Commentary

A Local Tragedy ~ And The Rest of the Story

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Local Tragedy ~ And The Rest of the Story

“You intended to harm me,

but God intended it for good

to accomplish what is now being done,

the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

Sometimes you hear a story that makes such an impact it’s hard to get it out of your mind. Yesterday in church, one of our pastors asked for prayers for the families of a tragedy that took place last Friday in Norfolk. We did not know the details at the time.

Since then we’ve learned that a young man, 17-year-old Mark Rodriguez was inside his car on his way home from Norfolk Christian Schools graduation activities when he was killed by a suspect on an apparent random shooting spree. According to a newspaper article, the teen was a rising senior and was on his way home to Virginia Beach, after dropping off a friend off in Norfolk when he was murdered.

Police say the trigger-man was 29-year-old James Brown. A police officer and the gunman were also killed later in the evening.

A former teacher said Rodriguez was “wise beyond his years, a leader in the classroom and in church”.

“All of us who interacted with him just saw a very special young man with great talents and great gifts that we believe God used in a powerful way, even if he was only allowed to be here for 17 years,” noted Pat McCarty, Head of Norfolk Christian Schools.

Mark was a photographer who posted beautiful pictures to his blog, and

Mark Rodriguez

Mark Rodriguez

sometimes he also posted his thoughts. He wrote about his passion for photography, people, and God.

“By opening my eyes to the world around me, I began to realize how blessed I am and how much I take for granted. Within a couple of years, I developed a love for people and decided I wanted to show these people how awesome they are, and challenged myself to capture their personalities and passions in photography.”

Mark wasn’t afraid to show his faith. He was involved with music ministry at Norfolk Christian Schools and served as a member of the praise and worship team.

Mark Rodriguez parents

Mark Rodriguez parents

Mark is survived by his parents and three younger siblings. Mark’s father, Carlos, serves as a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, where Mark also played bass guitar for worship services.

A Memorial Celebration service for Mark has been planned for Wednesday, June 4 at 1 p.m. at Tabernacle Church in Norfolk.

People will ask why such a senseless crime, why did we lose such a fine young man? We live in a fallen world where evil often seems to prevail. But God is greater and He can use evil deeds and tragedies such as this as an opportunity to reach the lost.

This tragedy has touched many lives, but there is something remarkable about God’s presence and provision in the midst of the chaos. On April 5th, 2014, Mark wrote a post about heaven on his website, never knowing he would see heaven so soon.

God knew in April the events that would transpire last Friday. And I believe the Lord inspired Mark to post his thoughts on Heaven when he did. What a gift for Mark’s family, friends, and strangers who will read it and see the certainty of heaven that Mark had; a hope that only people who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior can have. It won’t minimize the loss of this remarkable young man, but perhaps God will use it to draw others to Himself and grow His Kingdom. That’s my prayer.

Mark’s blogpost on HEAVEN is below or go to his website:
HTTP://MARKRODRIGUEZPHOTOGRAPHY.COM/2014/04/05/HEAVEN/

HEAVEN 4.5.14
“I’ve been meditating on heaven a lot lately, and I must say, it wells my eyes with tears of joy every now and then. What a beautiful thought that one day, I will be completely in the presence of God and will actually be able to feel the magnitude of all his love and peace with no earthly fears or worries to distract me. The joy that I feel now, the serenity I feel now, will finally be made perfect.
The presence of God here on earth is enough to make me shudder in wonder. I’ve had some incredible moments in life that can only be explained as miracles where I see my Abba, my Father move in love for me so powerfully; it brings me to my knees in amazement. To think that one day I will be perfectly and totally in his presence….I’m definitely going to need a heavenly body because the joy he fills me with now sometimes makes me feel like I’m about to explode!
I love the image of Heaven because it is perfect, perfect peace. Every quarrel, every hurt, it’s all gonna be resolved. All of God’s children will be together and we won’t hurt each other anymore; we’ll finally understand how to love perfectly. And the fact that we’ll all be worshiping the Lord together in one place, forever….that amazes me.

It makes me so excited to think of the wedding feast awaiting us when we go to be with the Lord. I imagine streets filled with rejoicing, loud trumpets, wedding bells….I’m sure it’ll be far more incredible than I can comprehend now, and I love that.

God is super good. I can’t wait to be with him forever
When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful

 

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MEMORIAL DAY ~ Is The Unknown Soldier Truly Unknown?

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, History, Uncategorized | Comments Off on MEMORIAL DAY ~ Is The Unknown Soldier Truly Unknown?

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Have you ever heard a story that was so unforgettable that you even remember where you were when it was told? I can recall such a story our teacher shared with our class in May of 1959, an account that has remained burned in my memory ever since. It goes like this:

There was a little boy, about five years old who was the delight of his mother and father. One day he raced outside and began playing near a tulip bed. His blond curls were almost as yellow as the tulips. When the sun came out from behind a cloud, several yellow butterflies hovered over his head. His mother marveled and said, “They think you’re a flower, Dick. It’s good luck to have a butterfly land on your head. A butterfly is the symbol of immortality.”

Cloudless Sulpher Butterfly

Cloudless Sulpher Butterfly

 

The mother told her husband of the butterfly event and they looked for pictures of yellow butterflies to be able to identify what variety they were. It was determined that they were Cloudless Sulphur butterflies that migrate from north to south and back each spring and autumn. They often hide near the ground and only come out when the sun shines.

The young boy’s father died when he was only eleven which drew themother and son even closer to each other. According to his mother, Dick continued to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. He grew into a loving man of upstanding character and he was his mother’s joy.

Even though he completed his education at a university, when war in Europe broke out and America joined in, he decided not to enter service as an officer but as a dough boy.

Like any mother she expressed her concern for him, but Dick replied, “The best thing to do with a life is to give it away, you taught me that and this certainly is the best way to give it, for our America. Nothing can happen that’s unbearable.” After his training, Dick was shipped overseas, and for a long time the mail they shared kept he and his mother as close as possible. But the day came when she received a notice that Dick was missing in action.

The mother never lost hope, even as the war drew to a close and the men began returning home. She thought of her son as a symbol of all that was good in America even if he never returned home.

Congress approved a resolution March 4, 1921, providing for the burial of an unidentified American Soldier at a memorial to the war to be built in Arlington National Cemetery. Dick’s mother felt certain that the Unknown Soldier was her beloved son. She saved money so that she could travel to and attend the dedication of the monument and she asked God for a sign that it was her precious Dick who was to be interred there.

On Memorial Day that same year an Unknown Soldier was exhumed from each of four cemeteries in France. These remains were placed in identical caskets and in October a highly decorated, wounded veteran chose the Unknown by placing white roses on one of the caskets. This would be the Unknown Soldier that would represent all of the unknowns. On a very solemn Armistice Day Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies in Arlington. Inscribed on the tomb are the words,

“Here Rests in Honored Glory

An American Soldier Known But To God.”

Dick’s mother was at the Navy Yard when the ship carrying the flag draped coffin arrived and she was in attendance at the long ceremony. The next day she was among thousands who attended the internment; still certain it was her son who would represent all the missing. She only needed the sign she believed God would provide. She gave a soldier her own flowers to add to the many already gracing the grave. When the ceremony ended the attendees drifted away, and she was left to wonder, where was God’s sign?

She went home to Kentucky but returned to Arlington Cemetery the next April. She scattered yellow tulips on the grave and pleaded with God for the reassurance she sought. She bent and kissed the yellow tulips and got up to leave. As the noon hour bells rung, she turned to give a last look at the tomb where she saw a mass of Cloudless Sulphur butterflies hovering over the tomb before lighting on the yellow tulips. She believed it was the sign she had asked for, and was convinced God had given her the sign that here rested her son, a proud and patriotic American still serving his nation.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

 

Over the years I’ve wondered about the veracity of this story and, with access that the internet allows, it was easy to research. Yellow Butterflies, by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1922. Whether the author’s story was entirely fiction or based on actual events remains a mystery, much like the American WWI hero entombed at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington.

To learn more about the fascinating history of the Tomb of the Unknowns and the remarkable sentinels who stand guard every day, see:

http://www.army.mil/article/38013/

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MOTHER’S DAY ~ A MIXED BLESSING?

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, Journal, Uncategorized | Comments Off on MOTHER’S DAY ~ A MIXED BLESSING?

It’s safe to say we all had mothers, but Mother’s Day can bring on a multitude of differing emotions, some painful some pleasant. The same is true for Father’s Day and often for the same reasons, but since it’s May, and for the purpose of this commentary we will focus on Mother’s Day.

When our nation celebrates Mother’s Day, one is bombarded for weeks ahead by merchant’s pleas to purchase cards, gifts, and flowers for those special Mothers in our lives. On a walk through any card shop in early spring we will see Mother’s Day cards honoring mothers, step-mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, mother’s–in-law, daughters, nieces, and friends. What is lost in all the commercial promotions is that Mother’s Day can also elicit emotions that no one wants to celebrate. Not everyone has had a positive experience with their own mother growing up, or as an adult. Some people find Mother’s Day a time of great sadness because it is a painful reminder of the loss of a beloved parent. What about the woman who has longed to be a mother, but for whatever reason, she’s never experienced that joy? That Sunday can pierce her heart annually. And for some of us who were mothers, or were about to be a mother, but lost that precious child, it can be an agonizing or a bittersweet day.

Mom & Me

Mom & Me

I was very blessed to have a terrific mother with whom I had a wonderful relationship. She died of an excruciatingly painful disease when I was thirty, and I will always feel her loss, and regret that my children never knew her. Providentially, when my father remarried, he gave me a stepmother whom I loved and enjoyed for many years. I’ve also been fortunate to have mother’s-in-law whom I loved, respected, and felt fortunate to have in my life. There are also a few women in my life who have been mentors for me. In their own way, they have been like mothers. I am grateful to have had all of these ladies in my life and I learned much from each of them. Now, I have daughter’s-in law and a stepdaughter, each a mother, doing a terrific job raising their children.  

 

Mom & Sons 2001

Mom & Sons USNA Graduation 2001

 

So this Mother’s Day I give thanks to all the “Mothers” in my life and to my two sons who gave me the privilege of being a mother. I will also pray for a special blessing, and healing for those women who may find this holiday less than joyous. 

 

What are your thoughts on Mother’s Day?

 

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Hopping John ~ Hoppin’ John

Posted by on Dec 28, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Uncategorized | 2 comments

For many years we have begun each New Year with Hopping John.  This traditional southern dish, also known as ‘Hoppin’ John in America, originated in North Africa and was probably brought to these shores as a result of the slave trade. The use of black-eyed peas dates back at least 3000 years when it was part of the Greek and Roman diet. There are many theories on how the name Hopping John started, from folks inviting guests into their homes at the new year with “hop in John” to children hopping around the table before sitting to enjoy the meal. Black-eyed peas are generally considered to assure good luck.

There are many recipes for Hopping John, but the primary ingredients in this tasty dish are black-eyed peas, also known as cow peas, rice and pork. Typically the dried peas are first soaked then cooked. Salt pork is added later. I started out doing just that, however, I’ve gone to a far simpler recipe in recent years. Let me share my recipe, and also how I’ve recently updated it at the urging of my husband who prefers it a bit spicier.

 Hopping John

 

Hopping John

2 cups of canned black eyed peas

½ – 1 lb bacon

(reserve 2 Tablesp of bacon drippings)

½ teasp. Black pepper

½ teasp. Salt

1 cup white uncooked white rice

Cook rice according to directions. Fry bacon and set aside. When rice is done, add black eyed peas, cooked bacon with a couple of Tablespoons of drippings, and salt and pepper. Stir together and heat on low heat for 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Chill leftovers and reheat when you are ready for more.

 

Spicier Hopping John 

2 cups of canned black eyed peas

½ lb bacon

(reserve 2 Tablesp of bacon drippings)

1 medium chopped onion

2 minced garlic cloves

1/ teasp of crushed red pepper flakes

½ teasp. Black pepper

½ teasp. Salt

1 cup white uncooked white rice

Cook rice according to directions. Fry bacon and set aside. Sauté chopped onion in reserved bacon drippings until soft and clear. Add garlic and pepper flakes to onion and heat for a couple of minutes. When rice is done, add black eyed peas, cooked bacon, and salt and pepper. Stir together and heat on low heat for 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Chill leftovers and reheat when you are ready for more.

There are many variations for this southern dish so feel free to experiment and make it your own.

My sons enjoyed it, and wondered why we only had it once a year. While we never ate it because it would bring good luck, we enjoyed Hopping John every New Years and hope that our new year would be blessed.

 

I hope your New Year will be filled with blessings galore.

 

 

 

 

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TIME WELL SPENT IN GOD’S WAITING ROOM

Posted by on Dec 3, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Devotions, Uncategorized | 6 comments

How many times have you been in the midst of a difficult situation, whether it’s related to a job, financial struggles, damaged relationships, a health crisis, or a profound loss? Perhaps you are in the whirlwind of just such circumstances right now and are wondering how you are going to get through it.  It’s so easy in the midst of difficulties to grow discouraged and focus inward. This is when it can be helpful to remember, everyone has “stuff” they are dealing with. As we age, and experience more of these “detours”, it can grow easier to weather these storms, because we have reached safe shores in the past.
 
Ever notice how solutions rarely come when we want them? For Christians, we reach out to God for answers, all the while reminding ourselves that He’s in control. We know we need to be walking with Him, seeking His guidance, and waiting for His answers. Meanwhile our emotions can range from shock, confusion, denial, grief, anger, fear, anxiety, anticipation, impatience, and finally acceptance. 
 
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven”
Ecclesiastes 3:1
 
I remember reading a blogpost some time ago that referred to this time as “God’s Waiting Room”, a place where God meets us, and if we allow Him, He guides us through this season. While none of us seek trials, it is often in the midst of such events when we realize our limitations, gain some humility, and are finally willing to let go and let God. Isn’t that really what God wants from us, to be submissive, open to Him, and allow the One who has our best interests at heart to guide us?
 
God’s Waiting Room may be a lonely spot, but it is also a refuge, where life slows, and in its stillness, provides an opportunity for us to draw closer to Him. Here, we quietly acknowledge what is past, honestly evaluate where we are, and think about what is next. So what do we do A woman at prayerwhile we are in this sanctuary? We can read God’s Word, and pray. And we can listen. We find encouragement as we recall all the people and things for which to be thankful. As we enumerate how the Lord has brought us through other challenges, our perceptions change. It will probably not alter our current circumstances, but it can revise our attitude as we navigate our way through them. 
 
It is human nature to try to orchestrate our lives, whether about family, jobs or other pursuits. However, how often have you heard from someone, whose life has been involuntarily disrupted and sent in an unintended direction, that they could never have anticipated the benefits or blessings missed had they remained in their previous situation? 
 
“pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18
 
 
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
Proverbs 16:3
 
So, when we face the changes that come into our lives, do we have to navigate that journey alone? No! It is often in God’s waiting room that He does His finest work.
 
 
“Change is always in your favor when you’re walking with the Lord.”
Words from a wise friend
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FIFTY YEARS LATER ~ REMEMBERING THE DEATH OF C. S. LEWIS

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, History, Uncategorized | 6 comments

I was a teenager sitting in a high school English class on November 22, 1963, when we heard through the PA system of the assassination of President Kennedy. Most people over the age of sixty remember exactly where they were when they learned of this horrific event.

What has sadly been overlooked is that on that same day, a gifted man and devout Christian evangelist, with an incredible resume, and Irish roots, also passed away. The vast work of Clive Staples Lewis, better known to the world as C. S. Lewis, and to his friends and family as “Jack”, has entertained and influenced many generations. He was a renowned scholar, poet, novelist, academic, essayist, and Christian apologist. Six by Lewis

C. S. Lewis was born November 29, 1898 near Belfast, Ireland. His father was a solicitor and his mother was the daughter of a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest.  He was brought up in the Christian church, but abandoned his faith as a teenager and became an atheist. His mother died when he was a young child and his relationship with his father was distant. Lewis was educated at boarding schools and by tutors. After serving in the British Army, he completed his university education at Oxford with a focus on literature and philosophy.

In 1925 Lewis was elected as a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he spent nearly thirty years on the staff. He left Oxford in 1954 to accept the position of chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University.

It was while he was at Oxford that he joined fellow faculty members, his brother, Warren Lewis, and a group of writers, in a guild known as the “Inklings”. His close friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien and other members of the group, as well as his interest in the works of George MacDonald, made him discard atheism, return to the Anglican Communion, and embrace a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Three by LewisDuring World War II, he gave very popular wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity, and his talks brought many listeners into a living faith with Christ. These broadcast speeches would later make up one of his most famous works, Mere Christianity.

Lewis, a long time bachelor, struck up a relationship through correspondence with Joy Davidman Gresham, an author and American educator. She was an intellectual of Jewish background, and a former Communist, whose troubled marriage finally ended when she converted to Christianity. She and Lewis renewed their friendship when she traveled to England with her two sons. In 1956 they learned Joy’s visa could not be renewed, so to insure she could remain in Great Britain, they chose to have a civil marriage even though they continued to live apart. However when Joy was diagnosed with bone cancer, they realized the depth of their affection. Joy and Jack wanted to be married in the church, but as a divorcee that was not possible. However an Anglican priest, and close personal friend, performed the ceremony at Joy’s hospital bedside on March 21, 1957. Her cancer went into remission and they enjoyed three happy years together until she died in July of 1960. Lewis’s book, A Grief Observed, originally published under a pseudonym, describes his struggles with his faith and his intense grief after her death. C. S. Lewis developed a heart condition and passed away three years later.

His scholarly work has perhaps been overshadowed by his many Christian non-fiction and fiction books that have continued to be reprinted and enjoyed by people throughout the world. Here are just a few:

 

Fiction

The Chronicles Of Narnia

The Chronicles Of Narnia

The Pilgrim’s Regress

The Screwtape Letters

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Space Trilogy

 

Non-fiction

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (autobiography)

Mere Christianity

Miracles

The Problem of Pain

The Abolition of Man

A Grief Observed (1961; first published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk)

 

On the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, he will be honored with a memorial in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-20426778

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