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Christian insprirational

We Are All One

Please join me today in welcoming my friend and guest blogger, Claire Cassell, as she shares a true story with a needed message in a time when many of us have lost friends, family and associates due to toxic polarity in our country. Claire’s story of heart choices, told through the lenses of honesty and humility, touched me so deeply that I wanted to share here with you. Thank you Claire. This is timely and truly a step in the right direction for reconciliation needed right here, right now.

By Claire Cassell

I hadn’t talked to my step-sister in a long time. We were both born in St. Louis, but we didn’t grow up together. We had the same dad but had different mothers. We never got together for holidays as kids, but when we became adults, we exchanged Christmas cards and signed them with love. She would call every so often when she and her husband traveled through my city on one of their trips around the country. Even though she was technically part of my family, I didn’t feel close to her and always felt some guilt for not reaching out to her more or showing interest in her life.

I knew that she would be at my niece’s wedding and so I called her ahead of time to let her know I would be there. I decided that when I did see her, I would show interest in her and try to make a real connection. My call was an attempt to begin the process of reaching out. As I listened to the phone ringing and my heart beating, I hoped that it would go to voicemail and I could leave a quick message. “Hello?” she answered. After I caught my breath, I said, “Hi, this is Claire. I’m going to the wedding next week. I heard you were coming too.” We exchanged small talk for a few minutes.

Then she said, “I just dropped off my ballot,” and proudly announced who she voted for. My heart quickened and my hand tightened around my cell phone as I blurted out, “Well, you and I are on opposite sides of the fence.” Suddenly, my step-sister, with whom I was attempting to make a connection, seemed like the enemy. All of my judgements raised their ugly heads like monsters coming out of the deep. I pictured myself talking to her at the wedding, which would happen right after the election, dreading how awkward our conversation would be. I wished I had never made the call or accepted the invitation to the wedding.

When I came out of my trance, I heard her say the words, “That’s okay.” I paused, and thought, that’s “ok” when so much is at stake in this election? Her nonchalant response didn’t match the urgency I was feeling around this particular election. Was it OK that we were on opposite ends of the political spectrum? Knowing this, would we still be able to make a connection as family members? Then, somewhere out of my unconscious mind, the words came floating up, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; (Democrat nor Republican), for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

A memory sparked in my mind remembering my step-sister babysitting me when I was very small and she was a teenager. She was kind, loving and fun. I never understood why she always went home to another mother and didn’t stay at our house. My dad tried to explain to me that she was my half-sister, but I didn’t understand why she couldn’t be my whole sister.

Now, fifty years later, the choice was mine. Was I going to accept my sister who grew up in a different house with another mother and who was now on the other side of the fence? As I prepared to respond to her, I felt another spark inside, but this time it was in my heart. “No matter who wins the election,” I said, “I love you, Barb. See you at the wedding.”

Claire Cassell currently serves as a pastor at Abiding Hope Lutheran Church in Littleton, Colorado, a chaplain at West Pines Chemical Dependency and Behavioral Health Center and a Spiritual Director and Life Coach. Over the past forty years, she has served in parishes, campus ministry, chemical dependency and chaplaincy settings around the country. She loves teaching spirituality classes, workshops and retreats and has been practicing and teaching Qigong for over 30 years. She has a passion for the healing arts and is a Reiki and Healing Touch practitioner. Claire lives with her husband and two dogs in Arvada, Colorado and enjoys hiking, swimming, gardening and kayaking. If you would like to connect with Claire she can be reached at ccassell123@gmail.com

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page.

See my Publications tab on this website for books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.

Christian insprirational

Not Now God, I’m Busy

The hardest thing about meditation, for me, is well…meditating. It requires chromosomes I believe are lacking in my DNA. Here are a few examples: sitting still, thinking of only one thing at a time and being in a quiet space (no music, etc.). But, several years ago I was invited to a class on contemplative prayer where I learned a technique that can provide ways to control my wandering, and sometimes, unquiet mind.

This is how it works. When entering into my sacred space with God, I picture myself sitting on the bank of a slow-moving river. I am under a large tree that shades me as I relax on luxurious green grass. If an unwanted thought comes into my mind, I don’t fight it. I simply put it on a little sail boat and send it down the imagined river with a promise to catch up to it soon. This has proven to work well for dislodging distractions, for the most part. The problem is that this practice to avoid distractions can become a distraction in itself.

That was the case last week as I sat considering my next steps moving forward with an artistic project for 2021. I believe this project has the go ahead from God and therefore, left it up to Him to provide details of how to work it out. As patience is not my long suit, I can easily give up the pursuit of celestial answers in favor of engaging in my gold-medaled, championship anxiety dance. And that is where I began to go as weeks turned into months and still there didn’t seem to be answers I needed/wanted.

In times of confusion and impatience, I’ve learned that turning to other believers and artists is helpful for refocusing on focusing. So, after talking to another artist about my dilemma and hearing her promise to pray for me, I resigned myself to bring the situation, and myself, once again before the Lord to await answers. As I quieted my heart and closed my eyes, pesky little thoughts entered into my meditative process. Refusing to be rattled, I took deep breaths and recited the verse, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” Psalm 119:105.

I did my usual packing of intruders onto pint-sized sail boats and sending them flowing down the river, promising to return to them later. This time, the miniature thought-laden boats didn’t sail away. Instead, they turned around and came back upstream with their passengers stubbornly demanding attention.

After several attempts to enforce the merrily, merrily on your way technique, I became exasperated. I told God,“Lord, I do Not have time for these interruptions. I’m Trying to hear what You are telling me about proceeding with our new adventure.”

The more I asked for help and shipped off the intrusive sailors, the more they returned until they lined up side-by-side on my grassy cerebral shore. I narrowed my eyes, told them to go and explained (with little patience now) I had no time for them at the moment. With unexpected clarity my vision began to make out a pattern. The uninvited attention grabbers were docking their vessels in a certain order.

They appeared to be methodical and calculated steps for the construction of God’s new assignment for me. I sat motionless for several minutes until I saw this was what I’d been asking for. Although I had no time to hear what God was saying because I was listening for what He was saying, He brought His precious cargo of answers. I laughed out loud (yes in the sacred, silent space) before my delight turned to panic. I had no doubt the little crafts with their informative freight would soon float away into the sea of “Should have written that down.”

After scribbling frantically for fifteen minutes and watching thoughts go peacefully on their watery way, I got out of my chair, walked into the office shared with my husband and sat down with a thump. Not realizing I spoke out loud, I said, “What do you know about that? Humph.”

My husband asked what I was thumping and humphing about. I tried to explain but recognized my verbal communication skills had boarded the last boat out of port that morning. Observing some puzzled looks from my man, I gave up and said, “Just got some stuff sorted out, I think. Amazing how God works, huh?”

After hubby announced that I looked like I could use a nap, I said, “I do feel a little tired right now. I think for the rest of this day, I’m going to make time to just relax and go with the flow.”

Copyright March 2021, Laura L. Padgett Montrose, CO

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page.

See my Publications tab on this website for books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.

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Christian insprirational

Don’t Shrug it Off

“That’s very attractive. Where can I get that?” A woman at the Estes Park Wool Market asked me as I walked around the vendor booths wearing what is known as a shrug. This particular garment is knitted or crocheted like a shawl, but the sleeves are sewn closed to the elbow. This keeps the shawl snug. Hence the term, shrug.

I told her they were available a few yards from where we stood and pointed her to where she could find them. Then I smiled to myself. It wasn’t an accident that I was walking through the vendor tents wrapped in a knitted shrug in the middle of June. It was intentional.

You see, years before this incident, I met a woman named Rita who made these exquisite wraps and I tried one on for the first time. She had forgotten to bring her mirror that day for her booth but gave me permission to walk to a neighboring booth and use their mirror. As I examined my reflection, a woman approached me and asked where I bought it. I told her I was trying it on and directed her to Rita’s booth. In the time it took me to examine the shrug’s fit, two other women asked where I found this unusual piece of clothing.

Before I could return to Rita’s booth, three women purchased shrugs from her and said they did so because they saw another person (me) wearing one. This began a new friendship as Rita and I hatched a plan. Every year after that, the first booth I stopped at when attending the market was Rita’s. I’d slip on one of her creations, and then stroll among the vendor booths shopping and chatting with other shoppers. It often worked a treat and increased Rita’s sales. Out of gratitude she would sell me a shrug of my choice at a greatly reduced price. It was not uncommon for her to fashion one just for me and bring it along to the market for my modeling gig.

During the course of a several year association, Rita told me there was nothing more powerful or influential than one-on-one contact, explanation and sharing of experiences. She taught me there are many ways to influence people. She emphasized that demonstration is one of the great influencers for positive, or negative, outcomes.

Over the past several years, I’ve lost contact with Rita because she stopped coming to the market. But when I have occasion to wear one of her beautiful creations, I reflect on the lessons she taught about people being attracted or repelled by what they can see and hear for themselves. I’ve incorporated her wisdom in a philosophy that attraction is more effective than promotion. I have come to understand, particularly in the last year that how I carry myself, wear my faith and speak my truth can all be influencing others for God’s kingdom. And that is what I am really called to model, to the best of my ability, at all times.

I want to be honest and openly admit that I’ve not done a stellar job of this in recent months, as I have repeatedly given into fear, anger and frustrations. I’m afraid I’ve taken too lightly the assignment of modeling Christ as I walk through joy and difficulty. I am asking God to forgive me for my actions and my attitudes that have fed those actions. Where needed, I’ve asked forgiveness from others who I may have hurt or offended. I’ve also offered forgiveness to those who have hurt or offended me, whether they make amends or not.

It is also very important to understand that I do not advocate for silencing our voices or opinions. God calls us to find peaceful ways of restoring justice and living in harmony with each other. Speaking our mind can be done in ways that do not cause more harm. The Bible calls it speaking the truth in love while trying to be more Christ-like in maturity (Ephesians 4:15).

I’ve asked God to help me be more aware of how I’m presenting Him to the world. Because awareness without action will never pave a road for change, I’m asking Him to help me daily take my responsibility seriously to shine His light and warmth to a world needing His truth more than ever before. I’m clinging to the objective of behaving in such a way that others will say, “That’s very attractive. Where can I find that?” And mostly I’m asking Him, when given opportunity to interact with others, that I put my responsibility to Him before all else, praying I will avoid temptation to just shrug it off.

One of Rita’s gems

Copyright Feb, 2021 Laura L. Padgett, Montrose, CO

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page.

See my Publications tab on this website for books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.

Christian insprirational

The Pages I Turn to

“My dad passed away yesterday. I turn to page 78 and the top of page 79. Thank you for being you. I appreciate you.”

I stared at the words in an email that carried the subject line, “The page I turn to in your book.” I said a prayer for my friend. She was in deep pain from loss. I then read the pages she was referring to in my first book Dolores, Like the River.

“There were times I felt I could not go on any longer. It never failed that at those dark times, a letter would arrive from Dolores with a Scripture verse included. One of her favorites was from Ps. 34:18 that read, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’”

I closed the book I had written over eight years ago and reflected not only on the words, but the time when I too felt a pain similar to that my friend now voiced. I cried as I remembered that time and Dolores’ gift of sharing comforting words in an attempt to offer a hand of friendship across a bridge only I could walk. And I thanked God that He had given me opportunity to share those words with others when they would need to rely upon a hand of friendship in a lonely journey.

When my husband, Keith, came into my office and asked what was going on, I read the email to him. He sat down and took my hand and said, “Well, I guess that is your answer then isn’t it?”

“What? What answer are you talking about?” I asked.

Keith reminded me that for several months I’d been asking God what my focus should be in terms of resuming my writing career. I explained to the Lord, because I wasn’t sure He was aware, that COVID had shut down all opportunities to market my books in person, and I wasn’t particularly inspired to keep writing. Without an immediate response from Him, I became increasingly reluctant to pick up my pen.

My husband kissed my forehead and went to answer a phone call. I was left alone with my thoughts, my questions and the reality that maybe, just maybe, I was discouraged because I allowed the purpose of my writing ministry to become blurred.

Oh sure, I always said it was God’s gifting of me that allowed this book to be written and it was for His glory. But when there was no movement on sales or events to promote the work for an extended period of time, where was that conviction? I questioned how God could possibly use my little books to help others without my earthly efforts to promote that work.

In the silence that often affords clarity, I saw that my husband was right. God was not only using my little story to help another hurting heart that day, He was nudging me to continue using my gifts to tell His truths through my own experiences. I needed to obey and answer His call. He will work out details of sharing the fruits of that obedience according to His will.

When I went to share this revelation with Keith, he motioned for me to come closer to him. Then he said, “Well she’s right here. I’ll let you talk to her.”

“Hi Laura. I just wanted you to know I’m sitting here reading Jesus in Shorts. I love this book. I read one story a day or sometimes more. They are very inspiring.” The voice belonged to a friend of Keith’s and mine who was calling about another matter but wanted to tell me what my second book meant to her. I thanked her for the kind words and then thanked God because he could not have been clearer in His directive; and as always, His timing was impeccable.  

As I reflected on these two events, I again committed to surrendering my gifts, and all of my intentions for their use, to the One who always knows how best to use them. I was humbled and in awe that He directed these two precious friends to make His intentions clear. I thanked Him that my little books and their stories were chosen, by Him and them, as the pages they turned to.

Copyright January 2021, Laura L. Padgett, Montrose, CO

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page.

See my Publications tab on this website for books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.

Christian insprirational

Little Drummer Girl

“Dance is absolutely not an appropriate art for worship. It is almost indecent to think about dancing in church. And on the altar? No, my dear, no.”

Like so many others in church, I was seeking permission from the leaders to bring my gift from the Lord in prayer, praise and worship. This strong rebuke left no room for discussion and no margin for doubt. My gift was not wanted or recognized as a valid worship art.

I went home and prayed about my encounter and asked God to release me from the dream of dancing with and for Him. After a few weeks, I submitted to the words of the church elders and accepted the fact that my art was not altar worthy.

For months I tried to bury the dream of dancing with and for God’s people. I even questioned Him about the reminders He sent in dreams and visions when I heard praise music. My mind always saw a dance. My feet refused to be still and my heart flooded with praise in the movement.

Then one Christmas I was listening to music on the radio and I heard the song, “The Little Drummer Boy.” The song is about a child who felt his gift was not worthy of the new king. Still he was encouraged to bring his gift to the cradle of the Baby Jesus too, and to give his very best.

I closed my eyes and listened to the story of the small, fictitious boy who brought his gift forward and offered what he had to our Lord. He played his best for Jesus, emphasizing his praise with every heartbeat, “Pa rum pum pum-pum” Oh how I identified with the little boy – shy, small and convinced he had gift poverty. But God said, “Bring your gift child, bring your gift.”

“I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum-pum
That’s fit to give our King
Pa rum pum pum-pum”

My hurting heart heard the words and understood that no matter what anyone said, God defines “worthy”; and all of His gifts are worthy. I committed that day to always dance for an audience of One first. I surrendered my gift to Him knowing He approved it, and He would use what He gave me at His designated time. I just needed to keep dancing for and with Him.

“I played my drum for Him
Pa rum pum pum-pum
I played my best for Him
Pa rum pum pum-pum
Rum pum pum-pum
Rum pum pum-pum
Then He smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum-pum
Me and my drum.” Lyrics by Katherine Kennicott Davis, 1941

In the stillness of that moment and the peace of recognition, I knew the time would come for dance to be brought into worship. And it wasn’t long before it was.

Since then, I’ve danced from California to Ottawa in praise to Jesus. I’ve been in big churches and small, retreats and workshops – as teacher and student. God has used this gift to bless, heal and encourage others as each step brings glory to Him.

I never stop thanking Him for that moment when He used a secular tune to comfort and encourage me in His plans. And there are few mornings, after awakening, when I don’t walk into the presence of my favorite dance partner. He always takes me in his arms and we move together in prayer and praise. I sigh and hum, “Pa rum pum pum-pum.”

Copyright June 2019 Laura L. Padgett, Montrose, CO

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page.

See my Publications tab on this website for books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.

Christian insprirational

The lenses of Wisdom

I have recently come into an understanding that I have less understanding, than I thought, about most things happening in my life. I also have been shown, by the need for bifocal eyeglasses, that my physical vision was not always clear. I often stumbled, bumped into things and could not read well (falling behind in my reading and becoming frustrated). When I finally took the advice of my eye doctor and purchased a pair of desperately needed bifocals, my world changed in many ways, not the least of which was seeing new spiritual truths. I wanted to share that story with you on my blog as some of my followers here are not with me on Facebook and other social media platforms, where I originally shared this little story.

I hope this little video blesses you today. With Christ’s love from me to you, I send my heart.

laura

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

Christian insprirational

Can’t talk to a numb tongue

I wrote this story in the summer of 2016 originally and it appeared on this blog in early 2017. It’s funny how it is as relevant, or perhaps more so, today than three and a half years ago. It also is the lead story in my award-winning book, “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Short-Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments”.

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:12-13

I wasn’t sure what I found more oppressive, my fear of the dentist as I sat in the chair for my appointment or my sense of guilt at the way a disagreement with a friend ended the previous evening. That conversation weighed heavily on my mind. We were talking politics. This friend and I have been on opposite sides of most issues for over thirty years. In the past, we have always been open to different points of view and kept civility in our conversations. This is due, in large part, to our mutual love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our conversation began calmly. But before long we were talking over each other, insisting only one person could be right; and we ended just this side of exchanging personal potshots. Anyone who has taken a debate class knows an argument is lost when we resort to injuring others because it screams, “My position is weak as water, and the only way I can win is to distract you with insults.”

Still, passion is passion and it doesn’t always provide an exit ramp from the highway of self-righteousness. What’s worse, the unshakable posture, “I’m right,” will push us full-speed past the line of protecting dignity – ours or another’s.

I was pulled from my guilt-filled musings when my dentist, (a fellow I like very much), came to deliver that always pleasant shot in the jaw from a needle the size of a garden hose. During the injection I did my usual routine – remembered breathing techniques learned in childbirth classes, tried not to lose control of any bodily functions and prayed really, really hard.

After half my face and tongue felt dead, the hygienist began prep work. This process was complicated by my inability to get my tongue out of the way. I tried complying with her request to pull the pesky organ aside. But it simply was not a manageable task. I tried to apologize with words. That, too, was not manageable. I looked up helplessly. The hygienist laughed and said, “I know you’re trying, Hon. But it’s hard to talk to a numb tongue.”

I attempted a nod and smile. Instead I sort of just blinked and drooled at her. She patted my hand and together with the dentist we shared the space for an hour until completion of the procedure.

When I returned home, I sat down with my Bible, which I felt I didn’t have time to read prior to starting the day’s activities. As directed by my favorite devotional booklet, I turned to the Scripture passage of the day. “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” (James 3:8).

I squirmed in my chair when I realized God was talking directly to me about the previous day’s conflict. It was not only what I said, but how I said it. I was so bent on being right, I didn’t stop to consider that my words were hurtful. My tongue was untamed because it had become unruly and fueled by ego.

I mused about this, pouted a little and did the familiar three-year-old mental shifting from one foot to the other while pleading, “She started it, God. And besides look how everyone is acting right now. We are just so uptight and steeped in unkindness. What do You expect when we live in this world You gave us?”

I knew in my heart this was not going to fly with the Almighty any more than Adam pointing a finger and saying, “Yeah, well it’s all her fault,” got him off the hook for the Eden eviction.

God is very clear that it does not matter how others act, we are responsible for our own behavior. His kids are called to act differently, period. If there was a problem with my friend, He would deal with that. It was not my business.

After some time on the pity pot, I climbed onto my Father’s lap and asked Him to forgive me. I told him I would call the other party and ask her forgiveness too, when I could manage to get words out without sounding like I had just come from the neighborhood bar.

As the injection meds wore off, I was in a considerable amount of pain. The discomfort was not from the dental work sites, but from a bite on my tongue incurred when I couldn’t feel it. Again the Holy One nudged me.

I sat back in my chair with an ice pack on my mouth and shared a giggle (sort of) with God. “Oh, I see. When the tongue is numb it can cause great harm, to me and to others. That’s the poisonous part you talk about in James, right? Okay, I get it, Lord.”

The next day I was able to call my friend and offer an apology for my insensitivity. She accepted my amends and offered one of her own. We agreed to be more mindful of how we communicate in the future. We discussed and recommitted ourselves to our belief that we are never called, as believers, to be silent on important issues. Regardless of belief systems, we still have an obligation to govern our democracy – a blessing that many don’t have around our world. That’s made more difficult if we refuse to learn from others and resist engaging in respectful dialogue because our interest lies in protecting our own rigid stances.

We prayed over the phone and came away reaffirmed that relationships are more important than what one person perceives as right or wrong. After a lengthy conversation, we planned to meet for lunch the next week.

I hung up and returned to the same passage in James 3:8, asking God to help me remember this lesson. He assured me that Scripture, when taken to heart, proves to be the best practice for walking this world. God’s Word helps me speak my truth in love, lend my voice to important issues and respect/learn from other voices. But most of all, it provides a solid model for loving by leading my conversations without a numb tongue.

This was written for all (including this author) who cherish their friends enough to say and accept, “I’m sorry.”

Copyright February 2017, Laura L. Padgett, Author

Illustration by Sally M. Cordrey

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the Buy Books tab on my home page

 

Christian insprirational

Got Vasa?

“That is just ridiculous. What an idiotic thing to do,” the tall man, standing next to me, muttered to his companion. He was referring to the construction of a ship called Vasa (pronounced Va:sa, with accent on last syllable). It is housed in the Vasa Museum in the Royal National City Park in Stockholm, Sweden that my husband and I visited last year.

Our guide, as we toured the museum, told us Vasa is the legendary ship built by the King of Sweden in 1626-1627. It was commissioned as a symbol of the King’s military ambition and designed to be a powerful war vessel armed with tons of bronze cannons. The Swedish King, Gustavus Adolphus, used the majority of the country’s resources to establish a powerful military presence in his campaign to occupy countries in the Baltics and defeat Poland-Lithuania during a conflict he initiated in 1621.

Formidable as she was, and no doubt ready to prove her superiority in battle, Vasa was unable to make it farther than 1,400 yards out of the harbor on her maiden voyage in August, 1628. Due to instability caused by unbalanced weight from heavy battle equipment in the upper portion of her hull, she sank moments after leaving port. Despite warnings, the King proceeded with the launch that resulted in destruction of the vessel and loss of lives. The ship was salvaged and restored as closely as possible to original form in 1961. Today it sits in a museum designed to house this piece of Swedish history.

When we returned to the U.S., I thought little about this story, and what it said about personal choices, until recent months that is. As things in our country/world have escalated in violence, division, uncertainty and fear, I have felt increasingly more combative as a means to take control of the uncontrollable events around me. Then one day while looking at pictures from our trip, I found the photos of this ill-fated vessel. In my quiet time with God, I began to reflect on Vasa, what made her unsuccessful at her mission and what lessons could be learned from her.

God called me to start noticing how I proceed with each day and to answer the following questions. Do I pour my mental and spiritual resources into being better than or more powerful and dominant in my encounters with others (including on social media)? Do I arm myself with the heavy battle equipment of judgement as I venture into the sea of other humans who may also be feeling the sting of division, uncertainty and fear? Do I have need to engage in struggles while thinking there are only two sides and mine is the right side? Do I sometimes ignore the warnings of God’s teachings and my wiser friends when I am about to embark upon a course that can possibly lead to the destruction of a relationship or distance me from the Holy Spirit?

Sadly, I must confess that on some days, if I’m being honest, I have to answer guilty to all of the above. But being aware of these characteristics has brought me into a new realization about choosing courses of action. I can set my face toward battle as a primary function of my day. Or I can hand off my cannons, my illusion of mighty control and my need to be right, to the One who fights my battles for me.

As Keith and I have traveled this world, learned from her people, listened to the stories and histories of others, I am enriched by what God teaches if I will first take a seat in His classroom. I don’t believe He sends lessons to shame or blame. I believe He wants me to release the burdens that can keep me from doing the work He has assigned for me. In this case I’m grateful for the lessons of a ship built centuries ago.

After all we have endured in the first half of 2020, recently I’ve begun to wake up each day, look in the mirror and ask, “Got Vasa today? Or is there another way to sail the seas of uncertainty, division and sometimes fear?” It really is a personal choice. I know I can’t do this by my own power. Trying to do so adds frustration to the complicated mix of things I don’t want in my life. I’ve found it’s simply about being willing to ask for help in releasing those heavy cannons designed for battle and destruction that keep me from enjoying smooth sailing.

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published:

Or see the Events tab on this website for locations where I will be selling and signing my books.

See the Buy Books tab on this website for other books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.

Christian insprirational

Impossible

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

—Mother Teresa

 

“How can this be possible?” I ask my two tablemates.

“How can what be possible?” replies one of my companions.

“You two sitting here, drinking tea and chatting like lifelong friends. It just isn’t possible and should not be happening. That’s all there is to it.”

“Why?”

I take a deep breath and try explaining what, to me, is obvious. “Because you are a . . . well, you’re a dog, and she’s a rabbit.”

“Yes, she is a rabbit and I am a dog. That’s true.” Dog empties his cup; then offers it to Rabbit who fills it again.

“By all that is natural and normal, you are enemies.” I speak using my most authoritative voice.

“Are we?” the dog asks.

I’m trying to decide if this dog is teasing me. At the same time, I wonder about the rabbit. I can’t understand why she is so calm. He could devour her in one chomp. “Yes. In the animal kingdom dogs chase and eat rabbits while rabbits run and hide from dogs.”

“How do you know that?” Rabbit asks, speaking for the first time. Her voice is not as soft as I expect. I’m surprised by the tranquil strength she exudes as she pours tea.

“I know because I have been taught that. Everyone knows that. It’s in books.”

“What are books?” Dog asks, leaning on the table with his forelegs pointed in my direction.

“What are books!?” I gasp. “Never mind that now. This rabbit should be running for all she’s worth, if she wants to stay alive.” Despite attempts to the contrary, my impatience laces every word.

“Should she?” Dog asks. The corners of his mouth turn upward in an almost undetectable smile that makes me think he’s just having a game with me. I know at any moment he’s going to put his enormous mouth on her tiny head and have a snack.

“What about you?” I ask Rabbit, imploring her to enter this conversation. “What do you have to say?”

Rabbit pauses and takes a deep breath. “I say it’s time for another pot of tea.” She raises one paw to attract the server’s attention.

“No, no, no. This isn’t about tea.”

Rabbit looks at Dog and then back to me. “Would you rather have coffee?

My bottom jaw drops to my breastbone and silence tumbles into my teacup. Dog sits back in his chair and eyes me. I begin to wonder if I’m the snack this morning.

I shake my head and return to my original question. “How can this be possible?”

Dog follows suit by repeating one of his original queries. “Why . . .” he begins while watching Rabbit as she pours more tea. “She has nothing to fear from me. She is my friend”

“Look, Mr. Dog. I mean no disrespect, but you eat meat, right? She is meat.”

“Yes. Do you eat meat?” Dog issues a full smile now in what I believe is canine humor meant to mock a less-wise human.

“Yes but . . .”

“Do you eat your friends?”

“Don’t be ridiculous; of course not. And you are changing the subject. You have nothing in common. You are enemies, plain and simple. You always have been and always will be.”

“I see.” Dog scratches his chin with one paw.

“We both like tea.” The sound of Rabbit’s voice startles me. I’ve almost forgotten she’s at the table. I jump, spilling hot tea on my right index finger.

“Ouch.” I put my finger in my mouth and sit in confused suspicion as I look from one to the other.

Dog uses his large, hairy paw to bring my wounded digit back to the table. He leans down and licks my new wound. His gentle touch dismisses my fear of being on his menu.

“We have many things in common even though we have many differences.” He looks around us. I follow his gaze. We are sitting at a small table outside a coffee house in the mountains of Colorado. We’re beside a clear stream carrying melted snow from high peaks that will provide water to the flatter lands. The waves in the water are various sizes. They flow at rapid speed, separate yet together, moving toward the same destination. They’ve no time to question solidarity.

My attention is drawn to three birds of different colors and sizes perched on a nearby tree branch. They perform a composition in three-part harmony that sends shivers of pleasure through my small frame. Dog nods as if he hears percussion in the little concert. I marvel at him and Rabbit in their unhurried, peaceful, shared relaxation.

Rabbit puts her delicate paw under my chin and lifts my head skyward. I gaze through green leaves and see an array of blue hues on an infinite canvas. The three of us follow movement of clouds chasing each other on their celestial journey. As we gaze upward together, I am brought into a secret corridor of their understanding. I become relaxed, at peace, content.

“I see.” I mutter. They are the only words I have uttered in several minutes.

Rabbit breaks the trance when announcing she must attend to her young. She departs under the brush and long grasses bordering the stream. Dog clears his throat.

“My humans will be concerned. It’s my lunchtime. I never miss lunchtime. You know us dogs must have our meat.” He winks and takes his leave.

My smile unmasks my joy of discovery, and I break into laughter. A voice interrupts my musings. “Honey, are you okay?” The voice belongs to my husband.

“Honey, wake up. Who are you talking to? Why are you laughing?”

As he nudges me awake, my eyes focus, and I attempt to explain. “Keith I’ve had the most extraordinary experience. There was a rabbit and a dog and tea and . . .”

“I know, Love. But it was only a dream. Tell me in the morning. It’ll be dawn soon.” He kisses my forehead and rolls over onto his side.

“No, no Keith. It was real.” My protests are lost as slumber recaptures him.

The clock says it’s a few hours past midnight, but for me it is already a new dawning. I get out of bed and move to the living room. Out of habit I reach for the remote control and turn on the TV.

A world leader is speaking to a cheering crowd of people. Those present raise their voices in enthusiastic roars of approval.

“We must never forget those different from us are our enemies. We don’t have beliefs, habits, or cultures in common. They’ll present a real threat if we allow them to bring their lifestyles into our country. I am telling you they will eat us for dinner if we don’t prevent it. It is them or us.”

Cheers and applause rise to an ear-splitting level.

“We must never forget they have always been our enemies. History tells us that. It’s been recorded in books throughout centuries. They will always be our adversaries. We’ll never see eye to eye or have common values. Why I bet they even eat different food than us.”

The crowd erupts in laughter and pumps their fists in the air. He joins them in both.

I turn off the TV, hug my legs into my chest, and rest my forehead on my knees. Keith’s right; it was only a dream. It just seemed so real to me. A tear comes to my eye and does its best to defy gravity but loses. I try to slow its progress by wiping it with my right index finger. The salty liquid stings and I pull my hand away. In the moonlight, coming from an open window, I stare at a little raised blister on my wounded right paw.


image 13.01 rabbit and dogIllustration by Sally M. Cordrey, M.A.

It is usually my preference to write from the nonfiction lens. But every now and then, I step into the world of fantasy and/or allegory to express a creative idea. This story is based on a vision I was given by God four years ago by a river in Summit County, Colorado. It appears here for the first time on my blog. But it is featured in my book, Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Short Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments (details on how to purchase that book are below).  I believe, in this vision, God was trying to say that no matter how divided we seem at times, we have more in common than we think; and living in harmony is never impossible.

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published:

Or see the Events tab on this website for locations where I will be selling and signing my books.

See the Buy Books tab on this website for other books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.

Christian insprirational

Cancer and COVID

Please welcome my friend and fellow Christian author, Lynn Eib, as she shares the story of when her world crumbled before her eyes. Through honesty and authenticity, Lynn invites us into a journey of faith-based strength, hope and resilience in the face of crisis. She offers opportunity for us to reflect on how we deal with adversity, fear and uncertainty too.

5 WAYS A PANDEMIC IS LIKE HAVING CANCER

When this novel coronavirus invaded our globe, it was such a stark reminder of my long-ago cancer diagnosis that I actually said to myself: Now everyone will see how it feels to have your world fall apart right before your eyes.

For the past thirty years, my life has been divided into B.C. (Before Cancer) and A.C. (After Cancer) and now yours is too: Before COVID-19 and After COVID-19.

In 1990 when my 36-year-old world was rocked with stage 3 cancer, my pastor-husband was nearly paralyzed with fear that he would bury yet-another wife. Our little girls, ages 8, 10 and 12, tried to adjust to a bunch of babysitters and a mommy who either was lying on the couch or puking in the bathroom. I took a leave of absence from my newspaper reporter job and got replacements for my many volunteer church positions.

All the busyness of our happy home came to a screeching halt as we focused on defeating this unwelcome intruder.

 So here are 5 ways today’s pandemic reminds me of that cancer diagnosis (and don’t miss the last and most important one!)

NO GUARANTEES—I remember thinking that it would be much easier to go through the pain and anxiety of weekly chemo treatments for a year if I knew they definitely would cure me. But there was no such guarantee—only the sobering fact that I had about a 40-percent chance of surviving. (Wouldn’t you like some guarantees regarding all your virus precautions?)

NO PLANS—Friends would ask if I wanted to go somewhere or do something on a certain day, but I couldn’t make definite plans because I couldn’t predict how I would be feeling. People tried to encourage me by saying things like “Just take it one day at a time.” Honestly, there were days when I was just trying to get through the next hour or even the next five minutes. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have definite dates to travel, go out to dinner, get a haircut?)

NO PEACE—Thoughts of cancer, my uncertain future and plenty of what-ifs filled my mind each day (and night!) I knew it wasn’t good to worry, so I worried that I worried too much! (Don’t you wish you didn’t think about COVID-19 every single day?)

NO NORMALCY—How I longed for life to return to normal. I just wanted my happy B.C. life back. And deep down inside I wondered if that ever would really happen. (Don’t you yearn to turn back the clock on social distancing and disinfecting everything?)

But there is one more “NO” which links these trying circumstances and it is the most important one:

NO DENYING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS—Because my life felt out-of-control, it brought me to my knees. And as I lifted to God my empty hands, my tear-filled eyes and my aching heart, He poured His promises, His power, and His peace into my life.

In 1995 on the fifth anniversary of my cancer surgery, I wrote a poem which is just as relevant today:

When your world is crashing down around you, trust Him.
When what is unfolding doesn’t make sense, trust Him.
When you see no light at the end of the tunnel, trust Him.
When your silent tears spill down, trust Him.
When the pain refuses to subside, trust Him.
When your heart screams, “Why?” trust Him.
When you have more questions than answers, trust Him.
When the devil tells you otherwise, trust Him.
When it’s the last thing you feel like doing, trust Him.
When there’s simply nothing else to do, trust Him.

Lynn Eib is a newspaper reporter-turned author, a passionate encourager, and always a truth-teller. She has six titles published by Tyndale House, including the award-winning Peace in the Face of Cancer.

Connect with Lynn at www.lynneib.com, www.facebook.com/lynn.eib.author or cancerhope4u@gmail.com

Lynn’s books are available at religious and secular stores, including these on-line locations:
Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Christian Book |Tyndale

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published:

Or see the Events tab on this website for locations where I will be selling and signing my books.

See the Buy Books tab on this website for other books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.