Reindeer on the roof?

Twice during our 52 years of marriage we’ve encountered scary moments. The first was a shootout at the Days Creek store on the first day of our first school year at Milo. As bullets flew we huddled in the store room behind cartons of condiments and dried beans.
Tonight was the second: Around 11pm I was watching tv and Richard was in bed for the night when we heard a startling bang outside our living room window, followed by a hoard of police cars with sirens blazing and light pulsating encircled out house.
A car thief kicked down our security gate and dashed into our gated courtyard with the policemen in hot pursuit. After being certain our doors were locked, I turned out the lights and drew our shades.The guy hid on our roof for at least a half an hour while the police searched our tiny back and side yard. Then, as the police reconvened out front, we heard someone run across our roof. Richard called 911 and praise God, they caught the guy who’d tried to pull a Hollywood stunt leaping from our roof to the neighbors. The police took the injured man to the hospital and our usually quiet little neighborhood returned to “Silent Night”once more.
The irony of these two situations is Richard grew up in Brooklyn, NY and he’d never, in all his years, witnessed such hi-drama before. So much for sleeping right away. smile emoticon Merry eve-eve (or Adam) Christmas.
Gil, one of our neighborhood “angels” called to be certain we were OK. Ps.91:10 “And He will give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways.”

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Memories of Christmas’ Past

Remember the Christmas you received that big present you had to unwrap and unwrap and unwrap until you reached a very tiny but valuable present?  For me it was my first ‘grownup’ watch.  Remember the hot cup of cocoa waiting for you back at the church after a night of caroling on the frigid, slippery streets of your town?  Remember the glisten in your younger daughter’s eyes as you retold the Christmas story under the tree?  Remember the first time you heard your 13 month old child lisping “Angels We Have Heard on High” as she sang herself to sleep?  Remember?

Remember the Christmas Eve when you and your siblings had a tangerine skin fight after your folks went to bed? Remember the year you got a toy train or your first bike, or a ‘magic’ skin doll?  Remember the first Christmas celebrated in your own home instead of in your parent’s home–scrawny tree and all?  Remember the last Christmas you celebrated in your parents’ home– scrawny tree and all?  Remember?  Remember?

The King James Version of the Bible uses the word ‘remember’ 148 times.  Perhaps that is why it’s important to remember and to treasure family traditions and times together.  More priceless than crystal baubles designed by Tiffany are the  irreplaceable memories to be passed unto the third and the fourth generation.  Make as may happy holiday memories while you can.

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Miss Scarlett in the Bedroom with the Candlestick

Playing “Clue”? No!  If I’d had a gun instead of a brass candlestick, he’d be dead! Wait!  Let’s back up 40+ years to a cozy hunting cabin half way up a mountain, at least what Easterners call a mountain. With our home secluded in the Pennsylvania woods, we never locked our cars or our door.  No one ever drove up our gravel road at night. The Rizzo family including Dusty, our cat, and Penny, our border collie, were asleep when I awakened with a start at the squeaking of our kitchen door being opened.  I listened until I heard it squeak shut.  Figuring I must have imagined it, I strained to listen for any additional unaccounted noises.  Could one of our girls be walking in her sleep, I wondered.  Hearing the thud of heavy footsteps crossing the kitchen floor quickly dispelled that possibility.

The girls’  bedrooms were at one end of our little cabin while Richard and my bedroom was at the opposite end, past the kitchen, dining and living room.  Hearing the floor boards in the dining room creak, I poked my hubby.  “Richard!  There’s someone in the house,” I hissed.  His reply was a monosyllabic grunt. I shook his shoulder.   “Richard!  Wake up! Someone’s in the house!”  More grunting followed as he rolled over to face the other wall.  I knew for certain our intruder, whoever he was, was between me and my sleeping babies! The Mama bear in me surged with adrenalin.  I had to do something!

What do I do?  I spied moonlight glinting off a heavy brass candle holder atop my dresser.  After one more failed attempt to waken my spouse, I leaped out of bed, removed the candle from it’s holder and grasped the heavy brass object like a baseball bat, and then, slipped across the room to the space behind our bedroom door.  My heart raced faster at the sight of a flashlight beam sweeping across the wall outside our bedroom.  The footsteps crossing the linoleum in front of our main door thundered in the silence of the night.  “Oh dear God,” I whispered, “Help me to  aim right!”

I lifted the candle stick above my head as the form of a very tall man filled the bedroom doorway.  I held my breath for an instant as he stepped across the door jamb.  And then I let loose a sustained high C, making an operatic soprano proud and swung the candle stick at the man’s head.  He grabbed my wrist.  For an instant we struggled in mortal combat.

My scream startled my hubby  to his feet.  He banged his shin on the bed frame which started him yelping. Sleeping outside the back door, Penny, our collie, heard the commotion and began barking and lunging at the the door. Awakened by my scream, our daughters wailed in terror.

I struggled to break his grasp from my wrist.  “Kay!  Kay! It’s me!  Jerry!” Jerry, a former student of ours, was stationed nearby in the Army.  We’d invited him to visit us any time he could get away from base.  But  at 2:00 am?

Relieved, I collapsed in his startled arms.  I’d been ready to kill him, no questions asked.  If I’d had a gun I would have aimed for his stomach, no doubt.  After a few nervous laughs and  hot cups of chocolate, we each returned to our beds while Jerry stretched  out on our sofa for the rest of the night.  Psalm 91:11 KJV “He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” That night Jerry’s and my contingency of angels prevented a tragedy from occurring.

Times have changed.  The condition of the world has changed.   Our house and our vehicles are soundly locked before bed each night.  But when I think of Jerry, his wife, children and grandchildren, I wonder, what if I’d had a gun in my hand that night instead of a candlestick?  What if?  What if?

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How Far Will You Go?

Have you ever met folk who honestly believe it is their heavenly assigned task to correct the behavior of their brothers and sisters as did the prophets of old? Perhaps their corrections involve food.  I call them the cheese police or fruit inspectors.  Or maybe they look down their censorial noses at the glitter on a sister’s blouse or another woman’s jewelry.  I once met a self-appointed corrections officer who told an over-weight pastor that he disgraced God whenever he stood up to preach because there will be no obese persons in heaven!  Some seriously believe they’ve been appointed by God, like the prophets of old, to ‘straighten out’ their brothers and sisters.

Let’s see how much you know about those men God used to speak to His people.  Did you know the prophet Isaiah walked around naked and barefoot for three years symbolizing the Egyptian captivity of God’s people? (Isaiah 20:3-5)  Did you know Jeremiah hid his underwear under a rock, wore a cattle yoke around his neck and dramatically broke clay pots in the center of the city? (Jeremiah 27,28) Did you know Ezekiel ate a scroll and lay down on his side and spoke not a word  for 390 days? (Ezekiel 3) Later old Zeek lived on a diet of barley cakes and cow dung.  (Ezekiel 4) Are you ready to take on such an assignment from the Divine Creator?  I’ve wrestled with this corrections thing for many years.  On one hand Jesus said, “Judge not that yet be not judged;” on the other, Scripture is used for correction and for reproof.

This week in church Pastor Gary Brady spoke on the analogy of the Vine and the branches of John 15.   You know the one, Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, and we must be attached to the Vine in order to grow.  An old comfortable story. I felt less comfortable when he reminded how God prunes the branches.  This disturbed me. I certainly did not want to be cut away as dross.  Just as my stomach growled from hunger and I checked my watch for the time, Pastor Gary brought me up short.  “The branches were never assigned the job of pruning their fellow branches.”  Wow!  I slunk down in the pew.  How many times have I taken on the task of pruning the length of a sister’s skirt, or a brother’s choice in music?  I’ve even heard of a child being scolded by a teacher for bringing a slice of pepperoni pizza to school in her lunch.

The pastor reminded me that my assigned task is to bear good fruit– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc…. (Galatians 5:22, 23)But even that I can’t do on my own.  It happens by the Holy Spirit working within my heart.

“But, but, but, isn’t it my job to be a fruit inspector?  And if not me, who’s going to correct them?” I sputter.  “Who’s going to show them the right way?”  Perhaps I should answer those questions with two more questions, who corrects you?  Who corrects me?  The Holy Spirit’s task is to comfort and instruct.  Just like an apple tree loaded with ripe, luscious fruit will attract the attention of a hungry man, so our fruit will attract starving souls.  But then we must let the Holy Spirit take over from here.  The process is simple really.  As long as my branch produces rich, juicy fruit, sweet to the taste, I will remain attached to the Vine– Jesus Christ and He to me.

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Custom-designed Crosses -2

“Some people create their own storms and then get upset when it rains.”  I used the example of obesity to illustrate my point of customized crosses because so many folk can relate, not because being fat in a health-obsessed society is the ‘heaviest cross’ to bear. Heavy?  Yes.  Unbearable, no.  In my opinion, being bed ridden, losing a child or spouse through death or divorce, having your missionary husband imprisoned in Iran, and enduring the pain of advanced cancer are a few genuinely heavier crosses to bear than the inconvenience of obesity. But my purpose for writing this blog is not to analyze the weight of one’s crosses, whether or not a cross is self-inflicted or due to a genetic bodily malfunction; a freak accident or the result of  living in a world of sin. To our Savior, a cross is a cross is a cross.  He comforts and walks with us regardless if we’re struggling with emphysema or a birth defect.

A cartoon on facebook struck me in the heart.  It was of a stick man struggling to carry a cross.  Every little bit he cried out to God to lighten his load, causing the cross to get shorter.  A little further on, he asks God to lighten his cross a little more; the cross grew shorter.  The last frame shows him carrying a much shorter cross as he approached a wide chasm.  Other stick men lay their crosses across the abyss and traverse to the other side but, at this point his cross is too short.  The line that popped into my brain and refuses to leave is, “Whatever it takes, Lord.  Whatever it takes!”

If my cross is custom designed by my bad choices or merely a fact of life, makes no difference.  My prayers have shifted away from focusing of me, my cross and my inconvenience to “Thy will; Thy way, whatever it takes.”

I know I can trust God not to give me more than I can bear.  I might bend a little from the weigh, but He won’t let me break.  He promises to give me the strength not only to endure the personal discomfort of my cross but  the privilege of sharing in the cross of Jesus on this earth and celebrating in the Savior’s cross in glory. “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice.” Philippines 4:4 NIV.

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Custom-designed Crosses-1

“No fair!  It’s not my fault.”  Cries heard on the playground.  Unfortunately many of us fail to leave our childish whines and accusations behind when we reach adulthood.  Moaning and groaning about the heavy crosses we must bear, placing the blame for those crosses on others, or on the circumstances of our lives, even occasionally blaming God stilts our spiritual growth.  And trust me, others eventually  find our lamenting irritating as well.  Lately I’ve realized the custom designed crosses I carry, crosses of my own making.

Getting much too personal:  Over a span of five years I birthed two healthy daughters and lost three additional babies. Discouragement followed.  I told myself to “get over it,”  and threw myself into my teaching, and into “living” my religion.  I would be the best Bible thumpin’, scripture quotin’, right livin’, Christian ever.  But when my ‘teaching’ let me down, my spiritual agility faltered as well.  I sank into a deep, chronic depression which triggered asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes–which I call crosses of my own making.

I was mad–mad at my situation, mad at the fall-out from my job loss, mad at people I once believed were friends, and yes, mad at my God.  How could He let this happen to me?  His enthusiastic, determined daughter?  Wasn’t I His biggest cheerleader ever? No fair!

I prayed for healing; God delivered with a miraculously healing of asthma during a church service. One minute I was standing beside my husband and singing, “My Jesus I Love Thee”; the next an unseen Hand thumped me on the chest and sent me flying into my seat–breathless. “Great,” I thought. ” We’re on a roll!”   Understand, I’m one determined lady.  Never give up; never give in is my motto.  With rigorous exercise, proper diet and a positive attitude, I could conquer these pesky burdens. That was 25+ years ago.   But alas, for all the expensive weight loss diets, medical quacks, rainbows of diet pills, bariatric surgery, and swimming hundreds of miles at the gym, nothing has changed despite my tsunamic tears, my agonized prayers, and the bulldozers full of sheer grit I swallowed between clenched teeth.  I fluctuated between “I can do all things…” and “Be content…”Ultimately, I found myself back where I started, wallowing in self pity, self-hate, and extreme frustration, a pattern that exhausted me physically and thwarted my spiritual growth.  (to be continued)

 

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A Life Saving Non-Slip

A life-saving slip or was it?  We were driving on the wet Interstate.  But it  that made the difference between life and death.  At the end of a fun weekend in Brooklyn with Grandpa and Grandma Rizzo, we prayed for God’s protection, kissed our family farewell.  Our girls, Rhonda and Kelli, ages 3 and 5 settled down in the back cubby hole of our gutsy, little, beige Carmen Gia for the 2 hour drive home to our mountain cabin perched on the edge of Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountain.  Before we crossed the Varazano-Narrows  bridge heading out of the city, the girls were already fast asleep.  It had begun to sprinkle.  The soothing swish of the wipers supplied a backdrop to Richard and my companionable conversation.

Half way across New Jersey the drizzle had intensified to a deluge.  We struggled to keep the inside of the windows free from fog.  Outside the heavy torrent pelting the car plus the back splash of other passing vehicles made our little vehicle nearly invisible. Fortunately the traffic on the Interstate was Sunday afternoon light.  Before long, driving at speeds of less than half the limit became necessary.  Both of us scanned the roadway for possible slower moving vehicles. Richard switched our Gia into the left lane to give us more maneuverability.

I glanced over my seat into the car’s tiny boot and breathed a sigh of relief.  Both girls were sound asleep.  As I turned back around to face the road ahead, our car suddenly broke all known laws of physics. First we were in the left lane and without any wheel adjustment, swerve, or sense of sideways movement our little Gia was squarely in the right lane and a massive big rig in the left lane sped by full throttle, as if it were a clear, sunny day. The highway splatter had made our beige Gia totally invisible to the trucker.  First we were in the left lane and then in the right with no sense of movement.  We were going too slowly to hydro-plane.  If our car hadn’t miraculously changed lanes it would have been squashed like a June bug on a summer night.

Stunned, Richard and I stared first at the road and then at one another.  “Did you feel that?” my startled Physic’s professor gasped.  “No!  I didn’t feel anything.”  “Me either!”  Didn’t you turn the wheel?”  “No!”  Did the car skid?”  “No. There was no sideward movement at all!  That’s a physical impossibility!”  he declared.  With all his scientific knowledge, to this day Richard cannot explain what happened that rainy day but God’s Word makes it mighty clear.  Psalm 91 11 KJV says, “For He will give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.”

God is a God of miracles.  I believe He performs unexplained miracles, not so we can treasure them close to our hearts, but so we can share His goodness with others thus increasing their faith.  Do you have a miracle to share? Please let me know either here on the web site or on my face book page.  Would love to hear from you.

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Hearing Voices

One indication of emotional disorder is hearing voices, or so I understand.  Well, guess what. I hear voices, not on a regular basis but every now and then as needed.  Most of the time the voice I hear is my own saying, “I told you so;” or one of my English teacher’s voices saying, “I before e except after c; or my mother’s voice, “Didn’t I teach you better?”  These aren’t the voices about which I write today.

I went to a specialist regarding possible surgery and he told me, “Kay, I wouldn’t dare to operate on you.  I’m afraid you wouldn’t make it through the surgery.”  Stunned I staggered to my car, drove to Subway where I’d arranged to meet Richard for lunch, parked the car, turned off the engine.  For some time I clutched the steering wheel and wept, not a wailing, sobbing cry but soundless tears streaming down my cheeks.  Is it over, I wondered.  Am I on the brink of eternity?  The parking lot was empty except for my lone Honda. Suddenly I heard Someone with a deep baritone voice emphatically call my name.  “Kay!”  He said.  Thinking a stranger was standing beside the car, I looked up and all around.  No one was there. But He was loud enough that He could have been sitting in the seat next to me.   “Kay!” He continued,  “It ain’t over ’till I say it’s over!” –with an emphasis on the I.

The words rang in my ear.  Slowly reality seeped into my brain.  Instinctively I knew Who’d spoken to me.  For some reason, my God, perhaps through the power of the Holy Sprit, perhaps on His very own or through the vocal chords of Gabriel, took the time out of operating the Universe and speaking life into creatures of a new and exciting planet, to comfort me.  What a message of hope and promise.

Being a former English teacher I chuckled upon hearing the word ‘ain’t’.  My chuckle turned to giggles which grew into laughter–snorting, choking, riotous gales of laughter.  AsI caught my breath, an unexplainable joy and peace washed over me.

When Richard arrived, I laughingly told him about the Voice and the use of the word ‘ain’t,  Is reply was, “If anyone can use the word ain’t, I suppose the King of the Universe certainly can if He wants to.”

I will never forget hearing, “Kay!  It ain’t over ’till I say it’s over!”  When I think of Psalm 90:12 KJV, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom,” I am so glad my heavenly Father is in charge of my days, and that all I have to do is apply my heart unto wisdom.  And that task will surely keep me busy for as long as He sees fit.

 

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I’ve crossed the line!

Remember playing Red Rover as a child, where two teams each draw a line in the dirt and take turns calling members of the opposing team over to cross the line?  The object was to capture each of the other team members and put them in ‘jail’ until the last child is caught.

I’m not sure how or when it happened, but I’ve definitely crossed that Red Rover line from which there seems to be no means of escape.  I’ve crossed that undetectable line where strangers call me Miss Kay instead of Mrs. Rizzo; where book editors add the word ‘beloved’ to my bio; where I am no longer carded at restaurants to prove I qualify for their senior menu; where polite young men hold the door for me; where people under age forty walk past as if I am invisible or in the very least, inconsequential to their busy lives; where people over the age of sixty smile and greet me as if we’re co-conspirators in the mystery of life.

Oh, yes, I find myself carefully mincing my steps for fear of falling; taking my time on stairs; chatting with strangers I barely would have noticed in years past; and secretly enjoying my free senior citizen soda at Taco Bell.  I like being able to call people sweetie, honey, dear, regardless of their gender, without being misunderstood.  I enjoy wearing comfortable flats instead of stilettos, sans Spanx or panty hose.  And if I forget to ‘put on my face’ before leaving home, it’s OK.  I’ll live and so will the rest of the world.

It’s strange how young I feel inside.  In my dreams, I can still twirl on the front lawn; dance in the moonlight; catch fireflies in my mother’s canning jars; hike to the top of the hill,roll down to the bottom, get up, dust myself off and do it all again–all minus the aches and pains of ‘maturity’.  But alas I am older and wiser, I will never again attempt to ice skate on a frozen pond, or even roller skate.  I don’t plan on hiking to the top of Mt. Whitney any time soon.  As wise old Job quipped, “”Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?  (Job 2:12 NIV)

Another birthday? So what?  If wisdom comes with age, my wrinkles must be wise cracks. (Not original with me.) Irregardless, I’ve crossed the line in life’s game of Red Rover. As a result I choose to revel in the knowledge that I am wiser than I ever was at age 30,40,50, etc.  I vow to laugh louder, sing more joyfully, love more passionately, even dare to smile at strangers.  I will kiss my hubby more frequently; break into water fights without warning, and yes, dance in the moonlight with the love of my life.  I will give thanks for the memories of the activities I once pursued and sing praises for all I can still do, even at my ripe old age of 72.  :-)  I will tackle today’s adventures and anticipate tomorrow’s possibilities with gusto.  And when I pray I will will eagerly ask, “What’s next Papa?” (Romans 7:15 Message)

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PC or CP

There’s been a  lot of ‘talk’ about being or not being PC–Politically Correct. One can say anything to anyone in anyway one wishes, no matter how rude or crude it may be, when called on it,  he blames what he calls the current trend toward political correctness.  It’s called speaking without filters.  Recently one politician said America is losing her edge as a world leader due to too much politically correctness.  Really?  Have good manners and polite decorum gone by the way of bone corsets and saddle shoes?  Is it acceptable for ‘potty mouths’ to bully away all hope of  thoughtful rhetoric and polite dissension in society thus forcing opponents to jump into the sty and wallow in his accuser’s slop?

I hope not. I appreciate simple civility between individuals regardless of their personal opinions.  I still cringe when I hear profanity and crudities, whether in a public elevator or on TV.  “Four-letter’ epithets are mere cliches and a sign of a limited imagination and vocabulary.”  I still like hearing please and thank you.  I admire people who know when to bide their tongues.  And when they do speak actually have something worth hearing.

But beyond the obvious deterioration of good manners and proper upbringing, an important element in the PC debate is that of CP–Christian Politeness. Regardless of how much I enjoy hearing people speak honestly, regardless of my political persuasion, regardless of one’s mood or righteous indignation, if my words hurt or demean anyone, if I cause someone to turn away from my Savior, I have sinned–plain and simple.  A favorite author of mine wrote, “The best witness for my God is a kind and courteous Christian–”  period!

Christian Politeness never goes out of date, never becomes stale or unnecessary in society.  As Psalm 19:14 NIV says,.  “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart [what I listen to] be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

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