Thursday, September 30, 2004

Elderly Inspiration

“The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.”
~ Proverbs 20:20 (NLT)

Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world's gone crazy
And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy

Did lovers really fall in love to stay
And stand beside each other, come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept
Not just something they would say, and then forget?
Did families really bow their heads to pray
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days

Grandpa, Tell me ‘bout the Good Old Days ~ recorded by The Judds

This past week Keen has been business/dog sitting for some friends of ours who live above their computer store in downtown Topeka. I joined him for a couple days over the weekend and was able to visit a few of my elderly friends on Monday.

My day started out at the cafeteria of St. Francis Hospital where I met my friend Marne for breakfast. Marne eats there almost every day and enjoys visiting with his two friends, Steve and Amy, who are lab technicians. Unfortunately, Marne had taken a spill the night before and had a small cut on his forehead and a bruise on his face. Later, a trip to the dentist revealed the need for some unexpected dental work. “Seems like I have enough trouble for two or three people,” he wrote in an email. “Well, I will get by.”

After breakfast, I decided to drive to the Luther Apartments to see if I could catch my other friend, Joy. The timing was perfect as Joy was just heading out on her morning walk, wearing her red baseball cap and flannel shirt. Joy puts me to shame because she walks nearly every single morning year around – with a walker, no less. Twenty years ago she had a heart valve replaced and the doctor told her that if she wanted to live a long life then she would need to walk every day. So that’s what she does.

Poor Joy has had more than her fair share of misfortune lately. “I wish you could have walked in my shoes for the past six weeks,” she said. First of all, Joy lost her beloved twin sister, Joyce. Then there was a mix-up with the hospital and they started sending her all the bills. To make matters worse, she received a letter from the social security office (addressed “to the deceased”) informing her that they would be discontinuing her benefits. So Joy was feeling pretty overwhelmed and tearful that day, but bless her heart, she was trying her best to pull herself up by the bootstraps. “I gave myself a good talking to this morning,” she said.

In the afternoon, I met my brother Bill, his wife Connie and their daughter, Callie in Lawrence to watch their son Joey play quarterback for his Olathe football team. It was a beautiful afternoon and a great game. (They won by about 40 points.)

Afterwards we all went out to eat at Taco Johns on Haskell Avenue, which just happened to be about 3 blocks away from the home of my dear poet friend, Marian. Even though it was about 7:00 at night, I just couldn’t imagine not stopping by to say hello.

Marian and I had a wonderful visit, as always – being the kindred spirits that we are. She is such a special person and a talented poet who has written hundreds of poems over the years. Marian and her husband Arthur raised six children – 3 boys and 3 girls – and owned businesses in Manhattan and Wamego. In fact, Art was the mayor of Wamego at one time. But he is gone now, and Marian still grieves over the loss of the love of her life.

“Would that I’d a second chance,
To declare my love, to dance that dance
A chance to tell him what I ought
In loving words, so dearly bought!”
Excerpt from Song of Regret by Marian Umscheid

During our visit, Marian shared some of her ills, including being informed that she needed a root canal. But she chose to listen to her gut instincts which told her that the procedure really wasn’t necessary. Then she took some antibiotics that she had on hand, and the infection – or whatever it was – cleared right up. Marian says that she’s become bolder in her older age and is less afraid to say what she really thinks. Like the time the podiatrist kept her waiting in the examination room with no socks on her feet for about twenty minutes. Finally, she climbed off the table, grabbed her canes and walked down the hall in search of the doctor. Upon finding him, she exclaimed, “Excuse me, but I’ve been waiting for a long time and my feet are getting cold. Now I know I’m not a doctor like you are, but I think my time is just as important as yours.” The doctor apologized profusely and treated her right away.

While I was visiting Marian, she asked if she could give me some advice. “Meditate,” she said. “Don’t take anything for granted. Slow down and take the time to meditate on the blessings in your life. Think about your legs and how fortunate you are to be able to walk. If I could, I would put it on a plaque for you – Don’t take anything for granted.”

My visits with my three elderly friends caused me to reflect. Each one of them – all in their eighties – still have daily struggles to contend with. They have to get up every morning and make a conscious effort to be happy and make the most out of the life they have been given. It’s not easy for any of us, at any age, but I am inspired by my dear friends who have so many more challenges than I do, and yet they carry on.

In closing, I’d like to share the following poem Marian wrote about retirement.

By Marian Umscheid

I’m retired, but you wouldn’t know it
All the things I have to do
The upkeep is monstrous
I’ll name a few:

There’s my body, and more things
Are going bad all the time,
The dentist, the doctor, the pharmacist
From my upkeep are doin’ fine.

Then there’s the house, it keeps
Showing the wear and tear
First the roof, then the furnace,
Every month something needs care

There are bulbs to change
And bulbs to plant
Things to oil and grass to mow
While watching for insects and bugs
I think they’re about to lay me low!

Don’t forget the car, the most demanding
Every few days it needs gas
Or fluid of one kind or another
Tires or brakes or polish the glass.

So don’t tell me that I can
Sit back and shirk,
I’ve more to do than a cranberry merchant,
Wonder when I had time to work?

I’ll put on my rose-colored glasses
I’ll put away discouragement and fear
I’ll look to the heavens for guidance
And live on for many more years.
~ Marian Umscheid

Marian & me

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Making Enemies

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
~ Matthew 5:44-47(NLT)

Due to our tendency to get involved in controversial issues, my husband and I have made our share of enemies over the years. Consequently, we’ve had ample opportunity to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.”

What I’m about to say may sound contradictory, but it’s the truth. Of all the issues Keen and I have raised and elected officials whom we have challenged, not once was it ever personal. Furthermore, we’ve never hated anyone in our entire lives.

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when Keen wrote his weekly column called My Perspective which was highly critical of the county commissioners, a local paper carried a headline about one of the commissioners calling a public truce to the “personality conflict” with Keen. Keen responded by stating that he did not have a problem with the commissioner’s personality, but rather his policies.

One time that same commissioner cut Keen off in the middle of his trash route and verbally threatened him. “You’re supposed to be some kind of Christian,” he yelled, just inches from Keen’s face. “Well, let me tell you something, boy! You’ve got a long road to hell… a long road to hell!”

Nevertheless, Keen always said that if he saw that same man broken down on the side of the road, he would stop and help him.

I think it’s important to understand that we all have enemies of one sort or another (some of us more than others), and that’s never going to change. But God doesn’t want us to fret about the unjust things people do to us. In Hebrews 10:30 it says, “For we know Him Who said, Vengeance is Mine. Retribution and the meting out of full justice rest with Me; I will repay, I will exact the compensation, says the Lord.” The only thing we can control is how we respond to those people.

The Bible tells us that we should live at peace with all men, “if possible, as far as it depends on you.” (Romans 12:18) But sometimes it’s not possible.

After our lawsuit was concluded, we made various attempts to ease the hard feelings caused by the whole ordeal. However, when Keen approached two of the commissioners and tried to shake hands and suggest that they put it all behind them, the first one just turned his back on Keen and the other one (whom I referred to above) told Keen to go away because he didn’t even want him standing next to him.

Our most dramatic attempt to ease the wounds caused by our lawsuit was when we offered to donate a parcel of land located just north of the Alma Hotel. The year was 1999 and the mayor of Alma had asked the citizens to come up with ideas for a community project that we could all work together on in celebration of the Millennium. Since our local library was looking for a place to expand, Keen and I sent a letter to the City offering our property as a future site for the library. We explained that we wanted to do this in honor of Keen’s paternal grandmother, Ann Umbehr, who was a long-time librarian at the Alma library. We went on to say that it was also a way for us to give back to the community where we had lived, raised our children and operated our businesses. Unfortunately, our offer was rejected, purportedly because five powerbrokers at the Alma bank didn’t endorse it. Ironically, the First National Bank in Wamego approached us just a short time later inquiring about the possibility of purchasing the land for a new branch bank.

But that’s what I mean when I say that sometimes it’s not possible to “live at peace with all men.” When we realized that we couldn’t even give away a $8000 piece of property, Keen remarked that he could come up with the cure for cancer and some people still would not accept him.

Now to those who would say that we are not striving for or promoting peace when we stir up controversy or file lawsuits, I would refer them to these verses in Matthew 10:34-38

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…a man's enemies will be the members of his own household… and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”

I think most people would agree that Jesus was extremely controversial. Although He went about healing the sick and causing the blind to see, He was not a pushover. For example, when He discovered the moneychangers in the temple, He overturned the tables, ran them out and rebuked them for turning His Father’s house into a den of thieves. Jesus also fiercely rebuked the religious leaders of the day, calling them hypocrites and sons of snakes. He told them that they made people twice as fit for hell as they were themselves!

One day when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, He saw a woman who had been afflicted for eighteen years. He said, “Woman, thou art loosed from your infirmity!” Immediately she was healed and glorified God. Then the ruler of the synagogue became indignant and turned to the crowd saying, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day." Jesus answered him and said:

"Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound--think of it--for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame…” ~ Luke 13:15-17 (NKJV)

Yes, Jesus had adversaries because He spoke the truth and made people uncomfortable about the way they were living their lives. In fact, Jesus had enemies from the moment of His birth in Bethlehem. After King Herod heard that a new King had been born, he became threatened and handed down an order that all children under the age of two should be killed.

Of course we all know that Jesus’ enemies eventually crucified Him. But that’s not the end of the story. The end of the story is that Jesus rose again victorious three days later. The Bible says that demons tremble at the sound of the Name of Jesus, because they know that He defeated them at Calvary.

We have made at least one new enemy in Wabaunsee County’s most recent controversy involving Undersheriff Jack Metz’s decision to “un-arrest” an individual involved in a domestic disturbance. In fact, when Keen went to the sheriff’s office to retrieve some documents that he had requested, Mr. Metz angrily told him that he was going to hire a lawyer and sue him for slander. Keen informed the undersheriff that the truth is an absolute defense against such charges and suggested that his lawyer might want to read up on the case of New York Times v. Sullivan 376 U.S. 254 wherein the Supreme Court ruled, "…we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” We also rely on verses like Proverbs 2:15 which says that God will give us wisdom and deliver us from those who are “…crooked in their ways, wayward and devious in their paths.”

My husband takes the First Amendment literally; he always has and he always will. Some people felt he was “biting the hand that fed him” by writing his column, but he held fast to the belief that as long as he was doing the job he was hired to do (and by the grace of God he never missed a day in nearly 18 years), he was free to participate in debate on matters of public concern, including criticizing the very men who awarded him the trash collection contract. Of course, that belief was put to the ultimate test when the Supreme Court decided to hear our case and ultimately established First Amendment rights for private contractors once and for all.

Being involved in controversy and making enemies is never pleasant, but it’s unavoidable.

As Thomas Jefferson once said, "The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary to keep the waters pure."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Without Words

“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble and tottering knees. Say to those who are of a fearful and hasty heart, Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” ~ Isaiah 35:3,4

By Eileen Umbehr

Another anniversary
has come and gone
We cried our tears
Then life moved on

Did we have a choice
Did they give us one?
Before they attacked
with planes for weapons?

The heartache was unbearable
The grief beyond compare
On that September day
When tragedy filled the air

Without words.


Where were you (when the world stopped turning)
Written and recorded by Alan Jackson

Where were you when the world stop turning
on that September day
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died
Just doin' what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters
I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I could tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stop turning on that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her
Did you dust off that Bible at home
Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Did you close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset for the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love
Well, I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I could tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love


“Do not forget the voice of Your enemies; The tumult of those who rise up against You increases continually.” ~ Psalm 74:3

Have you forgotten?
Recorded by Darryl Worley

I hear people saying we don't need this war
But I say there's some things worth fighting for
What about our freedom and this piece of ground?
We didn't get to keep 'em by backin’ down

They say that we don't realize
the mess we're gettin’ in
Before you start your preachin’
let me ask you this my friend

Have you forgotten?
How it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
and her people blown away

Have you forgotten?
When those towers fell,
we had neighbors still inside
Going through a living hell
And you say we shouldn't worry about Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

I've been there with the soldiers
Who've gone away to war
And you can bet that they remember,
just what they're fighting for
Have you forgotten?

All the people killed
Yeah, some went down like heroes
in that Pennsylvania field

Have you forgotten?
About our Pentagon
All the loved ones that we lost
and those left to carry on
Don't you tell me not to worry about Bin Laden

Have you forgotten?

“Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance … you shall not forget.”
~ Deuteronomy 25:19 (NKVJ)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

A Method to the Madness

“We are hedged in … on every side – troubled and oppressed in every way; but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair;

We are… pursued, but not deserted…; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed…

Therefore we do not become discouraged – utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear. Though our outer man is …wasting away, yet our inner self is being… renewed day after day…”

~ II Corinthians 4:8, 9, 16 (Amplified)

Last week I wrote about the storms of life we all encounter from time to time. Although I can’t pretend to understand the reasons for all the heartache in the world, this week I’d like to reflect on the value (yes, I said value) and purpose (yes, I said purpose) these storms often serve in our lives.

“Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange – unusual and alien to you and your position – were befalling you.

But in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory (full of radiance and splendor) is revealed you may also rejoice with triumph – exultantly.”
~ I Peter 4:12, 13

The Bible is full of examples of people who went through difficult trials and came out on the other side stronger and more equipped to face the next challenge life presented. Take the example of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and was later thrown into prison for fourteen years after being wrongfully accused of seducing his master’s wife. If I were Joseph, I think I’d be asking, “What was the point of that, God?”

" the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved he will receive [the victor's] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him." ~ James 1:12

There were lessons to be learned in prison, and they were all a part of preparing Joseph for the plan God had designed for his future. But did Joseph just waste away during his time in prison? No, he “bloomed where he was planted” and continued to utilize the gifts God had given him. When Pharaoh had a dream about seven fat cows and seven gaunt cows, God gave Joseph the interpretation of that dream. Joseph revealed that there would be seven good years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and he warned Pharaoh to build up ample reserves of food.

Pharaoh eventually recognized Joseph’s gift of wisdom, and appointed him to be second in command over all of Egypt. During the seven plenteous years, Joseph traveled to all the cities storing up food and grain.

In Genesis 41:51, it says that Joseph was blessed with two sons. He named his firstborn son, Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship…” He named his second son Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

When the famine arrived, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt in search of grain. They were terrified to learn that the brother they’d sold into slavery was now a great leader and Pharaoh’s right hand man. But Joseph chose to be merciful to his brothers, rather than vengeful.

Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” ~ Genesis 50:19, 20 (NKJV)

Joseph was able to recognize the good that came out of that very bad situation. This tells me that even though we may not understand it at the time, there is a method to the madness and God is with us – even in times of trouble.

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort, or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed (with no defects), lacking in nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4 (Amplified)

The story of David and Goliath offers another great example of this principle. When Goliath mocked God’s people, David was the only one who stepped up to the plate. But Saul tried to discourage David by reminding him that he was “only a youth.”
David replied: "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this …Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God." Moreover David said, "The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." ~ I Samuel 17:34-37

You see, David’s former conflicts were not in vain because they prepared him for the next battle and gave him the courage and faith he needed to face Goliath. Likewise, the difficulties we face on a regular basis are not in vain either, because they help us to develop our faith muscles so we’ll be strong enough to face the next giant that rears its ugly head in our life.

In the New Testament, Paul talks about a “thorn in the flesh” that was given to buffet him so that he would not be “…exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations…” R.T. Kendall, former minister of Westminster Chapel and author of over 40 books, wrote an excellent book on this subject titled, The Thorn in the Flesh. He describes it as “God’s way of getting our attention.”

But Paul prayed three times that this thorn might be taken away from him and every time the Lord replied, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul said, “Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:7-10)

“Fear not, (there is nothing to fear) for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you (to difficulties); yes, I will help you; yes I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand.”
~ Isaiah 41:10 (Amp)

The Teacup
Author Unknown

There was a couple who used to go to England to shop in the
beautiful stores. They both liked antiques and pottery and
especially teacups. This was their twenty-fifth wedding

One day while they were shopping they saw a beautiful teacup.
They said, "May we see that? We've never seen one quite so

As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke.
"You don't understand," it said. "I haven't always been a
teacup. There was a time when I was just red clay. Then my
master took me and rolled me and patted me over and over and
I yelled out, “Let me alone!” But he only smiled and said,
‘Not yet.’

"Then I was placed on a spinning wheel," the teacup said, "and
suddenly I was spun around and around and around. Stop it!
I'm getting dizzy!” I screamed. But the master only nodded and
said, 'Not yet.'

Then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I wondered
why he wanted to burn me, and I yelled and knocked at the door.
I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as
he shook his head, 'Not yet.'

Finally the door opened and he put me on the shelf where I began to
cool. 'There, that's better,' I said. And he brushed and painted
me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag.
'Stop it, stop it!' I cried. He only nodded, ‘Not yet.'

Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. But this
oven was twice as hot as the first one and I knew I would
suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried.
All the time I could see him through the opening nodding
his head saying, 'Not yet.'

Then I knew there was no hope. I would never make it. I was
ready to give up. Just then the oven door opened and he took me
out and placed me on the shelf. One hour later he handed me a mirror
and said, 'Look at yourself.’

And I did. I said, 'That's not me; that couldn't be me.
It's beautiful. I'm beautiful.'

'I want you to remember, then,' he said, 'I know it hurts to be
rolled and patted, but if I had left you alone, you would have dried up.

I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had
stopped, you would have crumbled. I knew it hurt and was hot and
painful in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked.

I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all
over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened and you
would not have had any color in your life. And if I hadn't put
you back in that second oven, you wouldn't survive for very long
because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a
finished product. You are what I had in mind when I first began.

“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” ~ Romans 9:20, 21

Blessings ~



Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Storms of Life

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
~ Psalm 46:1-3

Last Wednesday, Keen and I both woke up around 4:15 a.m. and decided to go on our “long walk” which is about 3 miles down our country road. There had been storms in the area off and on all week, but that morning it wasn't raining – there was just some lightning off in the distance. When we were about ¼ mile from our house, it started pouring down rain and we were immediately soaked to the skin. The lightning was flashing and the thunder was booming all around us.

“The voice of thy thunder [was] in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world….” ~ Psalm 77:18

As we picked up our pace and started jogging toward home, we were both startled by a LOUD clap of thunder right above our heads. It was such a helpless feeling and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it because no one was around to give us a ride. I just felt so vulnerable walking down the middle of the road in the midst of a raging storm, so I started saying that Bible verse: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."

We had no choice except to hang on and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I told Keen that it was a picture of our life ~ going through the storms of life, hand in hand together, one step at a time.

“You called in trouble and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder.” ~ Psalm 81:7 (NKJV)

I try to draw lessons from every day experiences, so this past week I’ve just been thinking about the storms of life each of us has to face. As I look around, I see that we all go through storms; some are small and some are large.

In Vicky Jones’ column, “View from the Backseat” which appeared in last week’s edition of The Prairie Post, she wrote about the wild goose chase she went on trying to find the magic key that unlocked the lug nuts on her “limo”. In a strange way, I think it helps when we hear that other people go through the same hassles and frustrations as the rest of us. (Yes, even Baptist ministers’ wives have bad days!)

With that in mind, I thought I’d make you all feel better by sharing a few of my own recent aggravations.

About a month ago, I bought a new computer that was supposed to make my life easier, but instead it’s had me pulling my hair out and questioning my sanity. I didn’t realize that when I “upgraded” to the new Windows XP operating system, several of my old programs would no longer function properly. One of those programs was my anti-virus software, which of course is imperative if you don’t want some computer hacker to steal your private information or send you a virus that wipes out your entire system. So I spent hours on the computer trying to resolve my problem by typing back and forth with a “live technician.” I did everything they suggested, but to no avail, so I decided to break down and pay $39.00 to talk on the phone to a real person. After going round and round, they concluded that I needed to delete all the files from my old program because they were interfering with the new version of their product. This involved a tedious and lengthy process of going into the registry of my computer and manually deleting every file one by one. It seemed like there were hundreds of them. But at that point I was willing to do anything to get out of the maze I found myself in.

After the new virus protection software was finally installed and operating like it was supposed to, I discovered that the firewall feature was not only keeping the hackers and other bad guys out, it was preventing me from doing things I wanted to do – like update my Windows XP. Needless to say, I was frustrated beyond belief by the time it was all over.

Then last week we decided to bite the bullet and sign up for DSL (high speed internet). I spent several hours on the phone finding out what it would cost and getting everything set up so I would be able to network with Keen and Kirk’s computers. We talked about modems, USB adapters and routers – each one coming with a separate price tag. My head was spinning by the time I got off the phone, but the representative assured me that it was very simple to install. In fact, he went so far as to say that his four-year-old daughter could hook it up. Well…. he lied. But God smiled on us when Kirk’s friend and his father offered to help us with the installation. If it weren’t for them, there was no way we could have figured it out by ourselves – even with the simple, step-by-step instructions!

Once the DSL was up and running (it’s wonderful, by the way), I was anxious to call my telephone company to cancel our second phone line since we wouldn’t need it anymore to dial-up to the internet. It sounds like a simple request, but apparently it’s quite complicated because I was transferred or asked to call back four separate times! I spent over an hour on the phone just trying to get them to disconnect our second line. The first person said his computer wasn’t functioning properly and asked me if I would “be so kind” as to call back. Of course, that meant I had to start all over and wait on hold for another operator. When the next representative answered the phone, I barely had a chance to utter the word “disconnect” before she abruptly replied, “I’ll transfer you.”

Transfer me? I had pressed the right prompt – the one that said, “If you’d like to make changes to your services/cancel features or services,” so why was I being transferred? Next, I listened to elevator music for 10-15 minutes along with periodic messages professing their “responsiveness and dedication” to their customers while at the same time apologizing for the wait and informing me that their representatives are still busy with other customers.

At long last, a gentleman answered the phone and asked for my name and number. However, my heart sank when he instantly sounded puzzled by my simple cancellation request. “Did someone transfer you to me?” he asked. “Yeeeees,” I replied through clenched teeth. He courteously explained that he was the DSL representative and didn’t have the authority or capability to process my order. He then informed me that I would need to call the main number back since cancellation requests were handled by the sales department. So it was back to square one for me. Unfortunately, when I followed his instructions and called the main number, I found out that the sales department was not one of the options offered on the telephone prompt. Talk about getting the run around!

At this point, Keen came up with the idea that that I might get better service if I called back and hit the prompt for new orders. It sounded like a good suggestion at first, but then I realized that I would wait on hold again only to be told that I had contacted the wrong department.

The fourth and final operator was a kindly woman from the Las Vegas office who seemed genuinely apologetic for the difficulty and inconvenience I had encountered. I was skeptical, but optimistic. Then I heard those dreaded words, “Hmmm…there seems to be a problem. I don’t understand. My computer isn’t pulling up your account.” I cringed. “Are you sure we are your telephone provider?” she politely asked. I explained that we had been customers for over 25 years and I was pretty sure I knew the name of our telephone company. Then I continued to hold as she tried unsuccessfully to pull up our account. She even tried our main telephone number and couldn’t pull that one up, either. By this time I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone!

After about ten minutes of this, she informed me that her computer had just “frozen up” and she was going to place me on hold while she called her supervisor to find out how to handle the situation. Swell. After another lengthy delay, she came back on the line and said that her immediate supervisor wasn’t able to pull up our account, either. (There was some good news, however. She just saved some money on her insurance with Geiko.) She said her supervisor’s supervisor had taken down my information and would try to process the order by the following Monday (this was Friday), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

But all of this is so minor compared to the larger storms of life others face every day. Like the literal storms that devastated Florida when the hurricane blew through and all those people lost their homes. Or the woman who lost her son in a tragic accident and said, “I wasn’t done being his mother.” Or Robert Rogers who lost his wife, Melissa and their four young children in the floods that swept through our area a year ago. “Anyone who goes through trial and suffering grieves,” he said. “I still cry all the time.” Or the family of Ericka Agee, the sixteen year old girl who was killed in a car accident last weekend while attempting to make a left turn onto Hwy. 4. Or the countless other unspeakable tragedies that occur everyday

We’ve all heard the phrase: “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” I’d like to share a poem with a similar theme that I wrote about ten years ago.

By Eileen Umbehr

I complained the music was too loud
Until I met someone who could not hear

I complained the lights were too bright
Until I met someone who could not see

I complained the price was too high
Until I met someone who could not pay

I complained the work was too hard
Until I met someone who could not move

I complained I was so tired
Until I met someone who could not awake

I’d like to close with this poem my daughter-in-law, Lisa shared with me from the Sunday bulletin at her church.

Your Cross

Whatever your cross, whatever your pain
There will always be sunshine after the rain
Perhaps you may stumble, perhaps even fall.
But God is always ready to answer your call.
He knows every heartache, sees every tear,
A word from His lips can calm every fear.
Your sorrows may linger throughout the night.
But suddenly vanish at dawn's early light.
The Savior is waiting somewhere up above.
To give you His grace and send you His love.
Whatever your cross, whatever your pain.
God always sends rainbows after the rain.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world."
~ John 16:33

Blessings ~ Eileen