Mabuhay

As missionaries we have seen the Lord work in many ways. This story is about His miraculous healing of my injury in the mountains of Luzon, The Philippines.

As we headed toward the mountains in the northern Luzon province of Abra, I knew that we were in for a great adventure. Every time we venture out for the Lord, it proves to be an interesting journey.

We had initially planned to depart midmorning from our mission base in San Juan City. Due to a number of unexpected delays, it was late afternoon before we actually got started. We were truly operating on Filipino Time!

The four of us, Edith, Maria, Don, my husband and I, forced our bodies into the Filipino-sized motorbike sidecars. With our Bibles under our arms, we excitedly headed for a small settlement of indigenous Filipino Indians waiting for our “early afternoon” arrival. We were to have a fellowship meeting in their little mountain church.

The motorbikes quickly covered the flatlands and then diverted onto the rough dirt road to our destination. We cautiously traveled along the bumpy, dusty road as it got rougher and steeper. We slowly climbed, machines belching a thick, black smoke, into the mountainous bush country of Luzon. Several times we disembarked and trekked up the steep mountainous trail when the motorbikes were powerless to carry us up the extreme incline.

Daylight was fading quickly as we motored up the mountainside trail to the settlement. Before we arrived at the path to the village, it was pitch black without any moonlight to help light our tortuous path. Because we had carefully planned to be back before dark, no one had brought a flashlight. This remote area, where a branch of the feared Communist Army operated, could be a very dangerous territory at night. Often their marauders lurked around in the dark waiting to accost anyone who was foolish enough to venture into their domain.

At the trail head, we started our long, arduous trek up the narrow, rough trail to the village above. We sent the motorbikes back to the village to return two hours later when we would return to San Juan.

While climbing up the dark trail, suddenly my foot caught under a large root. I plummeted forward. My left shoulder struck another enormous root. CRUNCH! My collarbone snapped, and my shoulder dislocated, causing extreme pain. I let out a sharp cry. Don, hearing my shriek, came running up the path to me. When he reached me, I was writhing on the trail in excruciating pain. The broken piece of smashed collarbone was sticking up under my skin. He could see we had a big problem.

He gently helped me to my feet. Feeling very faint from the pain, I rested for a minute or two and, finally, gathered enough strength to slowly, cautiously continue our journey up the hill. Immediately returning to San Juan City to get needed medical care was impossible. We would just have to continue to the village which was at least a mile away.

Although in severe pain, with the help of the Lord, I could muster the necessary strength and courage to continue up the long hill.

Finally reaching the top, we were enthusiastically greeted by an excited little band of villagers, all chattering and shouting, “Mabuhay, mabuhay (welcome).” They quickly ushered us into the tiny, primitive church.

The crude building was made of rough wood walls with a palm frond roof. In the front of the church was a hand hewn wooden pulpit. Several rows of crudely built benches were all lined up neatly facing the pulpit, waiting for the fellowship meeting to begin.

I hastily entered the little church, found a seat near the pulpit, and carefully lowered myself into the seat as everyone busily exchanged warm hugs and joyous greetings. The extreme temperature in the church was about 110 degrees and 99% humidity. Perspiration streamed down my pale face and quickly soaked my dress.

The villagers eventually filtered forward and sat down on the wooden benches. Edith launched the praise and worship; everyone enthusiastically began a joyful song and dance to honor the Lord.

My pain level was intensifying with each passing moment. It became insufferable. I slowly turned to Don and shared that he would have to preach as I was in too much pain. In surrender to the pain, I retreated to the back of the church, found a bench just outside the door and collapsed onto it. I was feeling wretched.

“Lord, I can’t preach with this much pain. I don’t know what you have in mind, but you need to heal me now in the name of the name of Jesus…’by your stripes I was healed!'”

Just as I finished my lament to my Lord, He spoke to me, “You get back in there and preach on the miraculous power of prayer and divine healing. Then have everyone gather around you, lay hands on you. Have the native pastor pray for your divine healing and total restoration. I will do it!”

“Of course, Lord,” I replied excitedly. I quickly rose and walked back into the church, holding onto my injured arm. I wasn’t going to get a better deal than that tonight.

“I can do this through Christ who strengthens me,” I kept repeating to myself. “I’ve got to do this for Him and for His little flock. With the help of the Lord, I can do this.”

My husband, surprised and pleased to see me return, asked, “Are you okay? What’s up?”

I shared with him the Word the Lord had given me.

“Praise the Lord!” he responded with delight. He also knew if God said it, He’d do it.

When praise and worship was completed, I arose and went to the pulpit. I offered a prayer and began to preach about the miraculous healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. I totally forgot about the pain.

“2,000 years ago the Lord was whipped 39 times for you and me. It says in the Bible…”by His stripes we are healed.” Tonight you are going to see that Word in action. The Lord told me to preach on healing, have you gather around me, lay hands on me, and have Pastor pray for me. He promised if I was obedient, He would heal my broken collarbone and dislocated shoulder. If He said it, I believe it. He has never lied to me. He has never forsaken me when I needed Him.”

I stepped out from behind the pulpit, went forward and sat on a bench.

“Now everyone come lay hands on me, gently, and pray for me, believing that the Lord is going to heal me.”

Edith, Don and Marie quickly gathered the little group of worshippers around me, and the Native pastor began to pray.

Each one began to pray in his own tongue. A joyful chorus of fervent prayers rose up to the heart of the Lord.

SNAP! Suddenly, my collarbone went back to normal. SNAP! My shoulder popped back into joint again.

I gingerly threw up my arms and started shouting, “Hallelujah, I’m healed. Praise the Lord. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord!”

I stood up, started swinging my arms around and dancing. Immediately, everyone joined in a glorious dance of praise to the Lord for my healing and restoration.

This uproar continued until our two motorbike drivers appeared out of the darkness in the doorway of the church. They curiously observed this hysterical little band like we had all lost our minds.

“Amen.” I shouted joyfully.

We gathered our Bibles and the generous gifts from the villagers. It was time to wind our way back down the treacherous trail. We were all reluctant to disband but it was getting late and we need to make the journey back down the mountain. Our thoughtful bikers returned with flashlights to make our trek easier, and safer. Thank God! We made it down the trail and back to San Juan without further incident. The Lord brought us through. He is so faithful!

We often read in the Bible about the miracles that Jesus performed in His short thirty-three years here on earth. We think of them as fables or just good history stories. These are not just fairy tales for our amusement. These are prophecies of miracles for us today.

Mark 16: 15-20 tells us, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast evils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with [them], and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

This is what my husband, Don, and I are called to do in the ministry…”go…into all the world and preach the gospel…lay hands on the sick.” We have seen an endless number of the Lord’s miracles in our lives and in the lives of others.

His word says in Hebrews 13:8, “Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Miracles are for “yesterday, today and forever”. We just all need to believe that the Lord is able and willing to perform miracles on the earth today.

I believed. He delivered. I was healed.

©JLesemann 2014

A Little Old Lady Under An Umbrella

Another beautiful, sunny day in Pascagoula, Mississippi; It was hard to believe that just a few days before, Hurricane Katrina had careened through this sleepy, little Southern town, creating a 35 foot storm surge which savagely rushed 25 miles back into this inland community. The area was absolutely devastated.

My husband and I, seasoned National Disaster Volunteers for the American Red Cross, were housed in a Motel 6, on the second floor. The first floor was gone. Just the walls remained like monuments to the devastation of Katrina. The porcelain princesses, the ceramic toilets, from the first floor bathrooms were lined up neatly in the parking lot like contestants in a local beauty contest waiting for the judges to deliver their decisions. We watched as the creepy, black mold crept slowly up the bathroom walls in our room.

This day, about five days into the recovery operation, The American Red Cross ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) was loaded up with cambros (cooler type trunks) with about 350 hot meals for the survivors of Katrina in the neighborhoods in Pascagoula. The day’s menu was a delicious hot dog on a bun, with baked beans, canned string beans, peaches, water and a variety of snacks. Yum!

As we approached our assigned area, one that had been severely affected, we turned on the whining siren, and declared, cheerily, on the loud speaker, “We have hot meals for everyone today. Y’all come.”

The response was immediate; men, women and children came rushing out from behind the rubble, like ants discovering a new source of sugar. Our survivors and helpers instantly lined up and graciously received their hot meals. Most of them were busy with the hard labor of hauling the remnants of their homes to the curb. Many of them showed the strain of the tragedy. They were dirty and had rivulets of sweat pouring from their brows. We first offered them the cold water, which they gratefully accepted and quickly gulped down. They were always so mannerly and polite to us. We really enjoyed getting to know them over the course of the four weeks we served in Mississippi.

As we turned down one of our regular streets, I noticed someone sitting in a lawn chair with a brightly colored umbrella clamped to the arm. It instantly piqued my curiosity.

Why would someone be sitting at the end of their driveway? I quickly noticed that the slab where the house had been built was cleared off, the lawn neatly tidied and even mowed. Someone had really taken loving care of this piece of property.

We proceeded through our normal routine with the siren and announcement of lunch.

As we approached this person’s driveway, I quickly saw that it was a beautiful, elderly woman sitting quite contentedly in her chair. She waved at me and flashed a gorgeous toothy grin. She was a beauty!

I quickly fixed her dinner in the clamshell and climbed out the back of the ERV to visit this little old lady under the red and white umbrella.

“Well, good after noon, ma’am. How’s it going today? I inquired curiously.

“Well, honey, I am just fine, truly blessed, thank you”, she quickly and cheerfully replied.

“What are you doing out here at the end of your driveway, sitting in your chair?”

“I’m just awaitin’, just awaitin’.” She showed me the most beautiful smile I’d seen in days.

“And what are you waiting for my dear?” I quickly queried.

“Just waitin’ for my new house, you know. It’s comin’, comin’ soon.”

“Hmmmm, okay,” I offered gently, “So sorry about your house and everything. Can we help you with anything?”

“Let me tell you somethin’, I had a house here that wasn’t so good. It had a leaky roof and some plumbing woes. And, now, it’s gone! Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!” she broke into praises to her Lord.

“Okay,” I again offered slowly. “But, now what are you going to do?”

“Well, honey, I know the Lord didn’t like the house I was living in, so He decided to have it taken away, to make room for my new house which He will supply. Praise be to God! Hallelujah…” again breaking into her own praise and rejoicing service.

“Amen, amen,” I offered in joyful response, happily joining her in her praise fest. “God is good, all the time.”

“All the time, God is good, “she sang forth with increased fervor.

I knew the glorious angels in the high heavens were singing, dancing and rejoicing with us.

“The Lord giveth, and the lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord,” she sang out joyfully.

“Amen, amen.” I responded quietly to myself, “This is what volunteering is all about.”

A bright and glorious day for this dedicated American Red Cross volunteer who was hot, sweaty and just a little weary. I carried that little lady’s spirit with me throughout the rest of our deployment. This sweet spirit sustained me through many long hours of difficult service. Duty that was made easier by a pleasant praise and worship session, with a little old lady under an umbrella and my Lord.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, indeed!

Madame Ruby Rides Again!

My 92 year-old Mother always had the amazing ability to create a flurry of activity wherever she went. If things were dull and ordinary before she arrived, her auspicious arrival stirred up the placid scene. She was a seasoned party girl. I think she perfected this art when she hung around in the speakeasies in her early twenties.

My husband, Don, and I lived in the legendary supposed-ghost town of Tombstone, Arizona, “The Town Too Tough to Die.” I say “supposed” because Tombstone is alive, well and always bustling with curious tourists and strange characters. The latter are the bizarre ones who suddenly pop into town, stay for a few days or a few weeks and then, poof, they are gone, forgotten. We never learned their last names, only the first names, like “Slim”, “Tex”, “Rebel”, “Montana”. (I found out that Montana was actually born and bred in Brooklyn. I never heard a Montanan with such a pronounced New York accent!) Some of these curious characters, such as a bouncer in Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, did odd jobs for the local merchants. Others went to work as cooks in The Longhorn restaurant or Hogan’s. The bouncer position was type casting; the cook job was a real stretch. I just hope the chefs made them put on clean shirts before they entered the kitchen. Most of them looked like they’d been “rode hard and put away wet” too many times.

Don and I were members of The Boothill Gunslingers, a colorful local group who did the daily, electrifying re-enactments of the Shootout in the OK Corral. We garbed up in 1880’s clothing and joined a dodgy-looking cast of real characters for an amusing time of adult make-believe. I portrayed a despicable hussy, Sadie the Shady Lady, and Don was a very, handsome cowboy, Texas Slim. In the gunfights, I was a lady of the streets and Don was either a cowboy or one of the Earp brothers. It was a flight of fancy we thoroughly reveled in. I had the distinct pleasure of shooting my husband every day with a derringer I hid on my calf. A nifty little fire arm! Some days it was totally drama, other days I was working off some repressed disgruntled attitude acquired at a bygone time in my life. Work it out Sadie!

Back to our original story…

One day my Mom, Drama Mama, who was residing in an assisted-living facility in a nearby town, asked me about dressing up in 1880’s garb and going into Tombstone with us. Now that would be a trip! I could just imagine the chaotic scene as it would play out. A shudder quickly passed through my body.

A few Saturdays later, her fervent wish came true. We garbed her in a sexy, black lacy blouse and a rustling, flowing plaid taffeta skirt. We hiked it up at the ruffled hem so you could see her fancy, red lacy pantaloons and fishnet stockings. A black lacy petticoat peeked out from under the skirt. We gaily festooned her shoulders with a fluffy red feather boa and put a few more black feathers in her greying hair. With the addition of black lace gloves and a red feather fan, she was ready to hit the dusty road in her wheelchair for Tombstone and an unforgettable afternoon.

A transformation takes place in the inner self when you dress up and play make-believe. This brings out the mysterious person within that is just screaming, fighting to come out. We all have multiple personalities that are lurking just below the surface. My Mom probably had a few more bizarre characters than most of us and never hesitated to conjure them up for any festive, appropriate or inappropriate occasion.

We arrived in the sleepy town of Tombstone, parked the car and pulled out Mom’s wheelchair. On the back of the chair we placed a gaudy sign declaring,” Madame Ruby, The World’s Oldest Hussy.”

It was high noon and a scorching sun cast shadows on the “right” side of the street. In the 1880’s only the proper ladies were allowed to amble slowly down the shady side of the street. Hussies grudgingly paraded their wares on the sunny side. A few tourists wandered around looking a little bewildered, wondering what they should do next, and waiting for something to happen. The usual collection of scruffy looking cowboys was in town. Some asleep on the benches with their hats pulled down over their eyes; others leaned against the reconstructed 1880’s buildings, as if it was necessary to keep them from precipitously falling over.

Look out Tombstone! From the minute her wheels hit the boardwalk on Fremont Street, the main drag in Tombstone, Madame Ruby was in control.

Madame Ruby rides again! She was a hoot! The spell she cast on the cowboys was instantly observable. She supernaturally beckoned them to come to her, to flirt with her. They stumbled over each other as they grabbed her for a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a tweak on the chin, a caress of the hand. A few, under the spell of this temptress, proposed to her. She just broke into peals of laughter and fluttered her feathery fan in their faces. What a flirt. My dear little gray-haired mother had turned into a brazen hussy before my very eyes! The World’s Oldest Hussy was in control of her kingdom! She had become the enchantress, and no one could ignore or escape her spell. Tourists flocked to her side to have pictures taken with the now infamous Madame Ruby. All afternoon we rolled her up and down the boardwalk as she cast her magic charm on the onlookers.

Finally, a little exhausted from all the affection showered upon her, she wearily suggested, “Okay, enough already, let’s go get a cold beer.”

Into Big Nose Kate’s Saloon we traipsed, a few straggling fans in tow. All heads turned at the sight of this aged spectacle on wheels. There was a ripple of muffled laughter and a buzz of conversation surrounding her arrival on the scene. As was her nature, she made a dramatic entrance into this historic bar. She waved her fan at her audience and threw a kiss to a good-looking cowboy leaning up against the bar. He immediately came to her, fell to one knee and professed his great affection for her. She grabbed him, planted a big passionate kiss on his check and then chased him away with the sweep of her feathery crimson fan.

“Not today Big Boy,” she offered offhandedly.

Chuckling, he reluctantly returned to his position at the bar. He cast a loving glance and a big wink.

The hussy winked back and threw another kiss to her castoff suitor.

After more excited visitors greeted us at our table and took several photos, we called for our bill. Madame Ruby’s admirer at the bar waved her off and paid the bill. She blew him a kiss as she fluttered her fan like an innocent maiden. We returned to the boardwalk and the great performance resumed once again. Slowly we made our way down the now crowded boardwalk, stopping for photos as requested. Tourists were gathering to watch the Shoot Out in the OK Corral.

Our next stop was The Dragoon Saloon where her grandson, Carey, tended bar.

As we made our grand entrance, Carey spied us and rushed over laughing uproariously. He gave Madame Ruby a huge, loving hug.

“Well, Grammy, you certainly are all duded up today. What’s up?”

“Listen, barkeep, I’m Madame Ruby today, don’t muddle my thinking with common terms. Show some respect, do your job, and get me a draft beer.” She firmly commanded.

“Yes, ma’am, I’m on it right now. At your service Madame!” He spewed out as he chuckled and quickly retreated to the safety of his bar. He knew his grandmother and wasn’t surprised at what had just played out before him.

“She’s a corker alright,” he shared with his bar patrons, “That’s my little, old grey-haired gramma. You never know what you’re gonna get with that one.”

A wave of laughter washed down the bar. He hastily brought his grandmother her beer.

Mom thirstily swilled her cold beer, straight from the frosty bottle.

Carey soon returned to the table and implored, “Hey, Madame Ruby, how about a few bawdy songs to entertain your fans?”

You never had to ask my Mom twice to ply her musical gifts on a crowd. She immediately broke into a loud song as the many patrons ceased their chattering and turned to listen to what was going on with this old beauty.

The Madame broke forth in song with “I Wish I Was a Fascinating Bitch.” I won’t bore you with the tawdry words. She finished to a standing ovation and offered a few more outlandish ballads about love, sex and the sordid side of life.

“Thank you very much. You have really made my day.” She emotionally offered to the clamoring audience as they showered her with praise, hugs and another beer. She honestly appeared to be surprised at the warm adulation they offered.

It was time to move on.

“Bye, Grammy…er…I mean Madame Ruby. Come back soon. Don’t be a stranger.” Carey bid her farewell with a warm hug and smooch. “Love you!”

“Me, too” she tenderly replied and we were gone.

We continue our curious parade down the boardwalk and soon we all agreed it was time to call it a day…quite an amazing day!

A few weeks later Mom, during one of her daily calls, asked, “Hey, when are they having another celebration in Tombstone?”

“Celebration, what kind of celebration?”

“Like the one you took me to a few weeks back.” She answered impatiently.

“Mom, there was nothing going on in Tombstone that day until you arrived. You were the celebration!”

I could hear her muffling a chuckle. I knew she was immensely pleased with herself.

“Okay, just checking. Bye.”

I’m sure Madame Ruby had a few more good snickers about what she had accomplished in “The Town Too Tough to Die.”

Yes, Madame Ruby rode again, several months’ later, right into heaven. I think she probably had to clean up her act.

The Hominid Tale of Horror

The Hunter-Gatherer saw the handwriting on the wall…but no one would listen. As the world progressed into oblivion, he watched and warned. No one listened…no one survived.

 

Once upon a time, many eons ago, there lived on earth a group of people called Hominids. They serenely wandered o’er the fertile land gathering green, fleshy, edible leaves and roots. They picked sweet, succulent berries and fruits. They hunted strong, healthy animals. Eagerly, the Hominids tenderly plucked enough of nature’s ever-abundant sweet gifts to ease their immediate appetites, leaving the surplus for other Hominids, birds, and animals that passed that way in need of provisions. Peaceful Earth blossomed, green with plentiful flora; waters flowed virginal clean, ran deep with a multitude of fish abounding. The fauna ran free and undaunted by elements in their world. The air was fresh and pure. Earth was an Eden, a paradise, indeed.

 

However, time pass and changes inevitably come. The younger generation Hominid became restless and malcontent with the nomadic life of the Hunter-Gatherer. He discovered he could effortlessly manage his food supply by capturing it and bringing it from far-off points to his locale. Discovering he could capture and confine wild animals to supply a ready source of meat, slowly produced a change. Instead of aimlessly meandering about Earth, Hominid became sedentary. He cultivated copious crops of nutritious vegetables, healthy grains, and succulent fruits. Hominid farmer devised unique tools to ease cultivation of the rich, brown Earth, crude at first, but rapidly evolving into finer, more sophisticated tools. Hominid invented needles for stitching animal hides into a raiment for his body. He formed lengthy, slender, sharp spears for the hunt, fire-tempered for strength. Hominid never experienced hunger, his belly was full. His appetite was assuaged. He flourished in his new sedentary contentment. Farmer effortlessly produced more provisions than his kin could consume and learning to prepare for the future, he stored his abundant harvests for insurance against hard times, bad seasons. The more Farmer refined his agricultural techniques, the greater his yield. Hominid flourished and reproduced at a rapid rate. The haughty Farmer ridiculed the primitive Hunter-Gatherer for his errant, directionless existence.

 

“We must modernize and press forward, learn to be in command of our environment,” proclaimed Farmer with an air of superiority.

 

The Hunter-Gatherer wearily wandered on.

 

“Wait and see,” he warned, “Wait and see.”

 

An expanding number of Hunter-Gatherers converted to Farmerism, the new stationary form of life. They grouped together and built communal houses in which to dwell. Technology flourished. Hardier, higher yield crops were produced. Healthier, meatier animals wandered the lush, verdant pastures, overflowing the enclosures. Farmer thrived in his pristine, fruitful existence. Life was good. As time passed, The Village emerged. It became progressively more difficult to find sufficient fertile land to satisfy Farmer’s harvest needs, enough grazing land to assuage his livestock’s voracious appetite. The rivalry for life-sustaining food, the lifeblood, increased; the tensions built. Arguments ensued. The Village developed and was structured to regulate diminishing wilderness and resources, to keep pace with the Hominids. Each Farmer was required to contribute a portion of precious grain for the Soldiers, keepers of the peace, and the Unfortunates, the ill and aged. Temples arose to house their newly created gods. These colossal, elaborate structures also served as storage bins, the granaries for the towns. Local officials, Selectmen, maintained the order and the records. Each community had Accountants to guarantee that each Hominid gave his fair-share.

 

The once undeveloped, virginal land was cleared of natural, Hominid-edible flora to build larger, grander homes and to produce more food to nourish the masses. The birds of the air and the animals of the land were forced to withdraw deeper into the diminishing wild. As Farmer planted his ever-expanding fields of life-sustaining grains and vegetables, the natural refuge and food source for the fauna diminished. The threat of extinction became a reality. Hominid Farmers became arguers and coveters. As unrest developed, they hastily devised new tools, tools of defense, defense against neighbors who were evolving into natural enemies. He quickly learned to kill, not for food, but in defense of his food supply. A new breed of Hominid evolved that found it easier to pilfer food than to grow it, or pay money for it.

 

As accessible farmland diminished, certain Farmers found it progressively more difficult to raise ample food to allay the growing appetites of their kinfolk. They stole provisions from neighbors. It became necessary to write Laws to protect the honest, industrious Hominids which maintained self-sufficiency, resourcefulness. The affluent Farmers reluctantly contributed a greater proportion of the fruits of their labors to the Village for distribution to the Unfortunates and the Aged in the Village. Malingerers quickly discovered that it was easier to remain idle, be given free meals, and be on the dole, even if other Hominids viewed them with disdain. They were willing to trade off pride for leisure and lassitude. Each village had a mounting percentage of Malingerers.

 

For this agri-society to continue to prosper in the ever-expanding villages, natural water supplies had to be diverted to the adjoining fields. Irrigation systems were resourcefully devised to grant each Farmer his essential water-share. Hominid-dug ditches sucked the water from the once-rushing natural streams and rivers. The newly dug ditches belched noxious human excrement, putrid garbage and toxic chemicals into the once crystal-clear, blue waters. Multitudes of innocent fish completed their journeys downstream belly-up, bodies rotting in the sun.

Hunter-Gatherer wearily surveyed this revolution from afar.

 

“Don’t you see what you’re doing? Look around you,” he implored.

 

Villages continued to flourish. The population of Hominids increased at a brisk pace. Fields were thriving, verdant with vigorous hybrid crops. Herds multiplied. Hominid Farmer thrived in his newly contrived surroundings. No longer did he require the now vanishing fish of the streams, the feral animal of the forest, the soaring bird in the clouds. Alas, no longer did Hominid believe he needed anyone, anything.

 

Accountants, Healers and Artisans evolved to trade their specific wares and services with each other and with the Farmers for food. Leaders, an assemblage of the neighborhood privileged, migrated from the Village and built The City. The City was developed by placing many buildings in a strip requiring no green-space, a negligible quantity of ground. Farmers came to The City to seek the Leaders’ wisdom in exchange for sacks of hearty grain, bushels of succulent produce, newly-killed fleshy animals. More and more and more Hominids flocked into The City. The percentage of Farmers to Leaders experienced a sudden decline.

 

As gluttonous appetites increased and the abundance of food supplies decreased, conflict set in. Rivalry for food sources increased. Crime rates soared. New technology exhausted natural resources more rapidly than Earth could replenish itself.

 

“The end is coming,” grieved the Hunter-Gatherer. “See what you’ve done? See what you’ve done!”

 

Hominids fought to control the land, the people, the resources, and the commerce. Power, control over the environment was the ultimate goal of the Leaders. Bloody wars broke out. The once verdant fields and forests became stained with the crimson of Hominid blood. Thinkers devised more complex contrivances of destruction in a futile attempt to restore peace on Earth. The once verdant fields became scarred with massive, sunken craters. The once pure air became infiltrated with strange new elements that thwarted the growth of crops, which inflicted monstrous genetic defects in Hominid offspring. Suddenly there sounded an Earth-shattering “B O O M”, a deadly detonation. Earth was covered with an eerie, orange glow. The black, charred, radiation-riddled Earth was silent.

 

The Hunter-Gatherer lay dying. “I warned you,” he mumbled mournfully. “It’s all over now; it’s all over…”

 

 

Ashes to Ashes…I Bury My Mom with My Dad’s Pants

My dad was drafted during World War II and served in the Quarter Masters’ Corp. He went to Officer’s Candidate School, and one of his assignments was buying used band instruments in Macy’s basement in Philadelphia, PA. We always kidded him about earning a Purple Heart when he dropped a big tuba on his foot! After being discharged from the US Army, he joined the New Jersey National Guard and quickly rose up through the ranks to Brigadier General.

I remember when the letter came announcing his promotion to General. He was home sick and wallowing in his “life threatening” malady. Like so many men, he was really annoying when he was sick.

When I got the mail out of the mailbox that day, I noticed an impressive looking letter from the Governor’s Office, State of New Jersey. Hmmmm, it looked very official. I will have to find out what this is all about.

I bounded up the stairs to Dad’s bedroom and proclaimed, “The Governor heard about your debilitating, terminal flu and wrote you an official letter of farewell and ado. Open it, quickly, and let’s read it. I’ll do the drum roll.”

Dad in slow motion struggled to pull himself to a half-upright position, offering many agonizing moans and a few shallow coughs. None of us was terribly impressed. Realizing that, he ceased from the sound effects, and slowly opened the mysterious letter.

“Come on, Dad, open it…quickly,” my Mom implored, now very annoyed at the drama. “What can it be?”

Dad looked at us as if he was seeing each of us for the last time and wanted to implant a permanent image on his foggy brain.
“Okay, be patient. This is a very important letter, and I want to savor every second of this momentous occasion,” he offered with an over-exaggerated grin on his face. The commanding officer was in control.

He pulled the VIL (very important letter) from the envelope and, slowly, with great care, unfolded the official dispatch. He appeared to be reading it.

“Come on, Dad, read it to us.” I demanded impatiently.

“You are now looking at the New Jersey National Guard’s newest Brigadier General. Pay homage to me immediately. Repent of your bad attitudes. I can now demand your total respect and humble obeisance. You are, heretofore, ordered to treat me with respect due a great officer of this state and nation.” He announced, mustering up all the drama his death defying malady would allow him. He straightened up in bed to sit at attention before his “troops.”

“General Nuisance,” I shouted, clicking together my heels, straightening up to an exaggerated posture, and offering an overdone salute. “Private Sarah at your absolute disposal, Sir. Can I get you a hot cup of tea or coffee? A hot toddy? A Chivas on the rocks? I only exist to serve you, your generalness. Your wish is my command. Just speak…”

“Okay, Sarah, enough!” he interrupted, obviously annoyed at my dramatic performance. “This is a very important promotion for me. I take it very seriously. Knock it off. Show some respect.”

Amazingly, this revelation of his promotion caused a miraculous healing from the plague which had driven him to his bed. He arose like a Phoenix from the flames, got dressed and came downstairs to continue living his life; the healing power of the Governor of New Jersey, indeed.

We, of course, continued to chide “General Nuisance” for the rest of his life. He never lived that one down.

He did have an illustrious career in the military. We were very proud of what he accomplished in designing programs for Civil Defense during the ‘50s and 60s. One of his greatest stories is about driving the Governor all over the State in our bright red Porsche 911 during a Civil Defense statewide drill.

Peter, my middle son, at the time a college student, enters the scene. He is today enjoying a very notable career in the US Army as a doctor.

One day while visiting his Grumpa (an affectionate term pinned to this grandfather by his grandsons), my Dad brought out his old Army uniform with all its ribbons, medals and, of course, the Brigadier General stars on the shoulders. He proudly showed it to Peter.

“I would like you to have this, Pete. It is the last uniform I wore as a General.” He offered with obvious pride. “It has all my insignias and my stars.”

“Wow, thanks, Grampa. I’m really honored,” offered Peter respectfully. He fingered the stars and ribbons with obvious wonder. “I hope I have as illustrious a career in the Army as you did. I’m very proud of you, Grampa.”

My dad uttered a guttural, “Thanks,” obviously a little embarrassed by his grandson’s adulation, loving every minute of it.
Fortunately, he didn’t launch into a long tirade of all his war stories. He really didn’t have any significant experiences to share. What can you say about Macy’s basement? The men in Dad’s outfit were all shipped off to the Battle of the Bulge, from which few returned. Dad was sent to Quarter Master’s school a week before the fateful deployment. It was always a very emotional story for Dad to tell. I really think he felt guilty about not being with his buddies during that difficult time in history.

Peter actually cherished the gift of Dad’s uniform and kept it preserved in a plastic dust cover in his closet.

Enter my Mom…long suffering, usually. She always entered into the denigrating harassment of my Dad. I think it was a kind of retribution for my Dad’s long-winded tirades if something displeased him. He could be extremely nasty verbally and obnoxious if everything didn’t go his way. He wasn’t the easiest person in the world to live with.

When Dad died at the age of 87, we made arrangements for his cremation. At his memorial service, each of his three children paid a loving tribute to him. I, being a minister, gave an eloquent eulogy. After all the pomp and circumstance died down, we all seemed to forget that we were supposed to do something with his ashes. A few years passed, and we still hadn’t distributed them. I guess after a certain point the crematorium just disposes of the unclaimed ashes.
Fast forward a decade or more. Mom passes on at the age of 98.

One day my Mom called me in Utah from her retirement community in Georgia.

“What’s going to happen to my body when I die?” she hit me with out of the blue.

After a kind of stammering and sputtering, I replied,” I don’t know. They’ll take your body and cremate it like Dad’s.”

“I know that,” she replied, annoyed at my simple answer. ”I mean, who specifically? Where will they take it? Has anyone made the final arrangements?”

“No, but I can certainly resolve that problem easily.” I assured her.

She barked the orders, “Okay, do it and call me back with the information. Bye.” Click.

I just sat frozen in my chair, staring at the phone receiver, not quite believing that this little verbal interlude actually happened. I put down the receiver and got on my computer to search for the company that handled my Dad’s cremation.

I called them and quickly made all the arrangements: name, address, phone number of the retirement community office, where to pick up the body, what to do with her, etc., etc. etc. I then called the retirement community office in Georgia and shared the plan and instructions with them.

“Okay, Mom, I’ve made all the arrangements for your aged, obnoxious body. Are you happy now?” I inquired with exaggerated concern.

“Yes, I can rest easy now. Thank you. Are you coming to visit me here in Florida before I die? I’ve got to go. We Golden Girls are heading out or lunch and a movie. Love you, Bye.” Click.

“Well that’s one less thing we’ll have to worry about. Well done, Jude.” I thought quietly, mentally patting myself on the back. “The Jude does it again, my hero!”

I kept thinking about this whole arrangement. Later, that day, I came up with a much better, much more fascinating arrangement, to share with Mom.

“Hey you old thing.” I offered when I got her on the phone.

“Why are you bothering me?” she replied jokingly.

My Mom and I always had very interesting, often denigrating, phone exchanges.

“Hey garbage mouth, who are you harassing today?”

“You of course, who else?”

“You are such a pain in the butt.”

“Look who’s talking, the one who has caused me extreme pain since I popped her from my hallowed womb.”
And on, and on, and on….

If anyone ever heard us, they would have been appalled at how verbally abusive I was to my dear, sweet mother and she to me. It was our way…a form of our love and affection for each other.

When Dad died, I went to live with Mom to help her go through the often difficult transition to widowhood. We sold her house and lived together for about five years. It was challenging for both of us. Mom kind of liked to be the center of attraction. She wanted me to watch TV with her every night which was a great challenge for me because the stupid sitcoms she watched were a total bore to me. I usually ended up retreating to my office to watch TV and get on my computer.

“Ever since you got that stupid computer we’re not friends anymore.”

“You spend more time with that machine than you do with me.”

” I don’t know what you do in there all night.”

And on, and on…you know the progression.

She finally moved into a beautiful retirement community. I remarried and left Florida to live and travel with my husband in our motorhome. We eventually bought 80 acres of high desert in Utah, and put a house on one of the mesas.
I continued our phone conversation…

“Hi, I just got a spectacular idea of what to do with your dead, cold body.” I offered with a chuckle.

“Okay, can’t wait to hear this one,” she replied sarcastically.

“When you die, I am going to put you in a sitting position and wait for rigor mortis to set in. Then I’ll quickly send your body to one of those companies that bronzes baby shoes and have you bronzed…”

“Oh, boy, this sounds like a good one!” interrupted my mother.

“Let me finish…I’ll then have them send your rigid, gold-hued body to us in Utah. In the morning, we’ll sit you in one of those plastic lawn chairs and turn you to face east toward the sunrise. I’ll watch the brilliant sun rays bounce off your expressionless face.

“Then,” I continued hastily, before she could rudely interrupt me again, “In the evening, we’ll roll you over the desert floor to the front of the house facing west. There you can enjoy the incredible, radiant Utah sunset. I’ll come out and join you in pleasant conversation. What a concept, I’ll actually get a word in edgewise for a change. What a concept!”

“You are so rude to your little old gray haired mother who loved and nurtured you all those difficult years when you were such a pain in the ass kid. What did I do to deserve all this mistreatment from my ungrateful daughter…” she melodramatically spewed out.

“Okay, enough, madam.” I interrupted. I’d heard this denigrating tirade so many times that I could speak the monologue along with her.

“Well, what do you think, Mom?”

“I love it. You can dress me up like one of those geese you put on the lawn and change my costumes for every occasion. I’ll be there to haunt and harass you for the rest of your life.”

Well, you get some idea of our rather demented relationship.

When Mom passed on we had her cremated, and I kept the ashes in a safe place. I had no idea what we were going to do with them.

Peter, my son, came up with a brilliant idea, have Mom and Dad interred in a National Cemetery. Dad’s military rank made him eligible for a full send off and a burial plot. Everyone agreed that he would really like that idea, a perfect ending for his illustrious military career.

I dug out and sent all of Dad’s military papers to Peter, so he could make all the arrangements.

Peter called me, “Mom, we have a slight glitch in the burial plans,”

What’s that?” I asked.

“We don’t have Dad’s ashes.”

“Ooops, yeah, that is a problem. What do we do now coach? “

“Don’t know, but I’ll work on it and get back to you.”

A few months passed, I never again gave it a thought until I got another call from Peter.

 

“Hi, Mom, we’ve solved the ashes problem.” He enthusiastically offered.

“Great, how?” I asked, very interested to hear his solution.

“Last night the kids’ and I had a ceremony in the backyard. I took Grampa’s old uniform pants outside. The kids’ and I had a prayer, said the pledge of allegiance, and sang a few patriotic songs. I gave a brief, oral tribute and then, we burned his pants. I now have Grampa’s ashes for burial.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle during his description of the great ceremony they held. I can just see them all lined up, Scott, my grandson, holding the American Flag, and, Jared, our other grandson, clutching the treasured pants, as Peter lit the funeral pyre.

Yes, these blessed ashes are my Dads. We used to joke about someone’s body ash contaminating us. Well, Dad’s body ash now mingled with the burned pants ashes, a perfect marriage. Yes, supreme triumph!

That summer we all gathered at the National Cemetery for burial of Mom and Dad’s pants. (I won’t name the exact cemetery because if they found out about our little hoax, they might exhume my parents and give them back!)

The military authorities sent an honor guard from a local Army base to handle the ceremony. The urn, full of the mingled ashes, sat on the podium with my parent’s pictures, with the flag my Dad was given when he was pinned a Brigadier General. The soldiers paid tribute to him with an ear-shattering 21 gun salute. Peter gave a stirring eulogy for both of his grandparents. I was so proud of him!

We took the ashes to the grave site; a member of the cemetery staff put the urn in the hole and filled it with dirt. We each placed a red rose on the fresh dirt.

I know my ecstatic Dad was standing at attention in heaven with my Mom at his side, her chest puffed up with pride for her husband, a smile on her face.

On that memorable day, we proudly buried my Mom and my Dad’s pants.

The Death Camp

We must never forget the unhumanity of man during World War II. As Christians we need to tell the real history of the Holocaust.

We were hauled from our beds that night,
By the detestable uniformed soldiers.
Many young girls were brutally raped
Others were ruthlessly beaten.

We were forced into an open truck,
The icy wind defied our thin coats.
The snow swirled all around us,
On this extremely bitter night.

We screeched to a stop at the railroad,
Old box cars were parked on the tracks.
We were hastily, savagely loaded in.
We felt like a herd of cattle.

Momma and I huddled closer,
Gripping each other in fear
The rickety train blew an icy wind,
That pierced our very souls.

After what seemed like many hours,
The train creaked to a stop.
“Where are we Momma,” I whispered?
“We are at the camp”, she replied.

Freed from the stench of the crowded train,
I took in a fresh breath of air,
I eyed the iron gates that said
“Arbeit macht frei” (“Work Makes One Free”)

The camp loomed eerily before us
Our bodies immobilized with fear
Not knowing the fate that awaited us.
We were pushed through the “gates of hell.”

We watched as the frightened children
Were ripped from their mothers’ arms.
They grabbed momma and me
And pushed us forcibly to one side.

Stone faced soldiers marched us on,
Into a large wood building.
The tall smokestack belched out
An ominous plume of gray smoke.

Pushed Into a large, barren room
We huddled together in dread.
“All to the “Brausebad” (Shower) for delousing.
Remove all your clothes” we were told.

Throaty moans, fearful cries arose
Horrorstruck, we disrobed.
We clung together in humiliation,
As the Brausebad door was unbolted.

We shuffled forward, a bewildered flock.
The heavy door quickly slammed shut
And an eerie silence pierced the air.,
We heard a peculiar, hissing sound…

Death

They Shall Lay Hands on the…Car… and It Will Recover?

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Mark 16:18

It was one of those beautiful sunlit, balmy days in Port au Prince, Haiti. The sky was a luxuriant azure blue, matching the calm water in the bay. Small fishing boats from the seaside villages were sailing out to sea with great expectations of netting a huge catch of fish to sell in the market.

We were on the move, riding in an older Toyota Forerunner, a great vehicle for negotiating the pot hole ridden roadbeds snaking through the island. We eagerly headed out of the congested, polluted traffic jams of Port au Prince, the major port of Haiti. Enzo, our Haitian driver, my husband, Don, and I, were going to the Leogone Plain to Neply, a small village close to the coast in southwest Haiti. After much horn blowing and brake screeching, we passed through the madness of traffic in central Port au Prince. The large transport trucks spewing black choking smoke were the aggressors on the two-lane roads, and you gingerly yielded to them at all the intersections and narrow passes. Driving in Haiti was an exercise in retaining an extreme tolerance and a cool temperament under pressure.

We were very excited about heading out to Neply to spend the weekend with a group of young pastors that Jude had ministered with in 1995 while a missionary in Haiti. Don has often listened to the amusing accounts and inspiring testimonies shared in Neply. He was now going to meet the “boys,” the dedicated young men who ran the Christian mission in Neply and on the Leogone countryside.

An hour out of Port au Prince, the aging Toyota suddenly developed a peculiar, ominous noise that sounded like a loose piece of metal clanking against the metal under carriage of the car. The immediate operation of the vehicle didn’t seem to be effected, so we peacefully traveled on, totally unaware that there was a great adventure looming ahead of us.

About another hour into the journey, we turned off the main highway onto a potholed, dirt road to Neply. About a mile off the dusty road, the temperature gauge suddenly registered “HOT.” We were in the middle of a sugar cane field…nothing in sight, just rows and rows of sugar cane stalks. We sluggishly limped along and finally, after about a half an hour, arrived on the outskirts of the tiny village of Ti Brache. Enzo, very stressed at the new development, grudgingly trudged down a well-worn path toward the village. He hastily found a woman carrying a Gerry can of water. She was unwilling to release her jug to this obviously frantic stranger and, finally, agreed to follow him back to the vehicle. Enzo quickly filled the steaming radiator with the cool water. He drizzled more water over the radiator which sent up a loud “HISS” and a puff of steam. It didn’t look promising. After waiting about fifteen minutes and after Enzo scorched his hands a few times checking the temperature of the radiator, we got on the move again.

After about three minutes…POP!…off blew the radiator cap. We screeched to a halt. Enzo leaped out of the Toyota, let loose with a rapid Haitian Kreyol outburst. Enzo was not a man of immediate action; he was a man of slow brooding! He regarded the ailing radiator, picked up the ejected radiator cap, returned to the car. He lay back disconsolate in his seat with his eyes closed. I hoped he was deep in prayer, but I had my suspicions this was not the case after deciphering bits and pieces of his Kreyol outbursts.

“What do we do now?” He finally inquired in English

We all just looked at each other for several seconds hopeful someone else had an answer.

“I know!” I suddenly responded, immediately running over to the sick car, laying my hands on the hood and beginning to pray…”Lord, I know you are the One who sent us to Neply today, and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that You want us to reach there in a timely manner and, most important of all, safely. Lord, You created the miraculous technology for this derelict vehicle, and You know how to fix it. In true faith, I lay my hands on this Toyota and believing in your desire for us this day, I declare, ‘Be healed in Jesus’s name, Amen’.”

Everyone echoed, “Amen.”

We were all silent for a few minutes, all obviously deep in prayer, even Enzo.

“Okay, Enzo, start ‘er up!” I instructed, showing sincere faith and great authority, with no hesitation. I know my Lord intimately, and I know He can and will perform any miracles He wants to. He is The Great Physician and The Great Mechanic. Go, Jesus, Go!”

Totally convinced that I was a crazy, religious zealot, Enzo gawked at me, his jaw slack. in total disbelief.
“Enzo, drive this car, now.” I barked boldly. I stoically, unwaveringly stood my ground. I restated loudly, “Now!”

He hastily snapped up the back of his seat and, never taking his eyes of this crazed woman, went into action, and turned the key. The once terminal Toyota instantly came alive, the engine pleasantly purred. The temperature gauge registered in the blue …cold!

“Thank you, Jesus,” I shouted in reverent praise.

The dazed driver looked at me once more with that, now so familiar, blank stare and then, gradually, his face broke into a toothy, glistening grin. He instantly drove off assuredly down the dusty road in the “healed” restored Toyota with a new-found air of importance. Yes, indeed, he was at the wheel of the Miracle Mobile.
“Beniswa letenel. beniswa letenel,” he croaked at the top of his lungs. Praise the Lord, indeed!

By the grace of God, we completed our extraordinary journey to the village of Neply without another glitch or another sputter, and were greeted lovingly by the “boys.” It just goes to show you…God is able! God is good all the time; all the time God is good.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” Matthew 7:7

Author’s Notes:
The next day a mechanic installed a new water pump. The old one was frozen up; the belt was dangling free.
“Beniswa letenel” means “Praise the Lord”.