I am Shaadi’s father and I have some questions for you about what is in this Bible.  I found Shaadi reading it earlier today….Yes, yes.  About 9:30 would be excellent.  I will see you then.  …..   okay, yes.  Thank you, Pastor.  Good Bye.”

Shaadi rose and moved to her window praying: “Almighty God, Allah.  I do not wish to sin or give offense, but in my heart and in my mind I am confused.  There can be but one Almighty God.  Allah, you say you love me, your daughter, but say in the next heartbeat I have not the value of a man.  God the Father, You say you love me and sent Your Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross so that I might spend eternity in heaven.  My heart breaks, I am to be wed to a man I do not know and taken to a country I fear.  What am I to believe?  Give me peace.  Please, show me the way.”  She crumpled to the floor in a flood of tears and eventually fell asleep in that very spot.

Later in the day her cell phone rang.  It was her friend Moriah from the Christian church around the corner.  They had met in school and Shaadi had challenged Moriah’s faith.  Moriah had a gift of sharing God’s Word and had, over time, brought Shaadi to an understanding of the Bible.  Moriah’s pastor had also talked with Shaadi and showed her the truths of Christ’s true identify from her own Q’ran.  Shaadi had devoured the message of the Bible with a hungry heart.  She had kept her move prized possession, her Bible, hidden away for almost six months before her father discovered her reading it.

“Shaadi!  You missed the party!  We thought you were coming, what happened?”

“Moriah!  My life is done, it is over!  My father found me reading my Bible to Nayyer and took it from me!  I have been locked in my room and am to wed a man I have never met a week from Saturday and leave this country for Iran!  I shall surely die!”

“Oh no, Shaadi!  What can I do, how can I help?”

“There is nothing to be done, my friend.  I am confined to my room.  I meet my future husband to be this very night.  I will spend my life in a Berkah with my heart belonging to your Jesus!  My life if over!”  Shaadi broke down, sobbing again.

That night, wearing plain clothes with all but her eyes covered by her niqab veil, Shaadi met her future husband.  Her father loosed her niqab to allow Sargon a view of her face.

“Farookh, you have a very beautiful daughter and I believe she will be a fine wife.” Sargon address Shaadi’s father but ignored her.  She was left to replace her niqab and go to the kitchen.  Sargon was a very conservative Muslim and followed the stricter interpretations of the Q’ran.  Her role at dinner was simple, serve, do not speak, return to the kitchen.  When she served, she stole glances at this man who was to be her husband and had to admit, he was very handsome, but as she listened to his conversation she learned how conservative he was and she knew her life with him would be anything but free and she would be little more than a slave.

He did not acknowledge her for the rest of the meal.  Once dinner was ended and she was able to return to the solitude of her room she took off the extra clothes that had been required as well as the niqab.  She again prayed, but this time her confusion was gone.  “Lord Jesus, I am a sinner and do not deserve your love or forgiveness.  I know I can do no good thing but through you.  I humbly ask if you will forgive my sins, cover them with the blood you shed on the cross.  I ask you to come into my heart and soul and be my savior.  If it is Your will I am wed to this man, Sargon, and live as his wife in Iran, I will follow Your Will.  I beg you to save me from this fated, if you are willing.  I wish to live openly loving You and worshiping you.  Please save me.”

Once her prayer was done she looked up, sensing a presence.  There, once again, her father stood.  This time there were tears in his eyes.  “My child.  May Allah forgive me, but I cannot allow you to be in such misery.  What is it that would draw you away from Allah?  Without fear of punishment, please tell me.”

Shaadi pulled out her Q’ran and turned to the passages Moriah’s pastor had shown her.  Haltingly, in a whisper, she read them with her father and they talked.  She shared the truths she had learned and the way the praises in the Bible made her heart sing with a joy she had never known praying to Allah.  The doorbell rang and Farookh got up quickly.

“Thank you, Shaadi, for sharing with me.  You have given me much to ponder. I must go.  ”  Farookh told his daughter.  He kissed her on the forehead.  “Sleep well, my beautiful Shaadi.  Have no fear of tomorrow.”

His words comforted her and she fell asleep before he had even finished closing the door.

In the morning, as the sun burst through her window she got up and automatically began to offer the Salaat and caught herself.  She dropped to her knees and gave praise to her new God, Jesus Christ.  Just as she was finishing up, Farookh knocked on her door.  “Shaadi, will you please come downstairs with me?”

Speechless, Shaadi followed her father down to the living room not knowing what to expect.  To her utter shock, there sat Moriah’s pastor.  He looked tired and drawn but happy.

“Shaadi, this man, Pastor Flynn, has been discussing and debating with your mother and I throughout the night.  He has talked to us through the Quran.  I became angry several times and threatened…..well, I was wrong.  I hoped you would join your mother and I in praying a new prayer, one to Jesus who our own Quran shows is divine.”

Speechless, Shaadi sank into a chair and then onto her knees.  Pastor Flynn prayed the sinner’s prayer while Shaadi and her parents repeated his words.  A small voice seemed to echo the words of the prayer and when they had finished, Nayyer, crept out.  In a voice barely audible she said, “I have been going to that church on Wednesday and listening in Awana.  I asked Jesus into my heart when you prayed Papa.  Can I be a Christian too?”

Farookh held his arms out to his second daughter and held her tight. “ It seems this family is about to make some changes!  Allah, oh, forgive, God is Good, He is so so Good and I praise Him for His gift to us.”

“Papa,” Shaadi said, “What about the wedding?  What about Sargon?  He will take this as a great insult.”

“I will deal with Sargon, my child.  It is nothing for you to be concerned with.  You will not be married to him, rest assured.”

Shaadi turned back to Pastor Flynn, “ May we please pray and thank our Lord Jesus Christ for He has answered my prayer in ways I never would have guessed.  He has not only given my my life but has returned my family to me!  He is truly the God of Truth!”

Memories of an Indefatigable Toddler

My darling baby boy

 

Blue eyes twinkled as he sat impatiently in his chair.  His body squirmed and wriggled in impatience to begin moving again.  Fruit Loops decorated the table along with small droplets of milk.  A smile filled his entire face as he watched his mother move about the kitchen.

“Outside!  Mamma Outside!”

“Would you like some bacon and eggs?  You didn’t eat the cereal?”

“Noooo!  Outside, Mamma!”

Mamma stood and shook her head at this most darling child.  Her little ball of energy and laughter stole her heart anew every day.  His belly laughs came from way deep inside and his cuddles, beyond description.   “Breakfast first, son, you know that!”

“Toaster Fruit!  Her little package of pure action decided.

“Well, it’s not the healthiest, but that is why you get vitamins.  Open up for the squirt!”

His face screwed up at the flavor and it made her laugh.   Okay, let me get you some clothes while the toaster pastry heats up then when you are done you can go outside.    He clapped and banged the table and she moved into the bedroom to grab a pair of short, a top, socks and shoes.  She had just finished working the graveyard shift at the local hospital.  It had been a quiet night, but she was ready to close her eyes.

“CRASH!”

“Owwwww!”  She ran back out to the kitchen to find him on the floor next to the toaster.

“You were supposed to be in your chair, why did you get up.  Oh my poor baby!  Where did it hit you?  Are you hurt?”  She saw a welt coming up on his forehead and grabbed a cloth and some ice to put on it.  “Oh, my poor darling; come sit with Mamma and we will make that bump go away.”  She blamed herself for what happened; she knew better.

She  settled into her rocker and held the compress to his pale forehead and rocked absently while she hummed tunelessly and stroked his soft brown hair.  This was the one time she could keep him quiet.  He loved the rocking motion and listening to her heart beat.  But at eight o’clock in the morning he could not sit for very long.  Soon he was wriggling again.  He slipped his little hand up to her face.

“Mamma?  I all better now.  Outside?”

“Oh, alright, but let’s get some clothes on you first.  Do you need to potty again?”

A firm shake of his head sent started them on the process of stripping off his bedclothes and getting the shorts and shirt into place.  He wiggled and wriggled so much it took twice as long.  Finally he was dressed and charged to the door.  She grabbed some drinks from the refrigerator and   followed him outside.  As he ran into the huge world known as “Backyard”, she settled into the chaise on the porch with some cold orange juice.

In a bit it would be “Inside” time, when it just got too hot and he would get a bath, more clean clothes and play pen time.   For now, she enjoyed the morning cool  and watched her little man toddle from one part of the yard to another.  Pretty soon he settled at his dirt pit where all his trucks and bulldozers were.  He would push them around  as long as his short attention span would allow.  Then he was off to find more action.

The soft breeze and morning coolness lulled Mamma to sleep.  She did not hear when he got up and ran across the yard.  He stopped just short of the porch and stared at something poking out from between the screen and the metal frame.  He reached for it tentatively and Mamma did not say anything so he became bolder.

Mamma awoke to her wonderful,  very mischievous son poking her.   “Mamma!   Look, I fix!”  There stood a very proud  toddler holding the spline that held the screens in the metal porch frames.  All screens of all the bottom frames lay on the ground as son proudly held the spline that had held them in place.

The fogginess of sleep cleared, and she realized her son had  truly found  mischief.  Her utter exhaustion and frustration with herself and her tireless toddler began to explode.  She jumped up looking with disbelief at the unscreened back porch.  She closed her eyes and hands opened and closed as she prayed for understanding and to calm the anger that boiled up in her.

She suddenly bent down and lifted him up into her arms and buried her head into his shoulder.
“Matthew, Matthew, Matthew!   God grant me the patience to be all that you need.  Yes, Mamma sees.  It is getting hot, inside time.  Let’s go have a nice bubble bath and get the dirt and sweat off you, then we can put your movie on.”

She ran the bubble bath and while he  played ,  she  dialed her husband and explained what happened.  They talked about the porch, her job, what was for dinner.  Her second call was to the hospital.  She let them know she would not be coming in that night or any night thereafter.    Once off the phone, she looked down at her precious son.  He was splashing tirelessly.   She pulled out a towel and lifted him from the tub, carried him into his room, and dropped him carefully onto the bed.  He loved this part.  She put her hands on either side of him and bounced him up and down.  That belly laugh she so loved rumbled from deep down in his tummy.  She so loved to watch him as his joyous embrace of life and living.  He was her pride and joy.

Birthday Memories (critiques encouraged)

It was my eleventh birthday so I got to pick what was for dinner. As always, I wanted roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, and birthday cake! Mom would make it so well, just the right amount of seasoning. The blood running out would say it was rare to medium rare … perfect. Mom’s mashed potatoes were what we would call ‘smashed’ potatoes today. They were just the best, a little lumpy so you knew they were real, with salt, pepper, milk, butter. She used a smasher, never a mixer. When you added the gravy she would make from the pan drippings it was sheer heaven. When everything was ready, Mom would ring the dinner bell and Fred, my brother, and I would come running.

To get to the dining room from the stairs, you would walk through the living room. In December there was a fire in the fireplace; our dog, Buttons, part boxer part everything else, would be curled up in front of it along with our cat Cindy. When Buttons would see us, her curled tail would thump, but the fire was too comfortable to get up.

Mom always outdid herself on birthday night. She used our best tablecloth, special cloth napkins, even flowers and candles adorned the table. Bowls and platters were placed just so with the various foods, the wonderful scents wafted through the house, Daddy sat in his chair, sharpening the carving knife waiting for everyone to arrive. Mitch Miller would be playing on the stereo.

I had the privilege of saying blessing and took that responsibility very seriously. I beamed when Daddy said; “Very good job, Kathleen.”

While Daddy carved the roast, Mom handed a shot glass filled with blood from the roast to Fred and I. It was a tradition that beef was roasted, some of the “juice” would be syphoned off for each of the children. It was thought the blood would help to grow strong bones. Both of us liked the flavor and were pleased to get it.

The meat was always, tender, juicy, and filled with flavor. Oh, so good. The juice from the meat would fill our mouths and run down our throats, It was like my mouth was in epicurean heaven. I would beg for seconds and thirds.

Once dinner was finished, I helped Mom clear the table and put the dishes in the sink to soak. While I scrapped the dishes, Mom put on a fresh pot of coffee and poured milk for me and Fred. Although I was not allowed to have coffee, I loved that rich scent. She pulled the magnificent cake out of the refrigerator. The white icing was spread so thick with all those wonderful swirls and tips. She got the Neapolitan ice cream out of the freezer and handed it and the scoop to me to bring to the table. She followed with dessert dishes, cups and saucers. I sat down and she went back to retrieve the cake. It took her a bit longer as she set up the birthday candles and lit them. Daddy lifted his camera to get the first picture of the birthday cake.

Everyone sang, I blew the candles trying to get every single one. I usually missed one which caused Fred to start teasing, so he helped. If Daddy missed the shot, we had to pose for another. Candles would be relit and we would blow them out together after the required pushing and shoving. Finally, I made the first slice and the obligatory wish.

There was something silver on the cake, it looked like a ballerina. “What’s this, Mom? It’s so tiny. Is it a new Monopoly piece?”

“No, it’s a reminder that this is a charm cake. Each one of you will find a charm in your slice and you will get a prize based on what charm you get.”

Mom cut and passed out cake with scoops of ice cream. She warned us to be careful; it would not do if we choked or bit the charm in half. As we masticated the cake, we got to better enjoy the flavor and texture of Mom’s baking expertise. Once discovered, charms were wiped off and identified. Always prepared to make a special time better, Mom had grab bag prizes. They were simple dime store items, but fun.

My parents had a way of making my birthdays special; I remember those birthday dinners, the love and family spirit.

Submission

We are an odd lot.  We hear God’s Word and respond to it saying we want to follow it; we ‘repent’ of our sins.  We may be in a small group of two or more, or we may be alone, on our knees but with that final “Amen” we close our Bible, our daily devotional, wipe our face, blow our nose, and continue on with life as if nothing had happened.  Sometimes we will remark to a friend, “I don’t know, Nancy, I pray and pray but I feel like they don’t get  any higher than the ceiling.”  Even if we try to figure out why, we don’t always recognize the reason or if we do, we dismiss is because it is something we do not want to face, give up, walk away from.  I battle with such sin all the time. If it is, and it always is, doing something our way rather than His way, we are out of His will and then we are in sin.  It is not intentional, at least until we recognize the behavior and refuse to change.

We often look at purging this behavior or thinking pattern as “giving it up” which implies a loss; we fail to recognize what we will gain in a closer walk with Jesus and allowing Him to bless us. .  When you “give up” something to draw closer to God, you are giving nothing up; you are making a choice, you are choosing God.

“13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those                         who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

The Book of Acts states one should not present him/her members (body and all its parts)   as instruments for sin (unrighteousness).  That means we need to deal with the sin in our life first.  When we cast off the weight, the guilt,  the loss of communion with the Christ, the Son of God, the Maker of the Universe that came with that sinful act, He can and will bless us in so many wonderful ways.

This is where I start to get excited and my serious language goes right out the window.  When we exchange our rebelliousness, our stubbornness for obedience to His will for us we receive a peace that truly surpasses all understanding.  We receive a joy that cannot be taken away by the most challenging of life events.

You see, God, Jesus, so loves you and me.  He wants to bless us, but we have to put ourselves in a position where we can receive that gift.  He never tires of blessing us, he never tires of forgiving us for with each baby step we take, He shows us yet another area where we need to submit to Him.

Submission.  Even as adults we bridle at the word.  Our jaws set, our backs become stiff, we are so like Frank Sinatra’s song; “My Way.”   Our desire to do it “our way” is what leads us to that discussion in the beginning of this article.  It is such a hard, hard thing to do.  Just watch your teenager or remember how they were.  It was a daily fight, was it not?  Yet we act that same exact way when Jesus shows us His will.

Do this with me.   Close your eyes and imagine you are lying in soft grass, the singing of the birds in the nearby trees and the gentle gurgling of the brook that runs with clean, cool water lull you to relax.  Your shoulders that were so tight start to loosen, your neck … oh that feels so good.   Now little by little the muscles in your lower back relax.  That pain you had been dealing with?  That’s the one, right …  there; it’s gone.  The scents of the flowers growing near by, the gentle bird calls, the babbling of the brook with an occasional splash as a rainbow trout leaps out of the water have so drawn you in that pain and discomfort you have come to accept as normal are gone!  Now your thighs relax, your knees (oh and how they have ached).  even the calves of your legs, your ankles, your toes.  You wiggle your toes in that soft grass, loving the feel of it against your bare feet.  Keeping your eyes closed you stretch out your arms and feel nature rejuvenate your spirit.  You never want to leave this heavenly place.

Something is nearby, not threatening, not dangerous, just there.  You slowly open your eyes and see the most beautiful blue sky you have ever seen;  you turn your head and there, there is a deer!  You lay quietly but she does not seem afraid.  The both of you are at peace and she moves closer, closer yet.  Her nose bumps your head and you feel a thrill as she languidly investigates your hair, your face, and then moves a few steps over to drink from that cool, clean water.  You lie there never ever wanting to leave.  This, this is your place beside still waters.  This is the peace you have always sought.  This is the gift of submission to Jesus.

What I described is my special place, I get to visit there so seldom because I am so busy doing things my way rather than God’s way.  Oh what fools we are!

Do you want that special place?  Determine to submit.  Make Psalm 19 your matra.  Memorize it, tape it to your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, your door.  Pray it, drop to your knees and pray it, remember it.  Submission is not a bad thing, not when it comes to Jesus Christ.  Practice it, let Him bless you.

Not it is up to you …

1-2 Job, you challenged Almighty God;
    will you give up now, or will you answer?