Unseen Forces

It seems there are many who are curious and interested in the supernatural and seeking to experience ghostly encounters or spirits. I am in an “Old House” group and weekly, there are those who ask if anyone in the group sees apparitions or lives in a “haunted” house. I am not into any of it and want nothing to do with it. Mainly because I don’t believe people are seeing “ghosts” or their dead loved ones but rather deceiving spirits who love to toy with them.

In 1981, I experienced something that could not be explained as a natural occurrence but would be something that would fall under the category of “supernatural”. I hesitate to share it very often because I don’t like to spotlight the devil. However, I share it as a warning that these forces are real and nothing about them is good.

I worked on a street ministry/coffee house team and some of us had gone to Century 2 Concert Hall in Wichita,KS, to hear “The Imperials” perform. The Imperials were a popular gospel group and had a huge following. My boyfriend and I were sitting higher than the floor area and there were many seated on chairs at the ground level.

At one point in the concert, the group sang the song “Praise the Lord” which is a powerful praise song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8q-IQ3DEVSI. When they got to the verse,”Now Satan is a liar and he wants to make you think that you are paupers, when he knows himself we’re children of the king”, we heard a lion roar.

Looking down at floor level, five or six men were restraining a teenage boy who was roaring like a lion. This was not a sound that our human vocal chords can even mimic. Taking him out of the auditorium, my boyfriend and I followed them to see if we could help. What we encountered was something I don’t ever want to experience again. This young man was being physically held down on a chair as he was raging and cursing. Looking straight at me he screamed out a string of curse words that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. We began to seriously pray for him.

After praying for several minutes,the young man went limp. Coming to, he looked at us and asked what had happened. After questioning his youth pastor who had brought him with their group, we discovered that this teen was heavily involved in the occult. He had been playing with Ouija boards, seances, etc. and had gotten pulled into powers greater than he could handle. We knew a man in the area that had spoken at our coffee house and was known for his ministry in setting people free from demonic harassment. We got them connected and learned later that he had gone and received help.

Fast forward to sometime 25 to 30 years later as I was at a women’s conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. I went to supper with several women and one of them began talking about a crazy experience she had encountered years ago in Wichita, KS. at Century 2 Concert Hall. She told us that she saw a teenage boy act insane and begin roaring like a lion.

I was speechless. Sometimes you need to know that you really haven’t lost your mind and hearing another eye witness who saw the same thing confirmed that I hadn’t.

Several years ago, my husband and I were at a bed and breakfast house for a few days and were told that it was haunted. The friend who told us, said that construction workers coming to town there would leave before their stay was up because they were so spooked. We were not thrilled to learn this and went up to our bedroom armed with prayer for the Lord to fill the room with his presence.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up out of a dead sleep and for no reason looked over to the side of the bed and saw a florescent, glowing half scorpion, half snake coiled up on the floor. I blinked several times before falling back onto the bed and all of the sudden, the bathroom light turned on all by itself. I woke my husband up and said, “we have to pray now!” We prayed for a long time and all fear left and we finally fell back asleep. The rest of the nights there, nothing else happened. However, when we went to leave, my black t-shirt was missing and after searching in every possible place, we knew it was gone.

My husband is a pastor and we have had several conversations with missionaries and others who have experienced walking into certain houses where in one spot, there was a feeling of ice cold temperatures and a presence of fear. We counseled a couple who thought going to seances was fun until a red light began appearing in their bedroom at night and moved around.

In 2014, I read this story in the “Indy Star” https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2014/01/25/the-disposession-of-latoya-ammons/4892553/. I leave it here for you to read and decide for yourself whether demonic spirits exist.

So, these are all pretty sensational and of course there will always be skeptics. However, we are told in scripture that we do not battle against flesh and blood but powers and principalities:

 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:10-18.

While these stories show the obvious powers of the supernatural, Satan most often works in the lives of people in very discreet and deceptive ways. Bizarre manifestations often lead people running to God for help, but the crafty, subtle snare of the enemy is what traps us unaware and most often leads us away from Him. “Did God really say?” whispered the snake in the garden.

The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 that Satan appears as an angel of light: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

We are told that Satan is looking to devour us: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Obviously, Satan doesn’t try to physically eat us, but he is always looking for our weakness. He is everything that God is not. He hates God and the ones created in God’s image. He wants to take as many with him to hell as possible because the God he hates wants them with him in heaven. Satan lives to make a mockery of God and all that is good. God established marriage, Satan wants to destroy it. God gives man dignity, Satan victimizes and objectifies them. God gave His son as a sacrifice for our sins to lead us to repentance and eternal life, Satan accuses us of our sin to lead us to eternal condemnation and destruction.

I heard Johanna Michaelson speak on a talk show years ago with Anton Levey who founded the church of Satan. Johanna had been heavily involved in the occult and came out of it to fully follow Jesus Christ. You can find her story in “The Beautiful Side of Evil”. Levey was trying to convince her that the church of Satan was about basic human goodness and not evil. Johanna pointed out to him that because Satan is the opposite of God, when Levey calls his church “good” that means that it is evil.

So what do we do with these powers and principalities that are at war against us? These deceptive spirits.

We put on God’s armor:

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:13-18

We submit to God:

 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” James 4:7-10

Test the spirits and make sure you follow only the Spirit of God:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:1-6

We don’t have to be an outright Satanist in order to fall as a victim to his powers. We just have to leave a vacuum in our relationship with God and Satan will move right in tempting us and whispering us away from the God who loves us. We must always remember that outside of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we are no match for the powers and principalities that are at work in this world.

Praise God though, that as 1 John 4:4 tells Christ followers: “Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.”

I close with a favorite passage that fully conveys this supernatural power that surpasses all others.

 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

The Value of a Life

Once a week, I have to drive to my job from 30 minutes away.

It is a country route and typically one I enjoy as I listen to music or a program I like. However, this past week my drive looked a bit different than usual.

As I came to a farm house that is on my weekly route, a mamma Yorkie and her puppies were out on the road. I came to a screeching halt, not knowing which direction they would go and of course, they were scattered all over the road and delighted that I might be stopping so they could approach my car.

I wasn’t about to move until all of them were cleared out of the way. Looking towards the house, I saw the owner frantically running out to call them off of the road. As we waved to each other with the little “family” safely moved off of the pavement, I couldn’t help but think of the natural instinct that arises within us to protect those that are weaker and smaller than us.

Neither the mamma Yorkie, the owner of the dogs, nor I, wanted to see those puppies splattered on the road. They are small, dependent and don’t have the maturity or experience to know that the street is not safe for them nor the ability to protect themselves from harm.

Fortunately for them, there were those who were looking after their well being.

I drove away thinking about why it is important to care about not just those who are smaller and weaker but all lives for that matter.

The creator God, who sacrificed much to care for His creation, models to all of us that this is a part of being created in His image (Imago Dei).

He is a powerful creator with the capacity to squash us with a word, yet He is merciful and patient, long suffering and sacrificing. He is gentle, kind and full of limitless love.

I am miles away from looking completely like Him and yet as I learn from Him, I instinctively see bits of His compassion surface in me when it comes to valuing life.

It is what brings my car to stop for a group of puppies or give first aid to a stranger who I found in a life threatening crisis. It is the sadness that comes when I hear of a life that has come to an end whether young or old, because breath is a gift from God and life is sacred.

Even for those who have murdered and face the death penalty, it is never something to gloat in or celebrate. It is a horrible thing when a person’s decision to take another’s life results in costing them their own.

It is the antithesis of the sacrificial love of Christ and should be a tragic reminder that the giver of life has an enemy who is the taker of it.

Caring for animals is a natural reflection of the character and heart of God who gave man dominion over them. Whether their purpose is to feed us or be our pet, their caregivers will provide for their needs if he has any sense of responsibility or compassion at all.

Yet, in all of God’s creation, it is human life that is sacred because it is the only one that is created in the image of God.

There is a reason that when we are driving down the highway and see roadkill, we don’t pull over and immediately call 911. In comparison, if we saw a human being lying dead on the road, that would be an entirely different story. Most of us would immediately pull over and call for help. In fact, charges are not filed against a person for accidentally running over an animal and driving on but if you do so with a human, you could face a felony charge.

Why is it that children left unloved or uncared for by a parent have been placed in orphanages, foster homes or up for adoption? Is it not because there is value placed on their life and the neglect of it does not diminish their person hood nor their right to life?

Parents who selfishly neglect or abuse their children will have them taken away and they most certainly are not allowed to kill them or they are charged with murder. They don’t get to make that choice because the value of a human life isn’t dependent on the decision of individuals on any given day.

Our laws must protect those lives who are defenseless and cannot defend themselves. Why? Because they have no voice and no legal recourse. They are entirely at our mercy to defend them and they have an inalienable right to life because of their humanity.

There is an argument, and I used to actually hold to it myself, that children would be better off not born than to be born unloved. However, there are no unloved children until there is a world with no love.

In conclusion, I must say that if we can value the life of our pets and even have compassion on ones that aren’t our own, can we have any less for those who are of the Imago Dei?

Especially when it comes to the most vulnerable of them all?

Advice For Every Graduate

It has been a few years (ahem! Decades) since I graduated High School but it seems like yesterday.

I remember the excitement of realizing I was finally moving on into the bigger picture of life and all the anticipation of what the future would hold.

There were many conversations with friends and parents about colleges, finances, future jobs, etc. All of them important, yet missing some elements that I have learned later, are truly the important ones.

When you do get out there in the real world, you find that character matters far more than any degree. There are many academically successful people who are qualified due to their degrees, yet lack some internal qualities that may sabotage their future success in ways they hadn’t considered.

Honesty, responsibility, dependability, respect and self-control are a few characteristics that come to mind.

How long would an engineer keep a job if he were discovered to have cheated on his exams? No one would want to drive across a bridge he would build! Without honesty, there is no trust. Without trust, no relationships in a persons life are stable, whether it be job or family. I would say honesty and trustworthiness go hand in hand. If a person is honest, they can be trusted.

Responsibility and dependability run on a parallel track. A person who signs on to a job but doesn’t show up on time, is not going to keep it. If they are constantly calling in sick when they aren’t, leaving work early, forcing others to pick up the slack, the job won’t last too long. Neither will that work in a marriage or in raising a family.

What about respect? Respect given is respect earned. Few people disrespect someone who treats them well and as someone with value. Model respect in your attitude and conversations. Don’t lower your speech with coarse language and dirty jokes, nor gossip and petty grudges. I can’t tell you the times that I am in a store and hear conversations among employees that are trash talking another employee. Nothing will tear down team work quicker than back stabbing. Always remember that tearing down those you work with or live with, tears you down as well. Who wants to work or live with snarky, negative people? That is an environment you will create and have to be a part of if you don’t take the lead in building an atmosphere of respect. Be the positive one who sets a different mood.

Self control is a necessary quality for anyone who wants to be a participant in life and not just an onlooker. It is very much a matter of the choices offered to us daily and the goals that we decide to put the effort into. Never say “tomorrow” I will start the diet, exercise, turn off the TV, limit my cell phone use or pursue that new job. Start today, even if it is a small bit. Did you eat that hot fudge sundae at lunch? Then choose the salad for supper. The more you practice self control, even if baby steps, it is a step closer to the goals you want to achieve.

Lastly, be a goal setter not just for your future here but what about eternity? There is much evidence for a creator and a Savior. Have you considered that the Bible might very well be true despite what some naysayers have said. Before you dismiss, the three, make sure that you at least investigate to find out if maybe the naysayers are wrong and there is truth in all of it.

If they are right, you have nothing to lose but the time you spent checking it out. If they are wrong and there is a creator, a Savior and the Bible is true, then they all declare that a decision must be made as to what we will believe about Jesus and where do you want to spend eternity. There are only one of two places to spend it.

Examining the life of Jesus will bring us to a full understanding as to why the previous character qualities matter. He lived them out so well and can help us live them out too. His greatest achievement was the work He did on the cross on our behalf. Check it out, it will change your life.

There is so much ahead for you and many choices to be made. Live today with tomorrow in mind and your future will be full of what matters most.

Happy Graduation!

Good Girls, Good Works and a Good God

As I look back at my life, I can see God’s hand on me all of the way! He is faithful and has never failed me. Not once. Not ever! 🙂

Simply Shelli

“Daddy if I die and go to heaven will I live forever and ever and never have an end?”  This was a thought I was pondering at 5 years old as my dad was tucking me in to bed.  It was a thought that had been bothering me since I had watched the Bugs Bunny cartoon.  It depicted an angel in a long white robe, floating around on a cloud, playing a harp.  Was this what heaven was like?

If so, it didn’t look very fun to me.  I liked my blue jeans, green grass and toys.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to be an angel because I kind of liked the way I looked now.  Besides, in my finite mind everything had a beginning and an end.  There were babies born and they got old and then they died.  Trying to grasp eternal life at the age of five…

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I Am Resolved

I was walking with a friend years ago, who was trying to convince me to follow a certain belief system that she had. After listening to her for awhile, I finally said, “you know, I have been exposed to that before and I have watched many people who have gone down that road and in all honesty, after searching scripture about it, I am just not in the same place as you are.”

In other words, I had made up my mind where I had landed on the issue and I had moved on and really didn’t want to revisit it again.

Sometimes, in your faith walk, you come to a place that you know what you believe. Not that you have arrived and know everything there is to know, but that on certain issues, you have wrestled them through and have come to a place that you are moving on to other things. As the old hymn says, “I am resolved no longer to linger” and I was on that issue, resolved.

So, I ponder this as we enter this Easter week. There is this person who has stirred up a lot of emotion in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. He has said that He is the way the truth and the life and no man comes to the father except through him. He has healed the sick, made the blind to see and brought a dead man to life who had been in the grave for several days. People followed him in droves and his teaching was profound. His questions left people speechless and his love for the highest to the lowest showed no partiality.

He was a conundrum and each person involved in the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ had to make a decision about what they believed about Him.

There were the religious leaders who hated him. They were jealous of his popularity, the fact that they could never trap him with their interrogations and that He did not fit their agenda for their Messiah.

There was Herod who mocked him, as well as the soldiers, people in the crowd and even one of the thieves who hung next to him on a cross. They enjoyed lording it over Him and trying to make him look the fool.

Then there were those who got drug into it unwillingly. Pilate, who wasn’t sure what to think about who Christ was but felt He was innocent, washed his hands of the whole thing, taking the non-commital approach. There was also Simon of Cyrene who had been coming in from the country and was forced to carry the cross behind Jesus.

Then there were the believers, the followers of Christ. Peter, who swore allegiance to Christ unto death, denied him three times when the heat was on. The disciples all fled when he was arrested and His mother and some other women and acquaintances followed at a distance. Let us not leave out the thief on the cross who professed faith in Christ as well. He did not want to be forgotten and the Lord promised him he wouldn’t be.

Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the council and was a good and righteous man. He had not consented to the council’s decision for crucifixion, but fear drove him to secretly ask for Jesus’ body in order to bury Him. Nicodemus, who had met with Jesus at night to ask him questions helped as well.

We can’t forget the Centurion who watched as Jesus died and became convinced that He was an innocent man. Did he become a believer too?

So at the end of the day, or should we say, in His final hours, we have haters, mockers, unwilling participants and believers all thrown together in a muddled mess of humanity.

Every witness to these events had to decide what they would do with what they had seen.

There really are only two options.

Either believe He was the Christ, or not.

Pilate wasn’t off of the hook just because he deferred the decision to the Jews. The believers weren’t doomed to hell because in his hour of need, they were afraid.

Jesus himself said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3

We all have to decide where we stand with Jesus, if we will stand with Him or against Him. Will we know Him or deny Him? Will we wash our hands of Him or be cleansed by the washing of His blood?

Have we resolved (decide firmly on a course of action) what we believe about Jesus Christ?

I Am Resolved

Dailey & Vincent

I am resolved
No longer to linger
Torn by the world’s delight
Things that are higher
Things that are nobler
These have allured my side
I will hasten to him
Hasten so glad and free
(So glad and free)
Jesus greatest highest
I will come to thee
I am resolved
To go to the savior
Leaving my sin and strive
He is the true one

He is the just one
He hast the words of life
I will hasten to him
Hasten so glad and free
(So glad and free)
Jesus greatest highest
I will come to thee

I am resolved
To follow my savior
Faithful and true each day
Heth what he sayeth
Do what he willeth
He is the living way
I will come to thee.

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Hugh S Livingston Jr / James H. Filmore

Forty Years Living Frugal & Fret Free!!

Do you ever look at your life and wish you could cut expenses and maybe be a stay at home mom or at least not have to be enslaved to a job you don’t like but you need it to pay the bills? Maybe you would just like to work part time but feel you can’t make ends meet unless you go to full time.

Sometimes I have to look back on my life and wonder how my husband and I managed to raise 5 kids on a single salary, as he pastored churches that were not mega ones!

The key is to be resourceful and learn from those who do it well! I grabbed a notebook early on in my marriage and took notes from some women that knew the tricks of the trade. They taught me where to shop, how to coupon, cook from scratch and much more.

It wasn’t always easy but I have come away with some takeaway tips that might be helpful for others who want to do the same. So for those who are interested, here you go!

The number one issue that needs to be addressed is priorities. If you want to accumulate stuff, or are not willingly to compromise an expensive taste, then unless the main breadwinner makes the big bucks, it probably is a no go.

For us, it was a huge priority for me to stay home with our children. The reasons for that could be a whole separate blog but suffice it to say, it was a priority that we had discussed before marriage and one that was at the top of our list.

Many people balk at the idea of a budget and living within it but actually, it provides much freedom. Before a budget, I always felt guilty buying that new shirt or treating myself to a latte at my favorite coffee shop. However, when we budgeted for bills and expenses, we were surprised that we had more money than we thought to save a bit and splurge as well!

We did not use the envelope system that many financial advisors recommend, but put most of our expenses on a credit card. Credit cards can be a huge temptation for some but we had a commitment to each other that it would get paid off in full each month or it would be torn up. In almost 40 years of marriage, we only missed a couple of times and had to pay extra but that wasn’t because we couldn’t afford to pay, instead, we thought we already had!

Every vehicle we have owned except the one that I brought into our new marriage, we paid cash for. We bought used vehicles and chose carefully. We drove them until the expense of repairs exceeded their value. This was when it became obvious to get something else.

We often lived in parsonages but in almost 40 years of marriage, we have owned 4 houses. I will admit that my husband is a jack of all trades, so three of the 4 have been fixer uppers that he has done himself. For all four of the houses, we made sure we could live on only my husbands income. The first one was a huge Queen Anne that had been a 4-plex. It was so inexpensive that we paid double payments on it for a year until our daughter had a medical crisis and we reverted back to one. We paid cash for our third house that we now rent out to our daughter and we will soon pay off our fourth house and be debt free and own two houses.

I have had to occasionally live in a mess as repairs took place around me but it has been worth the peace of mind to sleep at night without worrying about how to pay a steep mortgage.

As our family grew and we had 4 males in the house, we purchased a robo-cut which my husband used on our boys. The girls and I were the only ones who had a stylist cut our hair but given the girls wore theirs long and straight, mine was the only one that took much attention.

Purchasing food required some planning around weekly sales and coupons so I worked our menus around those sales. Sometimes we gardened but living in rural communities, we were often given so much produce from friends and neighbors that we rarely needed to grow our own. Friends taught me how to can and put up corn, etc. and I never hardly threw food out. Casseroles were a mainstay and milk was not allowed to be used as a replacement for water. I also bought generic if possible. There might be certain brands you refuse to let go of but where you can compromise, it is worth every penny you save.

The first Sunday of the month was our family “go out to eat “day. Our town had a Pizza Hut and a Runza, so we looked forward to those outings and because they weren’t often, it was a special treat. When we wanted to do something as a family, we would go to a town with a big park, pick up some dollar burgers, share large orders of fries and stop by Walmart to grab a 25 cent can of Sam’s pop from the machine and have a picnic. We never paid for cable and so weekends we would rent a movie and eat frozen pizzas. Thankfully, it didn’t take much to entertain our kids and the memories are sweet.

We wanted the kids to learn a work ethic and so they started delivering newspapers and worked up to having their own lawn business. They learned to manage clients and finances and earned enough to buy a trampoline that kept them entertained for hours.

I rarely spend full price on clothes and as a mother, became pretty savvy at finding name brands in great shape at the thrift stores or garage sales. Now there is Face Book Marketplace, Craig’s List and other places that people can buy almost anything they want if they are patient.

I typically keep a running gift box. When I find neat things that are out of season or on clearance and they don’t look cheap, I will buy ahead and have it for that special occasion or person when needed. Always buy off season and you can find the best quality for the cheapest price!

I also do not decorate trendy unless it is small stuff such as pillows, lamps, etc. If I buy big, it is something I am going to have for a very long time. I currently have the same couch and chairs that I bought in the 90’s but they are traditional and never really go out of style. I also bought some Lazy Boy Leather furniture second hand from a friend’s sister, so big score there!

As far as medical needs go, I told our dentist that he would see my kids once a year for cleanings etc. We had a medical budget which worked well for two of the kids who needed braces. I used to work for a dentist, so I made sure they were brushing at least twice a day and stayed on top of cavities.

With five kids, we knew we could never afford to pay for their college and so they were on their own to get scholarships etc. Fortunately, we heard about College of the Ozarks and loved their character and faith focus coupled with coming out tuition free through a work program. Four of our five went there and graduated, leaving them debt free upon graduation.

I haven’t mentioned that we have put some of our money into investments. It isn’t a lot but it will be a bit of a buffer in our later years.

Many people feel rich if they own nice things. For me, I have felt rich and blessed that I could stay at home and raise my kids and have the freedom to be, as Dave Ramsey would say, “financially free”. I only wish I had beaten him to the punch! He started his program well after I was living the frugal life and look at the money he makes! lol!

Oh well, it never was about the money anyway, just a life that I enjoy. We keep it simple but we always have just what we need and life has been good!

One of my favorite verses in the Bible pretty much sums it up for me:

Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV

“Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Don’t “Cell” Yourself short.

As my husband and I left Missouri this morning after an enjoyable visit with some family, we were looking forward to having some much needed time to catch up, engaging in meaningful conversation on the quiet drive home.

Life has been so busy with both of us running in opposite directions and it was a beautiful day to travel.

I don’t think we had pulled out of the drive before the cell phones started dinging and messages were coming in. Not sure whether they were urgent or not, I of course began checking them to see what was up.

Instead of the flow of conversation we were hoping to have, we began to interact with what was going on with our phones and moved from being a couple, to being an extended family to all those who were trying to reach us.

Mind you, this is a dilemma.

On the one hand, cell phones have been a major Godsend for emergencies and all kinds of necessary communication i.e. we just left our purse at someone’s house, or the person who was going to meet us can’t get there on time, etc. Am I ever thankful that if my car breaks down or someone I love is stranded on a dark road, neither of us has to get out and hitch hike in the dark!

I also love that I can send a quick text rather than have to always make a phone call. It is a great way to let someone know something without having to call if time is limited.

However, in all of the gains, I am very concerned about the losses and I fear that if we don’t get a grip on these phones, they will own us and indeed for the most part, already do.

Is it any coincidence that Zombie apocalypse movies became popular shortly after cell phones did?

I think not! I see people walking places who are so absorbed in their phone that they are totally oblivious that any real human being is even in the vicinity. In fact, often they are walking with someone and instead of conversing with each other, they are completely immersed in their phone as if in a trance.

I work at a school and although we have a no cell phone policy during classroom time, many of the students will sit quietly at a full table at lunch engaging with their phones rather than each other. Sometimes when I see a student eating alone and I assume they might like to interact with a real human, I join them only to feel I have become an annoying distraction compared with the stimuli on the phone. Who of us can compete with TikTok or the multitude of instant feeds and SnapChat?

Not only do cells distract us from face to face conversations being highly addictive due to instant stimuli but they are also extremely controlling. I know because as I admitted, the minute it summons me, I think I have to bow down to it’s demand.

Someone texted! I better check! A notification went off, what is it about?

In my opinion, it is a great detriment to school learning even if it is limited. Probably the biggest reason for this is that most school work cannot compete with the instant gratification and immediate input and connection that the phone offers. The fact that a student knows it is in his/her pocket or backpack is a temptation that becomes unbearable when they want immediate input from a friend or to finish watching that humorous clip someone was showing them before class.

So, the phone gets discreetly snuck out behind the computer or book and of course, if caught, the teacher is to confiscate it, but now this introduces a whole other set of problems. There is usually a loud protest, class is disrupted and it becomes a discipline problem that the teacher has to deal with on top of the usual ones teacher’s have had to address since the beginning of time. One may say, “have all the students hand their phones over to the teacher each class period.” That works only if all students are honest and would do that. There are those who would lie and hide it. Unfortunately, some parents become combative with administration or teachers because they feel since they paid for the phone, their child has a right to have it on them at all times in case they need to call their parent or vice versa.

Even if the students only use it during out of period classes, it can become messy. I have often seen them in tears at lunch because someone texted something hurtful who might not even be a student in our school but rather elsewhere. We can deal with interactions that happen between our own students but when access to them is disrupting them emotionally from other places, it is very hard to reign in.

I think every school has had to wrestle through the ins and outs of cell phones and there are no easy answers but it sure was easier before we had them. It seems rather than being a privilege to own if one is responsible, they have become a means of entitlement and right of passage no matter one’s age or ability to control it’s use. It adds one more issue teachers have to police when they just want to teach. As well, I don’t mind being a librarian but I hate to have to be the Gestapo.

Lest you think I am only picking on kids, know that many employers see this as a huge problem with their help as well. I used to work at a bank with 3 other employees in my office. I can remember one of the men conversing with his wife several times a day on the phone during work hours and asking me to please not mention to the boss when a call came in that it was her. I had a feeling that the boss had called him out on this use of his time more than once.

Imagine every employee in every work situation each with their own personal phone that isn’t a land line. This becomes a huge problem in the work place when everyone has access to a phone at their fingertips. I know personally for myself that I focus better on my job when the phone is in my purse in the back cupboard.

I miss the days when I could go out of town on vacation and no one could get a hold of me until I got back to check my answering machine. When I take a day to myself to get away, I don’t want to take everyone else with me! I want a nice quiet drive to think and get away or talk with the people I am taking with me or going to see.

I can list many times that I have felt like a third wheel when I have been with someone who spent more time on their cell phone in my presence than they did with me. I have tried to catch myself and not do that to others because I know how disrespected I have felt when that happens. I remember one time shopping with a friend who spent so much time chatting with her husband that I wondered why she didn’t just bring him along as well?

I have not even delved into the very dark world of cyber bullies, predators and porn that is readily available on our phones due to the internet.

So, how do we stop the craziness? How do we own a cell phone without it owning us?

A passage of scripture that frequently comes to my mind is in 1 Corinthians 6:12

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.”

This helps me balance out what is permissible and beneficial from what has become an addiction, obsession or unhealthy habit.

How does my cell phone benefit me and how does it not? Is it adding or subtracting stress from my life? Is it disrupting relationships?

Anything that is controlling me to the point I am not in control, is not a good thing for me.

I begin with realizing that I am in charge of the phone. I decide when and how often I use it. How long will I be on it? What apps or notices need to be turned off because they are a distraction? What is a waste of my time? What is a good use of it?

Maybe when I take a day off for myself or am on vacation, I need to let people know that unless it is an emergency, I want to be present in the moment where I am at. I want to enjoy the view, the silence or the people I am going to be with and I will get back with them when I return. Isn’t that what we used to do when we returned home and played back our answering machine?

I need to make a conscious effort to put the phone aside when I am interacting with people face to face. If I have to put it on silence, turn it off or leave it in another room, unless I am trying to show them something that includes them, I will not let it take me away from giving them my undivided attention.

As far as helping regulate kids with their cell phone use, I am so thankful that mine were almost grown when cell phones came out. I do know that they had friends getting Smart phones with unlimited data while we were requiring ours to earn money to buy a track phone. They were very careful with the usage of it when they were paying for it.

There is a group calling for parents to not allow Smart phones until age 14. There are control apps and blocks that can help and even contracts signed that nullify cell phone use if broken.

The biggest issue with parents is understanding that it is o.k. to say “no” and to have boundaries with cell use. Turn them in at night, etc. and don’t give in to “but my friends….”

Maybe there needs to be a plan drawn up between the school and parents that are looking out for ways to safeguard the students and insure they are using school time wisely without distractions?

Whatever solutions we come up with, I hope that we find some soon.

We can’t afford to “cell” out on this one and give in to it’s demands.

Life is just too short to waste it glued to a phone.

Dear Braxton,

Sweet baby boy, what a ride it has been for you in these 20 months since you entered the world.

We were so thrilled when we learned you were coming and our first grandchild would welcome a baby brother in May!

You came in the midst of a pandemic, so we waited until you got home to come and meet you. What a perfect little bundle of joy you were!

I never imagined that July morning when I rescued you from your crib and brought you downstairs that life for you would take a difficult turn.

You and I sat quietly on the couch so that mommy and daddy could get much needed sleep and you looked up into my face giving me the sweetest little smile. I melted and made a mental note to never forget that moment.

I didn’t see you again until September when we came to celebrate Russel’s birthday. Everyone wanted to hold you and life seemed to be sailing smoothly for you as you were just another part of the family, as if you were meant to be there. And you were.

In October, everything went south fast. You were constantly crying and in some sort of pain. Mommy had to advocate hard for you as the doctor’s kept telling her and daddy that it was a small problem that would work itself out.

It didn’t.

Many tests were run and it was discovered that your brain had been thrown into a state of chaos called hypsarrhythmia. Constant seizures began to control your days and slow your ability to progress. There were no more smiles, no playing with rattles or interacting with the world around you.

You were in a battle that no one your age should have to fight. We all tried to support mommy and Daddy in any way that we could but most of the time we just prayed and prayed and prayed again. We knew that you were here for a reason and that none of this caught God by surprise.

We reminded Him that you were so little and He said, “I know.” We asked Him if He would heal you and He said, “wait.” We told Him that waiting was hard and He asked, “do you trust me?” We said that we did but that it was difficult at times because we were afraid. He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And He hasn’t yet.

For my birthday in December, I only wanted one thing and I got it! You smiled! Yes! You did! Most of us take smiles for granted. We don’t realize that they are an expression of joy and we need many of them in life. No smiles means no joy. But somewhere, deep inside your little soul, in that moment, it bubbled up! I had to wonder if maybe God tickled you!

As Christmas rolled around, it seemed that you were calm and the seizures had subsided. We were thinking that maybe we would find a new normal with you and it was so nice to have some relief.

It was short lived though and soon after, the seizures picked up again.

Trial and error, trial and error, trying to figure out what would work to bring you relief. So many were praying for you and we often wondered how people could ever go through this without Jesus to lean on.

Lean on Him we did. We asked Him often for wisdom because according to the book of James, that is one thing that God does tell us to ask for because He wants us all to have it. When we ask, we aren’t supposed to doubt. So we didn’t. We asked him to give the doctors wisdom about what you needed as well.

In time, adjusting meds and beginning a special diet, we began to see the seizures lesson and subside. You began to smile here and there and tune in to the world around you as your brain moved out of the hypsarrythmia. Now we were smiling too!

You have come so far and we see you progressing as you work in your physical therapy to cover months of lost ground. Your immune system has been very depleted and even now, you are in the hospital recovering from two serious illnesses and a scary bout with low blood sugar.

Yet, you, the little warrior, just keep going.

There is a world view out there among some who would say that children who have health issues, should not be born.

They would say, look at the expense, the exhausted parents and the constant sickness and struggle. They would say that these 20 months have been a waste.

But they could not be more wrong. You have brought more to our lives than we could ever have had without you. We have learned much about sacrificial love, how to appreciate the little things in life that we take for granted. We have learned about suffering and have a deeper compassion for those who are in it.

We have watched you struggle to live and fight to survive. You have as much of a right to life as any healthy person does. Praying for you, cheering your progress and caring for you has forged a special bond that will forever seal the fact that you are more deeply loved than you could ever know.

In just 4 months, you will turn two years old. I don’t know what will happen between here and there or even beyond. But I do know that the God who has faithfully seen us through these last 20, will be ever present in all the ones to come.

Christmas Past and Christmas Presence

If you haven’t noticed, the Christmas decor for the past two years will most definitely include a 1930’s or 40’s red pickup truck. You will see it on cards, in magazines and on T.V. Hobby Lobby, Dollar Tree and all the rest will sell them until every home is adorned head to toe with the sentimentality of the season and the longing for days gone by.

Why is it that so many Christmas cards take us back to Victorian villages or sleighs traveling through the woods to Grandma’s house? Images of churches lit with candles and toy shops nestled on cobblestone streets with horses and carriages plodding silently by, seem to beckon us to scenes of simpler times.

I myself, never lived in the Victorian days, nor those of Rockwell or Currier and Ives. However, being a product of the 1960’s, I remember when television was our greatest entertainment. There were no videos, DVD’s nor cell phones. We would wait once a year to see “Rudolph”, “Frosty” and “The Wizard of Oz”, marking the T.V. guide so we would know exactly what date and time we needed to be home.

We had no “Happy Meals” and toys were something that most of us only got for our birthday or Christmas. This made those occasions extra special as we anticipated the gifts we had longed for all year.

If we did journey to Grandma’s house for Christmas, we could always plan on home cooked meals with baked pies and rolls made from scratch. There wasn’t a new themed tree every year because the same ornaments were pulled out each season to be displayed with tinsel and sprayed snow.

Predictably, sometime after Thanksgiving we would begin to hear Christmas tunes on the radio. Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Brenda Lee were all staples along with the well loved hymns that sent us caroling into the snow.

Maybe there is a reason that we are drawn to these scenes and experiences. Traditions that have been handed down for years and generations that remind us in an ever changing world, that there are those customs that are familiar and uncomplicated, reflecting a simpler time.

My parents are in their 80’s and they recently gave their great grandson a toy top and a paddle ball, because those were the toys that entertained them for hours back in their childhood days. They know that the latest technology and gadgets are all the rage but that something is missed when bigger, better and flashier replaces the simple joy of a normal , uncomplicated toy.

Life is ever changing and moving forward with each generation and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Yet, there are some things that we should never lose sight of. The love of family, traditions passed down that reflect our heritage, faith, culture and values cannot be replaced with the veneer of marketing hype or artificial substitutes.

Yet, even in these there is something so much more.

For in all of this sentimentality there is a presence that is at the very heart of Christmas and it is Christ Himself. He is what draws us to love and giving, to feasting and singing, to worship and celebration.

We lived many years in Swedish communities where early on Christmas morning we would participate in a Julotta service, celebrating a tradition from the homeland when the Christians would walk to the church in the cold snows of December, to worship together at the crack of dawn.

I think of candle light services at midnight in the church of my youth. How much I loved hearing the Christmas story read or performed, the choir singing praises of “Joy to the World” and closing our service lighting candles in the dark sanctuary as we all sang, “Silent Night.”

It has always been a reminder to me that despite the darkness that tempts and beckons the human soul, there is a Savior, who brought light and hope to the world. He Himself is never changing and His faithful presence has existed since the beginning of time from everlasting to everlasting.

In every generation there have been attempts to snuff out His existence and re-create Christmas into a holiday of frivolity and self-indulgence, yet He continues to shine in the lives of those who hold fast to the celebration of all that He is and the traditions that uphold His name.

Next Christmas may find us still singing Nat King Cole and craving Grandma’s apple pie but more than likely the old red truck decor will have moved on down the road as do many of our nostalgic fads that dwell on Christmas past.

That’s o.k. we can enjoy them while they last and still hold fast to that which is everlasting, the very presence of Christ Himself.

Team Rehmert 2021

Well, here we are in 2021 and time for a Team Rehmert update!

Rick and I are still hanging out with the fine people of Gracepoint Church in Peabody, KS and loving our sweet family there! We have shared many sorrows and celebrations with them over these past 5 years and are excited to see God working in some fresh new ways.

For starters, we felt that we were enjoying much learning from God’s word but finding little time in concentrated prayer together. We began to meet on Sunday mornings for prayer and have loved seeing all the ways God is working. We pray for our country, community, church and present all kinds of requests and praises. It is so encouraging in a world where we have grown accustomed to needing programs and entertainment to engage us, to witness the power of God transforming our lives through the simplicity of prayer and living out obedience to His word.

This past year Rick has spent half of his week out on the farm helping his parents as his dad has been bed-ridden and on hospice. His mother is in her 80’s, yet still is an excellent nurse and between her, Risa and Rick, they are doing an amazing job making sure Larry is well cared for.

Shelli’s parents, Ernie and Karen are still in their condo in Branson and Shelli gets there as often as possible to see them.

I (Shelli) love my library job and especially the daily interaction with the students. They often open up about their problems or what they are excited about and I get to encourage them or just provide a listening ear. Several of them will kiddingly pop off as they head out the door, “Mrs. Rehmert, I’m your favorite student, aren’t I?” To which I respond, “Oh, absolutely, you know it!” My goal is that each and everyone of them knows they are special and have a purpose in life.

We were thrilled to meet up with all of our kids at Camp Horizon near Arkansas City for Thanksgiving. We had a great time laughing, conversing, games and good food. Our hiking experience left me a two week poison ivy itch but was oh so worth it!

Nicki and Matthew were blessed to welcome their first baby on December 7th. Adalyn Hope arrived at 6 lbs 9 ozs and healthy as can be! They are delighted and wonderful new parents! We could not be more thrilled! Matthew continues teaching science at Versailles, MO High school and Nicki is devoting her time to being a stay at home mamma to sweet Adi!

Seth and Nicole are still in Fremont, Nebraska where Seth is youth Pastor at Fremont Evangelical Free Church and Nicole is involved with the youth, discipling young women, writing Bible study method tools and being a stay at home mom to 3 year old Russel and 18 month old Braxton. Russel talks up a storm and is so fun and a real sweetheart! Braxton has had quite the year after many ups and downs with illnesses that have triggered seizures. In October, they received some good reports that the seizures were lessening and not as frequent as they had been. He has progressed with physical therapy and a combination of meds and natural treatments. We continue to pray that the seizures will leave for good so that his brain can develop and he can progress. This trial has brought all of us to our knees and we trust that no one loves this sweet boy more than the precious Savior who hears our every prayer. He is in good hands and we trust Jesus even more with each new report whether encouraging or not. While we see 3 things, God sees 10,000, so we leave this all in His ever loving care.

Lindsay loves her job at Chic-Fil-A and is very active in her church and hanging with a great group of friends. She loves opening up the Branson house for parties and using her wonderful gift of hospitality to serve others. A new hobby that keeps her busy is actually working on cars! She loves detailing and most recently put a new bumper on mine that had been damaged!

Luke and Abi are in Nampa, Idaho where Luke is an associate pastor at Columbia Bible Church. Abi is a gifted writer and homemaker. They welcomed their first baby, sweet little Judah, last February. Abi was quite the trooper having a home birth and her mother was there as a Doula, so it was a special blessing for all! Judah is very sweet natured and smiles all the time. He doesn’t know a stranger and is known for his famous neck hugs!

Jon and Alissa are still in Manhattan, KS where Jon is wrapping up his Ph.D in mathematics at KSU and Alissa is working at the library. Alissa completed her B.A. in May and looking at a possible masters in the future. We were excited to hear that Jon was offered a position as assistant professor at Hays State University next fall! They are looking forward to this new season and Alissa is enjoying decorating her house in the Mid Century Modern style and trying to rein in her two cute bunnies!

We cannot begin to thank God for the many blessings that he continues to pour out on us. Life is not always easy and we have grieved deeply with friends who have buried loved ones, sorrows over sickness and life’s disappointments, yet somehow Jesus carries us all, just like He has promised. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” Matthew 28:20.

And so He will be for you, for us and always.

I can’t think of any thought that will make Christmas any more merrier than that one!

Have a beautiful Christmas, a blessed New Year and a glorious hope in this risen Savior who came as a gift and will come again to take us home!

Love from us!

Rick and Shelli