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Being is Worth

In October, 2020, I was rolling downhill fast, heading towards crippledom, which unsurprisingly threw me into a well of deep life-review. Now, at the end of that long year, I am still immobile; that is, unable to walk normally or even sit for long or carry forth with normal daily activities. Thus, a review ensued of what a human “being” is. Was my worth as a person was at stake because I couldn’t “do?” Why is to be so often linked with —to do? I mused… if to be is the stage when people get old and retire, then, to be means notto do. A rather sad deduction.

The year 2021 landed me in an unwanted state of retirement, and like those who retire, I felt their feelings —the seeming end of usefulness, and sought answers to questions on thoughts of “worth.” Placing my head on a shelf like a showcase (my humongous neck-collar) showed people cared, people helped because of the strangeness of my collar. Some stare, some pity, many will just care. It’s easy to quickly become your own enemy and turn against yourself, suddenly entertaining feelings of meaninglessness in life without doing. Where is worth and joy hiding in being?

It took a while for me to understand that I don’t need to make excuses for my inabilities,

God created me, and loves me how I am. Nevertheless, I had to take God’s word for it … and simply believe. (Ha! “Believe!” God makes it all so simple!) As always, I’m reminded again and again, and again, that God loves me squarely, consistently, the way that I am.

I dared to be in relationship —a relationship that really wasn’t equal. I mean, God is God, the Almighty, Lord of all… and me? Not just mortal, but an invalid… unable “to do.” It’s like a husband and wife, the example God himself chooses to use: for better for worse, until death do us part. So, in my relationship, I had to trust that the commitment God made to me was just that. He was not going to be unfaithful, and if He felt like I wasn’t “doing” my part, well He just better strike me with healing and create the new body parts I need. So, yes, God was willing to love me just the way I am… and be there beside me serving as a crutch. Me, the sheep, Him, the shepherd, we walk together. We become one. I’m no longer take centre stage, A relationship with the Almighty! What a thought!

In marriage you have a best friend. Careful about being distracted and down-right rude when talking to God. I’ve learned that walking with God is nothing short of a daily work of art, an intentional effort, and a growing relationship. Visual, touchable aids are helpful to the human. Just like we talk to God, we need to talk to each other. Love your neighbour as you love yourself. It’s very practical and probably will do you more good than your neighbour. Life is limited to years; eternity is around the corner. I’m not morbid, or depressed… just trying to come through this well.

Writing is my way into the world that moves on, when I physically can’t. Singing with my rusty old feeble-sounding voice, is far from melodious… it’s just the way I share thoughts (like an audible diary). If you hear some creaking in the song, it’s not my knees. I couldn’t hold up my guitar long enough so I rested it on a dresser-drawer. Between the wooden drawer and wooden guitar, a creak snuck in. Because God loves me, I’m worth it. I rest my case. (Even though I do “stuff” over and over and over again.)

One day, I was praying… this is what happened… as it usually does… I confess. But he still loves me. We both know who I am; the sheep who needs the shepherd.

Morning Meltdown Meeting

I will love you today, in the biggest way… 
hat a day doesn’t pass…
when my thoughts of you aren’t blessed ….
not a day will slip away without thinking of you…. 

I just feel that dread when my head bowed in prayer
And realize my minds somewhere else…. I’m
nowhere near …. I’m no longer here
…. I cry out… I’m sorry Lord,

why would I miss a moment with you? …
it makes no sense…
over and over and over again.

when you drank from that cup ….
overflowing with your love ….
you drank it all and poured yourself out
when you thought of us.   Lord…., 
I love your love.

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Press On

The Joy of Kamla:

I met Kamla soon after I arrived in India. Kamla worked in her family as child-labour and never had a chance to go to school. I invited her to learn how to read Hindi with me, which she did. I became a Hindi teacher and we became close friends. When Kamla met Jesus and she was overjoyed. Even though she continued as child-labour, she was completely, delightfully full of joy. A few years after marriage she was diagnosed with a rare disease. The illness caused her organs and skin to shrink; her body would slowly get squeezed. Her body parts that can’t shrink, like bones, now appear over-sized and exaggerated; they are very weak; it’s a cruel disease. Her paper-thin rib bones are compressed and breaking. It’s a terminal condition, but she has God on her side. Every time I meet Kamla she is happy and declares she’s doing fine. If I ask her how she REALLY is doing, she gives me a medical update and then adds, so besides that, I’m doing great. Then she giggles. She always giggles. When I think of Kamla, I giggle. Pray for Kamla.


Kim sees beauty:

I receive web-updates from Kim. Her email site is titled Kim’s New Heart. That’s it; Kim has a new heart. She is the only heart transplant person I know. Kim was taken ill and diagnosed with a very rare disease; given only a couple days to live, the only solution was to find a new heart. A heart was found. Now Kim lives through hourly, daily, weekly, monthly check-ups and tests. She remains a positive person… even when it’s painful. She gets through it. It’s no secret how she survives a continuous, on-going
recovery. She writes poetry. She sees beauty everywhere, and in beauty she sees life and healing. She writes poetry and thrives. Pray for Kim.

The following poem is from Kim Balke’s new book, Driftwood Dreams, available on Amazon.

Kim explains: Floating in my mind were the words of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts in Alice Through the Looking Glass, who comments on the practice of believing 6 impossible things before breakfast, along with the story of Jesus and the woman who washed his feet with her tears.

Beliefs and Breakfast ~ by Kim Balke~

Let us consider a few impossible things before breakfast:
this one from my morning daydream –
a sunflower that grows toward the sunlight no matter where planted,
even from the ocean floor where I spy an old sunken ship and petals turned to gills.
Next, two oldies… the lion and lamb graze and gambol together,
children saunter along with poisonous snakes – you better b-a-a-elieve it!
A fly-on-the-wall woman washes the Guest’s feet with her hair,
with all she could gather of love, stored away in alabaster.
Stony heart pours out tears, memories, vulnerability,
regret and Grace makes perfume of it all.
I have my one-year-old heart reviewed through bloodwork,
angiogram, biopsy, cardiac echo, x-ray,
through the challenges of CMV colitis, anaemia, blood transfusions,
hospitalizations, pain and tiredness, 137 and I hear the Healer say,
despite my mirror full of fears, something like, “Zero rejection.”
Do you see this woman?!

Pintu worships:

Pintu is a musician, a singer, and a worshipper. I have worshipped with Pintu and followed his lead. Pintu, the one who leads and directs, found himself on the edge of life, with his wife and tearful children trying to comprehend the difficult meaning of this sudden, sad change. Trying to find “meaning” to grief is mostly impossible. They moved to another city for the sake of a good hospital where Pintu lives in and out of the hospital, going from one emergency to another. Medically, he cannot survive. But he does. He survives through prayer and worship. His family and friends hope that his health will last so that he can survive an operation to extend his life a few more years. But more fervently than that, they pray God will do a complete make-over on him and heal him. How does Pintu manage to have hope in such a state? Pray for Pintu.

Sumana’s love:

Sumana, and her husband P.M. Samuel (pictured above), have been actively directing Sharp Memorial School for the Blind for many years. Both have done award winning work nationally and internationally. Sumana was bitten by a snake and suffered severe kidney damage; now she survives on dialysis. During the height of the COVID 19 pandemic both P.M. and Sumana contracted the virus. Her husband, P.M., became very sick and quite suddenly took a turn for the worst. He left this world, but it’s very hard to imagine anyone happier to be in heaven.

At the time of P.M.’s hospitalization, Sumana was also down with covid, but kept her twice-weekly dialysis, managed the Sharp Memorial Blind School while training a new person to take up the leadership. Her energy has its limits, but her spirit to get the job done has no limits. Many have had lives given back to them because of Sumana and P.M.… including me (that’s another story). How does she do it? She can’t do it. She has to rely on help. She does it for God, he gives her the strength. Pray for Sumana.

Asha’s Passion:

This past week, Asha, a deafblind student who has been with Sumana and P.M. since she was four years old, came in the top three international winners of a one-minute virtual video contest on the theme; “Leave No One Behind,” Sumana filmed for Asha and made the arrangements for her to attend the award ceremony of the UN World Data Forum contest. She flew to Switzerland to be interviewed, communicating via sign language. In her interview, Asha makes a compelling case for the inclusion of people deafblind in Census. She made India proud.


People challenged with disabilities or illness are not handicapped; they are differently abled people and very privileged. They know they need God. They learn that he is faithful and his love endures through all. They sidle-up to him continuously; they are as sheep and follow the shepherd. It’s simple. There’s Asha. We are left speechless.

Friends, I am Asha 16 years old. I am deafblind studying in class 10. I am invisible in census due to my disability (Deafblindness). We do not get identified in census and no one knows how many of us (deafblind) are existing in the world. Include us in census and give us opportunity to inspire others. Now a day’s pandemic is an extra barrier for us. Data is an important tool to plan our future. We are a tiny spark can set our nation on fire. Count on us and connect to us for a better nation/world.

Pray for Asha.

— Photos by Tom Balke

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To Do or Not to Do

The Height Challenge

I was six years old and Ruth was eight. She was plenty more experienced in life than me. Bravery was her forte. Our childhood home had a natural boundary of tall trees and scrub separating us from a dental clinic, still in the early stages of construction. Wanting to explore the jungle of raw beams and kick up the irresistible mounds of sawdust, we squeezed through the brambles. Ruth, after scoping the place, naturally climbed to the highest cross-beam—a whole four-inches wide—where she balanced herself like a trapeze artist. I stood on the ground —my eyes glued to her.

“Don’t do it, Ruthie!”

She ignored me. My body tensed as she began to make her way across the beam, lifting pointy toes high and then dipping them low before she placed each foot on the beam. By the time my jaw hit the ground she was on the other side and had a smarty pants grin spread from ear to ear. She looked down at me.

“I dare you.”

What choice did I have? I had to do it. I couldn’t chicken out. Not now, not in front of Ruthie. So, I climbed, and after three anxiety-stricken steps I toppled over, landing squarely on my back, the breath knocked out of me. I lay on the dirt, panic turning to hysteria as I tried to gasp for air. Ruth’s face blocked out the sun as she wagged her head over me in disapproval.

The Jump Challenge

In January, when the water was at its coldest and wildest, I white-water rafted in Rishikesh on the Ganges with family and friends. After riding the current’s crazy ups and downs, experiencing the thrill of shooting through the rapids and dodging boulders, we finally reached calmer waters, signalling the end of a scary journey. Our raft driver pulled the craft over to the shore and pointed up to a precipice that peaked over the river.

“If anyone dares to climb to the top and jump off into the river, now is the time to do it.”

Walking on a narrow ledge at a great height scares me—but water doesn’t. I’ve always been zealous about water. A friend in the raft looked at me with a sparkle in his eyes.

“Frieda, if you jump, then I will.”

Being full of zealotry I didn’t hesitate and began the climb to the peak. When I reached the summit, I peered over the edge. The view was not at all what I expected. The anticipated dream of leaping gracefully vanished. It wasn’t going to be easy. I gaped at the unforeseen reality.

Positioned 30 feet above ground I had a clear view to the water. The only place to jump was directly on top of pointed pillars, albeit underwater, but hidden from ground view.

From my perch it looked deadly. Giant spears, or menhirs from Obelix comic books. I couldn’t jump past them or to the side of them. My only choice was to aim FOR them and hope for the best. Since I’d climbed to the top, I resolved to make the jump and began to take off my lifejacket. Then I heard the guide shouting.

“You better keep that jacket on!”

I obediently buttoned up again and took my place, inching my toes to the cliff’s edge. My one hope was that the raft driver was not a daft driver and knew what he was talking about when he dared us to jump. Closing my mind off to all else, I leapt into the air and did a death-defying plunge into the river. Lo and behold, I came up without a scratch! I swam to the edge in my weighted-down clothes and slowly dragged myself out of the water. Now I had the sparkle in my eyes. I looked at my friend.

“I jumped … up you go.”

He began to climb the precipice. When he reached the top, he did exactly what I did; he looked down. Big mistake. He saw exactly what I saw: the pointed pillars, the giant spears. He made up his mind.

“I’m feeling a bit cold and can’t jump right now.”

The Sing Challenge

I’ve always loved playing guitar and composing songs. In my mid-fifties I was a folksinger wannabe and decided it would be fun to make an album. After sharing this with an older and wiser friend, he advised that I was “well over the age for such youthful goings-on, and it was not the time for me to engage in gigs and such doings.”

I knew his advice held some—or a lot—of truth. And I was crushed. My gusto plummeted. Truth is a hard call.

Then I had a phone call.

“Hello?”

“Hello,” said the voice on the other end. He was a well-known recording artist. I was baffled. Why would he be phoning me? He began to give me some excuses as to why his upcoming concert was not going to happen… and then suddenly he asked, “So, do you want to do something?”

I was floored. I knew of this famous young recording artist, but had never met him, and here he was asking me if I wanted to do something? Well, I wasn’t going to waste anytime beating about the bush.

“Do you want to make an album with me?”

I braced myself for his answer. It came without hesitation.

“Sure! We’ll do it in Lucknow at my studio and use my musicians!”

I was speechless. He knew nothing about me or my talent. Still, he offered to make an album with me. I packed my bags for Lucknow!

I’ll never forget that trip (and doubt that I’ll have such a chance again). It was an absolute dream come true! The songs turned out awesome.

The Write Challenge … or, The Last Act … or, The Beginning!

Exactly one year ago, I thought Sid’s challenge was a big. Sid is an overflowing bag of enthusiasm, enticing all to greater heights. He is fluid with good-willed lectures and positivity pours from his mouth.

“Come on, you can do it. Get your own website. You are a writer. You have lots to share. All you need to do is a write a story once a week for one year.”

I was at Sid’s mercy; it is impossible to resist his fervour to encourage. Little did I know what the year would hold for me. Now, exactly one year later, two hospitalizations later, becoming a crippled person later, the challenge has been completed. Thank you, Sid.

Congratulation me in the comments. With the end of this story, I begin. What challenge could possibly come before the last act but a second year of writing?

It’s scary, I assure you. Wish me luck and read my stories.

A word of advice:

Live according to the childish enthusiasm of your dreams, let others well-meaning thoughts about your age go in one ear and out the other.

Song Challenge – Keep me as Your Child

Frieda

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A Short Story

Today’s story is by guest writer; Elcayla Gilbert, now 12, but wrote the story when she was 11. Elcayla is a third culture kid; her father grew up in India, but is English, her mother grew up in India, but is American/Canadian. Elcayla was born in England, but grew up in China where her family was working. After China she spent 3 years in Thailand. Now she is settled with her family in England. Elcayla loves learning; reading, drama, dancing —a natural leader. She is also my granddaughter and loves to write:

Read more of her stories at:
https://elcaylagil.wixsite.com/blog

The World is my Home

Third Culture Kid Madness

Listen to A Short Story Audio version


A Short Story by Elcayla Gilbert

People say that the best way in life is to stick to reality, but what exactly is reality, I say. Is it the common sense that simply you are a frail human with no capability in doing anything big by yourself, or is that the entire world is a system of wealth and efficiency, so the sooner you get your head out of the clouds, thebetter you’ll be? Or is it simply the definition of the world and nobody really knows the exact meaning for it, and I’m purely overthinking the entire thing. But if that is the meaning, then I’m afraid that my entire world is messed up, and I’m a glitch in the system. For that night…well, was it a night, it could have been an entire lifetime, or merely a split second stretched out and paused for this peculiar turn of events to take place.

There was something, not a human, not an animal, simply something I had never laid my eyes on. It waved around through the darkness, a blotch, a figure of some sort of life, a life so fascinating, so radiating that my heart glowed and triumphed, almost bounding out of my chest, longing to energy like that. It turned round to me with a face so complete, yet non-existent. It smiled and said, “Come, join me.” I was unsure, but every cell in my body dived to the offer, I was no longer in control. I walked by his side, everywhere was pitch black, a black hole of nothingness, but something told me there was a meaning to this drift. “Are you happy with well-being,” It said without looking at me. “Well, yes, and why is that of any importance.” I replied in the best form possible. He chuckled and continued walking. “Is that really your emotion, what makes you happy.” “Well why wouldn’t I…” I stopped, am I really happy. I have a family and a job. I get to see my children grow up with full emotion, I get to be part of this flawed but beautiful world. “Well shouldn’t I rejoice and be thankful for simply being alive, for having a place in this world,” I responded “Well of course, I’m the one who made that decision after all.”

I stopped walking and looked at him. “I have taught you in the ways of wisdom, I have led you in the right paths. When you walk your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble.” He said. And then it ended.

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I’m an Artist

I’m an artist. I draw.
I wish I painted.
I’m a writer. I write stories and thoughts.
I wish I wrote books.
I’m a composer. I write songs and love them
even if no one else likes them.
I’m a musician. I love instruments..
Especially expensive ones.
I’m not a perfectionist.
I’m not professional or even good at any of those things.

I do best at just being part of my family. See my happy children on the beach?
I read the Bible to grow in love and life.
I fill my spot at God’s banquet. It’s a great family.
I know Jesus was born in Bethlehem, died, and was resurrected.
How do I know he’s alive? I met him.
I know him.
I’ve read the bible again and again.
Some parts are hard to understand—like the book of Joel.
So, I found a study book on Joel. Wow!
That helped me, and now I can explain Joel—my way.
I’m no scholar or theologian.
Like I said, I’m an artist.
I interpret things like an artist, and musician, and writer… even Joel.
Listen to the song, maybe it will help you understand the book of Joel.
I think my song explains it rather well.

Rend Your Heart

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A Forest Visit

Every morning, the children would take a ride in their carriage.

They always went to the same place — to the colourful wonderful mysterious forest.

It may seem to you that the children hugged trees. Some people do. They didn’t.

They did something different.

They played hide-and-go-seek with the forest creatures.

They would put their faces against a tree so that they couldn’t cheat or see anything.

They would be very quiet and just listen to the forest.

Sure enough.

Tina the Turtle soon arrived.

Ernie the Eagle never played.

For an eagle, Ernie had a very big ego;

he considered himself King of the forest.

So, he didn’t play. He patrolled.

But he loved to patrol high up in the tree.

Betsy the Bug never failed to show up.

The children were very careful not to step on her.

When they came to the forest, they always brought a gift for Skitty.

Otherwise, Skitty was very moody and wouldn’t come out to play.

He was always terribly hungry… and maybe a bit greedy,

He always stashed the nut in his cupboard for the winter.

Hello Rocky.

He loves to play.

He and his two sisters are very shy.

Meet Rocky and his sister Rani.

They immediately hung their faces out of the tree.

Then out popped the youngest, Rinky.

All very playful, but very shy…

they never failed to stick their noses out.

The children’s imagination flew fly and flewnt!

Yes, their imaginations were getting crazy,

But they had such a good time with their friends.

The sun was shinny so high in the sky,

The forest sounds pounded like a drummer urging them onward.

Flying Colours of the Rainbow…

indeed her name was very long, preferred to be called by her whole name. She felt it was appropriate for her queenly manner.

She would fly around everyone… looking her beautiful self, landing on their heads, and tried in her own way to remind them of the beauty of the forest; radiating its natural colours.

She would make them look up at the sky, down at the ground,
and all around.

When Flying Colours of the Rainbow came, the forest and the earth and the sky all came alive.

The children learned about butterflies from Aunt Katy, who had a cocoon farm. She loved butterflies and moths. She had acres of trees draped in nets to keep her cocoons safe.

As the forest grew dark, the children grew tired and hungry.

It was time to say goodbye to their friends and head home.

The horses were also ready to go home.

An apple and some hay would be waiting for them

It was the end of another Happy Cane Day.

Cane?

Yes.

All of these creatures live on a cane that hangs on the wall in my house that Aunt Katy made for me.

The horses live in her painting, and continue to pull the carriage every morning without fail.

I’m so glad Aunt Katy retired so I could find all the stories hidden in her art.
Math is okay, but art is best.

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A Million-Dollar-Smile

A teacher wanted to visit. She wanted to see my million-dollar smile. That created a problem. Had I lost the smile she remembered? That smile was before the circus of trying to find a diagnosis. Before enduring the probing, pricks, needles, scans, everything I called my “Frankenstein testing.” The million-dollar-smile was before a gruelling 7-hour surgery that left 13 screws in my neck. It boils down to pain. Prolonged pain. She wanted to visit; I wanted to lock the door. What kind of a teethy grin would I give her? It would be a pretend smile. I’d be exposed. A million-dollar-smile has high expectations. I’m a useless actor. Was there even a sincere smile anywhere in me? Every smile took concentration and effort. I could almost count the seconds that a smile would stick to my face.

The days and weeks after surgery became a routine of sitting, resting, doing nothing, working hard to keep my neck comfortable while doing nothing. I lived a boring and very taxing reality. It didn’t take long to realize that I didn’t want to waste my days being unhappy. I wanted to rediscover my smile. A smile shouldn’t depend on happiness or circumstances. A smile is not a stealable commodity, so no one could have taken it; it’s losable, though. So where was mine? If I once had that priceless smile, maybe it got buried somewhere deep inside me. I decided to do my own surgery and transform myself into an excavation site. I’d dig for buried treasure. Surely, that million-dollar smile had to be in me somewhere?

Thinking about pain was easy, but navigating the roadblocks around it seemed insurmountably difficult. And yet, if I truly once possessed a million-dollar-smile, was it still there? I began to dig. When one hole produced nothing, I dug another —and another. I was determined to find the buried treasure.

Before and after my surgery I read Psalm 23; read it, spoke it, sang it… over and over again. I was totally mesmerized by it. A friend wrote an article on Psalm 23: I always wondered what this part of Psalm 23 meant. I thought “He anoints my head with oil” was figurative language for God keeping the Psalmist healthy. Ha! Alas no, here are the facts:

“Sheep can get their head caught in briers and die trying to get untangled. Horrid little flies torment sheep by laying eggs in their nostrils which turn into worms and drive the sheep to beat their head against a rock, sometimes to death. Sheep ears and eyes are very susceptible to nasty insects. Thus, the shepherd anoints their whole head with oil. Then they have peace. That oil forms a barrier of protection against the evil flies and insects who try to destroy the sheep.

Pain can be overwhelming, devouring all your time and thought, keeping the focus solely on you. Pain is like a mind in captivity controlled by depraved, negative, depressive thoughts. How can worry and fear not follow? Sheep, in their helpless torment against predators beat their heads against a wall. Wasn’t I doing the same thing? Pain was culprit that kept my smile in captivity and I hadn’t even realized pain had captured my mind as well!

The deeper meaning of Psalm 23 claims that God anoints us with oil to guard our thoughts, to help us live beyond pain, to provide us with a peace that passes understanding. With this anointing, the darkest valley holds no scare, we dance right through it. We can surf above the churning undertow and coast on the overflow; his cup overflows and fear takes the brunt of our heel. (Don’t be afraid to kick hard.) We are drenched in love.

If Psalm 23 is just a mish-mash of poetical words God is a liar. If God doesn’t lie, it’s safe to say the Lord is our Shepherd. That’s how “the dig” at my excavation site began. I had to dig deep. It took time but I found the buried treasure I was searching for. It was underneath pain, fear, worry, and pride. It hadn’t been used for quite a while and needed some dusting off. But it was my own lost million-dollar smile. I brushed it off, tried it on, and hoped that the teacher coming to visit would still recognize me. If not, I’d have to make a new entrance. At least now, I know who wears the smile —and its permanently fixed.

Would I wear my million-dollar smile if I had to experience the pain of the world? The meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice sets us free to live life fully. The complete reality of what this means doesn’t enter our imagination. We cannot gage all that it encompasses. But God calls us his sheep, and we call him our Shepherd because each of us has their own million-dollar-smile to wear. A smile solely yours.

I wrote Psalm 23 in Song over those months. I wanted it to be right. I sang straight into my computer, no mic. Now I appreciate that my song will never be perfect because I am a sheep. I beat my head, make mistakes and bad decisions, get depressed… I am human and that won’t change. I walk through valleys, which during those times, seem very dark and low. The chorus has to be sung over and over so that I know he is with us and anoints us with oil. He is my shepherd. I am not alone. I present an imperfect song… it’s perfectly human. Jesus knows that.

Psalm 23 in Song

Psalm 23 in Song

The Lord’s my shepherd he restores my soul
When I walk through death —valleys dark and low
I fear no evil; he guards and comforts me
Lays a feast while those against me watch.

He anoints me with oil and my cup overflows.
In the overflow I stay and let it run down my robe.
I’m anointed with oil, and my cup overflows
In the overflow I live and am drenched from head to toe.

The Lord’s my shepherd, can I lack at all?
His presence fills me up; beside him I stand tall.
He guaranteed to lead me quietly,
The darkest valleys hold no scare for me.

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No Room at the Inn

I’m very excited about having a deeper relationship
and promise not to weird-out.
I trust that if one of us says something the other doesn’t understand,
we can just ask.

~ full quote by Ruth Andrews~

Mika

Setting: USA

Mika was happy; Chrissy had invited him for Christmas. He’d been a soldier, joined a war and returned home physically unscathed, but was an emotional and mental wreck. He witnessed more than he’d bargained for; violence, greed, poverty, starvation, and the worst part, killing. Killing that he had participated in. Now his life felt meaningless.

Chrissy’s relatives invited her for Christmas dinner, which she accepted. Excitedly she informed them that Mika would also come.

“Who’s Mika? This is a family occasion.”

Chrissy explained that Mika, an ex-soldier, was a close friend who needed security, love and reassurance. How could she not invite him for Christmas? But she heard only a resounding No. “He is not family. It’s a family occasion. The table is already full.”

“Just squeeze him in beside me. I’ll look after him,” begged Chrissy.

“The table only seats eight. Our Christmas dinner plates are eight and Grandma is bringing desert for eight. How can we ask Grandma to do extra cooking?”

Chrissy was stunned that anyone could deny being family to someone so lonely and needy of love. They even had the nerve to suggest the food might be compromised! Was there anything to say to her family that wouldn’t offend them further?

“Chrissy, how can you take advantage of your invitation to invite whoever else you like?”

Chrissy tripped over the words in her head, searching for a way to reason with them, only to discover the answer was not in her head, but her heart.

Chrissy stayed home that Christmas and cooked a special meal, just for Mika.

Foreigners

Setting: Village India

I had just arrived home after walking across the rocky fields and dry riverbed. It had been another long day of teaching and running our school. It was hot and I was looking forward to getting out of my sari. As I hoisted my 1-year-old on my hip, I looked out the window. I saw a very unusual sight: A foreigner!

He walked past, but soon another stranger followed him, then another, and another … how many were there? Unused to heat and unusually red in the face, they were seemingly trying to strip down as far as possible—wearing shorts and undershirts that were culturally questionable. I stepped outside and the parade of foreigners froze. They stared at me. One man approached. He pointed at me and in halting English said, “Ken McRae?”

I pointed back at myself. “Frieda McRae.”

Surprise spread over his face as he realized I was not Indian and understood English. “We are looking for you. We’ve come to help you.” The men surrounded me, about twelve in all, sunburned and soaked in sweat. Now it was my turn to be surprised. Having heard about us from a friend, they had traveled from Scotland! I invited them in, turned on the fan, and went to find Ken.

It was mid-afternoon. Ken was bushed after a day of working in the field. When I told him about our sudden visitors his face fell. How would we ever find time in our full schedules to accommodate and feed twelve more people? We were too exhausted to even manage help! He decided we’d give them lunch and immediately drive them back to their hotel in the city. So, after lunch and as they were climbing into our van, Ken asked, “What kind of work do you do?”

One by one they answered. A welder, an electrician, a mechanic, a carpenter, an architect, a mason, and down the list it went. Every man possessed skills we desperately needed. And what were we doing? Piling them into a bus to get rid of them. Their skills were exactly what we needed.

Ken about-faced. “Wait! If you’d like to stay and help us, we have plenty for you to do!” Broad grins appeared and they put their bags down.

Help had come in the form of Scottish angels.

Mary

Setting: Bethlehem

Mary, nine months pregnant, plagued by thirst and exhaustion, rode a donkey for ninety grueling miles. It’s no wonder she was ready to give birth when she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. Joseph must have searched madly, pleading a place for Mary to rest. There was no room at the inn, and no villager was willing to open their home to a woman about to give birth. At last, someone understood their predicament and took pity. “If you’d like to rest in my barn, please help yourself.”

The villagers in Bethlehem missed their opportunity to host the entrance of the Son of God into the world. Instead of scooting over and offering space, they shut their doors. Had they opened their arms to Mary and Joseph, what an unfathomable part of history would have been theirs.

Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests,
because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2

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Elijah Jumps

JUMP or DIVE?
Jump or Dive was written for my daughter Sheva, but this rendition is dedicated to my oldest grandkid, Elijah, on his 16th birthday. You have inspired your Granny.

Granny to Elijah
Jump or Dive

I’m standing in the church with worship welling up in me;
Throngs of people weave around, some swaying up, some going down;
Eyes are closed but looking up as though they can see…
I know they were lookin’ at the true reality.

I dreamt I was speedin’ down a bouncy diving board Runnin’ like a leaping calf, adrenalin flowin’ hard. I knew I had to make a choice perched upon the edge. Like Jesus on the pinnacle, I had a choice;

JUMP OR DIVE ?
I thought about the friends I had who looked up to my lead…What I said what I did, like a shepherd with his sheep. When they fell I’d lift them up (they knew that I was strong).

But could I see the arms of faith to catch me when I fall?

There was one choice and it was comin’ fast I knew I’d have to choose and give it all I had Looking up I saw the living resurrected God Assuring me that even the dead are raised hrough love!

All empowering God above, Who casts gifts down from heaven on us! Through great mercy, grace and love,
The dead are healed when he says “jump!”
That same Word now filters through me, Ignites my spirit to fly and leap Opens doors set the prisoners free!
Pick me! Pick me! Should I bounce and leap?

Jump or dive? I clearly had to leap.

Dive or jump?… choosin’ was for me.
A question bright as neon lights to live or join the dead
The resurrected Jesus is the only choice ahead!

Jump or dive? Time to leap. Dive or jump?…
What’s it gonna’ be?

Warning lights are flashing bright and poundin’ in my head…

The resurrected Jesus doesn’t know a word called “dead”

I choose love!
I choose life!
I choose him, to be Lord of my life!

And my final choice was….

DIVE !

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Jamun Tree

JAMUN TREE

Publishing and Illustration
By Omi Kumar

One evening I was going to play.
एक शाम मैं खेलने जा रहा था।

I ran so fast to the jamun tree.
मैं इतनी तेजी से जामुन के पेड़ की ओर दौड़ा।
I couldn’t reach any jamun.
मैं किसी जामुन तक नहीं पहुँच सका।
I needed a bucket and a ladder.

So…………
मुझे बाल्टी और सीढ़ी चाहिए थी।
इसलिए…………
I called Ashutosh Bhaiya.
मैं आशुतोष भैया के लिए चिल्लाया।

Ashutosh got a ladder and……
आशुतोष को मिली सीढ़ी और……

I got the bucket.
मुझे बाल्टी मिल गई।

He put the ladder against the tree.
उसने सीढ़ी को पेड़ से लगा दिया।

He got lots of jamun and filled my bucket.
उसने ढेर सारे जामुन लाए और मेरी बाल्टी भर दी।

I ate them all.
मैंने उन सभी को खा लिया।

I can’t believe she ate them all!
मुझे विश्वास नहीं हो रहा है कि उसने सब खा लिया!

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