NEW ORLEANS’ FRENCH QUARTER

Southern architecture is beautifully seen in New Orleans’ Garden District, which includes the lovely Loyola and Tulane University campuses. And local cemeteries, filled with ornate carvings and mausoleums, are built above-ground, very different from ours in California.

One day Don and I walked five miles through the French Quarter. Oh, the blisters I got wearing the wrong shoes that day! Bourbon Street’s wrought-iron railings, brick buildings, balconies, jazz, and unique street people make it a one-of-a-kind locale. We got roped in by two of the best street entertainers. dsc08091

dsc08081First, a very large man dressed in a woman’s dress and a Wolf maskdsc08079 (oh, he must have been hot!!) started talking to us in a voice like a bullfrog. He pulled each of us into a (wolf) hug for a photo. A request for money followed, as he entertained us with a number of raps. He was so unexpected and unusual that we smiled as we paid him.

Later, Don and I sat on a bench overlooking the Mississippi. Two young men passed by and one struck up a conversation. After making small talk, “Dan the Man” bet he could tell Don where he got his shoes. Now how could he know that? “Go for it,” we said.

dsc08111“I know where you got your shoes – you got them on your feet!” He then guffawed, pulled out a rag and a bit of polish with which he cleaned Don’s tennies–and then asked for money. Again, the entertainment was well worth the price.

And three young boys (pictured right) worked hard to earn money playing drums near Jackson Square.dsc08103

New Orleans has much of beauty, and a unique culture to recommend it. However, a significant feeling I came away with was one of sadness … for the partyers who live night to night, regaining some equilibrium during the day before repeating the process. For the tourists who our guide told us “… come to New Orleans to do things they wouldn’t do at home.”

I was reminded again of the light of life in Jesus that brings hope into the darkness. I know I disappoint my loving Father; I also sometimes hurt those I love. But because of Jesus, I can love, and be loved, fully–with all my faults.

John 8:12 says, “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.'”

Let’s walk in the light as we move through this Advent season.

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Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ on the River …

That’s just what Don and I did as we enjoyed a river cruise up the Mississippi from New Orleans to Memphis a week ago. dsc08384 I’d not seen this part of the South before. Our American Queen antebellum steamboat was charming and romantic. Food was plentiful, and delicious. Multiple sitting rooms provided areas to sit and read, visit, or play games.

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Courting chair in the Mark Twain Salon

We flew into New Orleans a few days early, and met our friends Joe and JoAnn Payne at the city’s National WWII Museum Sunday morning. A WWII vet, Don got some extra attention. The exhibits are very well done and the stories of different service men and women expressed the challenges, tragedies and sometimes heroism of war. I was glad to learn more of Don’s service in the medical corps as memories were prompted during our visit, and by questions JoAnn and Joe asked.

Freedom Park in Helena, AK was one of my most meaningful visits. During the Civil War, runaway slaves traveling the Underground Railway knew that if they could reach Helena, they would be under the protection of the Union Army. The Park is a peaceful memorial to the deep need of people to be free. While camps set up for these families left much to be desired in the way of adequate food and housing, they did provide hope of a future lived in freedom.

Frogmore Plantation in Natchez, Miss., my second choice, is the only historic & modern, 1800-acre working cotton plantation in the South. Its owners have a passion to share the South’s history, and the plight of slaves–even more deeply personal as this couple invests in ministries to those caught in human trafficking.  We began our tour on an original pew in an 1800s African American plantation church, as the mistress of Frogmore took us back in time. Music filled the air as two marvelous local musicians regaled us in song. After that we looked through a number of slave cabins, and learned cotton production, then and now.

One day, as we sat on a bench alongside the Mississippi, a young man sat to our left, head on his knees. During Don’s and my conversations with each other and with passersby, he barely moved. Finally I reached over and gently touched his arm.

Showing us how to pluck the cotton out of their "bowls"

Showing us how to pluck the cotton out of its “bowls”

“Excuse me, sir, are you all right?”

He raised his head and looked at us. “Yeah, I’m ok. Just had a big night of partying last night and am resting up to do it again tonight. But it’s nice of you to check on me.” We wished him well. The next day we saw him–same position, same bench. I was saddened to think this was the rhythm of his life, whether just during a trip or as a lifestyle.

Jesus is the Light of the world, and on this trip we saw both the pain of darkness; and the light of hope when slaves were protected, through people we met who are working to relieve human trafficking. May we be filled with the Light of Christ so we will reflect that to those in our circles of influence, to the glory of God.

“If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way…All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.” (II Corinthians 4:3-4, MSG)

May you be blessed with the Light of Life this Thanksgiving week.

 

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THANKSGIVING–IN ALL THINGS

Holiday MealGolden-brown turkey and cranberry sauce, creamy mashed potatoes and raisin stuffing.  The fragrance of freshly baked rolls and pies wafting through the air. Family … friends … fellowship. Thanksgiving is a glorious reminder to stop and count the many blessings we enjoy.

But one day is not enough! The Apostle Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) (and he wrote that from a prison cell.)prison-and-cross

He doesn’t tell us to give thanks FOR all things. I didn’t thank God when my friend had incurable cancer. But I did thank Him for being  with my friends and guiding them on that unexpected  journey.

A colleague told me she was angry that terminal illness had entered our lives because my late husband and I  were “good people.” I responded that God has not promised His children would be exempt from trouble and pain; but He has promised never  to leave or forsake us. And when I cried out for help during that season, He filled me with hope, joy, and peace that were clearly not from my own inner strength. By His grace I was renewed day by day. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

How do I respond to others who are undergoing severe trials? With illness, war, family dysfunction. My friend Constance Plett expressed it well:

“I am grateful, when I feel helpless listening to the news, that God knows places like Liberia, Senegal, Nigeria and every single individual and family affected by the Ebola virus. That their suffering and passing is not lost on Him because He created every single one down to the last cell.”

I am grateful that the PROMISE MAKER is the PROMISE KEEPER.
* I will never leave you nor forsake you.  (Deuteronomy 31:16)
* I know what I have planned for you—to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
* I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. (Psalm 32:8)
* I will guard your going out and your coming in. (Psalm 121:8)
*I go and prepare a place for you… (and) … will come back and take you to be with me. (John 14:3)

A thankful attitude runs the gamut from stretch fabrics to a good medical report, to strength in difficulty, to healing, to the hope of heaven and cessation of pain and suffering for those who walk with Christ.

In any circumstance, I can choose to be thankful, knowing my God knows the Way (MY way too). Becoming a “thanks-giver” is a process; I’m not always thankful. But I’m working on it, with His help.

What is God teaching you about having a thankful heart?

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Real Prayers – Gratitude

Gratitude opens doors to relationships. That’s one of the values Pastor Rene shared with us recently. I can’t control my circumstances, but I can choose my attitude. Some benefits of gratitude are improved physical health, reduction of aggression, better sleep and self-esteem, and increased mental strength. Those are worth a lot!

"Please, Sir, help us!"

“Please, Sir, help us!”

He told the story of the ten lepers who came to Jesus, hoping to be healed. (Luke 17:11-14)

“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” they cried.

“When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” The priests were the ones who could allow a cleansed leper to return to society. Interesting that Jesus told them to show themselves to the priests BEFORE they knew they were healed.  That required faith on the part of the lepers … looking down at finger stubs, missing toes, they may have thought, “Why? Nothing has changed.” But somehow they trusted Jesus enough to follow His directive, and ON THE WAY they were healed. They must have been overwhelmed with awe and joy. Being whole would allow them to return to their homes and families rather than living among the rocks and stones with other lepers.

leper-thanking-jesusBut wait. Ten asked for Jesus’ help. Ten followed his directive to go to the priests for a clean bill of health. But only one came back to thank Jesus. What about the other nine? Were they just so excited they rushed off without thinking of giving thanks to the One who healed their bodies? Rene said that people who don’t say thank you quickly often don’t say it at all.

Ten obeyed, but only one worshipped.

How often do I make a request of my Father, then not even notice when my prayer is answered? I want to be attuned to recognize His answers, to thank Him quickly, and often, for the graces He bestows on me.

“I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.” Psalm 118:21.

For what will you thank God today? 

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Joy Comes in the Morning

crossesLosing one you love is one of the most difficult challenges most of us will face. Psalm 30:5b tells us that “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” That morning may take weeks, months, a few years … But there comes a time when you may again waken to smile at the sunshine streaming into your room; to laugh at a child’s antics; or to delight in the love and play of a pet.christmas-dog-and-baby

One of my nephews married about five months after Jerry passed away. Kyle and his lovely bride, Heather, had asked us to read I Corinthians 13 at their wedding. After Jerry died, Kyle asked if I wanted to be released from that commitment. I did not. Their wedding and marriage was a reminder that joy can exist even within, or alongside, pain. I read the love passage with deep feeling, remembering my husband and his love for me, and for these two who were joining their lives as one. I wouldn’t have missed doing that!

I have experienced a great deal of joy, even since losing Jerry. The pain was indescribable, and healing had to occur first; but as time went on, joy came “in the morning” …

  • The joy of writing, encouraging others in their loss and pain.
  • The joy of much-loved Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who came into my life and made me laugh.
  • The joy of sitting on a beach and feeling hope rise in my spirit.
  • The delight of working with three-year-olds in Sunday school;
  • The joy of mentoring younger women in their faith;
  • The joy of experiencing God’s love and guidance as I found my way into my new normal, eventually including a new love.
  • The joy of loving, and being loved by, family and friends unconditionally.
  • The joy of finding a new love and building a life with him.rest-in-god-alone-wallpaper

I’ve created a “Loss Resource Form” on which you can record phone numbers for your key contacts i.e. Pastor/Priest, Attorney, CPA; bank account information; and included some helpful websites with information about what needs to be done following a death. Most of us don’t want to talk about this eventuality. However, by listing information needed in one place, we can make it easier for those we leave behind. Don and I have a list of vendors who have done repairs on our home. Instructions about location of the will and bank accounts, caregivers, contacts for legal, professional, or tax assistance provide you, or your remaining family, information needed in a time of emotional turmoil.

If you’d like a free copy of this form, please request it through the “comments” option, email me a request, or subscribe to my blog. 

May you feel God’s comfort today, and tomorrow, and the following day … and may joy come in the morning.

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