Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Transformation of Mousy-Me

Do you believe that songs can be prophetic?

Ever since I was young girl and unsaved, God has used music and songs to encourage and strengthen me; to help me discover what I believed in; and the desire to go on when all desire seemed gone.  I would sing those certain kind of songs with gusto and conviction; belting them out into my hair-brush microphone.  Something would change inside of me, because I believed the words of the songs. Sometimes, it would require replaying the song over and over 10 times in a row, until that "something" clicked in me. But, it finally would.  "Death and life are in the power of the tongue", it says in Proverbs 18:21.  And I was singing "life words" over myself without even realizing it.

One such song was Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Waters.  In my junior and senior years of high school, it became my mantra.  That song, literally saved my life during very desperate moments, because I would play it, repeatedly, until the words did that "something" inside of me.  I believed God was the Bridge and He sailed right next to me. I believed I was the Silver Girl (despite the fact that I didn't feel anything close to that glorious). When I'd sing that song, it was like very cell in my being was singing, believing, and transforming.  When I would get to the last stanza, I would close my eyes, stand up straight and tall with my head back (as if caught in the wind), with my arms stretched out straight at my sides (like the scene in Titanic - but this was way before that movie came out), and allow the music and lyrics to sail me away from my reality.

Sail on Silver Girl (Yes, I'll be the Silver Girl)
Sail on by  (I'll come out of this storm into smooth sailing)
Your time has come to shine  (Mousy-me, shine?!  Yes, one day I will!)
All your dreams are on their way (One day they will come)
See how they shine (Shine!)

With all the conviction in me, I'd sing that last stanza and believe.  One day, my time will come to shine.

Health for the whole man -
spirit, soul, and body
FAST FORWARD many years of my life.  Joe and I were Assistant Pastor's in our church.  The Pastor recognized my teaching gift and sometimes offered me the privilege of teaching from the pulpit. I had just finished writing a Holy Spirit inspired, 26-week course entitled Health for Life for the Body of Christ. Pastor asked me to take the 26-week course and narrow it down to an hour's teaching for a Sunday morning service.  I was in my element.  I am a teacher and now I got to teach something that was virtually a part of my soul.

Sitting alone in the Lord's Presence before the service, I rested in His peace.  Suddenly, almost audibly, I heard the last stanza to Bridge Over Troubled Waters in my heart. I stood up and started quietly singing.  I postured my body just as I used to do when I was a teenager.  As soon as I finished singing, I knew this was the moment I had sung about so long ago: my time had come to shine; I was the Silver Girl, and I was sailing on. I wept and thanked God. What an awesome, Divine moment that was for me.  I knew in that moment that this was His Divine plan - almost as if He had this exact moment in time in mind when, as a 16-year old, He kept me motivated to keep walking one step in front of the other, through the prophetic words of this song. He already knew this day; and in that moment and for the next few years, I was sailing!

The teaching was very anointed that day and well received.  Shortly thereafter, I began two back-to-back twenty-six week courses and then two thirteen week courses for the church body. Students in the courses were from all backgrounds in life.  But, men and women were physically healing from various illnesses as they changed eating habits. And they were able to change some of those habits because they were healing emotionally from various traumas, which were the triggers for unhealthy eating habits to begin with. They applied the Word and the nutritional knowledge they gained and it brought forth health in their lives.

The week following that Sunday, I typed out the last stanza of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, dated it and framed it, then hung it in my office. No one ever knew the miraculous soul transformation that took place that Sunday morning, except my Heavenly Father. And He already knew - about 30 years earlier.

I'd love to how songs or music have impacted your life.  Please share.

Because of Him and Unto Him

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Sage's Wisdom

Anderson Cooper had his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, on his TV show this week.

She has lived through much loss, heartbreak, and tragedy in her 86 years. Her life experiences have transcended her fame and fortune.  Gloria is not an angry or bitter woman, but looks for ways to help others through their difficult times. Her wisdom, obviously wrought from painful experience, jolted me awake.
We were not put on this earth to see through each other.  We were put on this earth to see each other through.  ~ Gloria Vanderbilt
How does her quote impact your heart?

Because of Him and Unto Him 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Pig's Playpen

When one door closes, another opens,  
  but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.  ~ Alexander Graham Bell

We've all heard the first part of that quote.  We may have even said it to someone going through a difficult time.   To me, the first part of the quote points to faith - faith that God will move us on from our present situation and that we won't be stuck "here" forever.  And I do believe that.  I believe that an open door is there.  I just have to have eyes to see it.

The second part of the quote requires work on our part.  We have to be able to focus and see through the fog that hellish trials leave us in.  We have to take our eyes off of ourselves and our "now" closed doors, to look ahead at the future  - to the somewhere, where a door is open.

When I was a child, wallowing became one of my coping mechanisms.  No one in the family seemed to empathize with what I was going through so, for days and weeks I would stare at "the closed door" in my life. It was my way of caring for myself; but truthfully, it was like I was stuck knee-deep in mud.  As a new bride, I would tell my husband, "Leave me alone, I want to wallow."  Can you imagine that I actually would say that to him, as he would try to help me see an "open door" in the midst of our trial? 

And my wallowing would go on and on and on until I finally got sick and tired of being STUCK in my circumstances.  And out of the fog I would come.

When I met Jesus, I was quickly convicted that He did not want me to wallow.  So, I worked long and hard - through infernal circumstances - to overcome this particular character flaw - to think positive and look ahead; to search for that newly opened door. But, I must admit: once in a while, I seem to revert back to the old comfort zone. Sometimes, it's major work on my part - more work than I sometimes feel I have the strength for.  So, I cry out to my Heavenly Father for His strength and vision to find the new open door. Experience is the greatest teacher and I have learned there is DANGER in wallowing. The longer you look at self and your circumstance, the longer that circumstance has control over you; and sometimes, the longer the trial goes on. I can cry out to God to get me through; I can cry out for new doors to open, but if my eyes are still on the closed door, that muck and mire will hold onto me like mud to a pig.  And I've been stuck in the pig's playpen way too many times in my life.  So, I search for the open doors and pray for the strength to walk through them.

I watched the movie Soul Surfer - the true story about a teenage girl whose arm was completely bitten off by a shark while surfing.  She went on to become a champion surfer.  For sure she was not a wallow-er!  I envy that it came so easy to her to just move on in life.  She didn't allow her circumstance to control or dictate her future. For some, finding the open door is easy, it's in their nature to look beyond their moment.  For some - like me - finding the open door requires a tenacity that we might not naturally have, but God will certainly grace us with if we ask.

I sure hope you cannot relate to this post, but if you can, please share.

Because of Him and Unto Him

Friday, September 16, 2011

Love-ly Hands

Hands.  I love hands. I think hands can speak volumes about a person's life - especially the elderly.  I like to ponder about the being connected to the hands. Are they a pencil pusher, a gardener, or construction worker? What secrets do they hold? How old are they really? Whose life did those hands help to mold? Do they do kind deeds?

My face may not show my age, but my hands sure do. I look down at my spread-eagle fingers...sigh. Loose skin, protruding veins, and thin bones crisscross the back of my hands like an old worn map. But, the signs of aging is not my concern.  My hands remind me of a time in my life when they were used as tools of punishment instead of instruments of love. Now, as one who has changed much and finally matured, my hands are used so differently - giving and loving, touching with Love's tenderness. But, sometimes in quiet moments I look down at my well-worn hands, and memories of past deeds trigger. I wonder if my hands reveal my secrets to those who may also ponder. I know I am forgiven and I have forgiven myself.  But, memories still creep into my soul like an unwanted weed that pushes its way up through the soil of my mind when I least expect it.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.  Every now and then my oldest son, Michael, will softly brush his fingers over the top of my hands.  It's a loving gesture and I so enjoy his touch. One day as he sat next to me caressing my hand he asked me, "Do you know that I love your hands?"

"You do?!" I was genuinely surprised. As I examined my hands, memories twirled in my mind.

"I really do, Mom."

His gentleness and love-filled eyes melted my heart. Hands that were once cruel to him at a young age, Michael now loves. He enjoys the feel of my hands.  He looks at them differently now - just as Christians look upon The Cross as an oriflamme of love instead of the torturous, death device that it was. He, obviously, ponders something very different about my hands and the person attached to the hands, than I do. I thank God for that!  Such is the power of forgiveness, such is the power of love.

I'd love to hear any "hand" stories you may have.

Because of Him and Unto Him

Friday, September 9, 2011

Michael Vernon Kiefer - We Will Never Forget

9/11 forever changed the course of American society, and for thousands and thousands of Americans, the course of their individual families.  But, life goes on and here we are ten years later, but we do not forget. Truly, we never will.  I'd like to share with you one of the many, many heroes of that life-altering day.

His name is Michael Vernon Kiefer and he was born just after midnight on Dec. 5, 1975.  I know because I was there. My Michael - Michael Paul Ronzino - was born a few hours before in the same hospital.  His mom and I were in side-by-side rooms. We had met at our Lamaze class and became good friends.  To differentiate, we called the Michaels "Michael Vernon" and "Michael Paul".  Over the years moves didn't allow us to visit with each other too often, but every year on the boy's birthdays, us two moms would call each other.  Catching up on our boys and families' lives, we would laugh, sometimes cry, and sometimes pray together for our boys. The bond between us was our Michaels. 

From earliest toddlerhood, Michael Vernon played Fireman.  He had his little, plastic helmet and his sit-in little red fire truck. I can remember him eating in his highchair with the red Fireman's helmet on. With one hand he was shoving Cheerios into his mouth and the other hand firmly held the helmet in place because it was too large.  He was not going to let his precious helmet fall. And there on his face was a huge grin. He was happy and content. Little Michael Vernon was destined to be a Firefighter.

As Michael Vernon grew up, he volunteered at local firehouses. During high school he became a Junior Fireman. Faithfully, year after year, Michael Vernon helped put out fires in the local neighborhoods learning from his matured firefighting brothers.  In January 2001, his dream of becoming a New York City Firefighter became a reality.  He was now a full-fledged member of the brotherhood of Firefighters in New York City - Ladder Company 132. 
Michael Vernon was also a man of faith. His priest recognized this and asked him about a possible call to the priesthood. Michael Vernon's reply was, "You save the souls and I'll save the bodies."  And that he did. He did it with all the passion in him, as a man who was called by God.  

Nine months after becoming a New York City Firefighter, Ladder Company 132 was the first Fire Company to reach the Twin Towers on that fateful New York morning.  Totally unaware of the monstrosity of danger New York City was truly in, the brave men of Company 132 ran into Tower One to do one thing - the one thing Michael Vernon was called to do in this life - save bodies.

For two days his family and friends waited on baited breath to hear news of Michael and his Company. Those two days extended into nine months.  Not one body from Company 132 was ever recovered, nor were any of their belongings - not even their helmets.

On 9/13 I answered the telephone. I heard Michael's mother's voice. She didn't have to say a word, somehow I knew. Our worlds had come together 25 years earlier but now they collided with the most unimaginable grief. "His was the first Company in..." was all I heard before I collapsed to the floor, expelling a long wail that shocked my own senses.

About nine months later, when all hope of recovery was laid to rest, his family held a memorial service at a funeral home. The scene is forever etched in my mind. Traffic was backed up for miles, so we could only inch along the road.  As we got within blocks of the funeral home, we saw the huge ladder trucks - one on each side of the road.  Their ladders were raised high and joined in the middle, with the American flag hanging over the road.  As we passed under the flag, I put my hand over my heart as a gesture of respect, and maybe to try to hold my heart back from bursting. It was solemn and visually painful. Hundreds of saluting Firefighters lined the streets and hundreds were coming and going from the funeral home.  The Brotherhood of Firefigthers were there for one another. Some came from all over the United States to honor a fallen comrade.  

Inside, you literally couldn't move and I certainly couldn't breathe.  The periphery of the room was lined with photos of Michael Vernon from birth to adulthood - from little boy playing fireman to an adult in actual uniform. Joe and I, along with hundreds of others, paid our respects to his family and fiance. We reminisced and cried, then said our goodbyes.   

Michael Vernon Kiefer died not just a hero, but as a martyr, living his calling to the end. He died as passionately as he lived, saving bodies.  Tower One was Michael Vernon's threshold into Eternity. He died living his dream; he died faithful to God's call. Thank You, Lord, for Michael Vernon Kiefer's life.

In Honor and Memory of Michael Vernon Kiefer, 
Truly One of New York's Bravest and One Called By God to Save Bodies -
Thank you, Michael Vernon, for giving your life for others and glorifying God in the process 

As I was searching the Web for photos, I came across this one of an unknown little boy. Maybe another man, with a passionate call of God to save bodies, is in the making.  

May The Lord bless him and keep him.
May he live his life just as passionately
and to the glory of God


There is an organization, Friends of Firefighters, who gives support and help to surviving New York City Firefighters and the families of those lost in the Twin Towers massacres. Please donate to this very worthy non-profit organization.
Thank you!

Because of Him and Unto Him,

This story is shared on Tell Me a Story

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Edges and Whispers

I grew up in a home where jigsaw puzzles were a part of our furniture.  There was always one spread out on the dining room table or the table in our TV room. Life revolved carefully around the puzzles.  Painstakingly, my mother would sit for hours finding matching piece upon matching piece.  For her, this was serious business and she loved the project from beginning to end. But, all I wanted was to see was the end result - the finished picture.  I would enjoy helping with the edges, but after that I didn't have much patience to sit and concentrate. Sometimes, I would find a piece that went inside the border of the puzzle and gleefully put it in it's proper place. Mom would look up at me in frustration because my "gleefulness" would break her concentration. So, I learned early on, if I want to sit with Mommy and help her with her puzzle, I could only allow myself a whisper of excitement at my find.

One of the key things I learned about doing jigsaws from Mom is that you always do the edges of the puzzles first. Always. The theory is once the border was set, the interior was easier to complete. Recently, I got a new app on my Apple laptop - Jigsaws Galore.  I now sit, with intense concentration, working on jigsaw puzzles.  First things first, I find the edges. Always. I do think it makes the rest of the puzzle easier.  If the phone rings or the dogs bark breaking my concentration, I find myself saying, "Shh!"  Oh, if only they could whisper!

All this came from reading this Scripture today:
Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 26:14)

This Scripture jumped out at me and so I read all of Job twenty-six's fourteen verses.  I can see why Moses declared we only know the mere edges of God and that we only hear as a whisper of what He has to say.  It's funny - although my spirit received the Word as I meditated on it, this Scripture brought me back to a childhood memory.  Nothing profound, just a good memory. Oh for sure, these are truly only mere edges of His ways. And this fond memory only a whisper of what He wants to say to me.

I hope this Scripture speaks something more profound to you.  If it does, please share it with me.

Because of Him and Unto Him

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Summer Solstice

A very gifted poet treats us with his deep, moving poetry at the Writer's Workshop I attend once a month.  Last month, Bill, read his spur-of-the-moment poem he penned quickly during our class.  We asked him to read it a second time.  It touched all of us our class and it is my pleasure to share Summer Solstice with you.  Although you won't have the pleasure of hearing him read it, I share with you his written work. May his words cause you to deeply breathe in the last days of summer.

The words of Bill Brandell about himself:
I enjoy writing what inspires me most, generally anything to do with nature; and although I'm not religious, I am deeply spiritual and believe in many faiths.  I actually know the Our Father and Hail Mary in Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus), which was a goal of mine to achieve.
I started writing only about a year ago and I do so for two main purposes; one, because of its therapeutic value and two, perhaps I may inspire others with my work.  Since I was a child, English literature has always been a favorite. However, in the last year I've really indulged into the works of Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Khalil Gibran, and many more.  Quite a few people have told me I have a "gift".  However, I tend to be modest and say, "It is only because of my faith and spiritualism that assists my pen once it hits the paper."  Perhaps one day, I will be able to possibly have my work published, as this would be more of a dream than a goal. 
Summer Solstice
by Wm Brandell

When the hot summer wind came ushering in I was thankful to my friend spring.  Out of any of the seasons, this one makes me feel like a king for some of these few reasons:

Rays showered by the sun conceive seeds of beauty in Mother Nature's womb.  Towards the end of June, before it's beginning, most of all her foliage has now bloomed.

On the fourth-of-July majestic displays light up the night sky. It's amazing to see the cares and worries of all dissolve away off the reflection of their eyes.

Warm sand, the sound of thunder in the waves, and the smell of salt; there's this mystical power of these grand breaches that brings life to a grinding halt!

From the stillness in the heat, to the symphony of insects singing as they dance under the moonlight in a rhythmic beat, for this is the sound of summer speaking.  

Yes, I take advantage of the summer season for as fast as it is here, it will be a whisper in the wind.  Before you know it, fall has come, hence the reason of what brought her to its end.