Living Life

When my kids were, like 4 and 6, and  throughSold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New Houseout high school, I talked to them a lot about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know about the Holy 3 when I was growing up. I do remember singing the Doxology in church: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye Heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I thought God was somewhere beyond the sky (wherever that was), and that Jesus loved me (this I know. For the Bible tells us so…).  But I hadn’t a clue who or what the Holy Ghost was. When I was 5, I prayed at night, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.”  I actually changed that prayer when Charlie and Erin were 3 and 5 to “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray thee Lord my soul to keep. Watch me Lord, both night and day. Make it safe for me to play,” because I thought praying about dying every night was morbid.

But through their growing up years, we had some fun discussions.  The bible verse that says something like, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:1-4) was perplexing to them. So, I told them that God wanted us to do good things for others without bragging about it or trying to take credit for it. “For example,” I said. “You know that house down the street that has been for sale for a really long time, and the yard is all over grown with grass and weeds, and there’s litter everywhere? Well, we should go clean up the yard, mow the grass, and make the outside look really nice, and we won’t tell anyone we did it, but the neighbors will be happy, and maybe the house will sell sooner.” So the next day the 3 of us spent a couple of hours cleaning up and mowing the front yard, and we walked away grinning because we knew we had done something nice for the seller and the community. It cracked me up the next day when Charlie came home from Danny and Andy’s house and said, “Mom! Mom!! You were right! That house looked so good, someone bought it today! There’s a “SOLD” sign out front!” I didn’t tell them it probably was already close to selling, like in contract, because both kids were just so happy to see that their hard work helped someone.

I was explaining to them another day that the Holy Spirit is invisible, like the wind, but we see the effects of His efforts and He always has us right where we are supposed to be for a reason.  They couldn’t quite grasp that until one day when we were driving by a house where an old lady was struggling to shovel the mounds of snow out of her driveway ’cause she couldn’t get her car out. So, we stopped our van, and got out and helped her, and in only about 10 minutes, she was able to drive away. She was so thankful! When we got back in the car, I said, “See, the Holy Spirit had us driving down this road at the exact time the lady was outside because the Holy Spirit knew she needed our help.”  “Ohhhh” they said.

Another time we were standing in line at K-Mart, and the kids wished the line was moving quicker. Ahead of us in the line was an auto mechanic fella (his name was sewn onto his work clothes) who was buying only a quart of oil. I chatted with him briefly until we were checked out, and when we walked out the front door, there, smack in the middle of the parking lot was a frantic lady in a conversion van with the engine roaring really loudly. I walked up to her van window and yelled over the loud roaring engine, “What’s the matter?” She screamed, “The accelerator’s stuck! Help me. Every time I let my foot off the brake, the van lurches forward really fast!!!”  “Turn the car off,” I yelled. Just as she was turning the van off, the auto mechanic was walking by going toward his truck. I motioned to him, “Heh, can you help fix this lady’s van?” And he came over and adjusted a few things under the hood, and Bingo, every thing was fine. So, when we 3 were back in our van, I said, “Now see. The Holy Spirit guided us to that checkout line, and had the auto mechanic guy in line right in front of us, because He knew that lady would need help from a bold person like me, and a mechanic like that guy.” “Ohhhhh, we get it.”

Charlie and Erin grew up knowing that they were God’s hands, and feet, and eyes, and ears, and voice. They loved hearing my God stories, and telling their God stories as well.

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Divine intervention

Fall, 2002.IMG_1358

My daughter, Erin, is a freshman at a small college in North Carolina. She shared with me sometime in October that she’d met a lot of fun people, but so far hadn’t met anyone with whom she could have a steady relationship. “I just tell myself and my friends that I’m not dating because the guy’s an exchange student, so he’s not on campus this fall.”

The last week in October, I’m in my office at my Ann Arbor job, like around 2pm. I’m doing busy work and God sends me a quick message, “When you see him you’ll know.” Odd, I thought. Who? I asked Him. No answer.

What will I know?  No answer.

Oh well, I thought, I guess I’ll just have to wait. So, I kept on doing paper work, making lesson plans, etc, but that message rolled around in my head like marbles bonking each other in a jar. Close to 3pm. I got a knowing: “Oh, this message is for Erin!” I can’t explain how I knew that, but I did, so I called her on the phone right away and said, “I have a message for you from God.”

“Oh good- what is it?”

“When you see him you’ll know.”

“Who?”  She asked.  “I don’t know- I asked Him but He didn’t answer.”

“I’ll know what?”

“Ditto- He still didn’t answer”

“When?”

“Oh, good question. I didn’t ask Him that. But I imagine I still won’t get an answer, so I guess you just have to tuck it away in your head somewhere, and let me know when you see him.”

So January 2003 comes, and now I’m working in Columbus, Ohio, when I get a phone call from Erin. “Perk! I saw him!”

“No way! Who?”

“Well, I don’t know who he is, but he seems to know everyone on campus. I saw him in December, but I didn’t “know” he’s the one until now. I’ve seen him as I’m walking to class, and I’ve seen him at dinner. It’s like God turns my chin to the left, for no reason, and boom! There he is, a short distance away. I think he’s a pothead because he has a beard and long hair in a pony tail.

So, the first week of spring semester, Erin called me really excited and said, “Perk!  You know how I go to Thursday night worship at the Chapel? Well, last night when I went, there he was, up front, playing bongos with the band, singing and smiling. I really want to meet him!”

She asked a friend if they knew him, and it turned out he was a junior at her college, and he had been in New Zealand as an exchange student in the fall.  After the next Thursday night worship ended, she introduced herself and wondered if he wanted to get some coffee or something with her.

Erin ended up dating him throughout college, and married him shortly after her graduation. I shared this story at Erin and Rush’s rehearsal dinner. God… the Devine Matchmaker!

Proverbs 3: 1-6

My daughter, do not forget My teaching, but keep My commands in your heart,

for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Psalm 37: vs 3 and 4

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

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Charlie’s God story

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I’m pretty sure every kid dreams about owning a bus/van, or at least traveling the open road and living on the go. For me, that dream became a reality when I was 19. I knew I wanted an old VW. You know, the one with all the windows. I had never owned a classic car, but I really liked the idea of a VW because they’re easy to work on – I even bought the book “How to keep your Volkswagen alive” by the author, John Muir. So that summer, I began looking on the internet, near and far for something in good shape, yet in my budget. After searching for a few months, I came upon a 1967 VW Bus in Tampa Bay, Florida. It was perfect: Two-toned paint job, no rust, and everything was original! So I called up the lady, asked her a few questions, and booked a one-way ticket south. I was going to buy this thing!

I grabbed a cab from the airport and went straight to her house, where the Bus was parked and shining in the Florida sun. It really was beautiful. After making sure it was road worthy, we exchanged money for title and a few other tidbits. She even threw in 3 spare tires, which struck me as odd, but I went with it. I think she was pretty amazed that I had just flown all the way down from Michigan, just to turn around and drive back. Then again, I love the open road and a good adventure.

Getting out of town took a little navigating, but it also gave me a chance to get a feel for it’s handles, shimmies, and shakes. Other than having 34 year old brake technology, it ran like a dream. Soon enough, I was on the freeway and doing 60mph, windows down, with the wind blowing in my hair. I was really doing it! Then, fwap-fwap-fwap-fwap-fwap… “What the shit?!” I thought? I pulled over and inspected my rig, only to find I had a whopper of a flat. So much so, that the tread had ripped and was barely hanging on the wheel. Of the three spare tires in the back, one of them was mounted to a wheel and ready to go, but after looking around the bus, I couldn’t find a jack anywhere. Out of nowhere, a guy in a jeep pulls up behind me. “Need a jack?” he asks. “Uh, yeah. That’s exactly what I need.” Turns out he had a bus like this once, and knew how to change the tire in a jiffy. I thanked him for his help, threw the ripped tire in the back, and hit the road again – thankful that I had gotten any mishaps out of the way early. So, there I am again. Windows down, wind in my hair, making my way north and getting the occasional thumbs up from folks in other cars, when “POW!”

I couldn’t believe it. Was this really happening again? Still without a jack, I pulled over to the shoulder, took a deep breath, exhaled, and asked God what I was supposed to do now. Still in the car with engine hot, a police officer pulls up behind me. “Looks like a pretty nasty flat” he says. He asks me if I need any assistance, and I tell him I don’t have a spare mounted to a wheel, just tires. “Well, you couldn’t have broken down at a better spot. Just down the exit ramp is a little tire garage. I’m sure they’ll be able to mount one of those tires onto your wheel.”

I couldn’t believe it. God had my trip planned to the T. I rolled down the exit ramp, and sure enough, there was a tire garage. I explained my problem and the fellas at the garage threw on spare tire number two in no time. At this point, I was almost expecting to get a third flat. I mean, why else would the woman have given me 3 tires? Once on the road again, I phoned my mom. “Perk! I’ve got a God story!!!” and I told her all that had happened. We prayed that He’d get me home safely, and the rest of the trip was flawless.

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Holma

republished on 5/17/13

Perk and God

Girl Holding Plant

(republished on 5/17 as a request from Mike)

When Erin was in middle school, she came to me one Saturday morning and said, “Mommy, I love you more than words can describe. There is no word in the English language that means, ‘I love you higher than the sky, like, I love you to infinity.’ Let’s make up a word that means infinity love, OK?”

So I said, “That’s beautiful, honey. I’d love to have our special word. Let’s pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to give us a word that means ‘Love higher than the sky’.  So we prayed and Erin said, “Now what?”

“Well, expect Him to answer us. There’s a scripture verse that says to pray/ask expectantly. After we pray, then we’ll just trust that He’ll give us that word. So, pay attention to words that pop into your head, and when you get something that you…

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Enough

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OK- so, I’m sitting on the john and I’m thinking of Jennie’s phone message. “Patty, could you leave me a message about what God told you last week? Something about ‘enough’.”

So, I’m trying to recall what He said, and I remember He said something like, “Tell Jennie she can’t ask me for enough.” And I wonder how to put it into descriptive words so that He gets His point across really well. And He starts to talk. “It’s like that phone conversation you just had with the Barnes and Noble person. You wanted her to see if the store had this book, ‘Love poems from God,’ but you were anxious that you’d go over your Verizon minutes because you don’t have an unlimited data plan, so you tell the lady to hurry because you don’t have too many minutes, but before she puts you on hold to go see if it’s on the shelf (upstairs, for goodness sake. she has to go upstairs, could it be any father from the phone) the lady gets huffy and tells you that you surely used up a lots of seconds asking her to not be gone too long and that you didn’t want to be on hold forever, so then you used up precious seconds now apologizing for being snippy even tho you didn’t want to be snippy, and she reminds you once again that as long as you are talking, she can’t be looking…..”

And God continues talking to me… “Be anxious for nothing. You will never run out of minutes on your data plan with Me. You can call Me anytime, anyplace. There are no roaming charges. The reception doesn’t sound staticky, and I will listen to you always. You can talk for hours on end. I am there for you at 3am. Sometimes Jennie might think she has come to Me one time too many. That she has asked for favor upon favor, that she has received enough from Me and she needs to cool it and let someone else get a chance. That she should be grateful for what I have given to her. Tell her to keep asking.  I love her voice, her laugh, her fears and pains. I love all of her. And I love giving Myself to her.”

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Daddy’s death

MP900289531April 25th, 1996

My dad had major heart surgery on December 26th, 1995. His recovery however, went all wrong. Every conceivable bad thing that could happen, did. 10 minutes after being wheeled into the recovery room, all the internal stitches that the doctors placed in his heart burst. They had to do the same surgery twice, but the second time, they did it on a man whose blood pressure was unstable, whose insides were leaking, and eventually, he coded. They resuscitated him, but he was never the same.

He was in serious condition ‘till mid February, and once he was stable, he was discharged and placed in a nursing home. He still had a feeding tube in his stomach, and the lengthy hospital stay took its toll on his legs. He couldn’t walk any more, and just kind of drifted away from life and toward death. At the time, my kids and I were living in Illinois, about an hour north of Chicago. I would visit him several times between December and March.

Daddy was a neat man. Great sense of humor, wonderful slow dancer, he was raised on a farm and ended up becoming a doctor. I was his helper growing up. We built things together- like I helped him wire his office for an intercom/stereo system. I was a cracker-jack hammerer, and I loved using his saw and drill to make bookshelves and stuff. We mowed the lawn together. I made rounds with him going to the various hospitals. He taught me how to bowl, to fish, how to run long distances, how to play badminton, how to shoot pool, and how to play a wicked game of ping pong (I never could beat him, though). We really had a special bond.

When I graduated Magna Cum Laude from high school, I remember, during the post graduation party, someone saying to him, “You must be very proud of your daughter.” And he answered, “I have always been proud of her- not just now- not just because of her grades, but because of who she is.”

Anyway, Tuesday, April 22nd, the nursing home sent him to the hospital because his feeding tube was blocked by something, and he was becoming malnourished. The next day, several doctors stood at the end of his bed, and talked to my mother and him about the need for him to have exploratory surgery in his abdomen to see why the tube was clogged. He refused the surgery. The doctors asked my mom to talk some sense into him, and mom said he was making perfectly good sense. They scheduled some non invasive tests for him, which he went through on April 24th, my birthday.

The next day my sister, Mary, called me around 9am and said, “Patty, Daddy’s dying.”

“Yes, I know. His health is slowly ebbing.”

“No- you don’t understand- he’s dying right now. They think he’s had a major heart attack and/or a stroke. Mom and Jennie (Mary’s daughter) and I are here with him, and we’ve called the chaplain.”

“Well what should I do? Should I drive down right now, or what?” (It is an 8 hour drive from northern Illinois to Columbus, Ohio.)  Mary said to hang in there, and she’d call me later on in the day to let me know how he was doing.

MP900289872So, I went to the junk drawer in my kitchen and found a can full of camping candles of various lengths. I randomly picked one, and went to my bedroom and lit the candle, and said a prayer for him. I opened my Bible, and it just so happened that I opened it to Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. Yea- though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. After reading the Psalm and praying some more, I started to blow out the candle, but Christ spoke to my heart.  “Wait. As long as the candle is burning, your dad’s alive.”

So, I looked at that candle, and busied myself. I did some laundry, made my bed, did the dishes, etc. Every time I entered or left my bedroom, I’d look at that candle burning, and as long as the candle was burning, I knew Daddy was alive. At noon, I walked into my bedroom, and the candle went out. I stood there, silently for a minute or two. Was he really gone?

Minutes later, the phone rang- it was Mary.“Patty, Daddy died about 5 minutes ago. He went peacefully. Jennie was holding his hand, and read Psalm 23 to him. She told him she’d walk with him toward Jesus, and he could let go once he got there. He letSmoke from Extinguished Candle go, and that was it. You can come now. I’m sorry you weren’t with him, though.”

 

I was with him- we were with him.

Jesus and I were with Daddy when he died.

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When time stood still

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One Tuesday evening, I left my house at 7:10 to go to my 7:30pm Bible study. I remember it being exactly this time because it always took me 20 minutes to get there in good traffic and the first round of Wheel of Fortune had just ended. If you’re a Wheel watcher, you know the first round always takes 10 minutes.

Just after driving past a grocery store, I noticed a lady on the right side of the sidewalk. She was crawling in the grass between the sidewalk and the curb. “How unusual,” I thought. Then God told me to go back and help her. I thought, “If I do that, I’ll be late for home church. Besides, maybe she’s looking for something.”

I tend to argue with Him, but generally, He doesn’t argue back. He either repeats Himself or says nothing, but this time I couldn’t dismiss His request. So, I pulled into the first driveway on the right, turned off my car, and walked about 20 yards to where the lady was. She was drunk, and had a brown bag containing vodka clutched in her right hand.

“Do you need help?” I asked. What a dumb question. Anyway, she said “No” but it was apparent she was so disoriented that I knew she couldn’t possibly make it home, or wherever she was going.

“How about I give you a ride home?” I asked.

“No, I just live across the street.” I looked across the street, and saw an entire apartment complex. Five buildings arranged in no apparent order. She managed to stand up, but started heading straight toward the busy 4-lane road. As she staggered, I calmly held her, and told her I’d help her cross the street. Inside, though, I was afraid. What if she got belligerent, or tried to cross without letting me guide her? If she did that, she’d probably get hit by a car. While these thoughts raced through my head, she just stood there, dazed and unsteady, and when it was safe to cross, I led her across the street.

“OK. Which apartment is yours?” With a glazed look, she slurred out, “Over there,” and we headed in that general direction.

“What’s the apartment number,” I asked?

“I don’t know. It’s up that hill.”

So I guided her up the hill. All of this was not very easy for me, since this lady was much taller than my five foot 1 inch frame. I kept praying, though, that God would get her home.

At the top of the hill, she told me she lived “over there”. I felt like we were looking for a needle in a haystack. So, we walked over to a row of apartments, and when we came to 3B, she said, “OK- this is it.”

“Do you have a key?”

“It’s not locked.” I really hoped she was right. I knocked on the door in case it was someone else’s pad, and since no one answered, I turned the knob and opened the door. Inside, there were lots of cigarette butts in several ashtrays, empty liquor bottles, and a general mess.

“How about you lie down on your couch?” I asked.

“OK.” She plunked down on the couch. I covered her with a blanket that was on the floor and asked her if she’d be OK.

“Yes…yes….”

Upon leaving I felt so empty inside, like I wanted to sit with her and make sure she would really be all right.

I walked back to my car and drove off toward my home church. All the way there, I was thanking God that He used me to help her out. I knew that even though I’d be late, it was worth it. As I pulled into Carol and John’s driveway, I glanced at the clock in my car. 7:29pm. I couldn’t believe it. I looked at my wristwatch: 7:30pm. Then my cell phone: 7:30pm. It was like I was doing double-takes. How could this be? I know I spent a good ten minutes with that lady. Huh- God made time stand still for me. Awesome, eh?

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