A collection of columns by Lisa Jisa, Jennifer Zach, Steve Hammer, Diane Meehl and Kerry C. Neuhardt.
A few weeks ago, I was having a really rough day. That's how life goes sometimes. It shouldn't have thrown me for such a loop, but it did. I dropped off my son at a class far out in the East Valley that morning and decided to go for a hike in the Superstition Mountains while I waited for him.
I've been doing some purging lately and it sure feels good to get rid of stuff. Things can tend to drag us down. A friend once told me how excited he was to get a new boat, only to be discouraged at how much of his time it took beyond the few hours on the river each Saturday that he had anticipated. There was cleaning, routine maintenance and storing the boat. And more purchases needed to be made, as the boat needed a trailer, life jackets, etc.
A few weeks ago I attended a conference that was sponsored by the Voice of the Martyrs. The guest speakers have been persecuted for their faith. Among other atrocities, they have been beaten, imprisoned, kidnapped and had their churches burned, all because of following Jesus Christ.
I recently visited a friend who has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It involves the degeneration of motor neurons, leaving the brain unable to initiate and control voluntary muscle movements. The last time I saw my friend, her right arm was not working very well. Now just one year later, she is unable to walk or chew. She is confined to a bed unless someone puts her into a wheelchair, and a feeding tube provides the only route to nourishment. She tries to speak, but with much difficulty. I thank God that her left arm still works, because when I was totally stumped trying to understand what she was telling me, she was able to tap out a text message.
I was watching the Weather Channel with my youngest daughter a few days ago. A clip came on about the devastating floods in Pakistan, and the commentator remarked how upset so many people were because they had lost all of their loved ones. Without missing a beat, my daughter said, "No they haven't. God loves them. I want to go over there and tell them that right now."
My husband has traveled for work for many of our 20 years of marriage. I was feeling especially discouraged a few weeks ago and was recalling how often I have had to function as a “single” parent. And then my Voice of the Martyrs magazine came in the mail. Some Christians around the world are mistreated, thrown in jail, physically abused, and sometimes even killed simply because they worship Jesus. They may go for years without seeing their families. I read about wives whose husbands have been imprisoned because of their faith. These women are left alone to raise the children, work the fields, and try to make sure there is enough food to scrape by each day.
I got new glasses last week. After wearing them all day every day and then taking them off at night, things look a bit blurry in one eye. I am amazed that I did not realize my need for new glasses until I got them. And it takes a little bit of adjusting to get used to wearing glasses. I have to remember to put them on!
For the first time I can remember, it is mid-February and our Christmas tree is still up and full of ornaments. Stockings are hanging over the fireplace, and baby Jesus is in the manger scene, which rests quietly on a table. Everything looks exactly as it did two months ago as we prepared to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It took so much time to decorate everything and the twinkling lights are so pretty that it seemed a shame to take it all down after only a few weeks.
My brother lives in the mountains in Colorado and is in the house construction business. It has been tight making ends meet and feeding all of the mouths in his home because that industry has nearly come to a grinding halt due to the economy.
I was hiking on South Mountain trails last week when I bumped into a couple of men looking for directions. They were new to the trail system and wanted to get to a higher trail, but were unsure how to reach that point from where we stood.
My kids and I have been learning how the Bible is translated into other languages. I am fascinated with the translation into a language called Abau, spoken by nearly 5,000 people who reside along a river in Papua New Guinea. There are not words in this language to express the phrase “Jesus loves me,” so it is translated as “I am in Jesus’ canoe.” What a special image that must be for the native speakers of Abau.
As I sit here writing this month’s column, my mind keeps wandering. There are so many things I have to get done today. Laundry, driving kids to various places, making dinner for a bunch of people coming over tonight, figuring out who will watch the dog while we are gone on a trip next week, school work with the kids, wondering when I will have time to finish answering questions for a Bible study I am doing with a friend...
I had an exciting day last week. Well, maybe exciting is too strong of a word. I was able to spend an entire afternoon thoroughly cleaning out a closet in our laundry room. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but speaking as a reformed packrat, it was major! Perhaps it is the teacher in me that often thinks we might find a use for something one day. Yet it felt so good to get rid of stuff that I have been hanging onto indefinitely. I happened to be the only one at home so, fortunately, there was no one around to trash-pick things I had tossed or convince me we had to keep something around for just a little longer. I get such a sense of accomplishment when cleaning out a closet. What a great time to purge the clutter, dust the shelves and take stock of what is there. I discovered all kinds of things hiding on the shelves. Some things were fun to find, like old family photos and craft projects the kids have made over the years. OK, I admit it; I needed an entire afternoon …
In March I wrote about my friend Kathy and her lifelong battles with cancer. I am thrilled to tell you that she has been completely healed by the Lord! I was praying with her and she suddenly felt an intense heat beneath my hand. Unknown to me at the time, I had placed my hand directly upon a spot in her brain, where there was a brain tumor. Because the part of the brain that controls the heart and lung function was affected by this tumor, Kathy has had to get fluid drained from her lungs every 10 to 12 days for the past six years so she can breathe without difficulty. However, since that moment, all the symptoms she has had for the past six years are completely gone and she has not needed to have fluid drained from her lungs since that incredible day more than eight weeks ago. Praise God! He is mighty and awesome and still in the business of healing and miracles! Thinking about this led me to ponder the Holy Spirit and the power God uses to accomplish His purposes here on eart…
I spent last night with a friend who had just received a heavy dose of radiation for a cancerous tumor on the remaining portion of her one good kidney. The waves of pain came over her like a pregnant woman deep in labor; only there was no happy delivery of a baby to come with this pain. I want to share her courageous and inspiring lifetime journey of faith with you. Kathy has never once blamed God for any of her health issues. She has known and believed from a young age that God is good no matter what and that it is the enemy who comes to destroy life. In the words of Jesus from John 10:10: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Kathy grew up in a town that had a power plant and along with it the highest incidence of cancer in children under age 12 in the US. Everyone in Zion knew someone who had cancer so she was not afraid when diagnosed with leukemia at age 8. At age 9 she received a bone marrow tra…
I don't care who you are, nobody has the right to disrupt a funeral and hit a family while they are grieving.
Imagine opening a brand new tube of toothpaste. It feels heavy, round and smooth in your hands. Unscrew the top and start squeezing - but not onto your toothbrush. Squeeze the whole tube out into your other hand. Look at your hand full of squishy minty goo. This was not a good idea, you think.
Watching Julie & Julia. Julie, almost 30, a desk jockey who fields complaints in a call center, is sitting in a New York City restaurant lost among her very successful and self-important friends. Her sense of failure and self-loathing overwhelms. Scene changes to a cramped apartment in Queens where Julie is cooking and complaining about her friend Annabelle’s success as a blogger. “I could write a blog,” she says. “I have thoughts.”
“I know why spring is called spring,” my first-grader announced importantly as he climbed up into bed. “It’s because when the snow melts, everything springs up, out of the ground.” He bounced up vigorously, his arms above his head, to demonstrate.
The snow was flying and the roads were getting icier by the minute. We were driving down to Phoenix from Pinetop and a snowstorm had blown in as we approached our descent from the rim.
I’ve just come downstairs to look for my brain. Apparently I lost it and everything that was in it. It happened to my husband, too. We woke up one day and discovered we no longer knew anything. Math, science, relationships, how to drive, even how to dress ourselves – you name it, we don’t know it. Thankfully, we are the parents of two middle school geniuses who can help us out.
Let me tell you a funny story. Lately I have been thinking a lot about strength and being strong. With a milestone birthday not too far in the future I've been making a greater effort to improve my health through diet and exercise. Reconciling myself to the reality that "skinny" is not an achievable goal I really just want to be strong.
Rachelly Melissa Alvarez Meghan Elizabeth Anders Denise Danielle Anderson-Alexander Meaghan Bridget Andrews Samantha Rosa Archabal Shelby Lyn Arnold Yasmine Bassan Asfoor Jamie Lynn Ash Kelsey Devine Avery Kyeara Nicole Avila Shannon Andrea Ayoub Stephanie Brooke Bailey Lindsay Baille Montriece Yvonne Baker Seleania Marie-Lindsay Baker Jasmine June Banafshe Rebecca Christine Banning Hannah Leigh Bartle Ashley Marie Beers Lauren Anne Beliveau Kelly Nicole Belousek Priscilla Marie Bendorovicz Annamarie Benjamin Aria Anne Bennett Marisa Christina Bernal Ashly Kayelena Berry Megan Faye Bird Janelle Katherine Borg Savannah Chantai Bridges Laura Jean Browder Fernisha Kaysteine Brown Holly Alicia Brown Lauren Ashley Brown Samantha Carley Bruce Jerica Bonnee Buchanan Erica Michelle Buschatzke Samantha Jo Caldwell Kaileen Janelle Cantwell Camilla Justina Carrera Jacqueline Bryanne Carroll Kara Christine Casanova Roxanna Lizette Castelan Julia Christine Castro Myranda Raye Chavez Briana …
Jaclyn Abbott Ashleigh Noelle Albrecht Adria Alexander Layne Alexander Stephanie Alger Jalessa Lenise Almonacy Karlee Alsaker Jennifer Amodei Brittany Susan Anderson Kristin Taylor Anderson Danielle B. Angelo Tresha Leann Anguis Gina Rosemary Armanetti Carissa Joelle Ault Stephanie Rachel Ayoub Lauren Bailey Courtney Elaine Balazic Jenna Baldwin Heather N. Bangert Kailee Nicole Barbato Brittany Nicole Barfield Emily Beebe Christine Elise Benham Janelle Amy Benster Haley Christine Bliss Jill Elyse Bollinger Jenna Lynn Braccio Soi Breed Ciera Kelley Bridges Alexis Brouse Christi LeAnne Brown Elizabeth Aimee Brown Kristen Alexandra Brown Megan Rose Brown Bryn Buchanan Rebecca Elaine Burton Nicole Mahana Bussell Elizabeth Clerc Cain Amy Beth Callaghan Paula Marie Cano Kara Kathleen Carmack Carmen S. Carrillo Breeanna Collette Cartago Michelle Christine Carver Jisoo Chae Erika Lynn Chamberlain Julia Nina Cheng Jessica Chocianowski Maria Jeannette Christensen Demi Brooke Christianson…
A while ago, my kids and I were rocking out in the car to Vertigo by U2. We had the windows down and the volume obnoxiously loud. I was one cool mama chick, cruising Ahwatukee with my cool baby-chicks in my way cool minivan. Basking in this most excellent coolness I turned to the kids. "You know guys, I listened to U2 when I was in high school." Their jaws dropped open and their eyes nearly bugged out of their heads in disbelief. "And U2 is still alive?!" Ouch. I'm not cool. Apparently I'm ancient. That's bad news for Bono. Anyone who owned Joshua Tree on cassette can understand - wasn't it just yesterday? My daughter asks me questions about "back then," meaning when cars were new and television had yet to be invented. She expects me to answer from personal experience. I feel like I was just 19 but my daughter thinks I can tell her about what life was like without electricity and running water. Kids have a way of humbling you. Repeatedly in the Bible we are encouraged to be hum…
In a penultimate scene in Kevin Costner's underrated 2003 western, "Open Range," there is a lull in the shooting between the cattle baron with his henchmen and the free-range cowboys with the townspeople. With a 17-year-old boy in between them, bleeding from a previously inflicted wound, Annette Bening's character goes into the middle of the street shouting, "Stop it. Stop it right now." It is an act of extraordinary courage given that the bullets have been flying with deadly accuracy, and one that contains a very certain element of self-sacrifice.
By profession, my brother-in-law in Saskatchewan is a farmer. His passion, however, is Buck and Charlie, a pair of Belgian draught horses that he frequently exhibits at fairs and farming demonstrations. Individually, Buck and Charlie can pull a load of about a ton. As a team, however, they are able to pull five! It is an example of the principle of non-summativity: together they are more than the sum of their parts. It is a lesson we perpetually need to relearn.
Last month, a pastor in Florida made international headlines by announcing his plans to burn copies of the Qur'an. That he relented in the 11th hour was good news, but the entire incident raised a persistent and thorny question. Is it possible for me to be faithful to my own religious tradition while at the same time honoring the legitimacy of another? The question is so thorny that there has been a rise in those calling for an end to all religions.
Jesus had a way of sneaking up on his pupils. Good teachers are like that. While spinning stories on the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven, the topic gets serious. The king will separate them, and bless those that welcomed and fed him, but curse those who failed to respond.
Ever since human beings began to form themselves into communities, the relationship between government and religion has been, well, dicey. On one extreme there is theocracy; governments functioning under religious principles and laws. On the other extreme there is complete separation of church and state. Most of us live somewhere in between.
It seems like Harvey Cox has been around forever. Now in his 81st year he is still going strong even though he is “officially retired” from his teaching post at Harvard Divinity School. It was in 1965 that his first major book, The Secular City, established Cox as one of the most important and fascinating voices of Christianity.
It is hard to imagine that it was just 10 years ago that there was a great deal of fuss and bother over “Y2K.” Computer systems were going to fail, all the ATM’s were going to crash and the entire world’s technology infrastructure was in peril. You may not remember it because none of it happened.
Last month our congregation hosted a food-packing event for Feed My Starving Children. Along with congregations in Peoria, Scottsdale and Mesa, Ahwatukee Foothills residents packed over a million meals for hungry children in over 60 countries. It is a classic win-win. The result was terrific, but the process may have been every bit as important. In a time when people of faith are beating each other up, feeding hungry children seems to be common ground. Not just for people of faith and differing faiths, but people of no faith at all. We had church and civic groups, employee and school groups, children and adults – over 5000 volunteers brought together from many different places to become neighbors to each other and to children they will never meet.
Nearly 500 years ago, priest and professor of theology Martin Luther nailed a list of issues for debate to the door of the church. There was nothing too unusual about it – the door of the church was a community bulletin board and in a university community, debate was a form of public entertainment. But of course, that is not how the story ends. Luther’s 95 Theses touched off perhaps the most significant event of the second millennium. Until that time, there had been only one split in Christendom – the division of the Eastern and Western confessions in 1054. In the 500 years since, over 20,000 Protestant denominations have been formed and many, mine included, are enduring internal strife.
My brother lives on a lake in the Midwest. In the summer it’s pretty easy to see what the neighbors are doing just by looking down the shoreline and it is not uncommon for several neighbors to gather where one has fired up the barbecue and, before you know it, there is what we city dwellers would call a block party. So when he visited here for the first time, he particularly noticed that we all tend to live behind our own individual cinder block walls.
As it most often is with such moments of shocking tragedy, the shootings at Virginia Tech last month leave us with far more questions than answers. And yet, in the aftermath of human calamity we seem to hunger for something that will make sense of it all. Where do we turn? Will answers lie in law enforcement, public policy and political process, the mental health system, or perhaps in faith communities? Answers that come too quickly are revealed, after the first blush, to border on the ludicrous. (If more students had been carrying concealed weapons, one of them might have taken down the shooter? Pardon me if I fail to grasp the logic in placing more guns into a population of late adolescents swimming in undifferentiated ego mass where one of the persistent problems is easy access to large quantities of alcohol). On one level, the shooting was about power. A young man with a tormented mind, sensed that he had been stripped of power; made powerless by those around him, and he so…
Like many of you, I have had more than the usual amount of yard work this spring. The hard freeze this winter took a serious toll on my yard, and there has been a lot of cutting back. I had a few plants and a couple of palm trees that I thought were goners, but as the days have grown longer and the nights warmer, there are new buds and bits of green; signs of life to remind me that death does not get the last word. At its heart, that is the Easter message. Death does not get the last word. What St. Paul called the powers and principalities threw everything they had at Jesus, but death did not get the last word. He challenged the powers - religious and civil - insisted that justice and love takes priority over law and tradition. The powers saw it as a threat; perceived him to be a confused mystic at best, or a crazed anarchist. Even the common folk were spooked when he refused to back down in the face of threats. They crowded in to see him, maybe get something from him, but he s…
According to parental folklore, as a kid, I ate like a bird. You would never know it now. Ever since my own "babies" arrived on the scene, I've eaten like a trucker just home from the road. Perhaps this is because I burn a lot of calories keeping up with my lively brood; or maybe food helps me cope with the rigors of family life. Maybe I just really love food. Look, I married a guy who can really hold his own in the kitchen, and it would be an insult not to fully enjoy his labors!
Let me set the record straight: I've got a temper. I've been known to hurl curse words and even - gulp - a book now and then. And I would be mortified if someone filmed me ushering three kids out of the door many mornings. The name of my reality show would have to be Brownie Troop Leaders on the Edge!
I was never a cheerleader in high school. But today, I love to encourage people. My highest calling is to comfort and minister to the people God places in my path. But this week, that road was a crowded one. The numbered tragedy to which I stood witness included sudden death, divorce, chronic illness, job loss and abuse. I admit; I was overwhelmed ... turns out I needed some encouragement!
An unexpected miracle arrived in my mailbox one day, exactly when I needed one. A thick envelope with no return address, it was chock full of decorative stickers for my scrapbooks - back when I had some hope of keeping them updated - with an encouraging note tucked in. Its very presence lifted my sagging spirit. I remember sitting on the floor, sifting through the bounty, searching for clues. The sender didn't leave a signature, and I was eager to discover their secret identity.
I don't blame Eve. After all, she was likely just a curious adolescent ... probably needed a bit of excitement amidst her tranquil, predictable existence. Our Creator's first daughter has shouldered the brunt of the shame for our fall from, or perhaps into, humanity. But, her act of rebellion taught us a salient truth about ourselves - whether your interpretation of the account in Genesis 3 is allegorical or literal. We disobey. We submit to temptation. We commit treasons big and small, always have. But then, what about Adam's response?
She bounded out of the truck, covered in dirt and bursting at the seams. Arriving home from a camping trip with the Meehl men – her daddy, uncle, brother and cousins – my 8-year-old daughter couldn’t wait one more minute to tell me about their escapades.
I came across a splashy ad recently for a new diet promising to make me “high school skinny” again. Really? Would I want to go back to being high school naive? Or high school insecure? No thanks. I think I’ve earned my squishy tummy that was home to three blessings, but thanks anyway.
It’s hard to describe, isn’t it? It is …a bittersweet heartache. It is watching your hopes and dreams walk. It is peering into the future. It is reconciling with the past. It is messy; it is chaotic. It is self-doubt and raw vulnerability. But it is also joy. It is the courage of a lion, the tenacity of a bloodhound, and the gentleness of a sparrow. It is motherhood.
Ah, another football season’s come to an end. Not that I’m exactly an avid fan, but I live with a couple of diehards. And if I want to hang out with them during the fall season, I’ve learned to quit multitasking and hit the couch Sunday afternoons.
My mom approached looking agitated, crying. The rented sprayer was too loud to hear her and my dad and I were preoccupied with getting coating applied to the roof. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Jacob’s dead,” she replied, breaking into tears again. Jacob is my nephew, aged 24. He died of a pulmonary thrombosis March 11, 2010. Heart attacks are not age specific. Like a thief in the night, one took his life.
As increasing numbers of people desperately call or stop by churches, religious and social institutions looking for help, as we struggle to cope with the widening gap between people’s needs and our capacity to fill them, perhaps these prayers will be a vestige of compassion and comfort.
My youngest daughter and I had quite an experience at the airport in Chicago a few weeks ago. We loaded all of our things into tubs to go through security and then sat down to put ourselves back together again. We put on and tied our boots, strapped the laptop back in its bag, collected our winter coats (it was 30 below zero that day), grabbed Stella's booster seat, pulled up the handle for her carry-on and tried to stay out of everyone else's way all at the same time. We walked a little ways to a restaurant and ordered some food. As we were approaching the cash register, I realized that my purse was nowhere in sight. In a moment of panic, I decided that I must have left it in a tub on the conveyor belt. We raced back and asked the guard, who appeared to be in charge, if he had my purse. He directed us to "the booth." Immediately a man approached and told me that I had left my purse under a seat in the security area. Gulp. I made some half-hearted joke that "at least I had reme…
Last week, leading up to Easter, I was struggling. All my inadequacies as a mom and homemaker were being highlighted for all to see. My inbox mocked me with pictures of perfectly presented, encrusted racks of lamb, and beautifully set Easter dinner tables. Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma chided me for not purchasing new dishes and redecorating my living room in springy pastels. Magazine covers displaying picturesque painted eggs pointed out that I had neglected my children's well-being by not teaching them how to make mini-Faberges. Even the Target dollar section whispered to me that I, too, could have the perfect Easter morning egg hunt. Martha smiled serenely from my television, demonstrating the perfect Easter Brunch. My friends and neighbors with the Martha gene hung out banners and little eggs from their trees. I have a banner too, I just didn't know where it was. Perfect Martha moms at pre-school put on a beautiful Easter party for the kids. One of them kindly sent me ho…
Once upon a time I found the perfect Valentine. It was unusually large and square and felt substantial in your hands. The cover was a collage of art and script on a midnight backdrop. I like uncomplicated cards and inside this one it simply said, "I love you." Perfect. Only later did I discover tucked quietly in the collage a profound little fragment of verse by W.B. Yeats. It spoke my heart for my husband and for our marriage. Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. Romantic sentiment, however, was not a strong part of my husband's vocabulary at the time. A short time earlier in our marriage he had earnestly declared, "I choose to love you." I was crushed. I did not want him to "choose" to love…
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