Monday, May 27, 2013

Original Steve, Part II

6:55 p.m. Today's project was to grasp a new perspective on my husband Steve's demise on January 1st, following on the heels of the kids' and my burger feast in his honor at home on Friday night. We all had plenty of stories to tell about Steve and the meals he enjoyed, from the Dr. Pepper to the Barqs root beer, salt 'n vinegar chips, and his most favorite, my imitation Western Bacon Cheeseburger! We ended our meal with his crave, Dreyer's vanilla ice cream, topping the scrumptious "blondies" (light brownies) made by my daughter-in-law Marisela. The weather was mild, cool, and just right for a meal on the patio, with lighted fans keeping the mosquitoes at bay. But ultimately, what made our meal a celebration instead of a wake was knowing that Steve is rejoicing, worshiping, fully fit and mentally sharper than he ever was, in his permanent home in heaven. As II Corinthians 5:8 makes clear, when a Christian is absent from the body, he is present with Jesus.

The Lord showed me a perspective on that verse from the other end of life's spectrum after church today. I ate lunch at China One, a new restaurant that was partnering with Calvary Chapel Christian School (of CC Moreno Valley), by donating 15% of each customer's bill to the school if they brought the pertinent flyer from the counter in the foyer at church. I expected to see a number of folks from Calvary there, but didn't mind eating alone for a good cause. I wasn't alone for long, because my daughter's friends Noah, Crystal, and their one-year-old Lilly came in, and said, "Are you lunching alone?" I said, "Yes." Crystal said, "Well, not any more!! We'll take this table right next to you!"

Don't you love it? I'm not about to give up on the next generation, and I hope you won't either!

This couple lost a baby, terribly deformed, dying in the womb. I can only imagine the sorrow and devastation that accompanied the delivery of a child God had named but did not allow to see life on this earth. We don't know God's reasons for the deaths of children, but I do know that God will not give us more than we can bear, no matter how dire the trial God sends us as individuals. He chose this couple to be a witness for Him.

I remember what Jesus said about His selection of Saul, Acts 9:15-16:

...He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.

As the three of us were sharing our testimonies over lunch, quite openly and boldly, they commented that they have been a witness to their family members with the joy that they still have in Christ, with one another, and as a family, despite the tragedy they suffered. I concurred, in that there is no reason for believers to just curl up and die mentally and emotionally when a loved one goes to be with the Lord. Just think of the rejoicing Steve is doing, the reunions he is having! We talked a bit of what their boy will look like when they see him one day in his perfect body--what a thrill, what a hope that gives Crystal and Noah! I shared my thoughts about "Original Steve," as well.  Of course we have sad times, thinking of the loss of our expected futures with an infant for them and with a retired husband enjoying our golden years in my case.Two ends of the spectrum of life on earth, the very sin-cursed earth of sorrow and destruction.

Yet, the three of us cling to, by actual experience, our calling is to be a part of  God's "holy nation, a peculiar people" (I Peter 2:9) And the reason we can go forward in life? Here is the the believer's proper reaction to death taught to us in I Thessalonians 4:13:

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as those who have no hope.

And finally, the Apostle Paul shouts from the pages of scripture through the ages to us today in I Corinthians 15:57:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (over death) through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Original Steve Part I

9:47 p.m. Today's project was to continue make preparations (buying food) for our celebration of Steve's birthday, which is tomorrow, May 23rd. Just the kids and I are going to have a hamburger cookout in memory of Steve here at home on Friday night, because we all know that hamburgers were his favorite food. Each of us will make a special gourmet burger in their dad's honor. (Mine will be a Western Bacon Cheeseburger with the homemade barbecue sauce that he loved).  We'll have Dreyer's vanilla ice cream with Heath Bar blondies for dessert. We even have the two kinds of buns he liked: whole wheat and toasted onion. The salt and vinegar potato chips are already in the house. Somebody better pick up a six-pack of Dr. Pepper  too!

Steve would have been 58 in earth years.In his new eternal life in heaven with Jesus, however, he has become a timeless being. I like to envision him, as I say to people, as "Original Steve."

"Original Steve" is the handsome, energetic, brilliant man I met in 1980 and married in 1981, when he was 27. Now that I think of it, "Original Steve" could be the man  he was at 37 or 47, active with his wife and kids, successfully employed, well-traveled, conversant in the public education issues that our life in public service entailed. He even put on a tux for the annual Junior League Ball, and wore his tailored black suit for other civic and semi-formal occasions! Yet he could generally be found fixing or fabricating things at work or at home. And a day doesn't go by, it seems, when I don't mention the nightly family devotions he led for our family to someone. Steve really set an example to our extended family, his children, and to the Christian community of being a godly father, a praying father, a servant-leader husband, and a man who served at church.

The Steve of the last 2 years and one day was not anyone we knew, not really, other than the normal physical appearance of a husband of a wife over 60 and grandfather of three boys. His shell looked normal up until the last year, when the wandering, blank eyes gave his mental emptiness away. Before that, the two of us would be at Ralphs grocery store and he'd get dirty looks for standing in the middle of an aisle rather than walking on the right side. When I'd quietly and gently guide Steve to hold onto the cart, I actually felt sorry for the rushed crabby shoppers when the realization of his condition stabbed them with guilt!.

Maybe it's best that we not scowl at anyone. Only God knows what is or is not happening in a stranger's brain.Psalm 139:2:

You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.

I am not sure how I will feel tomorrow.  But despite knowing there's an "Original Steve" in heaven rejoicing with everyone else who preceded him, and with Jesus Himself, I personally would like having him back here with me, his wife of 31 years, watching his grand kids grow, and welcoming our new little Desmond this month!

In all sincerity, though, Steve would say, and as Christians we can agree with' what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:23, that he'd rather with Christ, which is far better.

The two of us will be reunited, in terms of eternity, very soon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The smell of wet dog

3:20 p.m. Today's project was to refresh myself in the Lord after an incredibly blessed week of fellowship with believing friends, family, customers and team members. Saturday afternoon included an uproarious one- year-old's birthday party; Saturday night night ended with our scripture-based Ladies' Fellowship. Sunday included an out-of town niece's bridal shower after church,  and brief visit to daughter Heidi's in-laws on the way home.As my Mary Kay customers become friends and friends become customers, I am enjoying a giant God-ordained circle of joy, fun, encouragement, support and love! What God says to the widow in Isaiah 54:4-5 is so true, "For your Maker is your husband."

Monday went along as a Monday should, exercising after devotions and breakfast, and expecting our plumber to stop by. I made arrangements for business appointments and went out on errands. My daughter-in-law and I made plans to design a large appointment calendar for her to help me not forget any more customers  like I did last week! (I made a doctor's appointment for next month on this issue)! On my last post, I was praying for a companion to ride with me to a wedding about 100 miles away, and God answered beautifully. Brenda came by for her facial and foundation match on Wednesday, but I spaced it completely, and wasn't here, to my mortification, despite the time being boldly starred in my datebook! But by Friday, she and I had made driving arrangements, and she even came over early to enjoy her facial and makeover. Thus, Brenda looked extra gorgeous for the wedding!! God even works through our foibles and forgetfulness. Isaiah 49:15-16 says,

Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb?Surely they may forget, but I will not forget. I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands...

No one loves like Jesus does, absolutely no one!

After lunch, my daughter-in-law Marisela and I made a plan for her to wash and groom the dogs---which she does in a very professional way--while I kept an eye on Clark, our hilariously active one-year-old grandson.
 From his wading pool to the lawn, from Gramma's lap to the patio, Clark made the most of the afternoon's canine entertainment. I would stand with him on my arthritic  hip, loving every moment, of course, but regularly looked for "reasons" to sit in the swivel rocking patio chair in  the shade.

King Charles Cocker Spaniel Penny looked elegant, while Yellow Labrador Retriever Jada looked smooth and serviceable. Clark and I kept switching towels and toys as we tossed them to Jada, who loves to play Fetch. It was so much pure joy to play with Clark and Jada, teasing her and gloating together when we faked "our" throws and she would run the wrong direction! The bright sun and warm breeze made it a pleasant interlude for all of us, dogs included. I even received an excellent text message from a team member about ordering as I relaxed. Thank you, Lord, for a business where I can carve precious family time out of my day!

Wet and worn out, we trooped into the house to clean up and put the towels in the laundry. I handed the baby over to his mom, and went to wash my hands. WHOA! The smell of wet dog was overwhelming, considering I hadn't taken part in the bathing. I guess it got passed from Jada's toy to Clark to Jada, and back to me enough times to leave a distinct impression. Carrying the dogs' drying towels probably didn't help! No doubt about it, the evidence was in: I'd been with dogs.

The fragrances we want to be remembered for, and to remember about others, are the complete opposite of the ones our beloved pets or large domestic animals leave behind. We apply sweet. floral, spicy, citrus-y, pungent, fruity or musky scents to ourselves and our homes  "according to the art of the perfumer," as Exodus 30:35 describes the anointing oil for the Tabernacle. We want to please others around us, not scare them off!

I had discussion with a young lady the other day about the way people are turned off when Christians perform blatantly vicious public acts while quoting scripture. No matter how often or loudly our nationally known, Spirit-filled leaders of the Church denounce that behavior, negative visual and vocal images stick in people's minds. Those acts reek of the pig pen!

As believers, we want to give off a loving, honest, trustworthy and sacrificial fragrance! We want to leave a positive impression behind. Even when we agree to disagree with an unbeliever, we want to do it in love. The  Apostle Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15:

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

Among believers, we give off and give out Christ's fragrance as we encourage, cheer and comfort one another. With the unsaved, our fragrance is used for the purpose of attracting the lost to Christ.

I want to exude both kinds of fragrance during my days here on earth, don't you?

Monday, May 13, 2013

It's the basic stuff

8:01 p.m. Today's project was to find a ride to a wedding in San Diego, about 100 miles away.The bride is the daughter of a dear friend, a mutual friend of my daughter and myself as well. Lots of good friends from church are invited, my gift is wrapped and ready, and I've been looking forward to this wedding very much.I would not want to let my good friend down by missing this joining of her daughter to a godly young man. What a privilege it is to be a witness of "what God has brought together!"

I know the Lord will find me a ride with a guest who isn't spending the night, as my daughter and her husband, the wedding party, and many others are; or He will grant me safe travel back and forth, alone. Right now, I do not know how my Friday afternoon journey will turn out, but God does! Psalm 18:28 assures me that there will be an answer to my puzzlement:

For You will light my candle: the LORD will enlighten my darkness. 

It's the basic stuff that I find pops up randomly to remind me that I'm alone, not literally, but in the sense of not having an automatic companion for social events or a long road trip. My close friends are married, and that relationship is their God-ordained priority after relationship with Himself. I have daily conversations, fun with family and those friends, as well as my business, home and ministry commitments to keep me very happily occupied. God is designing a new life for me, and He will not steer me in an adverse or unsatisfying direction.  "All my springs are in You," Psalm 87:7 says.

I think of a widow written about in the book of the Bible by her name, Ruth, who, with her elderly widowed  mother-in-law Naomi, traveled from Moab to Israel, to Naomi's ancestral lands. Ruth needed to earn a living, and found herself gleaning fallen wheat from a kinsman of Naomi's, Boaz. He granted her request to glean in his fields, and even told her not to go to any other field. He commended her for returning with Naomi, and said, in Ruth 2:12,

The LORD recompense your work, and a full reward be given you from the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you are come to trust.

And that is the key for me, as it has been for 33 years as a believer in Christ, and is especially is now as a widow: TRUST. That means trust in serious matters, such as finances, relationships, business and ministry. But it also means trust in the enjoyable, fun social times God so graciously grants His people.

After all, wasn't Jesus' first miracle (recorded in John Chapter 2) turning water into wine at a wedding?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Say the Words Part II

2:42 p.m. Today's project was to continue in my newly established routine of reading scripture aloud in the solitude of my devotional time. Reading through the latter chapters of the Gospel of Luke, and now on into John, has given me a greater measure of personal interaction with God's word, especially reading Jesus' comments and teachings out loud, as I think He would have said them.

I began John Chapter 3, where Jesus instructs a leader of the rabbis, Nicodemus, in the kingdom of God. About midway, I came to the most precious verse in the Bible to believers through all generations and throughout the world, verse 16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The floodgates opened as I began to read the words of this promise that has made me the saved and grateful woman I am today! I literally could not read it until I'd gathered myself in praise and thanksgiving to my gracious Lord. and how much had John 3:16 meant to me each time? My life, my whole being.  I have no other identity than as a daughter of the King. Yet, somehow, the Holy Spirit needed the free gift of salvation by the sacrifice of the Son of God, to sink in with special power today.

There are times when we need to express our innermost hearts, not only to the Lord, but to family, friends, mentors, even colleagues.  It is "such a time as this" for me, as I undertake a 52-day march, marathon, race to the finish line of becoming a Mary Kay Director. My team is in place, including prayer partners Josie and Monica, who declares regularly as we pray, "God, I won't stop praying until Dana has that pink Cadillac, because I want a ride in it!!" Don't you just love your believing friends' belief in you?
Additionally, the Lord has given me excellent training, guidance and leadership from my director Laurie, and other top directors have poured their wisdom into me as well. Yet I have not expressed in writing my commitment to this goal, nor the actions I will take to achieve it, until yesterday. Here is the letter I sent to our National Director Kathy Helou after listening to a live call encouraging us Future Directors and Directors in Qualification (DIQ):

Dear Kathy,
I was very inspired and challenged by the DIQ call and testimonies on Monday. God directly told me last year, "I am in this for you." With my late husband in his final months with early-onset dementia, I just didn't play full-out like I should have. It would have been wonderful to make Director while Steve was still alive, but he would not have comprehended the achievement (although he certainly would have been happy for my good news).

But now is not the time to bemoan past laxity. I'm going forward! And in this new life God is designing for me, there is freedom to work as hard as I need to. Two of my grown kids and their families live with me, cooking and keeping the house and property in order, so I am truly blessed.

Company motto "God first, family second, and career third" has been the most important part of the Mary Kay company for me. Last year when our CEO told a director on stage that he'd pray for her and her family, I knew MK was the real deal, lead by real believers--PUBLICLY real believers. As I tell my friends, customers, family and team members, there's no company like it! 

I am one active team member away from submitting for  DIQ. I am committed to do whatever it takes to advance the women on my team to boldly build their own business, and go as far as they dare to. We will be a hardworking team, the future "Uplifted Ones" unit, to the glory of God!

It's my time, and I will follow your encouragement and challenge to take that next step into DIQ, and directorship, and debut on the 50th anniversary stage!

Blessings to you, Kathy,

Dana Kruckenberg

Let's be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's  promptings and obey when it's time to say the words!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

When is humor not funny?

10:02 p.m. Today's project is to consider God's gift of humor.

A merry heart does good like a medicine,  Proverbs 17:22 says, and that is so true, whether we laugh at a baby's antics or a friend slips in a quick one-liner, like my friend Mary Lou did yesterday while we were at a fun automotive themed restaurant, The Pit Stop,on Highway 76 in Oceanside,  for lunch.

We had been discussing our lunch selections while standing under a huge mounted traffic light. We were very indecisive when the counter girl asked for our order. "We're on the Yellow," she quipped. I burst out laughing and agreed. So we stepped back for further discussion before ordering our delicious meal..

Wisecracks like the one made by my friend are hilarious and harmless, and add to the fellowship of the day. But what about snide put-downs and severe exaggerations about an intended target while in the company of others? Comments embarrassing that person, taking them by surprise in the midst of a pleasant conversation, make it hard to respond with the facts of the case without drawing even more attention to the rudeness of the speaker. 

Of course, if confronted later, the speaker maintains an innocent posture, and may even apologize and receive forgiveness--but it's actually too late, because words cannot be taken back. Is this godly humor, or even good societal, normative conversation for a believer? Let's hear directly from the Word of God.

  • Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6)
  • Brothers, do not slander one another...There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11, 12)
  • But He gives us more grace. That is why the  Scripture says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 3:17)
  • The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:6-7 ).
I would certainly not try to claim that I have every or even half of the above-mentioned qualities in my speech consistently. But the Lord has shown me to be calm and cheerful with others, while not minimizing their illnesses or losses. And as He is so gracious, God has given me the Holy Spirit to take a step back  with me, and review areas of correction needed, while I continue moving forward into the life He is designing for me now. 

The same Holy Spirit is ready to refill and recharge your mind and change your attitude toward others. Let James 3:18 be said of us!

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Say the Words Part I

10:33 p.m. Today's project was to embark on a third day of reading my daily chapter of the Bible out loud to myself and the Lord.

Last Sunday, at our last Home Fellowship meeting of the 2012-2013 season, with able leader Mark Murdaugh, studied Acts Chapter 8. In this chapter, evangelist Philip catches up with the chariot of a high official of the Ethiopian government who was leaving Jerusalem after worshiping. The reason Philip met this man was that the Holy Spirit told him to leave Jerusalem, where the Lord had been using him to work miracles and convert many to a saving knowledge of Christ, and go to Gaza, verse 26, "which is a desert."

When Philip caught up with the Ethiopian eunuch's chariot, verse 30,

...and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and he asked him, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

 During our freewheeling, intensely wonderful group discussion of the verses, it occurred to me to say, "Did you notice that the official was reading his scriptures out loud there in his chariot? I have to admit that in my devotional times, I just read the Bible silently, not aloud, even though I wouldn't be disturbing anyone there in my room. Should we be reading our scriptures aloud back to the Lord?"

The group assented, that they didn't read the Bible out loud in their private devotion time either. Pete Levitsky described how in Nehemiah 8, Ezra the scribe read the Book of the Law aloud "from daybreak til noon" to the returned exiles in Jerusalem. Our leader mentioned that scripture was read aloud out of respect. So we all discussed this, and it was like a light went on for many of us, that we could be bringing more of our senses to the reading of scripture in our private devotions by vocalizing the Word.

Starting Monday, I began reading my daily chapters out loud. It's been challenging, especially with less sleep than I should be getting the night before, to get that energy up for reading the Gospel of Luke, whose chapters may have 40-50 verses! But it's been enjoyable, too, reading with realistic expression as I imagine Jesus would have spoken, or the murmuring Pharisees, or repentant and suddenly generous Zacchaeus. It's made the verses come even more alive to hear them spoken by this somewhat sleepy but devoted reader.

One thing I just thought of: when I'm reading aloud, I'm not almost dozing off, or preoccupied with my day--I so want to get the right tone of voice for Jesus in every circumstance.And since I don't want to make a reading error, even just with the two of us present--the Lord and I , it really makes me focus on the words.  My imagination comes more and more alive as I "narrate" the chapter!

Thousands of years later, the Ethiopian eunuch inspires and challenges us all to have a more deeply personal time of Scripture reading each day!!!