Tuesday, January 31, 2012

We Fight

As I have thought about this week's offerings, I could not help but think of the quote from Lord of the Rings

Aragorn: Stand your ground, stand your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes, the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves, and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!

I love that quote - I've used it sermons and other blogs. I love the imagery of not letting fear take hold of us and carrying on. But what are we fighting? That's the big question. The scripture tells us that we do not fight against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12)- in other words, we do not fight other people. We fight against spiritual forces. Of course, then we must ask, what does that mean? At different times in my life, my understanding has been different and my answers would have been different. But this is not today's topic.

Several years ago I was at a prayer meeting. One woman who I barely knew at the time but is now is one of my dear friend, arrange to have two other women pray with me. I was struggling in a lot of areas, and while I didn't know the other two women, I trusted that my new friend would not steer me wrong. One of the first things that was said by my friend was she saw me in a war room - she saw me standing over a battle layout. I'd seen a lot of old war movies so sort of pictured a large version of the game board for Risk - the conquer the world game. I saw canons and military armament and generals pouring over it, looking at strategies.

I think she saw the same thing. She said, "Joyce, I don't see you as a general, but you are a strategist. YOU know the strategy that the other's can't see." She went on to say I was not being heard. That seemed very true to me. So many times I offer what I can see, or what I know and no one listens to me.

I've learned a lot more about myself and what makes me tick since that day in Connecticut. I see more and more that I do understand strategy. I see a bigger picture than most. Because I do, I understand our battle differently. I understand that the best way to defeat the enemy is to love your enemy.

That's radical - that's hard. That's the hardest way to win a battle. It is counter cultural. It causes us to die to self and to esteem others more than ourselves. Even the "other" - that one that doesn't look like us, smell like us, or think like us. It means we go as the body of Christ in incarnational solidarity with them. You know, just like Jesus did.

Now that's scary, isn't it? It just goes against everything we've thought before - that's the call of Christ. This brings us back to the quote from Lord of the Rings... the fear in our hearts. The fear to love. The fear to show mercy. The fear to go where people live and love them as your neighbor. To embrace your enemy... That's scary - that's more scary than picking up a sword or gun. It's standing totally defenseless with nothing but love in front of your "enemy."

There is a place for spiritual warfare, I understand that. But as I think of it, I am reminded of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 -
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

 8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[c] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

My strategy is love.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Go Big, or Go Home

You want to know something? We are all different. I know that intellectually but sometimes I become confused and I ask God, “Why am I not like that person, or this person?” The Lord reminds me of the mix match of apostles he chose – sensitive, brash, blue collar, white collar, strong in finances, strong in encouragement, ones who like to lead, and others who like to work behind the scenes. We are not supposed to replicate each other; we should complement each other for the glory of God.

We’re in a battle. Some of us know better than others, how intense the battle is. Each side of the battle has soldiers, commanders and battle equipment. This week on Kingdom Bloggers, we’re describing how God has designed us to fit into the overall battle strategy of the Lord. Which one of is a battle strategist? Who is a sniper? Read along for the week and offer your insights about who you are in the battle.


Go big, or go home.

In a battle, I’m like a cannon. I don’t have the precision of a marksman, nor do I think one hit would be sufficient damage to the enemy. I live life fast and furious and that is how I [prefer to] operate in spiritual warfare.

In my younger years (before I became the wise and discerning woman I am today), I could have been described as a ‘loose cannon’, especially in my speech. I often spoke and acted without thinking first and hoped the collateral damage would not bite me in the butt on the way out. The Lord has since shown me how to confront with truth and love. Instead of making me change, he taught me the strengths in the character of who he created me to be and how to use the strengths as an effective battle strategy against the enemy in the spiritual realm.

I am most comfortable on the front lines, always ready to go first. Discernment is my weakest gift, so although I’m ready to go first, I don’t always know which direction to move. The beauty of the kingdom of God is the dependence we have on God and other believers.  When I work in conjunction with others, I understand which direction to move and then I fire. The goal is to cause a break in the wall or foundation and in doing so create an opportunity for others to finish the job.

I’m a groundbreaker and always looking for new territory to win. I fight for breakthrough in areas where there isn’t any, so others can walk in and take the spoils.

My modus operandi of battle has not changed, but the execution of my battle strategy has changed – especially in the past 18 months. Instead of running into a situation with guns blazing, I worship. More is accomplished with worship to the Lord than I’ve ever seen happen before and it is far less effort on my part because it is a joy to give glory and honour to the Father for who He is and what He does. It is beyond my comprehension how a worshipper can be a cannon, but the example of walls of Jericho coming down by the praises of the people, as if struck by a cannon, is an encouragement to me to press on through worship.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mrs. Claus

I climb a lot of ladders for my job. Kids must think it’s cool, because whenever they’re around, and I’m up on a roof-top, they point and stare. I usually ask their names, and then say “Nice to meet you, what’s my name?”
They giggle and say, “I don’t know.”
“My name’s Santa,” I tell them.
They giggle a little more, and before they can say anything, I say, “No, just kidding…BUT I do work for him.”
“Huh?” Wide eyes get wider.
“Yeah, I check out the best places for the reindeer to land and stuff so Santa doesn’t get hurt.”
I was reminded of this while pondering what I’d share with you today. You see, this week we’ve been honoring our parents. And Mrs. Claus is my mother-in-law, or at least I think she is. Or, maybe, she just works for him – Santa Claus; Papá Noel.

At eighty-five (she’ll be eighty-six Feb. 4th) she has limited mobility. She can use a walker for short distances, but other than that – she’s either in a wheel chair or her recliner-type chair that elevates at the seat, to help her get up. Her hands are starting to show signs of arthritis and her eye sight is growing dim, yet, even though her body is aging, she’s still a wide-eyed-child when it comes to her soul.
With over a hundred and some ought grand-kids she manages to keep track of them all. And all year she sits and knits, spins and weaves some kind of Christmas magic into hats and scarves and baby blankets. And somehow, at Christmas, without even leaving her chair, she manages to have gifts for everyone. She has spent more time making gifts for others than many folks have been alive. She MUST be Mrs. Claus – or related in some kind-of-way, right?
She watches, too. With dimming eyes and one finger at a time she taps at a lap top and – like a mother-hen – she watches her brood banter on face-book.  
Although confined physically, she’s a world traveler in her soul. Sit by her side and she’ll take you places decades from here, with her stories. Like the first time she met the love of her life at Coney Island: Santa. No, just kidding – Henry Joseph DeVlaeminck. She’ll walk you through the depression and wade through life on a pig farm. You’ll ride her words to school with horse and sleigh. She’ll tell of the trials and laughter of raising fourteen children – the birth of some…and the loss of others. 
With a twinkle in her eye and a never fading smile, she’ll tell of how she saw Jesus in a dream and how she prays for others.
Her house in nothing fancy, but her Home is a mansion. Each day her house fills with family, including ex-husbands, ex-wives, ex-this and ex-that, once in you're IN. I’ve said it’s easier to get out of the mob than out of this family.  She’s soft spoken, just above a whisper, but she can move an army of adoring children with a simple word.
Maybe my mother-in-law isn’t related in any way to Santa. BUT – she IS related to the Greatest Gift Giver of all. And she works for Him. And, maybe her family isn’t anything like being in the mob with the Godfather and all that stuff. BUT – she is tight with God The Father.
And I am honored to share her with you today. Her kids call her Ma, but everyone else – whether related or not – calls her Gramma Mary. So, if you need a family, you can join ours.
Thanks for stopping by and as Gramma Mary would say; “Gramma misses you, come back and see me again.”
If you think you don’t have a family or a parent to honor…think again, you do.
Jesus asked; Who are My brothers and sisters and mother? And then answered; “But those who do the will of My Father.” Mark 3:35
Come…and be part of the family.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Gift of Hospitali-tea

My mom Kate loves tea. LOVES tea. Begins everyday with a cup of strong, black tea with a lot of milk. Starts every hour with a cup of black tea with a lot of milk. Ends the day with tea with a lot of milk. When I walk in the door for a visit, she puts the kettle on for tea before the hug goes cold. Tea is part of my mother’s daily regimen, hospitality practice, stress reduction program, and cure for the common cold.

Perhaps tea drinking may not be spiritual enough for some, but Kate’s tea drinking is usually other-oriented. This is in part because of her Irish culture, but it is also my mother’s nature to be hospitable. My mom has an open door policy; when we were growing up, it endeared her to my friends and to my future husband. Had she been a first-century Christian, she would have made it onto the Apostle Paul’s “widow’s list” in 1 Timothy 5:9-10, because she “is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”

Hospitality involves sacrifice of time, space and sometimes expense.

When we were in seminary, my mother put us up countless times, fed us her famous spaghetti and meat sauce (not bad for an Irishwoman) and yes, made us countless cups of tea. She patiently housed our pets, our kids, and put up with our comings and goings. She would have made it onto the Apostle Peter’s good list (if he’d had one) according to 1 Peter 4:9-10: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

My mother was instrumental in my coming to Christ, as was my father, who passed away in 2005. My father modeled grace, faith, perseverance and a sense of humor with the kind of jokes that made you groan. The scriptures were on his lips constantly, especially in the last two decades of his life. My mother, very much the rock and center of our home, modeled then and now an unwavering cheeriness (perhaps to a fault), perseverance, compassion and care for the sick (she has been at the side of many dying friends, putting feet and hands to her prayers) and the elderly, a loyalty to her church, her children, her friends and her siblings, and a passion for God.

Before you think she is perfect, I am happy to report she is human: Kate can drive me crazy, as most mothers can drive their daughters crazy, but she will be just as quick to retort I am the one driving her crazy, and to look at me aghast when I make my guest bed at her house with the ironed sheets (“Those were for guests!”), to begin her phone calls with the statement, “I am calling in case you thought I was dead,” and to end them with, “Well, I guess you are tired of talking to me now.” She makes me laugh and pull my hair out. She will probably pull it out for me when she discovers this blog entry, because for all the heavy dose of extraversion God gave her, she is a private person.

But back to the tea: when she was caring for a 97-year old last year, she made him a cup of tea. He sipped it and sat back in the chair, surprised. “What have you done to this tea?” It was the best cup of tea he’d ever had. Turns out that other caregivers had given him microwaved tea for years. Yes, Kate has the gift of hospitali-tea.

Take the best of both and become even better...

This is my dad, Jim, on Christmas this past year.

This is my mom, Shirley, the very same day.

The very fact that both of my parents were still with me this side of Glory was far better than any gift I happened to receive this past Christmas. Let me rephrase that...was the greatest gift I received this past Christmas.

I realize my time on Earth with my mom and dad quickly draws to a close. Granted, that final end may not come for another couple of dozen years, but I know they are both starting to wear physically after seventy plus years of living. There's a sadness in that comment that is somewhat buffered by the shear fact that bodily death comes to us all eventually, and my parents have lived fruitful, meaningful lives.

From my mother, I've inherited a sense of compassion and a jovial demeanor. She has always been the spiritual compass for our family, although I've been off her directed course more than a time or two in my life.  Mom was born into a large family (13 brothers and sisters) that epitomized the adage that we don't need things outside of God, love and each other. Her father was a Baptist preacher that died when she was just 9 years old. Hard to imagine my grandmother raising such a large family on her own, but every memory I have of her is covered with warmth and joy. My mom grew up fast, but she grew up knowing she was valuable far beyond what material things could give stature.

My father is, well, a hard man. He's the last of a dying breed of men that were taught to keep their emotions in check and to always be prepared for the worst life might throw at you. Still, I know beyond doubt my father loves both me and my sister because he has proven that time and time again in my life. He has lived life by the guiding principle that hard work can overcome any adversity. I get my work ethic directly from him.

Of the many stories that reflect the personalities of my parents, one of my favorite involves the day I graduated from high school. At the time, my dad was chairman of the local school board. His task on that day was to hand the diploma earned by each graduate to the principle who in turn handed  the document to the person. He would then shake the hand of the passing student. There were 277 in my graduating class that day. When my time came, he shook my hand and said 'good luck' just like he did the other 276 times. My mother was livid.

She couldn't understand why on such a monumental occasion, dad wouldn't take the time to hug me as a show of support and pride. I never expect it though. That just wasn't my dad. He knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me. Graduation was an accomplishment...but it wasn't the expectation. It was just a starting point to better things.

Expression is just not a strong point with my dad. However, the day I graduated college and pinned the gold bars of a Second Lieutenant on my collar as a United States Marine, my dad hugged my neck and told me he loved me and was proud of me. To that point, the only other time I recalled hearing those words was 9 years earlier when he told me his sister was dying from cancer. That in no way takes away from the fact that he did love me very much. Actions will always be greater than words in his world, and I greatly respect him for that.

My mom and dad have both been a tremendous influence on my life. That influence will continue in the way I raise their granddaughters. All three will know everything I can possibly share with them about their heritage. Thanks to the example set by my mother, they will grow up attending a house of worship where hopefully they will learn to be disciples for Jesus.

My teenager already knows that my expectations for her are set high. She also knows that I love God and her more than life itself because I tell her every single day. That's the best of both of her grandparents she and her two younger sisters get to see in me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
 And what does the LORD require of you?
 To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly
with your God.
Micah 6:8

The Scripture above has always been one, which I feel exemplifies my parent’s lives.
On their 50 th Anniversary, my oldest brother gave a toast, saying, “Our father is a fighter and our mother is lover”. I thought, “Wow, that I so true.”
He was a Public Servant, a Firefighter. He was the Assistant Chief
My dad was involved in labor unions, his whole life. I always believed he “fought for the little guy”. That was his intention. It was not to manipulate or strong arm people into “doing the right thing”... He was motivated, by knowing that workers could be exploited and their efforts undermined. He was a catalyst to bring fairness and truth into the testing process in the city he worked in.
He was a man, that was often admired but sometimes disdained.
We found out that there were many people who appreciated his courage and his stand in fighting for their fair rights. After he died, man after man, have told us, that although my dad’s manner could sometimes be intimidating, nevertheless, they respected him for his stand and his courage to face the “powers that be.” on behalf of others.
My mother was a good soul and giving was so part of her nature. I was often in awe as to how she put other’s needs first.
She gave in so many ways. In saying that, it could be money, but it was rarely that. She gave of herself.
She visited the sick and the elderly. She gave groceries and goods to people who were in need. She wrote encouraging notes to others, to let them know that they were remembered and important. She would lend a hand to strangers, whether it was to give them a ride (I know that seems scary to me now) or help them acquire goods that they needed for living. She was a member of her church’s ministry to visit the homebound. She not only went to their homes, but she went around town, to pick up those women, who were elderly and handicapped, so that they could visit as well. She often lent an ear to many. She was a good listener. She seemed to have a sense of another person being down and depressed. She did not give up on people. She would believe in the very best for them. I believe, in her own style, she too, “fought for the little guy”
Sadly, when my dad passed away, he did not receive the honor, in his city, to have flags flown at half mast. The hierarchy stubbornly denied him what he deserved. However, there was redemption for his memory.
As his funeral procession passed the last Firehouse that he served in, the crew of that shift’s firefighters, stood in front of the house. They were at attention, saluting him. They did this courageous act, despite the presence of the very Officer that denied my father his due. Our family will never forget that. And the “little guys” did not forget my dad.
My mother was remembered by many at her wake. We had a journal in which people could write about the ways that she impacted their life. There had been obvious things that we had seen all along. But,it was a thrill to know how she affected people, in personal and sometimes secret ways.
I visited the State Fire Academy after my father died. The man, who was the head of it, concurred on what I have told you about my dad. He said “I remember your dad, with that cigar sticking out of his mouth, speaking his mind for justice.  He would not mince words. He was not a touchy feely kind of guy, but we all had a respect for him.” Does that make you think of the Prophets of old?
They lived their lives, not for accolades, but to live out the Gospel.
 My mom had a funny thing she would say when someone complimented her. She would say “If I had a quarter for every nice thing you say to me, I would give you a quarter for each one!”
So to my dad… I say “Dad…when I join you, I’ll bring your trademark cigars!”
To my mom… I say “Mom, you’d better have some quarters ready!”

Linda Maynard

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Dad, Jim Vick by Jenna Vick Silliman

My father, Jim Vick, has positively influenced me in many ways. Like my father, I love music, dancing, singing, and laughter. Growing up, whenever my dad was home, he would have music on the radio or stereo or he’d pick up his guitar and play music. He liked to have fun and make us laugh with whatever jokes he’d heard, by telling a story, or by singing a silly song. Now I am like that too! I’m such a silly mom (The name Silliman fits!) that one of my son’s friends said to me, “You are more like a kid than a mom.” I took that as a compliment!

Dad likes to sing and whenever the mood strikes, he sings out with gusto. He sings all kinds of songs. Last summer we visited him in Northern California and I told him about some of the songs we sang at the nursing homes in our sing-a-longs on Wednesdays. As I knew would happen, we ended up having a sing-a-long right then and there. We sang, “Take me out to the ball game…” It didn’t matter that we were in a restaurant! Hahaha!

I like to think about how, as my dad’s firstborn child, I influenced him and “broke HIM in” to the world of babies, bottles, diaper-changing, and sleepless nights. Dad likes to tell the story of the first time he saw me. I was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in San Francisco, four days after Valentine’s Day. Dad said, “They put you in my arms and you were all red and squallin’ and you had this big wrinkle of skin on your forehead. I thought to myself, ‘What have I done! I’ve created a monster!’”

We lived in San Carlos, about a half an hour south of San Francisco, and Dad commuted on the train to the city. He sold insurance bid bonds to contractors for a living for almost thirty years. Though he didn’t particularly enjoy selling, he did what he had to do make a living and provide for his family. That attitude of sacrificial giving of your life for your loved ones has been a shining Christ-like example to me my whole life. I was a “Daddy’s Girl” and sought to please him every chance I got. This has served me well in life because now I’m my Heavenly Father’s “Daddy’s Girl.” I delight in His Presence and seek to please Him.

After school I waited on the sidewalk for Daddy to walk home from the train station. I roller skated, played with my Barbie doll, or bounced my red, rubber ball to pass the time till Daddy got home. Many was the day I didn’t see my father because he left for work before I woke up and he worked late and didn’t get home till after I went to bed. When I spotted him I squealed with glee, ran to him with open arms for a hug, and put my little hand into his big one to walk him home. I loved to see his monthly train ticket—a long strip of paper with multi-colored squares and little holes punched on the dates. At the end of the month I was thrilled when he gave me his expired ticket. I collected them in a scrap book and still have them to this day.

Some of my earliest memories of dancing were rocking out with Dad in our living room to music on the radio. When I was little, my dad would pick me up and spin me around. Maybe that’s why I like twirling around so much when I dance! He now watches old movies of musicals and dance performances more than he dances himself. He’s 80 years old now and doesn’t boogie as much as he used to. However, on a recent visit we all went out to eat and there was some rhythm and blues playing and I noticed he enjoyed a little dancing down the hallway on the way to the men’s room.

Whenever there is a teachable moment, my dad takes the opportunity to give a lesson. I still think of him when I fold a letter into three equal parts, when I tie my shoes, or when I introduce myself to someone and make a point to say upon leaving, “Nice to meet you!”

I learned to love the ocean from my dad. Some of our happiest memories were Saturdays spent at the Pacific Ocean beaches near San Francisco. There is something so refreshing and invigorating about breathing in the salt sea air, listening to the roar, feeling the wind in your hair, and watching wave after wave crash and smoothly slide out onto the sand. I also love rock hunting along the shore like my father. I never get tired of picking up a rock that catches my attention and marveling over the beauty of it. Rocks rock! I learned that from my dad.

My father is a very positive man. He taught me to try to always say something nice about people. He told me you can always compliment a person’s smile. My father is very charming and in his day you would describe him as tall, dark, and handsome. Though he is stooped over and white haired now, I see him through love-filled eyes as one of the most good-lookin’ men you’d ever meet. I love you, Daddy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Worshiping at the Throne

I have written so much about my parents already it is hard to know where to start or what to add.  I thought about adding previous blog links and call it a day.  But no, I want to reflect in just a few words on my parents.

I was the mistake that wasn't suppose to happen.  I was the oops in their plan for life.  My father was nearly 40 when I was born.  He was a bachelor who remained that way in part because he was helping a sister and her children.  Once they were secure in Norway with family, perhaps it was then he thought of marriage.  A Norwegian immigrant, he found a young American from Pennsylvania who had come to Brooklyn New York to work as a domestic and help her former pastors who had also moved from small town PA to big city Brooklyn.  She was 19 years his junior, but love bloomed and they said I do.

Perhaps as newlyweds or during their earliest years of marriage.
Two sons came along quickly.  Their family was complete.  Or so they thought.  Then surprise, with the youngest son almost 10, another baby was on the way.  That was me.

I came into my parents life at a different time than my brothers.  When my brothers and I have gotten together in the past, they speak of a childhood I didn't know.  They speak of parents I didn't know either.  Particularly when they laugh at my dad's idiosyncrasies and "cheapness,"  I grieve and wonder.  Could this be the same dad that raised me?  Could this be the same dad that called me Lilla Venn and held my hand to explore all NYC had to offer?

Of late, I've encountered people who knew me as a child.  One thing they all comment on is my dad's pet name for me, Lilla Venn.  They tell me how much my dad loved me.  My dad died when I was 19 years old.  At the time, I had no idea how deep that loss was - now it becomes deeper and deeper every day.

My mother was laid to rest almost 2 years ago.  I miss her.  Some mornings I imagine the shuffle of her feet as she would get up and get her coffee in the morning.  God blessed her with almost 92 years of life and for the last 25 years of that life, she lived with me.

My mother's love for me was more complicated that my dads.  I wondered for many years if she loved me.  As she aged and mellowed, she told me often how much she loved me and appreciated me.  Those memories help fill the loss.

One night, a few years before she died, I was up all night working on a paper for school.  Prone to procrastination, I usually do my best work under the stress of an all nights (or at least so I think).  It must have been around 3 a.m. and I heard that shuffle.  She came to the dining room table and said
"I'm worried about you."
I said "Oh, I'm just working on a paper."
She said "You need some sleep."
I said, "I'm fine."
She said "I've been up praying for you.  I just wanted to tell you to get some rest."  
I smiled.

I was very blessed that both my parents were people of prayer.  I was very blessed that they brought me to church as an infant and kept bringing me to church.  There was never a time I didn't know Jesus.  Jesus was present in our home.  My dad would always be heard, throughout the house, whistling or singing a hymn.  My mother would sit with me at the piano and we'd sing Sunday School songs and hymns.

Now they are whistling and singing around the Throne.

This blog: No Room for Christmas Child, gives you another glimpse of my parents and my birth.  It has been translated into Norwegian and has appeared in an online Norwegian magazine as well.  My saga and my recollections of my parents are all over my blogs - I encourage you to check them out:  Sounds of Hope and Storehouses of Snow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Honor Your Father & Mother

I have good parents –my mom and my dad. Are they perfect? No, but who I am today is a direct [positive] result of how I was raised. At Father’s day last year, I wrote a post called, 5 Ways my Dad Taught me about my Father. It’s one of my favourite posts I’ve written because I love to honour my parents for the way I was raised.

Not everyone has a good family background and you might say your parents never did anything right. If that’s true for you, read along this week as the Kingdom Bloggers each write and honour our parents for the things they did right. By reading with us, our collective prayer for our readers is the Lord will reveal ways your mom or dad did a good thing for you, so you can also give thanks and honour them for even the smallest action.

Ephesians 6:2-3, Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.


If I were to meet a distinguished diplomat or leader, I would give them a strong handshake, look them in the eye and with confidence say, “Pleased to meet you.” My parents, especially my dad, insisted even when I was a small child to always look people in the eye when speaking to them and give them my full attention, and to expect I would be equally regarded with the same.

There is a verse in Proverbs 23:1 that says “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is put before you.” I don’t recall either of my parents quoting the verse but the way I was raised shows me they understood the principal. My parents prepared me to be comfortable in all circumstances and with any type of person, treating everyone with respect and value and so when (not if) I sit down to dine with a ruler I can confidently consider what is being presented and stand my ground, with respect for myself and the other.

My confidence wasn’t only built on my dad’s influence but also my mother. My mother’s influence was more domestic, and I don’t mean just how to keep a household (although it was that, too) but how to make a home where other people feel welcomed and cared for. I am the Lady of my House and my mother showed me how to be one with grace, warmth and hospitality.

One of the greatest gifts my mom gave me was the freedom to experiment in the kitchen. More than once I made dinner for my family that was barely edible or I ruined the beaters from the mixmaster because I stuck a wooden spoon in the bowl while it was running on high. I don’t recall my mom getting mad or making disparaging comments about my inability. Instead, she encouraged me by complimenting me for trying and offered me the opportunity to try again.

My parents are a partnership; I was am very blessed to have both parents interested and involved in my life. It was a treat to be able to honour them publicly this week.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I pierce the vein that carries the memory.
Although years old, it still flows fresh, and I feel exposed.
Yet, I watch the ink bleed onto this page. I feel the dark. I see the cold.
I pray the memory doesn’t haunt her. It doesn’t haunt me. I smile at the thought of her – now.
She sleeps over a thousand miles away, in peace. She is the subject of this letter to you. I call her Bug.
If I give you her number and you give her a call, she’ll talk until her phone goes dead. I know she will – because I do – and she does. She’ll fill you in with all that’s happening, between her and her best Friend. Like a school girl and her first love she’ll go on. She’ll tell you how He’s changed her life, and how she can’t imagine anyone living without Him. She’ll shine – like a lightning bug in the night.  She’s my daughter.
Have you ever felt stuck? Have you found yourself in life’s dark alley – surrounded by demons with no way out? She has. And she found a way out.
If ever I think things can’t change – I think of her. If ever I’m tempted that God can’t – I think of her. And know He can.
You see; it wasn’t always sugar and spice and everything nice. The memory that bled – and then led – to this letter is this:
“I hate you! Stay the h*!% out of my f@*#$% life.”
“I’m sorry to hear you say that, but I love you too much to do that. And you’re not leaving.”
“You can’t stop me.”
“I will.”
Before the sun set on the situation, she was in lock-up. My back, left elbow and head, ached, but mostly my heart.
Drugs and booze and sex and parties – the place where demons please the senses dull. The place you hate to be, but can’t seem to leave. She was stuck. She was delivered. She was set free. My daughter was set free by the Son. And who the Son sets free is free indeed. And she, who is forgiven much, loves much.
Aglow with His glory – like a lightning bug in the night – she shines. And her life has influenced mine.
God bless you Bug – keep shining. Love you, dad.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Mentor, My Friend

I can’t really remember when I first met Sandy Wezowicz. I was in high school when she was attending the same church my father attended, a church he probably attended sporadically at that time, but one whose members rallied around him when he was in crisis, and who led him to Christ. Three years later, at age 19, I also came to believe that God was real and that I could have a relationship with Him.

In the months before my conversion, my parents took me to Full Gospel Businessmen and Women Aglow meetings where people gave their stories (“testimonies”) of how they came to recognize that God was a living God who sent his Son to live with us, and die for us. As a lover of stories, the fact that these people were talking about miracles and matter-of-factly about Jesus as if He was living and breathing, gripped me. As a child, I had prayed to God and loved the Old Testament stories I learned at my dad’s church. But now, God’s love and forgiveness made everything real and different for me, including my life goals.

Sandy Wezowicz was a young leader in the local chapter of Aglow. My mom was a member (and still is) and introduced me again to Sandy and several other women who would become influential in my growth and nurture as a young Christian. But Sandy stood out to me. I was a sophomore in college, she was a former elementary school teacher, married and the mother of a young child--one would think I really did not have much in common with her. But she always spoke with me as if I mattered. She was smart, funny, self-deprecating, and was so open about her deep love for God. I was more closed off in my talking about my faith, but she was a great model and teacher for me in the ensuing years in helping me grow in study of the Bible, prayer and expressing my love for God in worship.

Sandy took me where I was at, and her influence remains today. She understood my stress in college. She was the person I called when I was having a crisis with being overworked in college and wanting to drop an honors course. When I had to write a profile of a person of faith for a class in religion, I chose her. She gently challenged me about a relationship I was in with a man who did not share my faith--she cared enough about my future to risk our friendship. Sandy believed in me probably before I believed in myself--she mentored me in leadership roles in Aglow and encouraged me when I became a mother. She and her husband Rick were actively supportive of my husband’s decision to enter seminary and become a pastor.

Sandy is “real.” She is unpretentious, and we don’t agree on everything (how boring would that be!). She is also a busy person--she has a national position in Aglow, she travels frequently and is a devoted grandmother to five grandchildren. Yet when I am with her, I feel like the only person in the room, and I am sure others feel the same way. This is a woman who is a spiritual mother to many. She exudes Christ’s affection and joy, and I know I would not be the same person without her early and continuing influence.

Friday, January 20, 2012

'You really know how to make me laugh young man...'

I originally posted this piece in December 2009. After reading back over it several times this week, I knew reposting my words right after the passing of this very important man in my life was the right thing to do. To this day, I miss him...the way I remember him. I look so forward to our reunion on the side of Glory where he now resides.

The Rev. R. Rye Fleenor, age 91, of Kingsport, TN passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family and entered into rest with the Lord at 9:08 p.m. Thursday (October 22, 2009) at his residence following a brief illness.

Born in Sullivan County, TN on July 23, 1918, a son of the late J. B. and Mary Netherland Fleenor, he has resided in this area his entire life. Rye married Mildred Unavee Barker on June 18, 1940.

Composing this installment stirs a tremendous amount of diverse emotions in me. Sadness, joy, regret, shame, and heart-felt warmth. Time for reflection...cause for celebration...genuine appreciation.

Rye Fleenor, or always Preacher Fleenor to me, was not only a tremendous influence on my early spiritual walk , he lived a life that set a shining example for me to pattern. A loving, humble man that seemed to physically tower over most, Preacher Fleenor died 6 weeks ago...and I hadn't seen or talked to him in over 20 years. For that I'm both sad and regretful.

Being a teenager is tough business. Probably more so today than in my teenage years of the late 70's and early 80's...but I think being a teenager has probably always been a hassle. During those conflicted years for me, Preacher Fleenor was always a steady, calming vessel. He had a way of correcting and encouraging simultaneously I wish I could duplicate today.

I vividly remember his infectious laughter. He would listen to my cornball jokes, many I'm sure he had heard a hundred times again but would always laugh as if it were a Tony C original. I also remember the exact day he said the words that title this post...I was wearing a dress and acting like an unseen version of the Church Lady from SNL which wouldn't come along for another dozen years.

The man absolutely loved competition. During a brief exploration for me into the sport of boxing, he would light up as he gave me pointers and coached outside the ring. I think he was somewhat disappointed when I gave it up because he loved the purity of the sport...not necessarily the violence. As I stated in a previous post, he was at most every football or baseball game I played from around 1976 until I graduated high school in 1982. He was my most loyal fan, and I loved him like he was my own grandfather...who actually never came to any of my sporting events.

It bothers me profoundly to think about the disappointment I might have caused him during my dark years. I say might because I lost contact with Preacher Fleenor after 1984 which is totally my fault because I think I avoided him out of shame. In 1988, I was awarded a state honor in Hawaii for services during a natural disaster, and the story made local papers back home. I received a glowing note from him in the mail...but that was the final time we had contact. I remember reading that note and finding a quite corner out of the way to break down and sob at the pride he conveyed...and how disappointed he would be at how I had let me spiritual life stumble.

I was never close to another pastor until today, when I'm glad to say my current pastor is also my dear friend. He would like to have met Preacher Fleenor...I'm sure of that. Men like Rye Fleenor are rare and true gifts from God. I'm not saying perfect...just rare. My fellow Kingdom Blogger, Joyce, shared a phrase on Tuesday that I absolutely adored. Preacher Fleenor has been promoted to glory...and for that I celebrate and thank God for the time He gave me with him.

As I strive to be as much like Christ as humanly possible, I have a Father who walks with me and guides me through His Spirit. When it comes to being the best man I can be, Preacher Fleenor will always be an important role model in my life...no matter how old I am. I look forward to our reunion when my promotion finally comes.

Note: After posting this in December 2009,  I was contacted by Preacher Fleenor's great grandson, Andrew Glover, who had read the post. We are Facebook friends today, and Andrew actually preached a sermon from the very pulpit in the picture above just last year...as his great, grandparents smiled on him from Heaven I'm sure.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Show Me Someone Who Has Shown Love to Me…

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13


I can see a myriad of faces, when I think of the people who have influenced me and my walk with the Lord. I considered doing a composite, but I thought no, I want to highlight one person. She’s a lover.  Her name is Sister Mary Liguori and she was my 5th and 6th Grade Teacher at Holy Cross School, in New Britain, CT.

 She came into my life, at a key moment, when circumstances were such, that I sorely needed a positive influence, in my life.

Haven’t you found that the Lord seems to send people into your life that are tailor made for the needs you are having at that time?

I know sometimes it has been fashionable to give nuns a bad rap. I guess like regular teachers, you can have bad eggs but she stood out, in a positive way. Her calling was that of a nun. But she was an influential teacher and a woman to exemplify excellence. Where she shined the brightest, was as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Her influence on me was so great, that I even considered joining the convent.

I wanted to be like her…compassionate and kind... someone who was accepting and encouraging to her students…someone who could see promise in others…someone who loved creative expression …someone who wanted to serve the Lord with everything that was within her… someone who loved the Lord with her whole heart and soul.

As I am such a lover of all things creative, it was attracting to see her ideas in the arts. She was the first person to recognize that I had some talent in that area.

The other highlight for me was being chosen to be part of a team that cleaned the Church. There were 3 nuns (which included Sister Liguori), myself and a fellow classmate named John. It was amazing to be trusted with this job. Again, it was at such a key time for me to have approval from elders.

We polished the Communion Rail. (The smell of lemon oil brings back pleasant memories.) … buffed  the floors in the Sanctuary... poured the water and wine for church services. We laid out the priest’s vestments I think the only thing we didn’t do, was to change the altar cloth.

Holy Cross Church was huge. There were two levels…an upper level that held High Mass and a lower level that held the Children’s Services.  One day, John and I were assigned to finish our work downstairs. I decided to scare him. It was dark. Candles gave a subtle light. I hid in back of the altar behind of a curtain. When I sensed John passing by, I stuck the arm of a damaged statue into his path. Mission accomplished! He hightailed up the stairs. You could say he ran in holy terror!

 I remember that nuns wore a ring, which symbolized their marriage to God. I didn’t realize it then, but now I know that I too am part of the Bride of Christ.

Sister Liguori showed me how to live by faith hope and love…

…and the greatest of these was LOVE.  

Note: I had an idea to see if I could find out any information about her. I sent an email yesterday to the place that I remembered as her Headquarters. Surprisingly, I got a quick answer. The nun who answered my email talked to Sister Liguori.  She could still picture my little face. What???  She was alive??? She still remembered me??? I was so amazed that I not only found out about her…but I found her! I called her last night.  We had a wonderful conversation! She is 83, still actively serving the Lord in multiple ways, as a volunteer. God knew, once again, that I needed a touch of His miraculous hand. Perhaps, Sister Liguori needed to hear from me too.

by Linda Maynard