Saturday, January 24, 2009



One Sunday morning, when I got to church, I found ‘Thank You’ cards in the pews. It was not long before our pastor explained why the ‘Thank You’ cards had been set out for us.

Our pastor spoke about how people can make a difference in the lives of other people without knowing they did so. At the end of the sermon, he asked that we fill out a ‘Thank You’ card for as many people in the church who had made a difference in our lives. We left the cards on the pews for the church to deliver.

I was surprised to receive 3 cards in the mail because I never really thought I made any kind of a difference in anyone else’s life. The ones who received a card from me expressed much the same sentiment. Of course, none of us really made a difference in each other’s lives. To determine something like that takes more than 5 minutes of thought while sitting in a pew.

BUT ~ That little exercise made me think about who in my ‘whole life’ had made a real difference. I don’t mean who made me feel good or who was extra nice to me ~ but WHO REALLY MADE A DIFFERENCE?

After I got home that day, I thought of people who may have made a real difference – many people made a difference, but who made a REALLY IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE AND MAY NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DID FOR ME? I prayed about it. Then, it came to me. There are two people who made the most profound difference in my life. Both were in my life at the same time. The first one is my 8th grade teacher. Academically, it was like I slept through school ~ until 8th grade. Johnny Mack Kinsaul was my 8th grade homeroom teacher and he taught my English and History classes as well. Mr. Kinsaul was also the Mayor of my small hometown. He had a presence that stood out, yet he was a humble man. I can’t tell you exactly what he did except to say that he drew me out of myself. I thought I was dumb. I had no idea that I could actually make good grades and not my usual ‘pass-by-the-skin-of-my-teeth’ grades. Mr. Kinsaul saw something in me and gently drew it out. It was like I awoke from a long, long nap ~ academically. I was AWAKE and HUNGRY to learn. I did, indeed, turn into an honor student ~ from 8th grade thru college. And, whatever it was that he instilled in me has stayed with me through my life.

The second person was Opal Wolff ~ a neighbor and an elementary school teacher. Mrs. Wolff visited our home and asked permission to take my sisters and me to church each Sunday. Since her husband’s family owned a dairy farm and my Dad hauled milk, my Mom assumed Dad had arranged the visit. Mom didn’t drive and Dad worked long hours as a truck driver. Permission was granted and Mrs. Wolff picked us up for church for the next 5 years ~ rain or shine ~ she was there.

So ~ just who do you think was my 8th grade Sunday School teacher? Yep ~ you guessed it ~ Johnny Mack Kinsaul!!! Mr. Kinsaul gently led me in spiritual growth on Sundays, as he led me academically on weekdays.

Because of these two people in my life, I became a Christian and a good student in school. These two people made a REAL DIFFERENCE in my life!

After thinking about them and the difference they made, I obtained the home addresses for Mr. Kinsaul and Mrs. Wolff. I wrote both of them letters to tell them how my life had been since school days and the difference that they each made in my life. I was in my 50’s when I did that ~ both of them well advanced in years, but still alive! I sent the letters with lovely ‘Thank You’ cards. Within a couple of weeks, I heard back from each of them. Neither of them knew that they had made such a profound difference in my life. Each was pleased to hear from me and more so that I was a better person for their actions so many years ago. I am glad I told them.

It was a mystery in my family how a neighboring teacher happened to come to our house to ask Mom if she could drive my sisters and me to church on Sundays. Mom thought Dad arranged the visit. Dad thought Mom got in touch with her. All these years later, I think it was my 8th grade teacher who saw something in me that needed fixing and arranged it all. May God always bless Johnny Mack Kinsaul and Opal Wolff.

Have there been one or more persons who made a REAL DIFFERENCE in your life? If so, no matter how long ago, I would encourage you to contact them and tell them. I am glad I did.

I know I am not an angel, but a scripture comes to mind here~

Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:1-2

What might these two people have instilled in me that may have caused me to reach out to another? I hope that I might have also made a difference in someone’s life.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Yesterday, I was looking for a particular book when I ran across a Bible that I bought several years ago. It is the ‘One Year Bible’ arranged in 365 daily readings. And I remember my frustration~

I tabled this particular Bible because it is too fragmented for me. It seemed to me like reading 3-4 books at one time. For instance, the daily reading for January 23rd is this: Genesis 46:1-47:31, Matthew 15:1-28, Psalm 19:1-14 and Proverbs 4:14-19. A prescribed Bible reading plan seems to be a religion within itself. Is it me, or do other people feel the same way? How is one able to “get their teeth into” scripture while meeting a prescribed reading plan? I could not. But, maybe that is just me~

While “reading the Bible in a year” seems noble and “religious”, I cannot imagine what kind of depth of understanding will evolve from the prescribed reading plan. Is it not better to read something relevant to you, a current situation, a lesson, needed wisdom or understanding? Are you listening if the Lord is trying to direct you to another scripture? Or do we just read to “Git ‘er done”?

So, maybe you are wondering what is wrong with me ~ wondering if I simply cannot focus? I think nothing is wrong with me. And focus is not my enemy ~ Focus is my friend. I love the Word of God. It is my guide. It is my connection to my Lord. It is my passage through life. My focus is healthy and strong~

Now, you may wonder how I decide what I will read each day. It is quite simple. I listen to the Lord. I pray BEFORE reading my Bible. During prayer, sometimes a thought persists. For instance, recently the words “bitter roots” persisted during prayer. OK ~ pay attention ~ THAT, my friend, is the Lord speaking to you. In my case, my understanding of bitter roots needed to be renewed. It was renewed after scriptural research and study.

Maybe no thought persists during prayer, but you have been thinking about something a lot lately. In such cases when I have words or subject I want to know more about, I take my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance off the bookshelf and look up key words for scriptural references. From there, I follow the cross references and read footnotes.

If you have not a clue about what the Lord wants you to read ~ just open your Bible and pick a book to read ~ then read the whole book, or maybe half today and half tomorrow. Check out those cross references and footnotes! As your cross references and footnotes take you on a meandering trail through scripture, you will gain understanding.

I may read a book or a verse in a day. Don’t feel bad if you read a verse and the Lord takes you on a trip through scripture via cross reference verses. Your understanding will be so much more than you will gain through a prescribed reading plan. Don’t feel bad if you stay in one chapter for days. Don’t feel bad if you just sit and think about what you just read. That is what we should do.

However, if a prescribed reading program works for you, I would encourage you continue. I hope you spend time in God’s Word daily in the way that works for you. Let God’s Word renew you daily~

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Do you like the prescribed reading plan to read the Bible in a year? Or is it just me?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I have used zebra types of avatars for a good little while. It was a few months before I realized that zebra just may very well be the heart of me. You see, I see things in black and white. Usually, it is the black words on a white page of my Bible. I am really uncomplicated – black and white works for me. I think in black and white. I would not be surprised if I dreamed in black and white.

Black and white worked for me in my prior work life. For 36 years of my life, everything was in black and white – rules, regulations and procedures. When working in state government, there should be no grey areas. Some may think so, but it is not so because when you wander into a grey area, it is bending the rules. Bend them enough and they will break.

Rarely is there any grey in my world, but I can see an elephant in the room. I’m a zebra….I know an elephant when I see one.

I had been thinking a lot about Nehemiah for the last several days. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. He was more than likely a eunuch. Evidently, Nehemiah became more than a butler to the king because the king eventually made Nehemiah governor of Judah.

The walls and gates of Jerusalem remained in ruins for more than 140 years after the destruction of Jerusalem. It was then that a brethren told Nehemiah of the condition of Jerusalem and the survivors of captivity.

And they said to Nehemiah, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” Nehemiah 1:3

When Nehemiah heard these words, scripture tells us that he sat down and wept, mourned for many days, then fasted and prayed to God. His prayer is recounted in Nehemiah 1:5-11. I hope you will read the prayer. It is powerful. He humbly ended by saying “For I was the king’s cupbearer.”

After fasting and prayer, the Lord put it in Nehemiah’s heart to help rebuild Jerusalem. Nehemiah was still cupbearer when he approached the king to seek permission from the king to travel to Jerusalem to help rebuild. When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he found a sorry mess. The city was in ruins, the wall broken down and gates burned. The people were distressed, weary from continual opposition of neighbors and there was a general apathy.

Nehemiah told no one what the Lord had laid on his heart. After 3 days, Nehemiah and a few men slipped away in darkness of night and rode around the perimeter of Jerusalem to view the extent if the damage. Still no one but Nehemiah knew why he was there in Jerusalem. After he assessed the damage, Nehemiah said “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” Nehemiah 2:17

And so began the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed and despised them. Nehemiah answered them and said “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” Nehemiah 2:20

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They built as far as the Tower of the Hundred, and consecrated it, then as far as the Tower of Hananel. Next to Eliashib the men of Jerico built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. Nehemiah 3:1-2

And so it went, neighbor building the wall up to the next neighbor and so around the city returning to the Sheep Gate, and the walls and gates were rebuilt. What a sense of community! Happy ending? Almost….

But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish – stones that are burned? Nehemiah 4:1-2

Tobiah the Ammonite egged Sanballat on, joining in the mocking. The Jews prayed and continued building. Mocking and jeers turned to attack and the Jews set up guards with swords, spears and bows – and the rebuilding continued.

And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Nehemiah 4:14

The community strategized, set up guards, had a warning system with a trumpet and workers armed themselves… And they continued to rebuild the wall.

This is one of my favorite biblical accounts of the strength of prayer, faith and community in the face of adversity.

It is interesting to note that the walls and gates were rebuilt by the survivors. Nowhere will you find that the enemy lifted a finger, except to mock and threaten. It was a community of survivors who rebuilt Jerusalem.

I hear the term “mend fences” tossed around a lot…usually meaning that two who do not agree should patch it up. I do not agree. Some - yes - totally - no.

Those who tear down are not the same ones who rebuild. But I will readily agree that fences need to be mended between survivors, neighbors and a community.

Being a zebra is not always easy. I cannot tell you if seeing in black and white is a good or a bad thing. I simply am what I am. I make no bones about it. I will be honest about it…always.

There is an old joke… “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “One bite at a time”. So what to do about that elephant in the room? I think we should take the first bite out of that big old butt.


Thursday, January 1, 2009


When I was a teenager, Mom told me a story about her Mother and her sister. It seems that Mom’s sister was a teenager and this happened during the winter time. My Aunt did not bathe because she didn’t want to get cold. Now, I can tell you from experience as a child in that old farm house that it NEVER really got warm in the house. And bath time was dreaded! But I digress….

My Aunt, unwashed, was getting ready for school and she doused herself in perfume. Grandma told her… “You can’t cover stink with stink”. Just this one old family story has kept my mind active for years. I have always been intrigued with Grandma’s colorful, yet literal, statement. My mind could do no other that to relate this to the spiritual side of my being.

I, being as colorful as Grandma, have my own “stink” saying. Whenever I am thinking thoughts that are unkind, or I have behaved badly in a situation (Yeah….I’m human!), I say that I have a “stink in my spirit”… There is something about that word…”stink”… that seems to get my attention. That is why I use the word. I don’t want to gloss over any fact that I need a spiritual adjustment at times. That would be like saying I am right when I know I am NOT right! Stink is kind of an unpleasant word…but so effective in description. I like “Stinker” too…it is a fun word for me. So descriptive… you know? Oops…digressing again… “You can’t cover stink with stink” is interesting enough to provide a virtual playground for my mind.

When I have a “stink in my spirit”, I am never able to cover it over. It is there – it stinks – and shame on me if I think the Lord does not see my heart condition. It is during such times that I employ specific scripture to accomplish a necessary spiritual adjustment – an attitude adjustment, of sorts.

First, I often ask the Lord to search my heart and reveal to me the things HE finds to be displeasing.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties;” Psalm 139:23

Then I ask the Lord to create a clean heart in me…

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

I go to God’s Word…

“I applied my heart to know, To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, To know the wickedness of folly, Even of foolishness and madness.” Ecclesiastes 7:25

I meditate and pray over God’s Word…

“I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart , and my spirit makes diligent search.” Psalm 77:6

I apply what I learn during my quiet time with the Lord - to my own life – thoughts and actions.

“Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12

Does my spirit stay “stink free”? No…for I am human. A thought, word or deed can cause a new stink. It is a never ending war that I have with this old flesh. But, I do know that I can’t cover “stink with stink”. So, I am ever in the Word of God for instruction and cleansing.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Copyright 2009