Saturday, July 31, 2010

For keeps

4:51 p.m. Today's project was to preserve tomatoes and apricots in my pressure canner. The Roma tomatoes came from our garden, and my friend Charlotte brought over a bag of apricots she had received from another friend. She'd already made her pie fillings so she knew I'd take some--I hate wasting food! My Depression-raised parents always said, "Waste not, want not," and Proverbs 18:9 says, "He that is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great waster." (KJV)
So it was a day of sterilizing jars and lids in boiling water, assembling the hand-crank tomato processor, washing equipment components in several sinksful of suds, peeling both fruits, and making 1- 1/2 quarts of sugar syrup for the apricots. The excess sugar syrup is already flavoring fresh grapefruit-lemonade from our own trees, and most of it will be used in lemonade for our "August Party" a week from Sunday. Might as well get a lot of "foodkeeping" projects done at once! As Jesus pointed out in regard to seizing the moment to harvest souls for the Kingdom, "Work while it is day, for the night comes when no man can work." (John 9:4)

I doubt that I broke even financially when you consider the gas used by our oven, the electricity used to freeze the ice for removing the apricots' peels, and the hours of effort I expended if a homemaker's hourly wage can be computed! [But can you really put a price on the satisfaction a person receives from their hobby?] Of course, the tomatoes are a wildly renewable resource at this time of the year--no matter how many I take to give away wherever I go, we have tons!! Same with green beans, which I process for the freezer. And our first dozen ears of corn are filling out nicely. I've canned the tomatillos into salsa, made pickles with our cucumbers and chiles, and still there's plenty of the summer growing season left. God's bounty is amazing!! He is faithfully fulfilling His post-flood covenant with Creation in Genesis 8:22:
"While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease."
He who keeps the sun, moon and stars in place (Colossians 1:17), holds the universe in the span of His hand, keeps the seasons on schedule, and keeps the air flowing in and out of my lungs, is also able to keep me in His love and keep me saved and belonging to Him!

As I apply good housewifely stewardship of the fruit of God's creation by perserving and keeping my harvest for later times of need, God is keeping me, body, soul, and spirit! I love the benediction of Jude 24-25:
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever,

Friday, July 30, 2010

Expectation of Reward Part Two

4:48 p.m. Today's project was to pick up my daughter Heather (Mrs. Nick Love) at the site of Sandals' future church building at 1:00 p.m. She is a leader with the high school ministry, and they were returning from a weeklong summer camp up in Ojai. (Nick was working). God just injected a little fun into my day!

We shared half-melted sugar-free ice cream sandwiches on the way to her house, courtesy of my Jeep's failed air conditioning system, which I was supposed to get looked at this afternoon. I rescheduled that because I thought it would be more fun to spend time with Heather! As the kids grow up and build their own lives, I have learned to treasure moments I can spend with them, whether planned, like Mother's Day, or impromptu like today's crosstown drive. and I'm always up for laughs and finding out what's new with Heather and Nick.
Proverbs 15:13a is a life verse for me: "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance." And nothing cheers this mom like time with her kids. Heidi still lives at home until her June 2011 wedding, but with her and Pavel's ministry to the 5th & 6th grade, their Young Adult leadership roles and the time they spend together as an engaged couple should, sometimes I see her only at breakfast and bedtime, or during a quick stop in the late afternoon before running out again. My daughters remind me of myself, always with something going on, and blessedly, a great part of our time is spent in ministry! (Same with youngest son Steven, also a high school leader up in Fresno). Nothing, aside from marriage and family, is more fun and exciting than sharing the Lord, His Word, and ways with others, which is the essence of ministry to any age group!
"Yea, woe is me if I preach not the Gospel!" the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:16, and I say, "Amen!" only "Woe is me if I teach not the Word of God to anyone who cares to listen!!"
My kids are doing the same, and I can see them accomplishing even more one day if they continue to focus on the Lord and the needs of others God has given them the privilege of sharing His Word with.
Yesterday, I pondered with my son Kriss whether there is truly anyone who acts from a purely selfless motive, and I concluded that actually, pure selflessness is not in any of us! We can pray, however, for the Holy Spirit to fill us with Jesus' love for others, a love that compels us to serve them. But any efforts we make in others' behalf is a mere speck of a reflection of HIS character, not anything within us! We do expect to be rewarded for a job well done...
A friend, a pastor's wife, mother of two elementary age kids, as well as a public school teacher, commented that being a parent is the hardest job of all. [She's a sweet, involved mom, but summer vacation might be getting to her!!] On the "hardest job" issue, she'll get no argument from me! Parenting will bless your socks off, and then find you rinsing the mud out of them the next minute. But parents look forward in faith, don't we? That's what we hold onto!
Hebrews chapter 11, known as the "Hall of Faith," speaks of the incomparable forebears of our faith, from Abel to David, who, verse 39 tells us, "having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise..." The father of faith, Abraham, "dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise, for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Verse 13 says, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth."
How blessed we are to have obtained the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ! Believers look forward to our heavenly reward as well!
Meanwhile, I would encourage all young moms that their earthly reward is coming after the few years that will fly by--your children will have absorbed all you said, did, and WERE during their childhood, and you will be rewarded in ways that cannot even be described!!
Stay the course.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Expectation of Reward Part One

6:19 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy lunch with Steve after our ladies' home Bible study and then take our Labrador retriever Jada to the veterinarian at the Riverside Animal Hospital. She has had a sore on her left ear that we have repeatedly treated with medicine the vet gate us last year when the irritation first occurred. Seems she gets fly bites, and the flies then attack and irritate the bite, in a kind of vicious circle. We liberally spray both dogs with their own fly repellent, but a few of the stubborn pests zero in on the target anyway. Then her buddy Bailey, our other lab, tries to soothe the sore by licking it, as dogs do for one another, but it probably was no help, since Bailey licks off the ointment!!

I wasn't relishing driving down there with the dog in my precious Jeep--just kidding--especially with the air conditioning on the blink since Tuesday. It had to be over 100 degrees this afternoon. But since this was the first free afternoon we'd had so far, today was the day. We try to be wise stewards with the pets the Lord has blessed us with, and also to be mindful of Proverbs 12:10, "A righteous man regards the life of his animals." For the joy, fun, comic relief, protection, companionship and affection our dogs provide, and now especially, therapy for Steve in his Alzheimer's, we can at least care for their health!

So people and dogs enjoy a "mutual benefit" society. Both parties have positive expectations for the other and give back in return. Kind of like marriage, isn't it? We give good loving efforts, and ideally, we also get such in return. It brings to mind a Facebook question my son Kriss posted this afternoon:

"Is there such a thing as a truly selfless good deed (currently)? Because I think that everyone does things with at least a small expectation of rewarding results."

There were several answering comments, discussions of those who save others' lives as part of their profession, personally giving and helping others, you name the scenario; his question provoked extensive higher level interactions. I thought of my own role as a mother, for example, in which I poured out my time, talents, love and work to bring up children as unto the Lord. No one had to tell me to feed, clean, dress, cuddle, and educate my children. Normal maternal affection and devotion dictated those actions, and I certainly didn't expect "thank you's," although the words are as wonderful to hear these days as they were when the kids were little.

But I did have an expectation of reward--the development of honorable, God-fearing adults who would contribute to society (otherwise known as "delayed gratification"). What about friendships? We give out of love for another person, but unless they show some reciprocal action, that friendship will wither. Reciprocal action from a distant friend would be a letter or phone call; from a friend in town, it might be an invite to have coffee or see a movie. And we would return the favor in our own way. Marriage is the same--we reciprocally benefit one another. We expect a reward for our efforts!

As the very thoughtful comments continued to post, the question lingered: is there ever a purely selfless act? Even some acknowledgent of one's heroic or sacrificial good deed is a small reward! Human beings are made this way--we work for compensation in any number of ways, if only for a sense of satisfaction. And that's not bad, not bad at all. But selfless? I think not. Romans 3:10 came to mind, so this is what I posted:

There is none righteous, no, not one.

In God's eyes, there is no selfless, righteous person--we are all sinners. All of us. The only purely righteous Person who ever walked this earth was Jesus Christ, crucified for all of our sins, then resurrected, and now at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven.

We do have access to righteous standing, however, through the sacrifical death of Jesus Christ for our salvation; if we accept His offer of forgiveness of our sins, and confess that He is the sinless Son of God, we earn the right to be seen by God the Father through HIS SON'S righteousness-- cleansed, holy, and beloved!

That's the ultimate reward!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

There they are!

5:37 p.m. Today's project was to write my study for tomorrow's ladies Bible group at Debbie's, and I Samuel 9 is the chapter we'll be covering. Thank the Lord that He allowed me to get my remarks finished despite numerous interruptions, some consequential, others fleeting, but God overruled all of them, including two short naps, and "it's a wrap."

I have been napping a lot lately, probably due to waking up too early and fading out in a few hours. Of course it would help if I didn't stay up late reading! I always set my cellphone alarm for no more than 30 minutes, because I don't want to be the sluggard of Proverbs 6:10-11: "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep--so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man." Okay, okay, I'm up!!

Before I wrote the study, I pulled up the lesson the ladies will work on this week, corrected a few typos and made sure of the wording. In Chapter 9, the prophet Samuel is told by God to look out for a tall and handsome young man named Saul to anoint as king over Israel. Meanwhile, Saul and his servant are traveling the countryside looking for his father's lost donkeys, and lo and behold, he accidentally walks right up to the prophet!

In the introductory remarks to the lesson, I recounted the time a very impoverished single mother had been attending the home study I taught, and the Lord privately put on my heart to take her grocery shopping. So I packed up my three little ones and set out across town to her apartment building, not really having any more than a street vicinity to go on. Her phone had been disconnected, so no help there. I came to a likely-looking block of units, and there she was, sitting on the curb, with her toddlers, all of them dressed nicely, as if they were going somewhere! Can you believe it? So my kids scooted over, we loaded the family into my van, and off we went to the store. Now that was God--still working His way today, with or without giving us mortals a lot of advance notice or information. The Holy Spirit knows how to guide us!

Jesus told His disciples before He was to be crucified and resurrected back to heaven in John 14:16-18,

I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

Indeed, Jesus has not left us to our own devices, which will never do anything but clash with the Spirit-filled life! He wants us to pray; take encouragement and build our faith from reading His word; and listen to His still, small voice. Believers are privileged to have the indwelling Helper who causes us to walk in joyful confidence, because Jesus said, in Hebrews 13:5,


"So we may boldly say, "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A modern apostle

3:26 p.m. Today's project is to go see and hear Chuck Smith, the pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, at our church this evening. We are all excited to hear him, especially Steve, who was saved there in Costa Mesa at the tent in 1973 during the Jesus Movement.

Chuck's anointing by God and obedience to His call has made him, I believe, an apostle of the modern church. He has founded Calvary Chapels around the globe; birthed the Harvest Crusades back in 1990, not to mention training and raising up the pastors who now lead hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.

Chuck Smith's message is simple: teach the Word of God directly from the Bible. At 83 now, having survived a stroke, his enthusiasm for Jesus Christ is stronger than ever, and his message to the believer that "Christ is coming--be ready," has never changed.

As a new believer in 1980, I remember immersing myself in Chuck's Bible study tapes in the old library upstairs at Calvary Chapel Riverside, The love and authority in his voice, his expounding of the scriptures, and the warmth of his conviction that God is to be trusted unequivocably, inspired me to pursue the call God had on my life to teach women's Bible studies.

9:51 p.m. Now returned from a fabulous event that saw about a dozen people give their lives to Christ at Chuck's invitation, I just marvel that the Word of God can be so powerfully delivered with gentleness and love!

Speaking of love, the blessed main part of the evening was a concert by Lovesong, the original Christian rock band founded by Chuck Smith when he auditioned the group in the early '70's. My hubby Steve especially was blesssed, because he was born again in the midst of the movement; I had heard the songs on Christian radio and on cassette tapes after I got saved in 1980. I recorded a number of them tonight to share with family members when they join us in August--Steve's side of the family all attended Calvary Costa Mesa back in the day, and his late father was an usher there.

I'll be especially interested to hear Heidi and Pavel's response to the music, the inspiration for the Christian bands they enjoy. In fact, lead guitarist Tommy Coombs leads the band named after him today; Pavel loaded his Christmas CD onto our iTunes.

Now, it's a new generation's turn to go forth and preach the gospel!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Leaving the 99

7:02 p.m. Today's project was to make an all-day trek to come alongside a hurting family member. I could have pretty much relaxed and thought, "well, most of them are all right, and I don't have the gas money anyway." But the Lord compelled me to go!

Even before Steve and I got up early, and I thought about how to pay for a tankful of gas, the Lord popped an idea into my head. A debit card whose balance I thought was too small had enough on it to fill the Jeep's tank! We went through the house collecing all of the "silver" coins from various coin caches, and had them counted out (reason being that it won't be until tomorrow that Steve's disability check is deposited!) but, praise the Lord, we didn't have to use them. So early this morning I could have quoted Psalm 113:2, "From the rising of the sun to its going down, the LORD's name is to be praised."

There was a test for us right away in our jubilation. A derelict-appearing man in a small, white, beat-up car called out to us from the other side of the gas lane, asking for gas money. At first I said, "we barely got some ourselves," when I remembered the coins we had bagged up. I asked Steve to take a handful of quarters over to him, and then found some more to give, and the man was very grateful. Turned out that when he got out to receive the coins, I saw that he had a very crippled leg.

As we pulled away to begin our trip, I burst into loud, sobbing tears of gratitude; really, I shouldn't have been driving. Gratitude indeed for the gas we needed, but gratitude that we hadn't failed the test! We had been delivered; God called us to help deliver someone else from dire straits right afterwards.

"There's always somone worse off," I sobbed. The possible outcomes for our family member loomed before us as probably dreadful; the drive would be long, and we weren't able to be there for the others at home. Lots of pent-up emotions and prayers came to the fore! But on we went.

Our presence was appreciated, if only acknowledged in a limited way; the individual's plight is bad, no other way to state it. We will see how things go in the next 6 weeeks, but I am so glad to have listened to the Lord's voice! Ponder the rhetorical question Jesus asks in Matthew 18:12:

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?

Of course he does!

Jesus continues with the hoped-for answer to our prayers, v. 13:

And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

And this is how much God loves us, His very own sheep, v. 14:

Even so, it is not the will of your Father that is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

How He loves us!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Heaven bound

4:18 p.m. Today's project is to await my daughter Heidi's return from her missions trip to Mexico. The team left on Thursday morning to minister to the residents of Casa del Pastor ("House of the Shepherd") in San Vicente, Mexico. The home for abandoned and abused women and their children is a ministry of Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, and the Body here financially supports a retreat for the women; sends sundries and school supplies to the families; conducts a beach trip for the children and teens; blesses the high schoolers with a retreat of their own; and provides Christmas gifts for every single mother and her children. Our women's ministry gives donations throughout the year to help meet the needs that our missionaries Lisa Heit and Jeanie Sue Phegley bring to our attention.

Heidi fell in love with the little ones a couple of years ago, when she was assigned to the 3-4 year-olds for childcare during the women's retreat. She and her friends then traveled to San Vicente to meet with and mentor a group of teenage girls who face incredible challenges trying to walk with the Lord while growing up in surroundings rife with violence and endemic poverty. The enemy has a stronghold over that country, whether it be through the ruthless drug cartels or lack of any kind of social "safety net" for families. But the people of Calvary Chapel, in prayer, giving, and going, are breaking down strongholds in the Name of Jesus! We must keep in mind what Ephesians 6:12 tells us:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Put another way, for every drug addict partying (or living in the streets) in LA, there is a family of victims in Mexico: kidnapped, abandoned, beaten, or slaughtered in the streets of the border towns. Quite a price the innocent pay for some partygoer's "high!"

Into this world of spiritual darkness and satanic rule, Casa del Pastor "shines as a light in the world, holding fast the word of life..." (Philippians 2:15). The Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only hope for the hopelessness that characterized the lives of the residents before they came to call upon His Name!

And it is no different for any of us who have come to Christ for salvation. There is only one way to walk from darkness into light, 2 Corinthians 4:6 makes clear:

It is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We pray safe return of Heidi and the rest of the team, and I know she'll have many a miraculous tale to tell, to God be the glory!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What will my parable say?

4:00 p.m. Today's project was to see our son Steven off to Fresno this morning after his two-day visit with us. Even though we keep a guest bedroom with a queen bed ready upstairs, he prefers to sleep on a one-mattress bed on the floor of my office downstairs. I suppose that's because that was his old room, and it has sentimental value.

As I stripped off the sheet and bedspread, I took a moment to look out of the window at our garden. I noted that today it would need watering. But a thought came to me: how much more would I need to trust the Lord for our food if I only had rainfall to water my vegetables instead of just turning on the garden hose? The Holy Spirit was bringing to mind the Parable of the Sower, which Jesus told in Matthew 13:3-23, that I'd read earlier this morning. It made me ponder the "ordered randomness" of farming in the ancient world, and the faith you'd have to develop in order to trust that the frost would end, rains would come in due season, the sun would shine as expected, and the plants would grow from the seeds you sowed onto the soil.

Verses 3-8 describe seeds being scattered by the farmer that landed on the hard ground of a footpath where the birds quickly ate them; on shallow, rocky soil that sprouted quickly and wilted, because they lacked deep roots; seeds that were choked out by thorns; and those that fell on fertile soil that produced up to 100 times as much as had been planted.

"Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand." Jesus said (v. 9, New Living Translation).

Jesus' explanation to His disciples took place later in verses 19-23:

"The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don't understand it. The evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word. The seeds that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God's word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, and no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God's word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!"( NLT).

What will my parable say? Will it represent a fertile faith that shares the love of God and His plan of eternal life with as many people as possible? Or will I just lie inert, producing nothing for the Kingdom, contentedly assured of my own salvation? Will my parable represent an overcoming faith, no matter how dreadful the events of my life may become? Or will it turn into a sad tale of drying up and withering away in the heat of trials?

I pray my life and yours will "always honor the Lord, and produce every kind of good fruit." the Apostle Paul's prayer in Colossians 1:10 says. "All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better."

Thus a Christ-centered life becomes a true parable for the ages!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Give God the glory, great things He has done!

3:50 p.m. Today's project was to neaten up our woodpile and a bunch of fallen twigs fom last week's odd collapse of a major tree branch. The beautiful Chinese elms in our front yard have had rather a checkered past!

We originally had four trees, which provide a thick canopy of shade to our yard, their narrow leaves a refreshing pistachio green. In fall the leaves turn a fiery orange-fuschia, a stunning, traffic-stopping display. But seriopus inceidents began occuring, beginning in 1993. 8-year-old Heather was playing in the living foom by the front window, shortly before I returned from a Junior League officers' conference, when a driver lost control at our corner, flew through a flimsily-built wall, and took out half of one tree in the front of the yard. When Kathy Allavie and I pulled up, the compact car was stopped barely a foot from the window! My younger daughter was safe, if somewhat shaken.

I truly believe what Jesus said about little children in Matthew 18:10: "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven." Jesus truly cares for and protects them!

Fast-forward 14 years to 2007, on a bright Saturday morning when Steve had to work in Ontario and I was out to breakfast with my friends at Mimi's. Heidi and Heather were both home sleeping. I got a call from Heidi, "COME HOME! TWO CARS CRASHED ON THE CORNER AND A TRUCK LANDED IN OUR FRONT YARD! THE POLICE ARE HERE!" I turned to my friends Yvonne, Sherri, DeAnna, Randi, Jill and Christine with the news, and they said to finish my breakfast since the police were already there and it didn't seem that anyone (in our house anyway) was hurt. Good counsel! I'm glad I ate, because what I saw upon arrival a short time later would have caused a hungry homeowner to keel over.

One tree was knocked down completely, others had branches sheared off, the neighbors were camped on my front porch taking in the scene--one with a toddler on her lap!-- a cop was taking pics on his cell, and a huge silver truck was parked catywampus on my lawn! The patio table was knocked over, the patio flagstones were broken up and flung everywhere, our wooden fence was destroyed, leaving our golden retriever Kena staring mournfully through the slats. (Samson, our border collie/ Dalmatian mix, had gone into hiding). The girls told me later that Emmanuel, their older brother Kriss' best friend from 3 houses down, was at the house by the time they ran downstairs in their pjs! That's how terrific the sound of the crash was.

Miraculously, not one branch, board or brick had come through the windows. Steve came home a in record time from Ontario, and the process of settling our damages between homeowners insurance and two drivers' auto policies began. The photos were an Internet sensation...cold comfort from the chaos. Over the ensuing weeks, Steve and our oldest son Sean boarded up the backyard, cleared away the tree branches, dug up the stump, and cut up the wood to be disposed of. Eventually we had a steel-reinforced wall built in our front corner of the yeard and two brick and wrought iron walls constructed with the claim proceeds.
Lots of aggravation, but God was once again faithful not to allow any of us to be injured!!

That wasn't the end of the trees' sad tale. Last week, on a perfectly clear late afternoon, a major branch of the tree near the street wall just cracked and fell down! I happened to be upstairs, heard a loud noise, and climbed up on the master bath toilet to look out the window. The dogs were barking loudly. All I saw was a few old dry leaves on the roof tiles, and thought, "That couldn't have been a rat!" Nothing else seemed out of place from that angle, or, in the midst of all the greenery, the crack wasn't obvious.

Heidi and Pavel arrived at the house, then came in and announced, "One of the tree branches fell down!" We ran out front, and a huge branch had indeed cracked on its own and was lying down on the lawn! No harm to anyone, praise the Lord, but Steve has spent another week cutting up branches, with the help of Pavel's dad, who brought his chainsaw over to begin the process. He created a tidy supply of logs for all of us!

Today, we were able to give some logs away to our friends Kenny and DeAnna, and send them off with some produce, too. God allowed the branch to fall down harmlessly, and the tree will be a source of campground heat for any number of people this summer.

Only the Lord knows why that branch cracked and toppled, but I know, from knowing my loving God, that He has a good and beneficial purpose for everything He does.

Here is a sample of the miracles He performed for the children of Israel from Psalm 78: 13-16:

He divided the sea and caused them to pass through;
And He made the waters stand up like a heap.
In the daytime also He led them with the cloud,
And all the night with a light of fire.
He split the rocks in the wilderness,
And gave them drink in abundance like the depths.
He also brought streams out of the rock,
And caused waters to run down like rivers.

My God can do anything!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gotta do it

5:39 p.m. Today's project was to spend a pleasant afternoon with Steve, who'd been busy at home during my weekly home Bible study. So we set out to find a matinee showing of "Toy Story 3" after our lunch.

We settled on a 2:15 showing. It was going on two o'clock when we arrived at University Village Ultrastar with a coupon for a $5.50 ticket price. As I walked around from my side of the Jeep, Steve was struggling in some confusion over putting the windshield shade up, but he finally got it done. I just stayed patient, because I hate movie trailers and commercials anyway, so arriving a bit late suited me fine! At the box office, the girl told us that the $5.50 price didn't apply, according to the fine print she showed us, "on 3-D movies." Their matinee price for two tickets would have been $21.00! I only had $15 to spend, thanks to a Mary Kay sale earlier, so we politely took our leave. (Things are more than a tad tight this week!)

I remembered that the Mission Grove theater was showing the same movie at 2:30, so it was back to the car for us. We only had a couple of minutes to go, but Steve just had to fold the shade up exactly, even though there was plenty of room on the backset and we'd be putting it right back on the window again. It's similar to his time-consuming folding of dishtowels after washing his hands in the kitchen, totally unnecessary because they're small and don't take up any appreciable space, and they are tossed into the laundry at a rate of 3-4 a day--not worth the bother, they get damp so quickly. I've encouraged him to just relax, drop the rumpled towel, and to get on with whatever we're doing. The "lady of the house" and chief cook and bottle-washer (me) has not cared about the appearance of the dishtowels for about 29 years now, and has assured him of that fact repeatedly! It seems like he's developing some compulsive behaviors, though, because he really does struggle with physically letting the towel out of his hands without folding it. It's like he emotionally has just "gotta do it." Is this part of the Alzheimers? I don't know, because every week or so, there's a new and unusual behavior that develops and I'm taken by surprise. However, thankfully, the Lord knows what's next, and will give me the fortitude to help Steve be as appropriate and responsive to requests and suggestions as possible! "The LORD knows the way that I take," Job 23:10a says!

Following directions, finishing tasks (even those of his own choosing) and awareness of left/right, up/down, "over there," etc., are becoming a struggle too. At home, we can be somewhat relaxed, but even household jobs and gardening have specific components that have to be accomplished in order. He needs a lot of repetition of instructions, no matter who is giving them. I also see a real difference in Steve's independence in the garden. More than one incidence has occured with staking up tomatoes, which he did on his own last year. Now he can't figure out where the string goes in relation to the stake and the vine. So we do it together. Some days I am able to make it more fun than others, so I do pray before I go out to help him that I would be tactful and kind, gracious and loving!

One of the issues which will make a huge difference in Steve's quality of life, is for me to stay consistent with retraining him to use good table manners, such as putting a napkin on his lap and using a knife and fork correctly. I want him to behave appropriately around others at fellowship potlucks and parties, not to mention Heidi's June 2011 wedding reception dinner. I want him to be able to participate comfortably, and have it be comfortable for others, for as long as possible!

We did end up watching our movie for $15 total at Mission Grove, no coupons necesary, and enjoyed it thoroughly. (I do admit to dozing off a number of times, because I'd gotten up at 5:15 to see Heidi off on her Mexico missions trip!) We went from there to Kmart to exchange Steve's very huge mislabeled jogging pants for a better-fitting pair. I encountered some resistance from Steve to removing his shoes to try them on, but in the end he did fine, with some "gentle persuasion." No, I did not threaten to hold the door shut unless he put the pants on!!

When we got home, Steve lit the gas grill for burgers. I just "happened" to look out of my office window at the garden. "Boy, I remarked, "the water seems to really stay down at the end near the cantaloupes!" "I left the water on the whole time we were gone," he sadly said. I just told him, "Think about it: what if it rained for two straight days? It wouldn't hurt anything!"
the watering has now become one more thing I'll need to check on, but if I've "gotta do it," I'll do it!

These days, I lean on, love, and live, Psalm 27:14:

Wait on the LORD;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Down there in the dark

4:33 p.m. Today's project was to rescue our Roma tomatoes (the pear-shaped ones that are excellent for tomato sauce) from the critters who have been boring holes into some of them and ruining this perfectly tasty and useful fruit!I haven't sprayed for worms in a while, having seen relatively little damage, but today's discovery made me go a little crazy!

Steve and I were watering and harvesting tomatoes and cukes from the center rows, when I picked up a bright red Roma and a slimy, almost translucent white creature came up out of it, from a hole it had bored! I screamed and dropped it on the ground, noticing that the hideous thing had two small horns--it was the very first slug I'd ever seen. (I guess I've led a sheltered life!) I knew enough to drop it onto hot, sunny, hard-packed ground, instead of in the cool shady undershadows of the plants! I wasn't always quite so dainty--one memory of blistering summer fun was putting snails in the 110+ sun in Redlands with my sister, then, "adding salt to the wound," watching them melt and bubble up! Kids have a stomach for gore, don't they?

We lifted up the plants and found a veritiable world of beetles and assorted tiny critters enjoying the moist shade. I wish I could charge rent at this "pest motel!" All of the other garden crops-- corn, peas, green beans, cucumbers, cantaloupe, tomatillos, peppers and strawberries--either stand up tall or their fruit is not heavy, so there's good ground clearance. But this is my second year with a "bumper crop" of tomatoes, and those plants are weighed down with their bounty!

This was war! Seems I use that phrase a lot in my garden...I got Steve to hammer a few large stakes down into the midst of the plants, and tie them up, because far too many tomatoes were lying down on the ground, and even in the irrigation ditches, because of the weight of even the small tomatoes.

As I pondered the evil creatures down there in the dark under my precious plants, now suddenly exposed to the light of the sun, I couldn't help but be reminded of Ephesians 5:9-14, concerning our new life in the Lord--the journey from darkness to light!

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.

Therefore He says:

"Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light."

From darkness and death, to light and life--that's the journey believers in Christ have made! Make that journey for yourself, by repenting of your sins and confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, able to save you and give you eternal life in heaven with Him--today!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wake up call

3:01 p.m. Today's project was to wake up by 6 a.m., in time for Steve and me to have our devotions and breakfast, so we could welcome Heidi's future father-in-law Constantine by 8 o'clock. He was hired to build a section of cedar fencing to replace the rickety boards that blew down in May.

Sounds simple enough, especially with our new evening exercise program that leaves us ready for bed by 10 p.m. or so. All was well, and my dreams were nice and funny, even, when my cellphone rang. Stumbling out of bed, and removing my earplugs, I made it into the bathroom and grabbed my phone out of my purse. Missed the call, but I checked the time, 3:12 a.m. The name that flashed up meant trouble, so I called right back.
It was the same friend I had spoken with for over an hour earlier in the evening, describing a bad situation and asking if I could come over. I muttered a question or two, buying time to clear my head, and said, "Yes, give me 15-20 minutes." I put on my glasses for clearer vision, and so my contact lenses wouldn't be in so long the following day, and headed out. Not much traffic on the road, and I was grateful for the clear night.
When I arrived, the police were there, the troubled one was in the squad car, and my friend and I got the chance to talk. Perhaps now their loved one would get some help! We talked and prayed, and I was back home in an hour or so. I'm grateful the Lord made my 1/16th of a tank of gas last, because when the Lord calls, in the person of a hurting friend, you go!
Jesus answered in Matthew 25:40, in response to the question posed in verse 39 "When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" by saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me."
On arriving home, I reset my alarm to an hour later, and saved time by sleeping in my clothes for the next three hours. Our builder and his daughter arrived on time, did a beautiful job, and I was able to nap for a while before canning pickles and tomato sauce. We had a nice lunch together before they left. My main concern has been for alertness this evening behind the wheel on the way to church for tonight's Heart to Home class, and that I will be able to offer a brief devotional message and participate in Rosie's Mexican Cooking class.
A few text message updates came to me, and the system will have to take its course with their loved one. I may be tired, but have no regrets for being found faithful. (I Cor. 4:2)
I'll trust the Lord for all the energy I need and a good night's sleep tonight!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pucker up

4:51 p.m. Today's project was to head over to Redlands so Steve could help my dad with trimming his trees. At 83, my dad has a couple of acres of former orange groves, and needs occasional assistance in addition to his weekly landscaper's chores. Daddy also likes to give Steve the opportunity to work, and without being asked or expected to, pays him well.

We always make sure to spend some time visiting in Daddy's kitchen. With all of his grandkids and great-grandkids, we never lack conversation. In fact, my nephew Brady, an aspiring tv commercial actor and screenwriter in Hollywood, visited with his grandpa yesterday. Proverbs 17:6 says, "Children's children are the crown of old men," and a crown for us grannies, too! I really do feel rewarded as a parent, because the range of personalities and talents of my five children and two grandsons have been a source of wonder from the day each one was born! It is so exciting now that my kids are in their 20's and 30's to see how they have turned out--so far. Just keep in mind that none of our stories will have been completely told until the very day we leave this earth!

You and I who are believers in Christ are living in the light of Philippians 1:6, "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. " At age almost-59, I look forward to learning new skills, dusting off old ones, and starting new ministries at any time the Lord calls and people express a need suited to the gifts God has given me!
In that venturous vein, I am going to make dill pickles tomorrow, with some help from my daughter if she's able to be home. I have all the ingredients here in the kitchen, and if I can scare up 12 cloves of garlic, they'll be Kosher dills, my favorite. My garden's cucumbers are huge, and the three of us are not that likely to just slice and eat all of them, so into the boiling water bath they go! I may be able to get away with fewer cloves of garlic because I only have 8 half pint jars, two of which will be filled with the tomato sauce I made yesterday. (The two products have the same processing time).
As I was looking through the pickling section of my 40 year old Joy of Cooking, I was filled with a modicum of dread because of many lengthy processes, not to mention health warnings of all kinds. Since it has been over 35 years since my last attempt, I was wondering if I'm up to the task. Then I flipped over to the last page, and saw the recipe for dill pickles and voila! They are tons easier than all the rest!! Thank you, Lord!! We'll be happily "puckering up" after the pickles sit for a few weeks, without the preparation being a two-day ordeal.
My dad would say to my sister and me, whenever we were nervous about trying something new, whether learning to drive, or trying out for a choir solo, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained!" With the Lord, I find a better version: venture all for Christ, and receive eternal life beyond description, and abundant life today, beyond belief!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Making a comeback

4:36 p.m. Today's project is to get some meaningful, but not too strenuous, exercise this evening. (It will become more strenuous as the days go by!) I can't help but notice that, although 85% of my clothes fit me well, they aren't quite as comfy as they were last year, and the dress I wore at my daughter Heather's wedding in 2008, well, forget it!

The reason I have some "breathing room" is not buying form-fitting clothes in the first place! We Christian women aren't required to walk around in baggy sacks, but should use good judgment in interpreting I Timothy 2:9, "In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation..." We can be stylish and modest at the same time! Look at any catalog or online--we have thousands of options each season for our own individual taste, coloring and shape. Low-cut or skintight clothes are never the only choices available! Even workout clothes can be loose. It's up to us ladies to model tasteful attire for new believers, for example, not upbraiding or discouraging the gals, but showing them how nice they can look for any occasion. Then they can purchase a more appropriate style when they shop for their next wardrobe pieces.

Our judgmental thoughts tend to focus on visible decolletage, and granted, showing "what's up top" has no place at church! (Or anywhere else for a Christian woman). But my daughter Heidi and I were discussing the extremely short shorts we've been seeing on Sunday morning. Excuse me? How stumbling is the view of a woman's behind, upper thighs and above to any man behind her? And for men of some cultures, viewing a woman's legs is absolutely forbidden. What happens when a gentleman of a more traditional church background comes to church seeking the Lord, but perhaps leaves wondering if he's at a church service or a party? The pastor's words could go in one ear and out the other, and the church's reputation is tarnished. Score one for Satan!

For the married woman who dresses in a vulgar manner, the Lord holds her own husband accountable as head of the home. (Ephesians 5:23, "The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the Head of the church). There is simply no excuse for a display of flesh!

I do want to make a comeback to a healthy weight and better-fitting clothes, and plan to keep eating lots of healthy veggies from the garden along with muscle-building protein, and minimum carbs, since I don't digest them well. To each his (or her) own, but God can keep each of us in optimum condition. Ask Him in prayer what would be the best plan for you!

All I know is, that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him! (I Timothy 1:12)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Do it yourself

2:20 p.m. Today's project is to get ready for our son Sean and his fiancee Pam's engagement party, a barbecue. All of us except Steven will be attending, along with Heather's husband Nick and Heidi's fiance Pavel. Should be a fun evening, and I look forward to getting to know Pam, an ICU nurse, better. From what I've seen so far at our house on Father's Day, and from her Facebook posts, she seems to be a caring, friendly gal.
I must say that I have really been blessed with our children's choices of marriage partners, and even their families are a great fit with the Kruckenberg clan. We love people! The Kruckenbergs are all about God and family, try to be a good witness to all. We gladly take part in whatever concerns others (as practicable and appropriate). Our son Steven said one time, "Mom, you know we'd never date anyone you didn't like. But you and dad like everybody!" Well, think about it--Christ died for all, and had a good word for all who came to Him. To be snobbish or unfriendly would not represent Him at all, would it?

Therefore, my kids need to use their own spiritual discernment when picking a mate, not just go on emotions. When I look back on the decades of nightly and weekly family devotions, thousands of Sunday School classes, youth groups and Bible studies, as well as Bible stories and prayer times before bed, I thank the Lord for the way He led Steve and me to raise our family. Now it's their time to make critical life decisions! And they are not alone, because they, the same as we, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, as I Peter 4:14b says: "...the Spirit of glory and grace rests upon you."
In the vein of "doing it yourself," I sent out an email request to my Heart to Home instructors to submit class proposals for our fall classes, set to have a holiday theme. Our classes teach women household arts and creative skills they can use to enhance their homes and teach to their own children. I am hoping to offer Christmas budgeting, thrifty entertaining, decorating and gift wrapping. The hors d'ouevre and homemade gift classes are already booked. My prayer is to see beginner to expert levels of crafting offered, but the Lord will show me precisely what our women at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley need. I am trusting God to fulfill His Word in Psalm 32:8:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
While glancing on to the next book of the Bible, I saw Proverbs 24:27, which made me chuckle as I think about my current home project. That undertaking began today with Roma tomatoes plucked from their vines that I'll cook down into sauce and then can next week. The verse directs:
Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house.
That may not be the closest correlation, since farming is rather a large leap from gardening, but there's no food to put in the house, if it's not first grown outside the house! And as I stock my pantry with preserved foods, I am "building my house" as a wise woman should. (Proverbs 14:1a)
As the Lord gives us ability, let's put our minds and hands to good use in whatever calling He has ordained for us!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hurried Friday reflections

4:24 p.m. Today's project was to call in two of Steve's prescriptions to CVS and check on one that needed doctor approval before his office closed, in time to pick them up today. Calling at 2 p.m. was already too late for the doctor, but at least their office had contacted the pharmacy and the pills are ready. Praise the Lord, at least the other two prescriptions still had refills left, enabling me to use the automated refill phone system.

Steve has 5 prescriptions, plus many nutritional supplements that are known to be helpful for heart health, blood circulation and brain sharpness, like magnesium, phosphatidylserine (PS), gingko biloba, B-complex, fish oil, COQ 10 and the Shaklee mega-multivitamin, Vitalea. (In the interest of full disclosure, I take many of the same supplements, plus H.A. and MSM to stave off arthritis). It's no mean task to keep all the supplements and meds in order, and last year I actually had enough Rx co-pays and medical expenses to enter them on our tax return!
Steve takes many good substances, eats organic produce most of the year from our garden, and exercises very actively with the dogs each day, walking 2 miles up and down our hilly neighborhood, but it is for the Lord to ameliorate the progress of his Alzheimers. Psalm 103:3 says it is the Lord "Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases." Steve and I are both born again, confess our sins regularly to one another and the Lord, and try to apply the guidance of the Scriptures and heed the voice of the Holy Spirit in our daily decisionmaking. However, we are still counting on the Lord for every inch of ground Steve holds against this wretched affliction!
The first part of the verse, about forgiving all of our sins, reminds me of the wild scene in John 9:1-41, which begins with the disciples seeing a man born blind and asking, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." This chapter has always been one of my favorites, because of the unusual healing method Jesus used, making clay with spit to put on his eyes; the commotion cause by the blind man's healing; his parents' talking back to the Pharisees; and the man getting kicked out of the synagogue for testifying truthfully about Jesus healing Him, leading to his faith in Christ.
I am particularly fascinated by the original question of who sinned, the man or his parents, taking into account that a baby could sin in the womb, according to Jewish beliefs. But there is real relevance here for Steve and our children, because his Alzheimers is inherited. His father had it, and his 57 year old brother is already in a care home because of it. A "family curse" has been suggested by one of his siblings, but I believe it's much more likely to be "family genetics" myself. My personal example is a lot less devastating, but the arthritis I've inherited from my own mother causes constant vigilance to defeat, and even so, I often awaken at night with pains in my legs and get up feeling quite stiff. And I certainly do not feel cursed or even put upon! We live in a fallen world where disease is rampant, a judgment for universal sin.
I'm going to stick with Jesus' words as to the reason for that particular man's blindness for that place and time: "that the works of God should be revealed in him." And the works of God are revealed in us also, when we stay strong in faith despite disappointing physcial circumstances or crushing losses. Even when Steve begins a day basically disoriented, makes illogical objections to helpful suggestions, loses items he had in his own hands, has no idea what we talked about a minute before, and cannot tell his left from his right, we can still have a great day together, just not based on task completion or facts. He can work safely on self-chosen projects and help me around the house. And we can enjoy the benefits of the most wonderful relationship on this side of heaven: marriage!
Our God's works are revealed in us now in part, but they will be evident in full, glorious view one day in His very presence! And Steve will be healed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


4:29 p.m. Today's project was to teach I Samuel chapter 7 to our very committed group of ladies who gather each Thursday in Debbie's home. We learn, laugh, cry and pray together while the scriptures come to life. We grow closer to one another, and to the Lord Jesus, of whom Psalm 40:7 says, "Behold I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me."

I had two pleasant visitors at home before I even drove to the study. Charlotte, who leads worship for us, arrived early in fairly good condition after her vertigo episode last week, with just minor dizziness. Then Rocky, a friend of almost 30 years,whom I met at women's Bible studies at Harvest, came to follow us over to the meeting. She's as energetic as ever!

Earlier in the week, Rocky had been bursting with news as she contacted me on Facebook about a new venture, for which she wanted to ask my participation. As we went through the verses, Rocky thoroughly enjoyed the lesson and was blown away by the women in our group--their maturity, compassion, expressiveness, their devotion to the Word and prayer. I hadn't seen Rocky since last year when she popped into Heart to Home at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley to hear my devotional before the classes started.

As we proceeded to open up for prayer requests, Rocky shared the vision that she is implementing with a pastor at the Grove Community Church, the Riverside police department and chaplains, and Professor Deborah White from Cal Baptist University. They plan to offer a once-monthly public event with major speakers who have had a personal experience with extreme violence of any kind. Rocky's own family member was all but killed as the result of a home invasion robbery a few years ago, and she found no real help at her church, probably because of lack of training in that kind of counseling. The vision she is implementing combines counseling, Christian testimony and guidance classes. The need for victims of violence to be helped and healed is great. She revealed, for example, that in our area of Riverside, considered the "best" zip code, there are 4-6 acts of criminal violence reported daily! Lord help us take action in Your Name!

Rocky has approached me because she remembers my testimony concerning the violence I endured in my first marriage as an unbeliever, and because more importantly, because of the glorious saving and rescuing work Jesus did, and continues to do, in my life. She also is thinking of my years in public service, in elected office, serving as a believer while making public policy, and speaking before many groups, large and small. Rocky is desiring me to be a scheduled speaker for one of the sessions later in the year. I will certainly pray about it, because I want the Lord's heart towards others, as I read in the Horizon Online devotional this morning by Mike MacIntosh. If my testimony can uplift and inspire another victim, to God be the glory!

God's heart is declared in Psalm 12:5, NLT,

"I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up and rescue them, as they have longed for me to do."

And verse 6-8 give us this assurance:

"The Lord's promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over. Therefore, LORD, we know You will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation, even thought the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land."

May we be part of His rescuing and healing work here in Riverside!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A day off

5:13 p.m. Today's project was for daughter Heidi and I, along with her bridesmaid Shea, to meet with my sister-in-law Sharon at Shinoda's Design Center in Santa Ana. The goal? to purchase the centerpieces for Heidi's 2011 wedding reception. Sharon was a wedding coordinator at her church a number of years ago, and has a real knack for bargains and style. She also has the resale license number necessary for purchasing goods there!

My day had not begun propitiously, due to a lack of sleep caused by the heat, Steve struggling with his C-pap machine for the first time in weeks, and issues I needed to pray about. Finally giving up, I arose at 5:30 and went downstairs to start my day with emptying the dishwasher, grabbing my coffee and posting Psalm 89:6-7 on Facebook, as I do each morning, just writing out verses in order as I work my way throught the Psalms:

For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD?

Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD?

God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,

And to be held in reverence by all those around Him.

Those marvelous rhetorical questions in verse six are answered, of course, according to my FB friend Gloria, "NO OTHER!" And our response in verse seven is to hold Him in awe and reverence as we believers assemble in His Name. I realized at this point that I need to be at peace and in harmony with my fellow believers, "as much as lies within me," (Romans 12:18).

Turning toward the dogs at the sound of "scrabbling" in one of the crates, I saw an agitated Jada, and soon smelled the "product!" What a mess to clean up, but it didn't take long, and since I had gotten up an hour early, I really didn't lose any time! Airing out the house was the big issue, but that was soon taken care of and I was on to my devotions.

I kissed Steve goodbye, and our exciting "field trip,"as Shea dubbed it, began at 9:30. We smoothly cruised into the O.C. I could relax and enjoy the time and concentrate on Heidi's selections, because I had written tomorrow's Bible study one day early. Sharon pulled up a few minutes after we did, and we wandered up and down the vast aisles, looking at candles, ribbon, and hurricane glass holders, and between the four of us, we came up with a clean, crisp design that will be enhanced by Gerbera daisies in her "signature" colors of orange and fuschia.

Well, I'm back after an odd attack of serious cold sweats and faintness, during which Steve was out walking the dogs--I was thinking, is it a heart attack?--I lay down for a couple of hours with my emergency beeper pendant handy. Must have been heat exhaustion, because I was still dressed in a longsleeved top and jeans, for our morning in Orange County. It was well over 100 degrees when we were out in the garden staking tomatoes, and running errands later!

Now we're getting ready for Christine and Neil O'Dell to come over and fix our computer, I've taken a shower and freshened up, and it's on to a good evening and some fellowship!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hitherto and Henceforth

3:04 p.m. Today's project was to finish writing the Bible study for Thursday so I would have Wednesday free to go candle shopping with my daughter Heidi at Shinoda's Design Warehouse in Santa Ana. She is getting an early start for her June 2011 wedding reception decorations, since she has the summer off from teaching.

I had laid my groundwork by reading all of my commentaries and gleaning historical background information from Unger's Bible Dictionary and Manners and Customs of the Bible. Since Steve and I had been out late at Disneyland last night to watch the new "World of Color" display, I even set my alarm 45 minutes later, so I would be mentally alert when I sat down to work. ( I should say, "sat down to a time of enjoyment." )
In Chapter 7 of I Samuel, God granted a major victory to the Israelites by frightening and confusing the Philistines with a loud thunder. God intervened, however, because His people had finally made a solemn commitment to throw away their idols and serve the Lord God alone. As I looked into the "Ebenezer stone" that the prophet Samuel used to set up a sacrifice after the Israelites' rout of the Philistines (v. 12), I saw two meanings, "God has helped us hitherto," and "God will help us henceforth."
In other words, we offer praise for what He has done, and praise for assurance of what He will do!
Another task I had today was to sort through my hand-typed studies of II Samuel, because a dear sister Kathy, a retired secretary, has volunteered to type and edit the 24 lessons and reformat them in Microsoft Word!! She has joined our Thursday morning study recently, I believe, "for such a time as this," as Mordecai exhorts the queen in Esther 4:14! We are currently enjoying written homework on I Samuel each week, along with the Bible study, and she just spoke up and offered her services!
Naturally, sorting and ordering the lessons written in 1986 or 1987 took me down memory lane; I even found a slip of paper with the names and phone numbers of my core Bible study members!! One still has the same number--our children have gone all through school together. When I looked through my introductory remarks for one lesson, for example, I read how convicted I was of covetousness, holding on to adorable dresses outgrown by my tiny daughter Heidi (pictured above recently with her fiance) when the Lord had told me to give them away! The Lord faithfully caused me to be a woman of my word, in obedience to the voice of His Holy Spirit.
Just as He convicted me then, God convicts me now--hopefully, not as often, or at least not for the same kinds of things! (I do pray that I have experienced spiritual growth over the decades!!) He has been faithful hitherto --up to this point--and will not fail me henceforth--in the future!! God will not fail you, either!!
We can assert with David in Psalm 23:1, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."

Monday, July 12, 2010


3:40 p.m. Today's project was to make a connection between our son Kriss, a singer, songwriter and drummer, with the Fishers Artist Agency, owned and operated by a friend from church who represents all kinds of talent, and has a professional performance background himself.

Kriss had texted me yesterday about seeking some assistance for the acoustic-style band he has put together in Long Beach, because the group isn't as consistent as it needs to be to make a name for itself, or begin playing gigs. They have written and put together five songs, but are in the process of writing another one, so they'll have a decent repertoire of original music to perform. Kriss' old friends and fans have been eager for him to get back on stage, and his dad, siblings and I will certainly attend his gigs.

Fishers Artists has undergone some changes, since the owner needed to move out of stste, and has a full roster he represents already. Kriss is welcome to get any assistance he can by phone or email, but I'm hoping some local agencies might be recommended for the immediate needs of his band--or perhaps Kriss will decide to go on his own as a singer/songwriter.

Music has been a mainstay and a gift from the Lord for Kriss, who began as a drummer in his high school band, and then drummed in a Christian band he helped form; he then progressed to singing, and was lead singer in "First Time Falling," a band that gained popularity in the Long Beach area while he attended Cal State LB. He wrote their songs, too, and we treasure the very professionally mixed CD the band put out. His rendition of "I can only imagine," by Mercy Me, was a moving tribute at both of his grandmothers' memorial services.

FTF band members went their ways, Kriss graduated and began his career, and now has been married close to a year. Hi wife is very supportive, I may add! The new band does have two former members included, and there is potential for making an impact with a new music style. I am just glad that Kriss has made a connection with a Christian music agency, that we all can be in prayer, and a new direction can be found!!

I thought of the names of God that might give confidence to Kriss about his music in a time when things seem to be coming apart: "The Lord is my banner," Jehovah Nissi; "The Lord is there," Jehovah Shammah; and "The Lord is peace," Jehovah Shalom.

Kriss has already included God in his lyrics, which are intended to be uplifting; now he needs provision in the realm of professional guidance, and above all, peace in the process, from a heart that's settled on Christ!

May Jehovah Tsidkenu, "God our righteouseness," make Himself real like never before, and I pray Kriss will find God true to His name Jehovah Jireh, "God will see to it; God will provide."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Back roads

5:01 p.m. Today's project was to celebrate our anniversary, July 11th, and party like it's 1981! So we decided to drive to Palm Springs after church and enjoy some of the things we did on our blistering hot honeymoon week 29 years ago. The blistering heat was key to our newlywed destination, because we were able to get a swanky hotel room at the Sheraton Plaza at half price!

We turned up my iPod on its iHome base to hear all of our favorite rock music, including Orleans' "Still the One," and were on our way. A friend who lives in Beaumont had advised us that the 60 to the Badlands would be very slow, so we took Redlands Blvd to San Timeteo Canyon, and turned east. We enjoyed a smooth, fast ride through horse and chicken ranch country on that back road, until civilization began to appear in the form of huge new tract homes, and finally we saw a sign for the 10 Freeway East. As we sped along, we pointed out to each other the Cabazon dinosaur, and the Whitewater "wash" that is now bone dry, but flowed with water and waders, including ourselves, 29 years ago. We had even gone to a fish farm a ways back from the highway. Noted also was the Tramway on the outskirts of town, which we rode for the first time that year (and later took the family to experience). Daily matters may be hard for Steve to recall, but Palm Springs evokes all kinds of recognition and specific memories for him; he recalls details that I've forgotten, like the original name of our honeymoon hotel, now "The Spa." Proverbs 10:22 just occured to me: "The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it." I feel rich indeed today!!

No sorrow today, just laughs and memories. Cruising Palm Canyon Drive was bittersweet because of all the empty businesses, but tourists were still strolling the sidewalks carrying their purchases. We parked, and began a search for the movie theater where we watched "Raiders of the Lost Ark" back in the day. We found it in decrepit condition, now showing live performances, which I would have appreciated if we lived in town and had the time to book reservations ahead!

All was not in vain, however, because we got to walk under cooling misters and were served fresh-baked pizza on a corner! Steve selected peperoni, and I opted for basil pesto. Delish! But no one knew for sure where there was a movie theater! We walked over to Arenas Road and asked the concierge at the Zuzu Hotel. We were told there was a Regal Cinema, and that we needed to go right on Tahquitz Canyon Road "about a block." More misters, a godsend on an incredibly muggy hot day on the back roads, and I began to ask Steve, "What does a "block" mean to these people?" We inquired again at Sherman's Deli, and were told, "it's just after the light." So on we went past many closed businesses, prayerfully just for the summer, seeing nothing like a Regal Cinema. Finally, tucked away below street level, was the theater where we'd taken the kids long ago to see that cute animated fish movie whose title escapes me.

It was not going to be our day to enjoy "Toy Story 3," because it played next at 3:15, giving us over 2 hours to kill. Oh well, it wasn't our honeymoon movie theater anyway...So we stopped for lunch at Sherman's Deli, another of our longtime favorites, delectably kosher. Lox, bagel, cream cheese, sliced onion and capers for me; a patty melt for Steve, and the host was kind enough to take our picture (above). Now that place is classic Palm Springs, from the waiters to the clientele.
Another long walk back to the car, and we were on our way west. Next stop, Cabazon, exit Apache Trail. Hadley's date shakes haven't changed a bit, so we enjoyed them at the counter and most of the way home. This ancient fruit doesn't disappoint, wonderfully sweet as always!
Back at home, we were delighted to watch the video of Pavel's surprise marriage proposal to Heidi, which took place in their 5th and 6th grade children's church classroom, with two pastors present and with the advance planning of all the kids!! It was beyond precious, so full of love, the kind of love that only Christ can create between a man and woman, amid the fellowship of believers. We have an exciting year ahead in the Kruckenberg house!
I'll close with Jesus' words in Matthew 19:6: "What God has joined together, let not man put asunder."

Saturday, July 10, 2010


4:59 p.m. Today's project was to can my green chile and tomatillo salsa, as well as some ripe Roma tomatoes, all from the garden, except for the garlic clove and the onions, which are out of season now. I prepared the salsa fresh yesterday, and the tomatoes had been ripening on my kitchen counter for a few days. (The lids look a little un-shiny because they've been in boiling water in the pressure canner. Suppose I could shine them up now that they're sealed!
It never ceases to amaze me how the plants in my garden grow! In the same way, I marvel at the number, growth and maturity of the believers I know from around the country and overseas! When I hear the testimonies of Christians, the ministries they've started, the loved ones they have prayed into the kingdom of God, and the way they are raising their families in the Lord, I am amazed! Just think: a couple from one generation of believers produces "godly offspring" (Malachi 2:15), who meet and marry other believers, and the legacy of faith in Christ continues. As the Apostle Paul spoke of his and Apollos' evanglistic ministries in I Corinthians 3: 6-9a [exhorting the believers not to form "followings" behind either one of them] he describes how the church grows, using an image of plants that I can relate to:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field...
Steve and I prepare the soil, plant, water, weed, hoe the irrigation ditches, stake tomatoes, keep out gophers, spray for worms and other pests, but who brings the bees to pollinate the blossoms on our vegetable plants? Only God can do that!! Steve and my dad may have erected a chainlink fence, but only God can keep a swarm of locusts from devouring every plant down to the roots!
In this 300th post, published on our 29th wedding anniversary weekend, I naturally am reflecting on the "produce " of our marriage: 5 adult children, 3 in-laws and their families, 2 more in-laws and their families to be added in 2011, and two grandchildren so far! We led our children to the Lord and nurtured them meticulously for all their tender young years, but only God could have opened their hearts to Him and the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ! They are adults now, and the same principle holds: only God can keep them, nurture them, grow them in His Word and fit them for ministries of their own! And if need be, only God can bring them back into His perfect will should they stray! (Same as for their parents and all other believers!)
Steve and I have had a lovely day of yard work, gardening, and relaxation, and we'll now go "out to dinner" at Del Taco, with a coupon, as befits our current budget.
I couldn't be more pleased!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Lord gave the word

5:25 p.m. Today's project was to follow up my hairdresser appointment with a stop at Smart & Final for a large tub of vanilla ice cream for Steve and some special treats for our 29th wedding anniversary this weekend. We'r planning on some fun togetherness over the next few days!

"What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," the Lord Jesus commanded in Matthew 19:6. In other words, get married and stay married, and see how the Lord will work beautifully in your life! (Or take the opposite direction, and create misery for many). In my morning devotional reading today, I found Malachi 2:14-16, where God rebukes husbands for treachery against their wives. One sentence stood out to me in verse 14: Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, but also between a man, a woman, and God!

Verse 15 goes on to say, "But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. " Godly offspring from a God-honoring marriage--I can say that the Lord has blessed our home with 5 children, who belong to Him!

Hear verse 16: "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence." (The New Living Translation says, "To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty.") What a picture of devastation for wives! And as for the children, does anyone even bother to argue the higher risks children of divorce are subject to, whether anti-social and self-abusive behaviors, like premarital sex and drug use; poverty; their own failed marriages; depression and suicide?

Psalm 68:11 came to me as I sat down to write about something entirely different...that verse says, "The LORD gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it."

Let us proclaim today, in a mighty company, that we will faithfully remain in our marriages, no matter what trials come about; we will support any and all others who are struggling and almost ready to give up on their own marriages, or all newly married couples going through the adjustments that marriage calls for!! [We also proclaim and freely offer personal, loving support for struggling parents].

Because the LORD gave the Word!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


6:52 p.m. Today's project, after a lovely time at Bible study, was to come home, pick up Steve, and head down to Staples with our computer tower for their "Free PC Checkup." The two of us figured out how to doisconnect all the cords and doo-dads, and Steve seated himself in the passenger side holding the computer. That thing is probably heavy, but I didn't try to pick it up, and am so grateful that Steve was able to take care of that aspect!

Our first stop was to drop off a couple of Bible study lessons for a member of the group who doesn't have a printer on her computer. The we arrived at the eye doctor where I needed to deliver a Mary Kay product to my friend Sherri the optician. She was totally slammed with patients, and I felt a little guilty for waiting because Steve was out in the Jeep with the computer--we couldn't leave it out in the car unattended. He had windows down and a door open, but even a decently shady spot was probably getting a bit warm over the time span. Unlike me, who can't stand any time sitting in the heat (unless it's at the beach!) Steve was quite relaxed when I returned. All his years in plastics manufacturing, with machines generating incredible heat as molten plastic took shape into products, must have inured him to normal summer temperatures!

At Staples, we placed the tower on the technology center counter, told the young man what we needed, and yes, he could give the free tuneup--simply blowing out the dust inside it. But no, the Free PC Checkup wasn't an actual diagnostic that would tell why the machine is revving up and then running slowly. That costs $69.00! Am I slow or lame, not knowing what the words "checkup" or "free" mean? I've certainly had my share of doctor appointments! Maybe I'm not aware of the PC vernacular. I was certainly not going to spend $69 at this point, so I asked how long he would need to keep the computer to blow the dust out of it.

If I had dropped it off this afternoon, I could get it back on Monday, due to the backlog. Well, that would not work for us, especially since most of the people I know tend to communicate by email and/or facebook, even when making arrangements for ministry events. Cellphones are still an option for now--a more attractive option if the data package allows online access to emailand/or Facebook! What nerds we have all become!! But at least we are pretty competent typists these days...

We finished up at Vons, where Steve was able to sit at the shady lunch tables out front while I ran in for necessities and a Dark Cherry Mocha Frappucino to share. I used a gift card from VBS leader Veronica. That way, the computer wasn't unattended in the parking lot. What a hassle! We normally don't carry around valuables, as you can tell!

The Lord did redeem the Staples effort, because when we got home, Steve attached a small blower to his air compressor, removed the outside panels from the computer, and delicately blew the dust out of it himself!! (He's still the ingenious fellow I married 29 years ago!) So we took advantage of the information we received, hooked the computer back up, and it does seem to be a bit more efficient.

I am always amazed as God finds ways to bless and help His people. Psalm 103:1-5 says,

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits;
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Whether in small matters or overwhelming trials, I will bless the Lord!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shop in confidence

4:23 p.m. Today's project was to write down my notes, with all scripture references and quotes, into final form for tomorrow morning's I Samuel Bible study. Wednesday is reserved for this effort, which I find to be so much fun and such a creative and mental challenge that I don't even think of it as work! Doesn't the saying go, "Find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life"? Researching, gleaning from a variety of commentators, comparing translations, compiling notes and writing Bible studies that bring women closer to the Lord and to the victorious life He has planned for us, is the most enjoyable avocation ever! To have an impact for the Lord is a tremendous privilege, and one not to be taken lightly! It is only the anointing of the Holy Spirit that could cause one of our group to say that she feels like she is "finally coming out of the desert;" and that "in studying I Samuel we are getting to know ourselves." As this last statement has sunk in over the last week or two, I have realized that the Bible portrays real people in real life--just like we are living "real life" right now, in "real time."
After I had finished the homework, which I do just like the other ladies, and with the study "wrapped," it was time to treat myself to some fun time with Steve, who'd been busy outside while I was in my office. After our lunchtime discussion with Heidi over wedding and catering details, we drove to Mission Grove Plaza for his Fantastic Sam's haircut and to buy anniversary gifts for one another at KMart. While Steve got a very nice trim, I took care of stopping an autoship plan from a vitamin company in his name (by putting him on the phone while the hairdresser was scissoring away) and cut way back on my own shipment schedule. I got a return authorization number for the unopened package, so it will ship back UPS for free, saving me more than just the $89+ of the enclosed product. Every penny counts these days...

Off to KMart. For Steve to go gift shopping for me gets a little tricky, since with his Alzheimer's, he won't know it's our anniversary past the moment I tell him, and thus can't plan ahead. He cannot drive to a store, and doesn't ever know whether he has money. The Lord has graciously given me some strategies that help my husband to be as independent as possible, such as having cash to pay for his own haircut because he can't use an ATM card or write checks. We had a $20 limit apiece.
We headed to the women's clothing section, to the bargain sundresses. I told him my size and pointed to a dress or two that I liked. Then I went to the men's area and selected a pair of navy jogging/workout pants, which also were on sale. Thank you, Lord, for your provision!

I called Steve on his cell, and we met up front at the registers. To preserve the "mystery," I suggested that he get in a different line. He looked a little nervous, because he depends on being with me, but he did well, even changing lines when there were hangups with the customer in front of him. I was really proud of all that he accomplished out in public today!!

It seems so little of an accomplishment, to purchas items independently at a store, something I trained my kids to do in elementary school while I stood nearby. But for Steve, at the cusp of mid-stage Alzheimer's, it was a real confidence-builder!

I like this phrase from Isaiah 30:15, "In quietness and confidence shall be your stength." True indeed.

Plus, he looks really handsome today!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Loyalty and consistency--Heart to Home devotional

7:24 a.m. Today's project is to prepare for tonight's Heart to Home "Chocolates Galore" class by Wendy Simmons, a chef at the University of California dining facility. Steve will come early with me to church, we'll make sure the kitchen and the classroom across the hall are unlocked, so that Piecemakers quilting and craft group can meet, and then he'll go on to participate in the men's Bible study. Tuesdays are a real blessing at Calvary Chapel!
A Devotional for Heart to Home
Good evening, Ladies! I'm Dana Kruckenberg, leader of the Heart to Home ministry, and let's open in prayer!
Loyalty and consistency
Welcome, and thank you for spending time with Wendy, Suzanne, and one another. I can't wait to get started, but I want to share with you about loyalty and consistency in service to the Lord!
Against the backdrop of financial and myriad other woes that beset Christans, like persecution at work, illness, and tragic losses, I've found ministry to always be a privilege and solace, a blessedly sweet assurance that, as II Chronicles 16:9 words it,

The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal towards Him.

What comfort Christians have received, while awaiting deliverance from a trial, to know that God's favor rests upon those who are loyal to Him, who freely give of their time and treasure to serve Him by serving others, using their gifts and talents to uplift, cheer, and build up the Body of Christ!

Exemplifying the loyalty and consistency that God requires of His choice servants, is Wendy, your teacher! (She didn't know this was coming!!) Wendy, with her faithful helper Suzanne Clough--CLUFF!--who actually helped out while on crutches one year, has taught her Chocolates Galore class every year since the April 2005 inaugural session. We've had chocolates and cookies set out at the sign-up tables as weather permitted for our spring sessions, and even one summer, for about 5 minutes!! After that first August, we figured that women kind of knew what chocolate candy looks like!! I know the pastors miss the tray that headed upstairs after sign-ups...

In every ministry, there are people who come alongside and pitch in with enthusiasm and energy right from the start, without whom there would be no ministry! God can use visionaries to create concepts and leaders to format the structure for a ministry, but someone has to step forward and say, "I'll do it! Just tell me what you'd like me to do." That's Wendy and Suzanne! By the way, my longtime friend Paige here, taught our women a much-needed budgeting class last summer, after years of instructing at Harvest, and I'll be hitting her up again for a class when we start our fall series later on, which she hasn't heard of yet!! [Recognize any other instructors also]

Obstacles and roadblocks get thrown up against all of us who dare to step forward in the Name of Jesus, and this class is no exception! But God is mightier still, like yesterday, when the Holy Spirit told me to get up and hurry out of the $2 movie "Marmaduke" we were watching to give Wendy a call! Turned out God knew there was a real need for a "how's it going?" and "Here's the time you can get into the kitchen" phone call! Wendy, ever the professional, and very well practiced in offering her gourmet chocolate class, is here, and you girls are in for a treat!!

If any of you aspire to perhaps lead a class, open your home for a Bible study, or offer your service in any way to the Body of Christ, look at the examples of the instructors here tonight! Prayerful willingness is the first heart-step! But "counting the cost" of discipleship and ministry, as Jesus put it in Luke 14:28, loyalty to the Body and consistency in service no matter what trials threaten to derail you, are the qualities that will carry you through!

Let the delicious fun begin!