An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

Well said….Amen!

Trinity's Portico

Dear Frank

Can I call you Frank? This is just pastor to pastor. Feel free to call me Peter. Anyway, I have to say I was flattered when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” We are nothing if not small. We seat 30-40 on a good Sunday. And we are a century old fixture of our small community. Most often we are overlooked and overshadowed by mega-churches and politically influential religious voices like your own. We don’t hold a candle to an auditorium filled with the music of a one hundred voice choir led by professional musicians. We probably will never be recognized in any nationally syndicated media. After all, we don’t do anything really “newsworthy.” We just preach the good news of Jesus Christ; love one another the best we can (which sometimes isn’t…

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RETARDED OR DYSLEXIC?

Suppose we take a trip to an elementary school located in a small town in America.   There we find a young boy sitting in the hall.  No one pays any attention to him as he sits there idly playing with his pencils, paper and crayons.  No one seems to care about him.  The teacher believes he is retarded because he can’t learn to spell, read or write.  He seems to be content to take things apart rather than pay attention to the lessons.

She reports to the principal that she can’t deal with his special needs because the class is too large and it would take time away from the other students so he is relegated to sit in the hall every day.  The principal contacts the local university’s early childhood education diagnostic center for assistance where he is immediately scheduled for testing. The findings were startling. He is not found to be retarded, but to be left-handed and dyslexic with mirror vision.  His world is completely backwards from that of a normal person.

The year was 1970 and the young boy is my son, Mark.  Strange as it may seem, it never occurred to me that Mark was somehow different.  Being the third child in the family he seemed to fit right in with his older brother and sister and life in general.

He was a shy, quiet child who just went along with the flow of daily living.  But, after the shocking news that he was unable to grasp the basic lessons of a first grade student I began searching for answers. A left-handed friend was enlisted to teach him basic skills such as tying his shoes, etc.  As he gained more self-confidence he became more verbal and less shy.

It was the beginning of life long teaching and learning experiences for both of us.  Mark and I spent many hours together working hard on his school lessons. Looking back I firmly believe he showed signs of AD/HD Syndrome, which was an unknown issue in the 1970’s. Although he didn’t rank at the top of his class, he was taught the skills necessary to learn and graduated from high school with his class. At the age of 16 he volunteered with the local fire department and began his journey into the world of saving lives. Today Mark leads a productive life as an EMT/Fireman in the town where he lives in Texas.

Because of family dynamics Mark and I had not seen each other for the past 15 years until this past week when he came to Colorado to visit me. Communicating via electronic devices can’t compare to seeing him again in person. My shy, quiet son has grown into an outgoing, confident man.  I’m glad I had the opportunity of embracing him and telling him in person how proud I am of him and his many accomplishments.  The choices and decisions he made for his life were not easy ones, but with the support and help from mentors and encouragement from his family, he has achieved the lifetime goals he set for himself many years ago.  When asked what he enjoys most about his job his answer is quick and firm: “Saving lives everyday.”

I believe that if special education programs had been in existence when Mark was a young boy, the learning process would have been at a much higher level for him. Choices in education are not only desirable, they are absolutely necessary.  Quality education for all students is vital not only for them to succeed in life, but as a whole for the community in which they live.

 

 

A MOTHER’S STORY

Have you ever thought about who the women were that stood near the cross when Jesus was crucified? In my mind’s eye I see them as they watched….helplessly.  It wasn’t a pretty sight…and I find A Mother’s Story……

It was mid-day, though dark as night…and damp. Shadows clung to the stone walls and uneven streets of the city. Everywhere there was an eerie silence. Out of the shadows stepped a small woman with a cloak draped across her shoulders. Quickly she  scurried through the stillness, seeking for truth. Hours before these same silent streets were filled with throngs of people clamoring over the excitement of the trial. The mob screamed for the release of Barabbas and cried for Pilate to crucify the one called Jesus of Nazareth, “King of the Jews.” Some blamed the turn of events on the politics of the day.  The political climate seemed to dictate that something drastic happen to arouse public opinion and turn attention away from the real issues confronting the government.  If this so called ‘Christ’ was indeed who he claimed to be, he was dangerous to the over-all political plan.

Suddenly, she came to the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas. This was the same place where the chief priests, scribes and the elders of the people had assembled just a few short hours before. Quietly she slipped through the side door, whispered to the guard on duty and was led down the corridor to a small room. A single candle burned on the table. As the light flickered, Caiaphas approached through the open door. The figure seated at the table dropped the cloak revealing the frail looking woman who appeared to be in her mid-forties with graying hair. Softly she made inquiry about her son. Rumors had spread quickly through the city and she must know the truth.        Caiaphas threw back his head and laughed uproariously as she spoke. Yes, indeed he knew her son.  A fine young man; strong of body, but possessing a weak spirit and easily swayed by public opinion. However, with a few years of training she would have good reason to be proud of him. The priest was stricken with disbelief as she once again spoke of her son.  He rose, pulled a pouch from his robe and placed it in her hands. Turning to leave, the mother of Judas Iscariot flung the pouch at Caiaphas sending the thirty pieces of silver clinking on the stone floor just as they had done hours earlier. Caiaphas moved toward her to offer comfort in the death of her son. Running quickly down the corridor and through the door, she found herself back on the quiet streets and continued on her way, not knowing where to go.

The weather’s chill gripped her whole being. If only her son hadn’t been so headstrong, so rebellious. His life could have been so different if he had only listened to Jesus. She had hoped that just being with his followers and seeing first-hand the miracles he performed would kindle in him a thirst for righteousness. Even though he was included in the inner circle, his attitude remained cynical and self-serving. And, it was his personal choice to betray the one who loved him so much.

As she made her way through the darkness she found herself staring in disbelief. There on Golgotha hung three men, each nailed to a cross. Carefully staying in the shadows, she moved closer. Standing there she saw John lead Mary, the mother of Jesus, quietly away. Close by stood Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joses, along with the mother of Zebedee’s children. These women who followed Jesus from Galilee were now standing in the shadows with heavy hearts. She was filled with grief and despair.

Through the stillness, she lifted her eyes toward Jesus and heard as he spoke from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” With tears streaming down her face she slipped away from the shadow of the cross and slowly made her way home to bury her son.

coming out of the closet

During the past twelve years I have shared much of my life’s journey with you. Well, today I am coming out of the closet.  Stunning isn’t it? I was recently diagnosed with Pelvic Organ Prolapse. How many of you can identify with me? The current estimate of the number of women in the U.S. with this condition is approximately 4.3 million. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization guestimates indicate that there are 36 million women world-wide with this condition. The reality is that it is difficult to know what the real numbers are because women are reluctant to be talk about it or be treated for it.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is quite common among today’s female population. Many women have the symptoms but because they are embarrassed to discuss them with anyone they suffer in silence.  POP can occur when the pelvic floor muscles weaken and one or more organs shift out into the vaginal canal and even bulge outside of the body.

My journey with POP began sometime in the spring of 2016. I began having symptoms of POP which include pressure, pain and/or fullness in vagina or rectum or both; sensation of ‘your insides falling out’; bulging in the vagina; severe back pain and incontinence. Every time I went for a walk or even sneezed I thought my insides were going to fall right out onto the ground. I began staying home more often and said little about it to my friends. At first I attributed these symptoms to old age and laughed them off. After all, I am approaching the ripe old age of 80. We Hear and see so many TV ads regarding incontinence and because the causes are never addressed we become oblivious to what they might be.

This past Fall I finally decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life worrying about my insides falling out and was tired of dealing with this issue so I made an appointment with a gynecologist. After the initial exam I was referred to Dr. Alexander Shapiro who is a specialist gyn/urologist in Denver. That exam took place in early December and was one hour and thirty minutes.

After the exam I told him I never dreamed I would be sitting in a gyn/urologist office at the age of 79. He smiled and replied, “We do have ways to keep popping up in your lives, don’t we.”  I then told him this was the most disgusting, gross thing that has ever happened to me. He said, “Right now your insides are a total mess. This is a very intimate surgery and is a major surgery. This is who you are right now and you can’t allow this to define your life. I promise you I can repair the damage and relieve the pain and discomfort”.

The four-hour surgery took place on Monday, January 30. I told my physician that most women my age are having face lifts and here I was having a butt-lift. I went home Tuesday and Wednesday as I was having breakfast I suddenly realized that the fullness/pressure feeling and the back pain I had prior to surgery were totally gone. Oh, what a relief it is. I cried tears of joy. I’ve experienced minimal pain with this surgery.

Today, if you are a woman reading this (or a man who has a woman in your life with this condition) I urge you to make an appointment to at least talk with your physician about your problem. There is help and hope for women with POP. New treatment options evolve daily to control, improve and repair this cryptic health condition.

Join with me in taking Pelvic Organ Prolapse out of the closet and make it common knowledge for women of all ages. Don’t allow this condition to define who you are or how you live your life.  Don’t wait! Call for your appointment today.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

JANUARY 1, 2017

It is what it is, but it can be whatever you make of it.  For many a new year presents a chance for new beginnings.  New Year’s resolutions represent good intentions. What you make of those resolutions will determine what kind of a new year you make for yourself.

A few years ago I took some acrylic painting classes. I soon realized I would never become another Van Gogh or Renoir, so I decided to take the new knowledge I gained and paint for the sheer enjoyment of splashing colors on the canvas and feeling like a kid again. Before beginning our first class session the instructor brought out a large metal bowl with a striker and asked us to sit in a circle.  As she began striking the edge of the bowl the room resonated with the most soothing, reverberating sounds I’ve ever heard.  An air of calmness surrounded us and when the sounds stopped, we were ready to focus on our painting projects. As I focus on the new year and its blank canvas that is before me I am reminded of another new year many years ago.

The new year of 1937 began in the midst of a turbulent world. The country was struggling to dig out of a recession. The average cost of a new house was $4,100, but to rent a house was only $26 per month.  A gallon of gas cost 10 cents; the cost of a loaf of bread was a mere 9 cents; one pound of hamburger cost 12 cents. A new Ford automobile cost $850.  The average income per household was $1,780 per year. The population was 128,824,829. The unemployment rate stood at 14.3% down from 16.9% in 1936. The unemployed numbered 13.5 million people.

It was the year the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opened, The Hindenburg burst into flames while being moored in New Jersey, and Amelia Earhart vanished from the face of the earth while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Walt Disney released the new movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and John Steinbeck published “Of Mice and Men.”  World tensions were high as Japan and Germany were making war noises.

A young couple living in mid-America with an eight year old son found it difficult to make ends meet.  It became even more difficult when they also found out they were expecting an addition to their family.  Two years earlier they became parents of a baby boy, but lost him at the age of 18 months to a condition that is easily curable today. The father had only an eighth grade education, but he was by no means stupid.  He grew up as one in a family of thirteen children.  After the eighth grade he was out working in the cotton fields to help his parents make ends meet.  He became self-educated and excelled in English and math. He did whatever was necessary to feed, clothe and house his family.

These were my parents and this was the world I was born into in November, 1937.  If there was ever a time a young couple needed a singing bowl, it was certainly during these turbulent times.  Their faith and leaning on each other helped them make it through those tough times.

To say history repeats itself is redundant.  But today certainly seems to mirror those days of 1937.  The U.S. population today is 318.9 million with the number of those unemployed stands at 7.9 million which represents a 4.9 percent unemployment rate.

Today we are given a New Year—a clean slate, a new beginning.  It is up to each of us to paint our new year with our hopes and dreams; then choose the right colors to make those dreams a reality. Perhaps it would also help if we each had a singing bowl with a striker to help us accomplish this task.

REAL GOLD OR FOOL’S GOLD

July 19, 2016

The Mr. began the summer season with high hopes of having his left knee replaced. Yet, here we are in the middle of the summer season, July 10 and he is still hoping. He has been using a cane for some time now and that has helped, but is definitely not a cure-all solution for his problem.

Everywhere we go people ask about why he waited so long to decide that total knee replacement was necessary. Living with me has most likely had some bearing on how he viewed the surgery. Eight years ago I had my left knee replaced and after five years of constant pain was finally told by the doctors that I had a failed knee replacement surgery.

Often the elderly and infirmed are confronted with the notion that these are our ‘golden years’ as we hobble down the aisles of life.  My response has been, “Seriously?” “I’m beginning to think it’s just Fool’s Gold.”  And, when we head out for a doctor’s appointment many questions pop up in our minds: How’s the traffic today? Are there any detours? Can we easily find where to go for the appointment? Do we have all the ID information needed? What is the co-pay? Does the car have enough gas? You know how those little things that mean a lot keep going through your head.

The Mr.’s journey toward surgery hasn’t been easy. At his appointment with the surgeon on June 3, the surgery was scheduled for August 2. That seemed like an eternity away. But, he was told if there was a cancellation he would be first on the list to move into that spot. That call came on June 21 when he was told the surgery was being moved to June 30.

I’m sure his sigh of relief could be heard all over the entire state of Colorado. But, alas another call came telling him there was an emergency and his surgery was being moved back to the August 2 slot. How disappointed we both were. But then, another call came and his surgery was moved to July 5. This time we held our breath and sure enough, another call came to move that date to July 15. Oh, but then another call came the next day saying it wasn’t July 15, but rather July 14.

After all is said and done, we are holding onto the date of July 14 at 5:30 a.m. to be at the hospital in Denver for total knee replacement. This is his golden opportunity to get that knee repaired so he can get on with what he does best: being out in the community helping others with their issues such as obtaining senior housing for their golden years; finding transportation for those who need assistance with grocery shopping and/or doctor’s appointments, and serving as chair of the board for the Weld County Commission on Aging to find answers to other serious issues that face all who are having challenges in their golden years. I’m sure as involved in our community as he is, I’ll be challenged to keep up with him after he gets his new knee.

C.S. Lewis reminds us that, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream another dream.”  The Mr. and I both agree that our goal during these golden years is to stay true to ourselves; keep setting realistic goals; help others find answers; keep dreaming new dreams and loving each other. We will resist the notion that our golden years are only Fool’s Gold. For us they will remain 24K gold as long as we share them together.

 

 

 

DOES AGE REALLY MATTER?

My mother looked at my daughter like she had two heads. Her only granddaughter had just asked her, “How old are you, Grandma?”  My mother looked at me with ‘the look’ that begged, “Haven’t you taught my granddaughter proper manners?”

My mom, being the smart lady that she was, grabbed the question and turned it around asking her granddaughter, “Does age really matter?”  My daughter’s response caught us both off guard. “Well,” She said, “Old people do die, you know.” Mom quickly assured her that she wasn’t quite that old yet and that she planned to be around to witness many of her accomplishments. Fortunately, she was around to do just that with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I strongly believe birthdays are to be celebrated with parties and all that comes with them, including cake, ice cream, cards and gifts– and with great gusto. Life is to be celebrated all year long, each and every day a person lives, but especially on the date of their birth. Party ‘till the cows come home, is my motto for birthdays. Some people say they don’t relish all the trappings of a birthday party. Not me! I’m already planning to celebrate all day and into the night when my eightieth birthday rolls around.

I’ll celebrate with a decadent chocolate cake and Rocky Road ice cream and l might even share this goodness with friends and family.  I also want good wishes and gifts to remind me that growing old is great. After all, I’ll never be eighty again. It’s been said that wishing someone a happy birthday is akin to giving them the gift of happiness. I want happiness to be in abundance on my birthday.  I also want wine—a variety of wonderful wines poured into the clinking glasses when the well-wishers shout, “Viva La Betty”….enjoy life and be merry. Picasso once said, “It takes a long time to become young.” I’ll drink to that! Eighty years is probably a good time to say I’m young….again.

But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. My eightieth birthday won’t be here for another year. I know! It’s a bit early to begin the celebration, but better now than waiting another sixteen months. Think about the significance of that.  In sixteen months I’ll be celebrating my sixteenth birthday for the fifth time. Calculate it for yourself. Sixteen times five equals eighty. Got it?

Does age really matter?  It mattered to my daughter when she was afraid her grandma was getting old and would soon die. It matters when you have to be a certain age to drink alcoholic beverages, obtain a driver’s license, be admitted to certain night clubs, or even register to vote.

And, as we reach that certain chronological age we are expected to function by the necessary rules which all lives should be lived; the basic rules of no name calling, no bullying, rants, divisiveness, lies, bigotry, and no hate speech. By that ‘certain age’ we are expected to know how to ‘play with others’, treat them with respect, dignity, compassion, understanding and fairness; in essence to live by the Golden Rule.

In today’s society there are some who have failed to grasp the lesson that life is to be celebrated with the enduring hope of a bright future for all. In our life’s celebrations and everyday experiences we listen and learn from those around us.  Usually we take them at face value and assume they are seasoned truth seekers who, as adults know and value the rules by which all lives should be lived. It is for this reason alone that I believe age really does matter.