At the end of the devastating Civil War, Lincoln called for a spirit of reconciliation and an end to animosity.
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Second Inaugural Address (delivered March 4, 1865).
Hopefully, we as Americans can listen to his wise counsel and find ways to stop the violence. Listening, learning and loving . . .may be good for starters.
One of my favorite pastimes is swimming laps at our nearby community pool. Early morning is my favorite and when possible bringing an inspirational book and a cup of coffee or water.
After swimming a few laps and treading water, as well as greeting other swimmers, relaxing in a comfortable lounge chair and reading is delightful. Usually it is easy for me to shut out the activities and conversations of those around me. But not always.
Kids playing “Marco Polo” and other water games often get a bit rowdy until told by parents to “calm down”. Conversations between youngsters and their siblings can be interesting, as are interactions between children and parents. Most children especially enjoy playing in the water with their mom and dad. Some children wistfully watch as parents of other kids join in the fun, while theirs do not.
After finding a set of 5 squirt guns on sale, I offered them to my granddaughters. Three brothers arrived at the pool and noticed the squirt guns. “Wow, first time I ever saw girls with so many squirt guns,” the oldest loudly said. Soon all had one to use and they played well for a long time at the end of the pool.
One warm evening last summer, a large family including a mom, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins played energetic games of volleyball. All the other swimmers at the pool were invited to join in. It was very inter-generational, as well as inclusive. Surprisingly, not even the oldest people at the pool complained. It was refreshing to see such fun among several ages. It doesn’t happen often enough.
I live two blocks from the beach and one block from our pool, and have found being near the water soothes my soul. It is a good place to pray and think.
Jesus often walked along the Sea of Galilee as he taught his disciples. He even prepared a breakfast of fish and bread for them.
Once when His disciples thought they were lost in a sudden, strong storm, Jesus walked across the sea to help them.
My young sons and I stepped into an elevator and realized we were sharing space with Joni Eareckson, whom we had just heard speak. Although I only had a minute, it was long enough to tell her what an inspiration she was to our family. She smiled and said she was happy to hear that. Then the door opened and away she rolled.
It was July 1976, and we were at a SuccessfulLiving convention in Snow Bird, Utah. Joni was a featured speaker. Her biography, Joni, had just been published. In July of 1967, at the age of 17, Joni dove into a shallow spot in Chesapeake Bay, and broke her neck. When we met her, she had been in a wheelchair for nine years. Her beautiful smile and attitude were delightful. Her smile and attitude are still delightful today.
Joni has a daily 5 minute radio program which airs early each morning, Her messages are so inspiring as she delivers them in an upbeat tone. Sometimes she sings a few lines of a sweet song with her lovely voice. Listening to her always brightens my day.
Whenever my life faces difficult challenges, thinking of the countless obstacles Joni bravely faces helps me get a better perspective. She and her very dedicated husband, Ken, were married in 1982, so recently celebrated 35 years together.
If being a quadriplegic isn’t difficult enough, Joni was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2010. It was a very difficult time, and her body limitations complicated her treatment. But she was very determined to eat right and pray even more fervently. Joni is an avid Bible scholar and has written many book discussing suffering and even Heaven.
We live in a time when we have access to many inspiring speakers and preachers. As grateful as I am for their ministries, no person on earth has inspired me more.
At the end of her first book, written only eight years after her diving accident, Joni wrote, “I will be pleased if only one person is drawn to Christ. . .” (as a result of hearing her testimony). She said it would make being in a wheelchair worth it.
July 30. 2017 marks 50 years since her life changed when she dove into Chesapeake Bay. During fifty years in a wheelchair, Joni has shared her inspiring story with people of all ages, all over the world. She directs ministries to disabled children and their families. And she is still going strong.
After the movie, “The Hiding Place,” had poignantly portrayed the true story of the life of Corrie ten Boom, and how she, her father and sister had been captured and tormented in a Nazi Concentration Camp for hiding their Jewish friends and neighbors, Corrie traveled around giving inspirational talks.
A friend and I thought we were going early to get a good seat, but it turns out we barely got inside. Actually we were the last two to be admitted. Corrie was amazing, and she was no young chicken, but “wow” what a message. Her Dutch family had been arrested for hiding Jews and she was put into Ravensbruck, along with her sister, Betsie. Betsie died fifteen days before Corrie was released. Their father, Casper, had died ten days after he and his daughters were taken captive.
One of many powerful incidents Corrie shared was how, after the war, she was speaking at a large meeting on the subject of forgiveness. Who should come up to her and warmly extend his arm to shake hers but the meanest prison guard from the camp. He had become a Christian. Corrie described how her right arm seemed to freeze at her side and she struggled to forgive this man whom she had seen be so nasty to her fragile sister, even as she was dying. Finally, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Corrie managed to shake his hand and accept his apologies. And forgive him.
The scripture Corrie emphasized so strongly the night I heard her, was Micah 7:19: “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast out all our sins into the depths of the sea.” As she repeated it with her strong Dutch accent, it resonated firmly in my heart and spirit. She closed with this; “And God Puts Up A No Fishing Sign!” d.m.
It was a sunny Sunday in June, 1960, when 2 other youth workers and I left the Chicago area to spend a week at a Youth Leadership Training School at Wartburg Lutheran Seminary in Dubuque. Iowa. Being the youngest and least experienced in youth work, I was eager to learn as much as possible to improve my skills so had a healthy sense of anticipation. Never did I imagine the education that awaited me!
As we were getting close to the seminary, the thought of going somewhere enjoyable for lunch was uppermost in our minds. On a small hill, overlooking the road, an affordable but home-style oking restaurant caught our eye. In fact, it had been recommended by others who had previously attended this Leadership Training School. As we entered, we were greeted warmly by two tables of pastors and youth leaders who had arrived just minutes ahead of us. The home cooking signs and delicious smelling aromas convinced us we were at the right place to satisfy our hunger pangs.
We seated ourselves near the others we knew and glanced at the menus in the napkin holders. But the waitress curtly informed us we could not be served as “we do not serve people of color,” so one of us would have to leave. Shocked, we tried to convince the waitress we were all just fine but the manager then ushered us out. The other two tables of friends immediately got up and also tried to convince the manager to let us stay. He threatened to call the police so everyone left, at least a dozen hungry customers. This was a dreadful situation and we all decided to eat at the seminary cafeteria. Neither Ruth or I knew what to say to Fannie. We suspected this was not the first time she had been treated so unfairly and rudely. But for me, it was my first experience with outright racial prejudice. It affected me deeply.
When finally we found the seminary and the cafeteria, it was Fannie who helped get us back to our mood of anticipation. Her delightful sense of humor had us laughing and we actually enjoyed the cafeteria food and our friends who also congregated there. She did not want us to be so disturbed that a damper was put on the upcoming week.
During the week, Fannie had a significant role in the training. For several years she had been serving as parish worker in a poor inner city church and was able to give her perspective on many aspects of reaching young people with the love of God. Prior to attending this leadership school, I had driven carloads of youth from my church to activities at her church. We had brought food and pizza and helped paint and decorate their youth meeting room. I knew it was a rough neighborhood and on one trip, my tire was slashed. Fannie had to be very careful never to walk home alone. Fannie’s youth group had previously come to meetings at our church as well. But obviously we had not walked in her footsteps.
Since this time, over 65 years ago, it has been my sincere desire to be aware and actively involved in interracial causes and activities. I enjoyed teaching youth and serving on the church board of a church in Tampa that is predominantly black. Now, living back on Florida’s East Coast, I love attending a church that is an amazing mix of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and White. Thank God, some things have improved but there is still much to do.
Six months after beginning my first job in the publishing business, an unexpected difficult decision landed in my lap (actually on my desk).
As production editor of a magazine serving the booksellers’ industry, the annual convention issue was ready to go to press. Then a dock worker’s strike intruded, threatening our ability to get the magazine to the post office on time. The urgent problem was getting a very expensive insert to the printer immediately. Unfortunately, the many boxes containing it were stranded on a semi truck on a dock where workers were striking.
Our printer was urging us to go to press without the insert, informing me that unless I approved getting it to press immediately it may miss getting to the booksellers before the convention. Most publishers invested extra time and money in this most circulated issue, and this center insert was very valuable and expensive. It was announcing and describing a new version of the Bible.
The pressure was on and the decision was all mine, especially since the owner/managing editor was in a hospital having serious surgery. His doctor did not allow any calls.
My prayers were unceasing that the strike would end but when I called the shipping company they said there was no way of knowing and the strike probably would go on for days.
My coworkers were glad the decision was mine and not theirs. Of course, most offered their opinion, but all said it was up to me. The printer called several times a day urging us to go to press. And I kept praying for the strike to end.
Then it did end … our boxes were unloaded with speed and delivered to the printer. The magazines arrived before the convention and things were back on track. My prayers were thanking God for getting all things resolved. The pressure was off.
Or so I thought. My boss asked his secretary to tell me he was well enough now to meet with me. He was home from the hospital and wanted me to come to his home. I was worried as I drove there. He told me others on his staff had felt I should not have held up the printing and he asked if I knew that.
”Yes,” I admitted.
“Why didn’t you take their advice?” he asked in a firm voice. Even though he was in bed, recovering from surgery, he still had a way of intimidating me. At that moment, I feared I had made a mistake and would lose my job.
“Very glad you didn’t. You made the right decision,” he continued before I could answer. We could have lost a good, long-time customer and we would have been out a lot of money. I wanted to thank you in person.”
As I returned to work, I again said a prayer of thanks. Then tackled the next challenge with a bit more confidence.
Living in the North Woods of Wisconsin was exciting, exhausting and challenging. It was not easy with three youngsters who were absolutely full of energy and always ‘raring’ to go do something. Especially during the cold, early winter months, before the snow falls. We lived on a lake and once it was frozen the fun began.
Until then, however, we all suffered from cabin fever. Our log home was rustic and not too big. We played games, read books and did creative art projects. But my children all seemed to have very short attention spans. Some days I felt like I was at my wit’s end, trying to entertain my family.
One day, the wall phone rang and since this was before portable or cell phones, I had to answer it in the kitchen. Although I did have a very long cord, my ability to watch what the children were doing was limited. That call was important. I was trying to listen and sound professional while worrying about what was going on in their play area. Sure enough, the middle child, my most rambunctious one, had got into mischief. As I hung up the phone to survey the damage, I muttered, “You guys are going to drive me to the funny farm.”
Big mistake! Not recommended positive reinforcement.
“Can I go with? Please?” My middle son kept begging for a very long time.
“Me, too, me too,” sobbed his younger brother, while their older sister looked confused. It took much too long to explain. I doubt they ever realized it was just a silly comment.
Finally, a few days later, it began snowing and soon we were snowed in. Now we were in a winter wonderland and the fun began. There was lots to do and the price was right!
We ice fished for supper and enjoyed healthy hot cocoa out on the lake. One has to drink it rather fast, of course, before it froze right before our eyes.
So much fun in the snow. My daughter spent hours building sturdy igloos. One day I was pulling my young sons on a toboggan across the lake and met another woman walking over to my side. We became lifelong friends.
Then came the day when I suffered from frost bitten toes. Really suffered when I got stuck driving on a stretch of road the snowplow had neglected to clear. It wasn’t long before Florida began sounding wonderful. I have been here now 30 years and it is wonderful.
Those memorable days in a winter wonderland are permanently etched in my heart. My daughter and her family spend a lot of time snowmobiling in Wisconsin and sometimes send me photos. I enjoy seeing them all bundled up when i am relaxing on the beach or at the pool.