So many thousands of young men and women paid an awful price by giving their lives. More thousands have been paying the price ever since coming home, because the traumatic effects of serving in this war — and then being rejected by their own countrymen — have never come to an end for them.
A few years ago, while doing research for a book, I interviewed some men who served in the Vietnam War. Their stories were horrific and even now bring tears to my eyes just remembering. I obviously don’t have space here to recount all that was shared with me, but I’m impressed to share one story from a man who was held prisoner for years in some of the most brutal North Vietnamese prisons, including the “Hanoi Hilton.”
He related the details of how they were kept in isolation and tortured in prison camps (before being moved to the “Hanoi Hilton”), and how one of the worst experiences was being isolated in huts and having no way to communicate with the other prisoners also suffering isolation and torture. He explained that in one such prison, the prisoners gradually worked out a plan to grasp onto any tiny pieces of paper or cloth of any kind – a possible gum wrapper dropped by a guard, a scrap of envelop blown against the hut by the wind – a torn piece of cloth from a garment – whatever they could find that could be written on. Then because they had no ink, they would use their own blood to write with, using a twig to make the marks on the paper or cloth.
In order to get the blood to use as ink, they would cut their own bodies with whatever they could find that worked. He showed me how a few of the men who, for some unexplained reason, still had very small combs in their possession, swung their arms around and around to get the blood to flow into their fingers more forcefully, and then they would stab at the backs of their fingers with the teeth of those combs to get the blood to flow. He said it seemed that since the finger area has very little flesh, it didn’t take a deep would to get blood flowing from them. They then dipped the twig into their blood and wrote little notes to other prisoners and secretly passed them from man to man whenever they were moved about and got within close proximity to other prisoners.
I’m not sure why this particular experience had such an impact on me, but it did. I think partly it was because of the terribly cruel treatment that accompanied it, but also because of the incredible resilience of the human spirit: Those men absolutely refused to surrender to the cruelty and give up the will to connect with other men of like spirit and try to encourage and comfort them. They made a way when there was no way because the human spirit is stronger than the demonic powers that try to suppress and destroy it.
So today, I just want to say to all those who served and sacrificed — and who are still trying to recover — we acknowledge you and thank you with our whole hearts. I wish we could do more to make it up to you.
Well, like Trent, I had to deal with snow and ice this week. Now I’m a fan of light snow that dusts the trees and fences and looks like a postcard. But when it comes to heavy snow and ice, I have a really hard time finding a smile anywhere. However, I did manage a few.
To begin with, I had to make a trip to a town about 45 minutes away on the day the ice was supposed to begin, so I planned things in order to be home before it started. I allowed for it to begin an hour or so earlier than the forecast — I thought. Unfortunately, I was off a little, and before I was quite finished with my visit in that town, the ice started coming down fast and furious. It had my car covered in no time, and I scurried to get myself out of town and on the road home.
The streets in town were already treacherous, but when I got out of town on a long stretch of winding road bordered by large farmland on both sides, the ride got even more serious. I drove in 3rd gear most of the way, but switched to 2nd on the serious curves — of which there were several. Tedious and tense are the best descriptors I can come up with. And did I remember to say I prayed all the way? Well, I did.
But at last, I pulled safely into my driveway, thanks to the dear Lord, and that brought a smile.
The next day I found my yard, my drive, and my car, covered by a heavy layer of ice and then snow. Now, although the official measurement would have kept the snow accumulation at about 6 inches — which is fairly normal for our area of Southern Illinois — the drifts at my house and against my car were more like a foot. No smiles there.
But then I thought about the birds, and due to the fact that I had stocked up on necessities beforehand, I had an extra quarter loaf of bread that was nearing it’s end date, as well as part of a bag of cookies that had been there over 3 months, and I knew I wouldn’t finish them. I also had a half package of frozen waffles which I had forgotten about and bought a new package. So I had lots to feed the birdies, and over the next 3 days, I parceled out all those things — and one or two other munchies I dug out — and when the birds all came to enjoy their feasts, I smiled.
Then at last — after three days of work — late Sunday afternoon, I finally got my car dug out. I still had to wade through drifts almost a foot high to get to one side of the car, but I managed. And believe me, I smiled.
But even better than that: yesterday, I actually got out of my driveway and went to the store and the post office. I was a free woman again, and that gave me the biggest smile of all. 🙂
To take part in “The Weekly Smile,” visit Trent’s Blog for details.
I actually had two reasons to smile this week. The first reason is that I got to visit with my great-niece to help celebrate her birthday. We couldn’t work things out on the actual day, but she and her two brothers are always very philosophical about those things. Her parents are both very busy people as well, and often the birthday celebrations have to be adjusted a day or two one way or the other.
I don’t have children of my own, but I have three great-nephews, ranging in age from 11-13, and one great-niece, who just turned 11. I love all of them dearly — and equally. They are all extremely intelligent and pro-active in their involvement with the world and other people, and I have some of the most interesting conversations with them. And I love buying gifts for all of them. But any of you ladies out there who have had the pleasure of having a daughter or niece will understand when I say that there is just something really special about buying pretty things for a girl. I guess maybe it’s partly that I get to live vicariously through her delight in the things she receives.
She is very style conscious and absolutely loves dressing up. One of her special delights is in using pretty hair ornaments of all kinds. So I bought her a dress and a special selection of fancy barrettes — all different colors. I also threw in a huge chocolate covered marshmallow heart. She was delighted, and we had a good time together. She immediately went to work changing her hairstyle so that she could start using the barrettes right then.
My second smile came just yesterday. I run a small business from my home, but no matter how small a business is, we still have to have a tax number, keep track of sales, pay sales tax, and send in yearly reports. I absolutely detest — let me say that again — DETEST — doing any kind of accounting work or filling out and turning in government forms. I always put it off until the very last minute, and then I have myself so stressed by all of it that I make it three times as hard as it really is. But, yesterday, I got all my accounting figured out and came out with the right numbers in all the right places. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and I’ll be smiling about that for a long time — probably until next January — when I will stop smiling and start fretting over having to do it all again for 2023.
To participate in the Weekly Smile, just hop over to Trent’s Blog and learn how to join in the fun.
Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had an opportunity to participate in Trent’s Weekly Smile posts, but I really did want to get back to it. The truth is that I haven’t been posting regularly at all during the past year and a half. Like most people, my whole life — work, social functions, even ministry functions — have been totally messed up with all the covid junk. (I refuse to capitalize that word; it doesn’t deserve to be capitalized.) There have been a number of things that kept me from smiling. My sister had a battle with cancer during that time, and she passed away in the latter half of 2021. So smiles have been a little hard to come by.
She was the only really close family I had left, although I do try to stay connected with her two sons and their families. This year at Christmas, we felt the need to be connected even more strongly, but on Christmas Eve, one of my nephews and his wife had to be tested for covid, and they couldn’t get the results back in time for us to be together at Christmas. They didn’t have covid (and that in itself is worth a smile), but our window of opportunity for that holiday was past. But not to be defeated, we finally worked out a plan to get together at a later time, so that we could all eat together and open gifts and just have another “family” Christmas.
Now, I come to the ‘SMILE’ part of my story. One of my nephews had bought the newest Oculus Quest for his brother’s kids. Now, I has seen these gizmos and had watched a couple kids having fun with them, but I never even thought about trying one out. But, lo and behold, my nephew who had purchased the Oculus decided his 73-year-old aunt needed to get into the 21st century a little better, so he insisted that I put on the headset and let him instruct me in how to use it.
I’m not sure how many of you readers out there have tried out the Oculus Quest, so some of you probably know a lot more about it than I do even now, but I can say it was truly an experience I hadn’t even imagined. I’ve seen sci-fi movies in which characters experienced some things like I experienced with the Oculus, but I just never really thought about doing so myself.
It was truly like entering an entirely different world. In fact the scene that came up immediately made me feel that I was standing on a strange planet, and if I hadn’t felt the good old Earth beneath my feet, I would have been a little nervous. I have to say the fact that my nephew and his son made an issue of making sure I had plenty of empty space all around me before I put the headset on was a little unnerving to begin with. My thought was, What am I going to be doing in all this space? But I realized that it was just precautionary since I couldn’t see the real word around me at all once the headset was on.
The options for activities and games that are literally “at your fingertips” is amazing. Just learning how to maneuver the hand sets was an experience. But as strange as it was, it was also delightful. I definitely smiled a lot. And even though it’s been a little more than a week since that experience, I am still smiling every time I remember it. So I figured why not make that the smile I share for this week.
The takeaway from all this experience is two-fold: Remembering it and the comradery with my nephews still makes me smile — and the whole experience has triggered a couple new ideas for brand new stories. And new story ideas always make me smile. So if any of you writers out there haven’t tried out the Oculus Quest yet, you might want to put it on your list of things to do in this New Year.
Here it is: The perfect little Thanksgiving gift for those you want to bless during this time of gratitude for God’s abundant blessings in our lives. This small soft-cover book is a seasonal collection of scriptures, pictures, and Thanksgiving poems and essays by my father Ted Pavloff and me. The cover features the photography of my sister Brenda Calvert, so it’s really a family collaboration.
Only 25 pages long, measuring 5 1/5 x 8 1/2, it is just the right size to pick up and enjoy for a few moments of seasonal pleasure in the weeks anticipating Thanksgiving Day or in the hours after dinner, when you’re letting your turkey and dressing settle.
$4.00 on Amazon. You can find your copy at this link.
I have several Christian friends who like to confess God’s Word over themselves and their families every day, so I made them flipbooks that have some of their favorite scriptures (in a personalized version) on the pages of the book and some more on decorated cards slipped into the pockets. Each book has a different decorative theme, depending on the individual person — or my available materials. This is one that I made this week with an autumn theme. (I also include a specialty tea bag in each pocket as an extra treat. ).
Sorry my photos are not super clear.
When life gets tough, resort to the doggie wisdom that never fails:
WAG MORE; BARK LESS
“So thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blessed with victory and peace, may this Heaven-rescued land
Praise the God that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
(Francis Scott Key)
Today two nephews and I buried my sister. She is my only sibling and the last of my close family that I had on this earth. The loss and the sadness are indeed great, but they are countered by our sure knowledge that she had received Jesus Christ as her Lord and is now rejoicing in His presence. She has entered into the next level of life that He bought and paid for by taking all of our sinfulness upon Himself and suffering through horrible torture and death to pay for it.
He did not remain dead. He rose from the grave with new life — life that He had earned the right to share with anyone and everyone who would accept His sacrifice and welcome Him into their hearts to reign over their lives. So my sister has just begun to experience the joys that surpass all of our knowledge here on earth, and she will be experiencing those joys and pleasures in an endless relationship with our loving Creator and Father.
Today’s experience has prompted me to speak out once again — to pose the question for anyone out there who has never answered it completely: Have you recognized Jesus Christ as the one who came from God to take your sin and set you free from the eternal punishment that it deserves? Have you accepted His sacrifice and His eternal life of joy in the presence of our Creator?
We usually shy away from contemplating the fact that we are going to die. But the simple truth is, dear reader, that you — and I — and every other human being on this planet — are going to die. The God who offers us an eternity of joy, victory, endless creativity, and love has told us clearly how to gain that kind of eternity. He has made it simple: Accept Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
You may ask, “Will believing and following anyone else work just as well?” In answer to that question, let me ask you a couple: Has anyone else willingly taken on your sin and suffered torture and death to pay for it? No? Has anyone else risen from the dead with victory over sin and death and with eternal life to share with everyone who wants it? No? Then you have your answer: No. There is no one else — no one else — who paid the price for you and your sin. There’s only one way to the eternity you want.
Today is the day to make the decision. Do you want to come to the hour when your body is laid in the ground only to discover that your soul and your spirit have passed into an eternal realm without God, without joy, without hope, without a chance of anything except torment — all because you refused the free gift of eternal life offered to you by Jesus Christ? I don’t believe that anyone truly wants to make that choice. I think, most of the time, people just don’t want to get serious enough to give the question its due consideration.
So I’m posting this encouragement today. Make today the day when you give the subject its due consideration. Make today the day when you accept Jesus Christ and His open invitation to step right into His loving, victorious presence when the hour comes that you take your last breath here.
(I originally wrote this article over a year ago, but at a time in our society when there is so much that divides us, incenses us, and hurts us, I felt an urging by the Holy Spirit to share it again now.)
“A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” (Matthew 12:20, KJV).
These words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, described Jesus Christ, both in the Old Testament prophecy forecasting His coming, and in the New Testament as He carried out His earthly ministry. The words referred to the fact that Jesus was careful not to put down or belittle people who came to Him, even when they were weak in faith, or because they were lacking in some area of consecration or obedience.
Now, to be sure, He did on occasion ask His own disciples, “Why are you fearful, or why did you doubt?” But those words were not intended as reprimands, but as questions to cause them to think and learn. They were in training, after all, and were supposed to be learning from Him and growing in faith and the demonstration of it. They were in a different position from the average person who came to Jesus for ministry.
Throughout His earthly walk, Jesus was kind and compassionate to everyone who had need of Him. If the people He dealt with had even a smoldering bit of faith, or just a heart-felt desire to connect with Him, He welcomed them and spoke and acted in such a way as to encourage them. To the sick man at the Pool of Bethesda, who evidently had some lack of initiative if he’d been supposedly “trying to get to the pool” for 38 years, Jesus simply asked, “Do you want to be made well?” And then, even though the man’s only response was to complain about not having any other people to help him, Jesus proceeded to heal him completely. (John 5:1-15).
And look at His treatment of Zacchaeus, who was a first-rank sinner (self-confessed) and who had no obvious faith or obedience going for him. Just the fact that Zacchaeus wanted to know more about Jesus — enough to climb into a tree so that he could see Jesus better as He went through town — was enough for Jesus to call him over and invite Himself to Zacchaeus’ house — showing him both honor and compassion at the same time. (Luke 19:1-10).
Even when Jesus knew He had to deliver a strong word to a person who sought something from Him, His focus was on loving that person and responding in the most compassionate way possible. In Mark’s gospel (chapter 10) Jesus is approached by a rich young ruler who asks for instructions for inheriting eternal life. This young man had sought to follow the rules of the law in conduct, but he obviously had a heart problem that would keep him from being in unity with God.
Jesus knew the man would need to let go of the pride he had in following the rules and experience a heart change that would cause him to truly give of himself to help others. Jesus knew HIs instructions would come as a blow to this young man, and the first thing we learn about Jesus in this situation is that He “loved” the young man. He spoke to him words that were necessary, but they were not spoken in rebuke, but in love and compassion.
Another time, when Jesus’ disciples told Him of other ministers who were delivering people in Jesus’ name but were not following Him, Jesus said to leave them alone because if they were not “against” Him, then they were “for” Him. He didn’t rebuke those other ministers or even correct them. (Luke 9:49-50)
Wherever He went, Jesus was looking for ways to lift people up, encourage them, and help them grow in their relationship with their Creator.
Several years ago I read words by another minister that said, in effect, that we should be careful not to destroy someone’s imperfect faith because, at the time we’re interacting with that individual, it’s the only faith that person has. But it’s likely that, given time and encouragement, that imperfect faith will grow into something stronger and purer.
I’ve learned over the years that there’s a good deal of wisdom in those words, and I’ve seen people’s faith grow exceedingly. In fact, my own faith has grown, changed, grown some more, and changed some more over some sixty years of life as a Christian. So I know the potential is there.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about this particular subject matter lately, and I believe the reason is that the Lord is showing me it’s really important to encourage people in these areas. I think I’ve always been an encourager in general, but I know, at times, I also tend to hold back when I see that a person has areas of his life or faith that are most definitely unscriptural. I sometimes tend to concentrate more on trying to “help” them get “fixed” in those areas rather than encouraging the little bit of positive in them — that smoking flax of faith or that character trait that is slightly bruised.
But I believe the Lord is saying that I need to refocus and concentrate on encouraging for a while rather than fixing. It may be that enough encouragement of the positive — even if it’s just smoldering or somewhat bruised or damaged — will strengthen those people enough to help them go on and eventually get the other stuff fixed.
And, after all, God is the real “fixer” — not me. And I’m also aware that there are a number of areas in my own life that need “fixing” as well. Certainly, I need to pray for the people in my life where the negative areas are concerned, so that the Lord has an open channel to work in their lives. But I need to let Him take care of the fixing and use my energy and influence to encourage those individuals. Encouragement in the right places can sometimes put us in a stronger position so that we can better receive the help God has for us.
So, as I move forward in my life, one of my primary spiritual goals is going to be to encourage every positive thing I see in every person I’m with, and to do so in the name of Jesus Christ — who never broke a bruised reed (damaged person) or quenched any smoking flax (smoldering faith.) I believe if I’ll be faithful to do my part, He will be able to do all the rest of the work necessary to bring them to wholeness and overcoming faith.
photo courtesy of Ria Algra @ pixabay.com
Every single thing on this earth is going to pass away into nothingness at some point — everything, that is, except the people living on this planet. Every one of those people will live forever — for all eternity — either in the joyous presence of the Lord Himself, or in a place of sorrow and torment because they refused to choose the one way that leads to life with God.
Since everything else that we acquire, build, play with, and regard as valuable is heading for dissolution, shouldn’t we be focused intently on the people who pass through our lives? They all have one chance — one lifetime — to accept God’s offer of eternity with Him. That offer requires accepting Jesus Christ His Son as their Lord. He’s the only one who paid the price for their sin and who offers them His own righteousness to make them worthy to live with the Creator forever. But most of them don’t recognize Him at all.
As believers in Jesus Christ, then, our highest calling and our greatest undertaking is to be Jesus to every person we connect with — whether in the marketplace, the street, the factory, the business office, or the halls of government. Wherever and whenever we have the opportunity, let us be diligent to place the highest value on people and their need to know and comprehend Jesus the Christ.
(Matthew 24:35, Isaiah 40:8)
Life is challenging even in the best of times. But sometimes we need to stop everything and take stock of just what we are giving ourselves to as we travel through that life. Many people don’t realize that we all tend to give place to – or even collect – some objects, people, and experiences that do us more harm than good. Periodically, we need to take a good long look at those collections and do some house cleaning.
In fact, we need to throw out some things and walk away from them forever. Abandonment isn’t always a negative term. And if you’ve been feeling a little bound up, a little negative, a little pressed, stressed, and overwhelmed lately, I’d say it’s time to abandon some stuff.
Abandon your fears. Abandon your insecurities. Abandon your doubts. Abandon your past failures. Abandon the negative words others have spoken concerning your abilities or your future. Abandon the so-called ‘friends’ who do not draw from you your best and highest.
Life is too short to live it in fear, doubt, and the faulty judgments of other people. If you’re going to get anything out of this life, you’re going to have to put a lot into it. And you can’t do that if you’re constantly afraid or second-guessing because of past failures or someone else’s opinions.
Stand up and lay hold of this day in faith. God made you, so He loves you. And because He made you, He obviously has a plan for your whole life. Maybe you’ve never spent enough time with Him to find out about the plan. Or perhaps you’ve started living for Him, but you’ve gotten side-tracked or knocked down, and you’ve shifted your focus to the negatives in your life.
Well, today is the best time to turn your focus back to Him. Take His hand and let Him lead you where He wants to take you. Let Him show you His delightful plan for your life. Then get started – or re-started – carrying it out.
Abandon what is negative, dark, and destructive. Seize what is positive, light, and life-giving. Then go out there and LIVE!
It is absolutely pouring rain at my house. I mean sheets and sheets of hard rain, descending with purpose. But I’m not feeling the least bit sad about it. You see, my windows are open, and I can hear the rhythmic beat as the torrents hit the ground with resolution. It’s like a satisfying loud symphony, with all nature providing the orchestra. I can breathe in the unique fragrance that is a fusion of just mown grass and freshly washed air.
The flowering pear tree across the road is vying with the rain to be the center of attention. It’s pure white blossoms are startling as they stand out through the smoky gray curtain that’s obviously intent on maintaining center stage for now.
The force of the downpour at the very beginning stirred my soul and wakened me from what was about to become a mid-afternoon stupor. And now — ten minutes into the storm — the downpour has settled to a sure, steady pattern that sooths and relaxes me.
Two-thirds of the sky is heavy and gray, but to the southeast, I see a small patch of bright turquoise, just waiting for it’s chance to take over after the storm wears itself out. And wear out it will. No elements can keep up such an energetic production for a long period of time. Like all good things, it’s limited to a fragment of time. But its enough. In fact, its just exactly enough to allow us to enjoy it properly.
Deep breath — satisfying sigh — I’m happy in the moment. 🙂