Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poor Depends on Your Perspective

Growing up in a small rural community, I never got the sense my family was poor. I just assumed that people who had things we didn’t were rich. Many families were worse off than mine. After all, we had three meals a day and clothes on our backs, even though they were hand-me-downs. The only new clothing we got was at Christmas or if my mom sewed it. My family lived in a block home with linoleum floors. Some of our classmates lived in wood houses with wood floors (not hardwood that are in vogue now) and even some with no floor. My dad didn’t run our oil heat at night because of the risk of fire. That made for many cold winter mornings when we first climbed out of bed. Every year someone in our school had their house burn down, so the fear of fire outweighed the discomfort. I didn’t realize the impression that made on me until one day, as an adult, I realized I no longer had a plan for what I’d rescue if my house burned down.

My siblings and I qualified for free lunch at school, but my dad would have none of that. No one provided for his kids but him. Instead we took a PB&J and an apple in a brown paper sack and handed over our nickel for milk. Of course, a lot of this changed when we became teenagers and worked for the extras that kids nowadays take for granted — new clothing, spending money, junk food—you know—progress.

It’s funny now to think back on, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for what kids have now. My siblings and I have strong work ethics. I believe most of us know intuitively that we could live with nothing again, if we had to. As the Apostle Paul stated in the Bible, “I’ve learned to be content in all circumstances.” Not that a person is happy with nothing or doesn’t wish for more, but you can be content. I’ve lived it, so I know it to be true. With the economy in shambles, I'm grateful that my parents instilled in me this very important quality.

(Originally ran as a Facebook note February, 2009, but still very relevant today.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trekking Alone?

Many times in my Christian walk I have experienced God’s supernatural grace and mercy. Those outside Christianity might expect me to describe a mountaintop encounter, but that’s rarely the case. Valley trekking is where life is on this earth. Staying on the path that leads to the mountain is the challenge. And we get into trouble when we try to trek alone.
Recently, a local teenage boy drowned in a nearby lake. The news reported that he was a good swimmer, but he’d been in the water too long and grew fatigued. He panicked, flailed, and struggled to stay above water, to no avail. All he needed to do, in his weariness, was roll onto his back and float until he regained his strength. Isn’t this like our Christian walk? We’re going along happy and having a good time, enjoying a respite from problems, when suddenly adversity strikes. We flail against it, trying to fix things our way, when we could just rest in God and allow Him to provide the answer. Perhaps the trouble is we don’t have the faith to do so because we haven’t been practicing our survival skills routinely. Key to our survival is daily interaction with God—prayer and delving into His Word.
Speaking of prayer, I’ve been trying to write an article for the past year about prayer. Usually when I get an idea, I sit at the keyboard and the story or article flows out of me as fast as I can type. In fact, I have trouble keeping pace with the flow sometimes. What began as a Facebook note on prayer quickly morphed into an idea for an article. Only this time, the finished product hasn’t come quickly. Off and on, I’ve returned to the article and tried to finish it. Sometimes other commitments interrupt the process, but often I hit a wall and I lay the work aside for another day.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen snippets of my points and anecdotes, sometimes almost verbatim, appear in other articles, on friends’ Facebook status lines, or even in sermons. Each time, I’ve thought, “There goes my idea.” Then I hear the familiar whisper in my soul, “It’s not your idea, it’s mine.” After all, if God gives me a thought, can’t He give it to someone else? Or maybe hundreds of others?
Though I yearn to reach the mountaintop on this project, I began to wonder if the purpose of writing the article isn’t so much for others but what God wants me to learn from the process of struggling with it. You see, God doesn’t need me to further his kingdom or do his work. He has chosen me to do it. And I’m still learning.
I have no doubt when the article is finished and published, the readers God provides will find it fresh and new. In the meantime, I’ll strive to learn the lessons He wants me to learn.
What valley are you trekking through today? Join me as we seek the path up the mountain together. If you have a prayer request, e-mail me. I’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Non-fiction Book Reviews

I’m going to share some of my favorite non-fiction books and give a brief review of them. I’m sure the moment I post this, I’ll remember several others I should have included, so I may just post more another day.
1. Bible – My obvious first choice. It’s the living, breathing, inspired word of God…and it’s my lifeline.

2. Same Kind of Different As Me – Easily the best non-fiction book I’ve ever read. A true story, first person account of two men, Denver, a homeless man and Ron, a rich art dealer, brought together by the art dealer’s wife with a heartbreaking twist at the end of the book. An inspiring account of what starts out as Ron’s efforts to improve the Denver’s life, only to discover in the long run that it is the other way around. Ron receives far more from this man than he gives. It’s a book that will make you laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time. Warning: When you finish reading this book, you will buy copies for everyone you know.

3. The Hiding Place – A first person account of Corrie Ten Boom and her family who hid Jews in Europe during World War II. Captured and imprisoned in a Nazi prison camp, she watched her sister and father die before she was released due to a technical error. Everyone else in her age group in her cell block was gassed the week she was released. A remarkable tale of forgiveness amidst post-war healing and the eventual face to face meeting with a prison guard who had mistreated her sister.

4. Let My People Go – A riveting first person account of missionaries secretly purchasing slaves’ freedom in the Sudan. Remarkably, these missionaries were an eclectic group of people from other walks of life who chose to travel to Sudan at their own peril. If the government had discovered them, they would have been killed. The book fluctuates between heartwarming and humorous with dangerous situations and tales such as when one overweight missionary pedals on an old bike through miles of sand, up and down hills. Your pulse will race as they cross dangerous rivers, fly in unsafe planes, and through dangerous meetings with militant Arab slave owners from northern Sudan to buy the slaves’ freedom and return them to their homes in the south. This book changed my life and gave me a passion for Sudanese people over a decade ago.

5. A Chance to Die – Biography of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, written by another great missionary, Elisabeth Elliot. Carmichael spent 54 years, almost all of her adult life, in India without a furlough back home to Ireland. She rescued thousands of Indian orphans from temple prostitution and slavery and built homes and orphanages. A touching story, she recounts as a child she prayed to God to change her eye color from dark brown to blue and was disappointed each time he didn’t answer her prayer in the affirmative. She later saw the wisdom of her dark eyes when she realized she would have never been accepted or blended into the Indian culture with blue eyes. Amy Carmichael was the epitome of the concept “dying to self.”

6. On The Rez – a first-person account of a two-year journey into Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota by Ian Frazier. Although there is much humor in this book, it opened my eyes like no other to the plight of Native Americans, their extreme poverty, and the horrible cultural practices of alcoholism and lack of skills or motivation by some to “climb out” of their situations. They are truly a people who have clung to their ideology at the expense of improving their quality of life, life spans, and opportunity for the next generation. It leaves them vulnerable to outside influences, such as methamphetamine now enveloping some reservations. It amazed me the attitude of the men of just seeing where the day took them instead of actively pursuing life. More than that, it is an inspiring tale of a young girl who dared to dream of more, and in her untimely death, gave the Indians on Pine Ridge hope for the first time in generations. Frazier’s descriptions give a palpable feel and insight into the minds of these people because he managed to do something many outsiders aren’t able to—gain their acceptance. This is a remarkable book.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow

My dad called to share his “good news.” The pathology report on his surgery came back clean. To say he was elated puts it mildly. His relief was palpable.

Have I mentioned before what an incredible man my father is? Probably so often that many are tired of hearing it. Of all the things Papa has given me, I most appreciate his modeling of God’s love which flows through him. His life is a continual witness of what I strive to be. Maybe by the time I’m his age or the Lord returns (whichever comes first), I will have achieved it.

This was just the latest of many ordeals that includes numerous glaucoma surgeries, progressive loss of vision, prostate cancer, a broken ankle—10 surgeries in all in the last 10 years—and of course, losing a child. He has repeatedly told me his life is in God’s hands to do what He wishes.

From the onset of this latest trial, Papa said he felt the Holy Spirit in his soul tell him, “I’ll take the lead.” Tonight, my father asked me, “Why don’t we trust Him? Why did I worry even a little?” To which I replied, “Because we are human, and God understands us in our human frailties.”

I thank God for my father’s honesty and leadership even in hardship. His modeling of an almost supernatural, unconditional love is a rarity in this life. I bask in the feeling of the Holy Spirit when I’m at my father’s knee listening to the wisdom and warmth that emanate from him.

I hung up the phone with Papa’s voice echoing in my mind of gratitude for a Lord that didn’t let him down, and in his words, even if He had, he’d still be praising Him. I believe this. I’ve seen my father’s faith in action. And for that I say, Praise God!

(Originally appeared in my Facebook Notes, September 2009.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World

Hi everyone, I’m a partner in today’s book promotion for Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World. I’ve read the book and highly recommend this moving father-daughter story that begins in the Watergate Crisis and ends in Romania. The story chronicles the transformation of Harry Dent, who served a senator and three presidents as God uses him to help Romania recover from Communism and plant churches. The book is endorsed by Chuck Colson & Mike Huckabee.
Click on  for interviews, book trailer. Order today from for Father’s Day. Share with your friends.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It's Only China, Folks!

(Another oldie, but goodie, from my Facebook note stash, January 2010.)

There are times in life when things happen to remind you of what’s important. The value you place on something turns out to be less than you thought. I have a built-in china cabinet in my kitchen that displays my fine china and glassware which only gets used on holidays. The rest of the year the dishes sit there with no purpose whatsoever except to be admired. Thus was the case on New Year’s Eve.

At the stroke of midnight, Josh ran to the kitchen to get glasses out of the china cabinet so we could toast the New Year while I got the sparkling grape juice from the refrigerator. Unbeknownst to him, a shelf in the cabinet was missing a securing screw underneath, which I had realized the Christmas before. But in the hustle and bustle of putting the Christmas meal on the table, I promptly forgot about the screw. Josh put two glasses on the kitchen counter and turned to get the third. Suddenly, the whole shelf gave way on him and to his horror, the dishes started sliding toward the floor. Remember the old movies with the bogus machine gun sound effects? That’s how it sounded as the china struck the floor, one piece after another. Josh did the only thing he could. He clutched the one glass and tried to brace the shelf with his body. He glanced over his shoulder at me as cups ricocheted around him. The look on his face said it all. He was mortified. “Oh Mom, I’m so sorry.” I reassured him that it didn’t matter. At that moment, the china meant nothing to me. After all, a set of dishes couldn’t stack up to my feelings for my son. The missing screw and my faulty memory had set up the perfect storm for him.

We swept up the debris and I said, “What a way to ring in the New Year.” Josh laughed and said, “I felt like I was in the middle of machine gun fire.”

Ironically, the most expensive pieces, my teapot and the cream and sugar dishes, were undamaged. They balanced tenuously on the shelf that was askew. I still have most of the set and will eventually replace the missing pieces. The three glasses were unharmed, as well. So we raised our glasses of bubbly in a toast and all agreed that we’d never forget this New Years Eve.

I realize now as I stare at the empty shelf, the cabinet is nothing more than a storage place for items that hold no real value to my daily life. How many other things in my life are like that also? Maybe it’s time to take inventory!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When Taking The Road Less Traveled

(I'm reposting this story I wrote on Facebook a year ago after David's 50th birthday. I'm happy to say David has recovered and is celebrating his 51st birthday this weekend.)

Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. (Proverbs 4:26)

Perhaps this was a verse my brother David should have read prior to mountain hiking last Saturday on his 50th birthday in New Mexico. But grass doesn’t grow under the Hodges’ feet, especially with a milestone birthday. We all live with a sense of urgency about us. So I wasn’t surprised to not find him on Facebook on Saturday. I knew he was out “doing.” I posted a card on his wall, anyway, wishing him happy birthday. During the day, he popped into my mind occasionally, I suppose because it was his birthday, and each time, I prayed for him. I asked God to watch over him on his special day.

Little did I know David was out hiking, which also is in the Hodges genes. However, David hikes at 8,000 feet in the mountains, not a Hodges thing, but a David thing. During the course of the day, he and his wife Gita hiked in remote locations, away from cell phone coverage, and as far as five miles from the nearest road at times. As dusk neared, they picked their way through the last stretch of rocky terrain. With Gita ahead of David on the path, they were almost back to their cabin. David grabbed a rock that gave way under his hand and plunged 8 feet straight back onto the ground below, miraculously and narrowly missing two rocks that jutted a foot up on either side of him. Initially, he was unable to feel his legs or breathe and had incredible pain shooting through his body.

David spent the next two hours lying on the ground waiting for EMS to arrive. I imagine many things went through his mind under the vast sky with nighttime setting in. Fortunately, he and Gita have good wilderness survival skills and they did everything right to keep him from going into shock. He shared with me that he surmised, based on his level of pain, his injuries were probably much worse than they turned out to be. After a bumpy ride back to civilization, he was hospitalized with a broken thoracic vertebrae and a collapsed lung along with scrapes and bruises.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was watching out for David. The paramedics told him if he’d landed six inches either way, he would’ve been paralyzed. I shudder to think if his head had hit one of rocks, as well, or he’d landed head first.

Could David climb another mountain and plunge to his death in the future? Sure he could. And one thing I know about David is that this accident won’t put an end to his risk-taking adventurous spirit. But on that day, Saturday, he was spared. Not only his life, but the quality of his existence. Only he can discover the reason why. It’s between him and God. I, for one, am just very thankful God honored my prayer for David’s protection that day. I’m not ready to turn loose of another sibling any time soon.