“I Like a Challenge!”

I don’t recall the disagreement, but I’d had enough. “I’m not staying where I’m not wanted!” I shouted at my new husband.

In a flurry of anger, I set out in the dead of winter, marching down Algoma Blvd toward the college campus. It was Sunday … I was pregnant … and I had no clue where I was going.

Though a student at Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh, I suddenly recalled the campus was all but shut down for the weekend. My family had moved out of state two weeks after Jim and I married. But wait … the Neuman Center would be open. Yup. That’s where I’d go. Never back to that man!

But I didn’t know my husband.

A few blocks later, a car pulled over, and the passenger window rolled down. “Hey, lady,” a guy inside said, “ya wanna ride?”

Who did he think he was fooling? I knew that voice. And that car. I stuck my nose in the air and marched on.

The car pulled away. A block later, it was back with a repeat performance. I gave Jim a repeat performance of my own. Though I’ll admit I was disappointed when he and the car disappeared again. And didn’t return.

Well, I’m probably better off without him. Though I wish … oh, what difference did it make what I wished. I’d had two chances and blew them.

Now nearing the campus, I approached a corner with neatly trimmed bushes edging the property. Out popped Jim with welcoming arms and a big grin.

I collapsed into laughter, and he took my hand. “Let’s go home, Beauty.”

If you’re thinking Jim had his hands full with me, you’re right. Down through the years, my faithful husband had other occasions to rescue the day with humor.

Oh, and in case you’re tempted to feel sorry for him, don’t bother. I once told him I felt sorry for him. He was indignant. “I like a challenge!” he insisted.

All right then, sweetheart.

PLEASE SHARE: Do you have a humorous story to tell on yourself?

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Don’t Quit!

Only a month after our wedding, Jim and I faced each other in the living room of our tiny apartment. Sadly, we admitted we’d made the biggest mistake of our lives.

How could it be, when we had started out loving each other so very much?

I swallowed hard and looked to my strong, handsome husband. “What do we do now?”

He thought for a moment, and then quietly delivered his conviction. “We stick it out.”

God must have been proud of us for making our momentous decision. I know, years later, we remained glad we did. Yes, we faced struggles and disagreements through our 47 years of marriage, but we also enjoyed the rewards of choosing to love. Of learning to be patient, kind, and forgiving–no small fete! Of growing deeper in love while wrestling with every challenge that came our way.

Our family also grew–two sons, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild who are very dear to us. We experienced the love and fun and kindness of extended family on both sides. What a rich, full life we would’ve forfeited if we had decided to quit, rather than “stick it out.”

God says, “Love never fails.” ~ I Corinthians 13:8 (The Holy Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, 1984). Meaning, love chooses not to end.

Your Turn: Please share your own particular circumstances where you’ve been glad you chose not to quit.

Falling in Love

Here’s a question for you: Is there such a thing as falling in love with someone after only knowing him or her a short time?

If the stories in our family are any evidence–then I’d say yes.

Mom& Dad wedding 2Mom and Dad: My dad first laid eyes on my beautiful mom at the Cinderella Ballroom in Appleton in 1942. He asked her to dance and, while they were dancing, told her that he was going to marry her. Mom said she thought he was nuts–but three months later, they were married.

Jim and me: Jim told me that as soon as he asked me out the first time, he knew I was the one for him. On our second date, my father answered the door and asked Jim to wait in the living room. Then Dad took me upstairs and said, “When are you two getting married?” He had just seen Jim for the first time, and they hardly exchanged more than a few words between them. I thought Dad was nuts. But three months later, Jim and I were engaged, and five months after that, we married.

Okay, and I’ll confess. When Jim brought me home from that aforementioned second date, we sat in his car, mesmerized by each other and quietly talking for so long that the birds started singing their morning songs before I went inside. By that time, were Jim and I in love? Oh, yes.

So what do you think? Can a couple fall in love even though they’ve only known one another a short time? What’s your experience?

Freedom from Prison

“How can you ask me to do that?” Alison wiped the tears from her face. “You know all the ugly things he’s done.”

Yes, Debra knew what her brother-in-law had done before, during, and since their nasty divorce. She also knew how much it hurt when someone who should love you turned on you in hatred. Hadn’t her own daughter hurt her more than any parent should be asked to endure?

“But that’s not the point–” she began.

“Oh, I get it. You want me to say, ‘I forgive you, Leo. It’s all right. It wasn’t your fault.”

“Not at all.” How could Debra help her dear sister understand? Oh, yes. “Alison, remember the story Jesus told about the king who forgave his manager who embezzled a million dollars from him? Do you remember how that same manager then refused to forgive someone who owed him very little?”

Alison nodded, but from her glowering expression, Debra  had the feeling her sister knew where this was going and didn’t like it. She continued anyway, “Later the king discovered his manger refused to forgive a neighbor’s debt and threw his manager in prison.”

Debra looked into her sister’s red-rimmed eyes. “Alison, unforgiveness is a prison.”

Alison crossed her arms. “So you want me to let him get away with all the terrible things he’s done–all the terrible things he still does every chance he gets.”

“I want you to put all that in God’s hands where it belongs. The important thing is for you–all of us–to trust God to know what is best.” Debra took took her sister’s hands. “Alison, when we choose to forgive, we get our lives back. We are free! No more tormenting prison of self-pity and hatred. You want that, don’t you? Then start right now by forgiving Leo for each thing you remember that still hurts you.”

“Forgiving him won’t stop him.”

“No,” Debra said.”But as long as you keep forgiving, you stay free and give God room to work in your heart and his. Alison, let God handle Leo.”

Debra was right. Forgiving another’s wrongs doesn’t make the person right. It simply says, “I cancel the debt you owe me–love, money, respect, or anything else–and put the matter in God’s hands.” Jesus gave us our one sure way out of the painful prison of unforgiveness.

Focus: “Forgive whatever grievances you may have … forgive as the Lord forgave you” ~ Colossians 3:13, New International Version.

How about you? What do you think of Jesus’ method of freeing yourself from the prison of unforgiveness? How has it worked for you or someone you know?

 

 

Love Your Enemies!

With increasing unease, Paul listened to his friend tell about seven years of suffering in a North Vietnamese POW camp.

Ron’s captors had tortured him relentlessly. He described how he had been bound tightly for days and left in agonizing pain. “I heard someone far away, screaming through the night. Then I realized. It was me.”

Paul clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. Oh, how he wanted to do bodily harm to those who had tortured his friend so cruelly! His eyes blazed as he growled and asked Ron, “You felt that way, didn’t you?”

“No,” Ron quietly replied. “All through those days and nights, I simply prayed that they might come to know and love Jesus as their Savior.”

Paul’s anger rushed from him in a heavy breath. “Wow!”

Somehow Ron had seen his tormentors with a heart that looked beyond what they were doing. He saw their deep need for Christ and chose to obey Jesus’ command to love his enemies.

Few of us have suffered in POW camps. Yet at one time or another, we have all felt the sting of undeserved pain. Some of us–or those we care about–have suffered cruelty again and again at the hands of another.

We may want to lash back, but God offers a better way. Instead of stewing in our anger and biding our time to get even, we can choose to obey his call.

Focus: “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” ~ Matthew 5:44-45, The Living Bible.

How about you? Jesus said we will always have trouble in this world. But how might our lives and our world change if we chose to trust him by loving and praying for our enemies?

The Story of Thanksgiving Day

Crossing the Atlantic, most of the 102 passengers aboard the tiny Mayflower suffered severely from sea sickness. As they finally sighted Cape Cod on November 9, 1620 with only one death among them, they fell to their knees and thanked God who brought them “over the fast and furious ocean … and a sea of troubles.”

The storm-tossed waters prevented them from sailing south to the Virginian colony, their intended destination. Yet they believed God in his wisdom had directed them to the place  they must now prepare from scratch to make it, for winter was already upon them. Having arrived with little food, they sent out scouting parties who found baskets of grain and a good place farther north where hey could build a permanent community.

They struggled through that first winter with inadequate clothing and blankets, hardly seven of them well at one time. By the end of March, half had died of pneumonia. Yet not one among the living boarded the Mayflower for the return trip to England that Spring.

Squanto arrived and made his home with them. An Indian who spoke English, he taught those city folk how to plant corn, fish the river, and hunt turkey and deer in he forest. He also helped them forge a lasting peace with Indians living in the area.

By Fall, the grateful band of devout Christians recovered their health and had enough food to see them through the coming winter. Inviting their Indian friends to join them, they held a three-day feast to thank God for his goodness–a practice they continued year after year. Eventually, some of their descendants settled elsewhere, taking with them their annual thanksgiving-to-God feast.

Then in 1863, President Lincoln declared the occasion a national holiday. But it all began with a small group of Christians who made it a habit to thank God no matter what.

Did they face danger, illness, lack, or loss? They thanked God. Were they blessed with safety, unexpected help, a new home, enough food? They thanked God. These people chose to obey God’s Word about giving thanks.

Focus: “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:18, The Living Bible.

How about you? For what are you especially thankful to God this year?

Are Good Manners a Small Matter?

Wearing a big grin on his little boy face, Tyler ran to his mother in the church foyer. “Mom, can I–?”

She held up her hand in a kindly way, and then turned back to the woman who was talking to her.

Tyler knew the signal.  It had something to do with not interrupting a conversation until invited to speak. Something his mother called good manners–courtesy. He guessed it was like saying “please” when he asked for anything and “thank you” when he got it.

He immediately fell silent and waited–if impatiently–for his turn to speak.

Was Tyler’s mother wrong to teach him the ways of courtesy? In today’s TV sitcoms and other media, good manners are a small matter.  We laugh at crude remarks and rude behavior. They are so common that they’ve become “the new normal.” So what’s all the fuss?

Just this: God doesn’t agree. His Word clearly tells us that love is not rude (1 Corinthians 13:5). It does not behave unseemly.

Imagine that! Good manners are a way we show love! Not only in our relationships with one another, but in our relationship with God. Yes, we should freely ask God for what we need, but with a humble word of please. And we should remember to thank him. But courtesy toward God is more than that.

Yet how many times, like exuberant Tyler,  do we rush into God’s Presence, blurting out our requests? While like a loving Father, God desires, and even invites us, to present our needs to him, his Word tells us the right way to do it. We are to approach him in love … with courtesy.

Focus: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise” ~ Psalm 100:4 (New Living Translation).

How about You? Do you agree that showing our love through good manners is still important? If so, what change would you suggest we as believers in Christ adopt to lead the way in today’s world?