Dash on the Tombstone

>> Friday, December 31, 2010

“There’ll be two dates on your tombstone,
and all your friends will read ‘em.
But all that’s gonna matter is …
that little dash between ‘em.” 

A few years ago, I stood at my father’s grave for the first time.  There, engraved in stone was: “G. VIRGIL VAIL – July 25, 1891 (dash) December 6, 1942”, the dates of my father’s birth and death.  According to those dates, my father was 51 years old when he died.  That short dash represents 51 years of my father’s life. 

Everyone reading this already has the date of their birth.  We are all now working on the “dash”.  
Think about some of the greatest blessings you currently have in your life. 
Your home 
Your peace of mind 
Your health 
Sharing a porch swing on a summer evening with your grandma 

Sitting at the Thanksgiving table or near a Christmas tree 
Tears in your eyes during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” 
You have hands, feet, eyes and ears. 
You know how to read and write.   
You live in America.   
You are relatively sane. 
Exactly how are you measuring your life? 

How is your “dash” doing?
Only picture I have of him (and my brother)


My Commitment (Adapted from Rick Warren's commitment)

>> Thursday, December 30, 2010

I will:
            Magnify God
            Grow to maturity
            Serve in ministry
            Fulfill my mission as part of His family
            Do the best I can with what I have for Jesus…..TODAY
Keep running with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me

I will value:
            Worship over wealth
            “We” over “me”
            Character over comfort
            Service over status
            People over possessions, position and pleasure

I refuse to waste time or energy on:
            Shallow living
            Petty thinking
            Trivial talking
            Thoughtless doing
            Useless regretting
            Hurtful resenting
            Faithless worrying

I won’t be:
            Captivated by culture
            Manipulated by critics
            Motivated by praise
            Frustrated by problems
            Debilitated by temptation
            Intimidated by the devil

When times get rough and I get tired, I won’t:
            Be bought
            Be compromised
            Quit until I finish the race

I’m a trophy of God’s amazing grace, so I will be:
            Gracious to everyone
            Grateful for every day
            Generous with everything that God entrusts to me

Today – as God is here beside me – in advance I say YES – I submit to you.  I’m ready:
            Wherever you lead
            Whatever the cost


A Thousand Marbles

>> Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the kitchen with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.

I turned the volume up on my radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning talk show. I heard an older sounding chap with a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business himself. He was talking about "a thousand marbles" to someone named "Tom." I was intrigued and sat down to listen to what he had to say.

"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow
should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital. Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities."

That's when he began to explain his theory of "a thousand marbles"

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years. I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part."

"It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail," he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy."

"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to roundup 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in my workshop next to the radio. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and have thrown it away"

"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight. Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast.

This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then God has blessed me with a little extra time to be with my loved ones......

"It was nice to talk to you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your loved ones, and I hope to meet you again someday. Have a good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop when he finished. Even the show's moderator didn't have anything to say for a few moments. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about.

I had planned to do some work that morning, then go to the gym. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."

"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile. "Oh, nothing special," I said. "It has just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out?

I need to buy some marbles."


Venice ... Or Is It?

>> Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Taking down Christmas decorations, I placed them in the living room … making a central spot for packing later. But I couldn’t reach the wreath above the fireplace. My husband, John, would have to help me there. The picture of Venice that belonged there was in the storage room, so I brought it out and propped it against the wall for hanging. As I hurried to do something else, I saw I had placed the picture against the wall upside down. Fleetingly, I wondered if John would notice.

More chores … more taking down decorations … and then I spied the wreath among the decorations. I glanced above the fireplace … and sure enough, John had helped me. There was Venice … upside down. He, too, had hurriedly hung it in place and moved on to something else.

As I stood and looked at the picture … which now looked like an abstract painting … I thought about life. Sometimes we see things from a totally different perspective than is intended. If we hadn’t been in such a hurry, we would have noticed the small detail that the picture was upside down. But other issues seemed more important.

Is there a life picture you may be looking at that is upside down in your mind? What happens if you rotate it? Does the true picture come into focus? Who is in charge of how that picture is hanging? Can you change it?

Or do you like abstract art?


A $20 Bill

>> Sunday, December 26, 2010

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill.  In the room of 200, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?"

Hands started going up.  

He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you, but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill.  

He then asked, "Who still wants it?"

Still the hands were up in the air.

Well, he replied, "What if I do this?"

He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe.
He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty.  

"Now, who still wants it?"  

Still the hands went into the air.  

“My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless.

But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to God. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by:


You are  
Don't EVER forget it."


The "W" in Christmas

>> Saturday, December 25, 2010

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations -- extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant."

I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production.  Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.  Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row-center stage -- held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song.  As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down – totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W."  The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake.  But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W." Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:




>> Friday, December 24, 2010

Our daughter had a foreign exchange student live with her 11 years ago. This is Saskia and she has just graduated from medical school in Germany. My daughter is with her for Christmas ... and it's snowing.


Taking Down the Tree

>> Thursday, December 23, 2010


Facebook of CHRISTmas

>> Wednesday, December 22, 2010


A Text from God

>> Monday, December 20, 2010

I rarely remember dreaming. Maybe every six months I can actually tell about one the next morning. So when I have a vivid dream … it is special … and in color.

I have an iPhone and keep in contact with my daughters mostly by text. For those of you who don’t have the kind of phone that texts, a box comes up on the screen with the words being sent inside. Above the box is the time of the text.

My daughter, Lorri, was trying to get to Germany. Her first flight was canceled … due to weather in Europe. She left Portland early Saturday morning our time and was to arrive in Germany Sunday morning their time … being routed through several cities. There is nine hours difference between here and Germany. That is important information.

Early Sunday morning, I had a vivid dream … receiving a text. I saw the phone screen clearly. The words said, “Lorri has arrived in Germany.” But I didn’t wake up. I had another vivid dream. Another text. “Lorri has arrived in Germany.” The first text was still on the screen. It was sent at 12:40 am my time. The second one sent at 2:12 am. This time I woke up.

Lorri was there. I had peace … and went back to sleep.

At 4:30 am I received a text … a real one … on my real phone. It said, “Made it to Germany.”

I gave up on sleeping and got up. Lorri and I had agreed to communicate by Facebook (since she needed to turn her phone off). So I sent her a message and asked what time she landed.

9:40 am Germany time.

Who knew God could text?


Sno Cat Time

>> Sunday, December 19, 2010

This time of year, life gets crazy. Back to back Christmas parties … decorating … Christmas cards. Add to that, a daughter trying to get to Germany to attend her previous foreign exchange student’s graduation from medical school … and the flight is canceled due to weather. She can’t make it in time.


One of the parties we attended yesterday involved driving up a mountain to Tollgate, Oregon. Left town on packed snow … cars sliding … one with its left tires hanging on the divider leaving the car dangling on its side. Some freezing rain. Then some really thick fog.


Then I had a life moment.

Friends at the party had arrived from their cabin in their Sno Cat. Ever taken a ride in one of those? It’s not a smooth one. I felt like a bobble-head as we traveled through the snow to their cabin.

Next time you need some stress relief, take a ride in a Sno Cat. Laughter is the best medicine.


Church Bulletin Bloopers

>> Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Methodist.   Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.

* * * * * * * * * * *
The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals. 

* * * * * * * * * *
The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water."  The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."

* * * * * * * * * *
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands.

* * * * * * * * * *
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.

* * * * * * * * * *
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.

* * * * * * * * * *
Don't let worry kill you off......let the Church help.

* * * * * * * * * *
Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

* * * * * * * * * *
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

* * * * * * * * * *
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

* * * * * * * * * *
Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping. She has requested tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.

* * * * * * * * * *
The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing, "Break Forth Into Joy."

* * * * * * * * * *
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church and so ends a friendship that began in their school days.

* * * * * * * * * *
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall.  Music will follow.


God In Every Moment

>> Friday, December 17, 2010

By: Joy Bach
Printed in CALLED Magazine, April/May 2009 issue

I used to struggle with spending time alone with God each day — no matter how hard I tried. After forcing myself to conform to traditional methods, I discovered that I can experience quiet solitude with Him in a variety of ways.

When my husband, and pastor, walked out of my life, a vortex of pain threatened to suck me away. He left me with three children, no skills, and no income. Sleepless nights, fearful days, and a wooden ceiling almost brought me to the brink of a breakdown.

Something Had to be Done.
One night at bedtime, I envisioned a basket on my nightstand. As I climbed into bed, I placed all my worries into the imaginary container. Within myself, I began to have a conversation with God:

"Lord, You know I don’t understand how I am going to make it through tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. I’m terrified. But I believe that You love me, and want the best for me. I can’t do anything about my anxieties tonight, so I’m giving them to You."

Almost instantly, my thoughts began to fly. "How will I pay the bills? I need a job! The groceries are running out!" But each night, I handed my anxiety over to God. He was there — alone with me — removing my basket filled with worry and pain.

In that rough, restless place, I discovered that God is in each and every moment, if we look for Him. But looking for Him requires that we take control of our mind. My focus had to shift from the concerns of my life to seeing and trusting God. I now see His love and grace through the eyes of my children, a glass of quenching water, a beautiful sunset, and every precious moment.

I have found my daily quiet time by turning off the noise of the world. I go inward, into a silent place, where it’s just me and God. In that quiet place, I place my worries into a basket and hand them to Him. In that private and tranquil place, He tells me not to worry. His reassuring voice encourages me to "cast my anxiety upon Him because He cares for me" (1 Peter 5:7).

I have learned that it is up to me to take advantage of every moment. Instead of tapping my fingers impatiently at a red light, I can take that moment to connect with God. When I’m standing in the line at the cash register, instead of wondering why the person in front is taking so long, I can feel God’s presence right there beside me.

My "quiet time" has become whatever and wherever I want it to be. When I retreat to that quiet, inward place — I am alone with God — and He is there waiting for me, in every moment.


Retarded Grandparents

>> Thursday, December 16, 2010

                 Written by a third grader, on what his grandparents do.
                 After Christmas, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their holiday away from school. One child wrote the following:
                 We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa.  They used to live in a big brick house, but Grandpa got retarded and they moved to Arizona.  Now they live in a tin box and have rocks painted green to look like grass.  They ride around on their bicycles, and wear name tags, because they don't know who they are anymore. 

They go to a building called a wreck center, but they must have got it fixed because it is all okay now, they do exercises there, but they don't do them very well.  There is a swimming pool too, but they all jump up and down in it with hats on.  At their gate, there is a doll house with a little old man sitting in it.  He watches all day so nobody can escape.  Sometimes they sneak out, and go cruising in their golf carts. 

Nobody there cooks, they just eat out.  And, they eat the same thing every night - early birds.   Some of the people can't get out past the man in the doll house.  The ones who do get out, bring food back to the wrecked center for pot luck. 

My Grandma says that Grandpa worked all his life to earn his retardment and, says I should work hard so I can be retarded someday too.   When I earn my retardment, I want to be the man in the doll house.   Then I will let people out, so they can visit their grandchildren.


The Wooden Bowl

>> Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. 
The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered 
The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and 
failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. 
When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. 
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. 
'We must do something about father,' said the son.
'I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.' 
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. 
There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. 
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. 
When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. 
Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. 
The four-year-old watched it all in silence. 
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. 
He asked the child sweetly, 'What are you making?' Just as sweetly, the boy responded, 
'Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.’ 
The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. 
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. 
That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. 
For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, 
neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled. 


It's a Fine Line

>> Monday, December 13, 2010

As a child, you love your daddy … and then you notice the way he treats your mommy. Or maybe he abuses you. After one abuse too many, the love turns to hate … and you are through with him. Maybe it’s your job you love … and then you get a new boss. You begin to dread going to work … and soon hate your job. Exactly where is the line between love and hate?

It can work in reverse too. Since you don’t want to say you hate anyone, you tell people you can’t stand your mother-in-law. But as the years pass and your husband shares his stories about his mother, you begin to understand where she is coming from … and you can now love her.

Have you crossed the line?


Wheres the Line to See Jesus -- Official Music Video - Music Videos.mp4

>> Sunday, December 12, 2010


A Pondering Moment in Joseph

>> Saturday, December 11, 2010


Treadmill Philosophy

>> Friday, December 10, 2010

I try to exercise at least five days a week … and always include the treadmill. Since I have a problem with dizziness, it is imperative that I hang on as I walk. I listen to Chuck Swindoll’s podcast while I exercise … focusing on his words.

This morning, in the back of my mind, I kept wondering what was wrong with my fingers. I would feel a sharp pain … and move my hand to a different position … not wanting to be bothered as I concentrated on the words in my ears. This constant moving of my hands went on throughout the entire podcast. Only when the broadcast was over did I begin to analyze the pain situation.

I was being shocked by the treadmill. Moving my hands to the plastic casing around the reader screen, the pain went away. I got off the treadmill.

Life is like that. There may be something in the back of our mind that is troubling us, but we stay focused on something else and try to ignore that little warning. Maybe we need to apologize to someone … maybe we aren’t sure if everything is ok between us and another person. Perhaps we have a habit that just may not be good for us … but we adjust our thinking … rationalizing … and keep on walking.

It’s time to get off the treadmill.


Blonde Moment

>> Thursday, December 9, 2010


The Son Always Shines

>> Wednesday, December 8, 2010

As I backed out of the driveway this morning, I reached for my sunglasses … an action I had not taken since a week before Thanksgiving. At work, co-workers excitedly talked about the sunshine … customers mentioned it.

Our weather has been a mixture of snow, freezing fog, sleet, freezing rain (not sure what the difference is there) and ice pellets. But through all of that gray, the sun was still there, doing its job. Even though we couldn’t see it, we still knew it was there.

Life is like that. Our gray weather may come in the form of illness … or money issues. But through all of the trials, the Son is still there, doing His job. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, we just need to believe He is still there.

It’s called trust.


60-Year Old Memories

>> Monday, December 6, 2010

When I was in elementary school, we had a neighbor named Stella Keane. She decorated an eggshell for me ... and it is still in one piece. Lots of memories in this life moment.


Some Life Moments are Larger than Others

>> Sunday, December 5, 2010

In my 68 years on this earth, I’ve encountered some timeline moments that stand out.

1942 – hours after my birth – my father died
1960 – marriage to the pastor’s son – marriage arranged by church
1962 – birth of first daughter
1965 – birth of second daughter
1967 – birth of third daughter
1971 – miscarriage
1971 – sister who had been like my mother died
1971 – husband left
1973 – divorce
1974 – 1979 – discovering me
1980 – marriage to man of my choice
1986 – moved to a different state to start a business
1986 – mother died
1986 – birth of first grandchild – weighed 2 lbs. 11 oz.
1994 – youngest daughter took second grandchild and left – no forwarding address

And the moments just keep on coming.

2010 – moved to our new home
2010 – contact with youngest daughter and grandson

No matter if the moment is happy or sad, God is still right there.


Ruts in the Road

>> Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter arrived early for us. For over a week we’ve had snow, freezing fog and ice pellets. Then the temperature briefly went above 32.  So the snow turned to slush, which allowed the car tires to make ruts. As evening came, the temperature dropped and the ruts froze. Once your tires are in a rut, it’s hard to change lanes or turn a corner.

Some people drive like they plan to stay in the rut forever. Others gun it and do an ice dance trying to get out of the rut.

Life is like that. Sometimes we get in a rut. It’s nice and safe in our rut, so we settle in and make the journey. Others rebel, doing all kinds of dancing … drugs, drinking, overeating.

There are safe ways to climb out of the rut. Let’s do that.


Birthdays are a Life Moment

>> Wednesday, December 1, 2010


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