Friday, April 30, 2010


The following is the first of four parts of the "Dumpster Vs. Vessel" article I wrote during this past month. In the beginning of the writing process, I was focusing on "dumpsters." My friend, Susie, visit her and look at her amazing photos, mentioned the fact that we are "vessels". Because of her input, the writing shifted a bit. [She will also be mentioned specifically in part 2.] Overall, I hope you will find this series both challenging and enjoyable ... and proof once again that with God anything is possible. Thanks. CJ

AS a child and young person, headed towards adulthood, I was one angry mess. Filled with rage. Ready t
o fight at any given moment. Raised in abuse and neglect, overwhelmed with family responsibility. Making it a day at a time, but having very little hope. I watched the kids around me at school and in the neighborhoods, saw the care parents gave them, the "normality" of their lives, and was totally swamped by jealousy towards them and hatred towards my family -- my parents for the abuse, my sisters for the constant care I was expected to give them. I felt thoroughly overwhelmed by life, buried in heaviness. Believed that, for some unknown reason, I was being picked on, rejected, excluded, despised.

There was something that I didn't understand then. I do now.

We all are dumpsters. “Mansion-style” dumpsters – good people filled with the best possible garbage imaginable – mostly really good socially acceptable stuff – hidden in carefully covered containers, nearly invisible. Or, on the other hand, “Slum-style” dumpsters filled to overflowing with scuzzy, stinky garbage.

However, there is something we don’t generally think about. A valuable item may be buried in the dumpster among the trash ... necklace, coins, diamond ring, lovely pottery. Either accidentally or purposely tossed; never expected to be seen again.

Even when gems are not seen as folks gaze intently at the surface of the trash or dig through it -- dumpster diving -- they may, eventually, be revealed, and their wealth truly appreciated.

Unknown to me at the time, my Heavenly Father, Whom I knew only in passing, planted so
me lovely gems in my "dumpy" life with His specific purpose in mind. Of the many, I recall four special ones with great joy and appreciation.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Knowing this topic was coming along, my brain entered that field — and frustration and fear took over. I'm usually just not so sure that self-control is well exhibited by me, even after all these years of walking with the Lord. MAYBE I can squelch the knee-jerk response to an event or a person that would reveal a true LACK of self-control, but that's not the real godly quality. For instance, when someone cuts in front of me in traffic and I choose to not rear-end them or scream at them, that's not so much self-control as it is trying to remember that my license plate has a God-oriented message and I don't want to embarrass Him [of course].

When I'm fasting, self-control can be a problem. The best way to avoid temptation to momentarily break the fast or make a seriously wrong food choice -- creme brule, for instance, or a pile of M&Ms -- is to not go to any location that has those tempting items. But, that's not true self-control. REAL self-control would be if I went to Panera or Olive Garden or Taco Bell and sat there letting the food be passed by me, their lovely sights and odors encompassing me, and I could look on calmly and sip water. Quite possibly my reaction would be to tackle someone and grab the food as it dropped towards the ground. The safest way to handle this is to sit in my home office, my brain and fingers moving so I can keep myself distracted from those goodies.

My husband and I were lying in bed recently, headed towards sleep, and I brought this topic up. He said, "Well, since I've been out of work, you've had self-control, and not been out shopping for things we don't need. Right?" That's not self-control; that's facing reality. [He's been out of his career-based job for over 1-1/2 years -- only God, through our church and friends and side jobs, has kept us from going under.]

So, honestly, it's easier to try for “others-control” and keep the atmosphere livable and comfortable than it is to deal with the various aspects of self-control. Not that that's a life-style my Heavenly Father would allow me to promote, but, overall, it really IS easier, doncha think?

To see more posts on Self-Control go to blog carnival

Saturday, April 17, 2010


The first time we went to Uganda, January, 1991, was to check out the country to which we felt God was leading us. Unfortunately, our original plan, to leave in early December, 1990, fell through. We shifted the departing date a couple of times, and ended up scheduling it for mid-January ... which, unexpectedly, turned out to be two days after the first Gulf War began. We left Omaha with eighteen boxes and pieces of luggage: eleven boxes of materials a local ministry had collected from a number of churches -- shoes, clothes, books, small tools, and even a trumpet -- and seven supplied by us, items we had collected or purchased, including toiletries, OTC drugs, school supplies, lots and lots of twin-sized sheets for orphanages, paint brushes and paint rollers, and M&Ms, granola bars, and small fruit cups. On top of that, we had our own clothing. Overall, lots and lots of stuff.

We did fine -- from Omaha to St. Louis, that is. But when we reached JFK in New York, because of the war, everything fell apart. Too many details to hit, but the final result was that we reached Uganda two and a half days late, and, although we left home with eight hundred dollars, we reached Entebbe with forty-seven dollars and change. To leave Uganda we needed forty dollars for airport exit tax, which we automatically set aside in Dave's wallet ... so that meant we really had only seven dollars for our five-week stay. Talk about intense... and downright scary!

God brought us through in many ways, one miracle after another. However, one always stands out for me.

Three days after we arrived, I was asked to put a library together for the orphanage in Kampala where we were helpi
ng. I asked a Ugandan lady to sort through the three hundred books in the evening and I'd come back in the morning and take on the job.

When I walked in, she had several stacks in her room -- yep, she also slept there -- piles of text books, fiction, non-fiction, and Bibles. Many, many Bibles.

When I sat down in the chair to begin the job, I glanced at the Bible stack. On the very top there was a Bible that looked trashy. Embarrassingly so. I asked "Wh
o would give a terrible looking Bible like this away?"

I reached down and picked it up and as I opened the cover I was stunned. It was MY Bible. I received it for my first birthday in the Lord and had lost it at a writer's conference at Boys Town in Omaha ten years earlier. It had my maiden name in it, so no one would have known it was mine. However, as I looked through it I found that all my old notes were still there. Nothing had been lost.

Overwhelmed by the joy, the miracle, I immediately started jumping up and down, crying, screaming, laughing hysterically, and startled the children and adults around me who didn't know what had happened -- including my husband. The director of the orphanage outside of Kampala, where we were going to be helping a week later, walked in at just that moment. It was Jay's first view of me: an hysterical, insane, crazy-acting nutty woman.

However, I also immediately knew that in the midst of all our confusion and challenges, God was telling me that we were in the exact place He wanted us to be at exactly the right time and that He would take care of us. [And He did!]

When I had the blessing of sharing or preaching while we were there, I always told this story. I said, "I lost my Bible ten years ago, ten miles from my home, and God gave it back to me here, ten thousand miles from home." And then I lifted the Bible and showed it to them. They always came to their feet cheering, overwhelmed with joy -- and I always cheered right along with them.

I have that Bible. It is on a bookshelf in a zip-lock bag. I pull it out occasionally just to be reminded by sight, touch, and even a little bit of smell, of the gift that my Father God gave me - Twice.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


For most folks this is IRS day, for better or worse, refund or payment. However, in my heart, this is MY day. On April 15, 1966, at 6:30 PM, I asked Christ into my life. Four months shy of my 21st birthday, living a life of heavy-duty sin and headed towards a significant amount of trouble, the Lord broke through. I have never doubted or questioned or regretted it. He had arranged for seed to be planted in my heart off and on since I had been very young, but the seed hardly survived. And then ...

I was living in Tacoma, WA. Towards mid-March a young woman at work, Carol, 18, was suddenly without a place to live and couldn't afford to fly back to her family in the St. Louis area. Someone at work said, "Hey, Joanne, you have room in your apartment. Let her move in with you." I didn't know Carol very well, but knew she was a sweet person -- and I WAS NOT!!! I knew it was the right thing to do, so agreed that she could, but I also said to her: You can move in with me. But I go out when I want to go out, I come back when I want to come back, and if you don't like it, you can leave.

Amazingly, even hearing that "jerky" statement, Carol moved in. What I didn't know was that she was a Born-Again Christian. I didn't know what that was, anyhow, so it wouldn't have sunk in. Over the next couple of weeks we yammered about religion for hours nearly every night. She couldn't always come up with answers for me, so she connected me to Stan, a man in her church, and he would hammer topics out with me on the phone. Very straight-forward, which is what works best with me most of the time. I decided to go to church with her -- Portland Avenue Baptist Church. My second Sunday, on April 10, Easter, there was an altar call and I knew I was supposed to go forward. I could feel the pressure in my heart ... my whole body ... in a way I had never experienced before... and I held on tight to the back of the pew in front of me so I would be able to not give in. I left church feeling pleased that "I won the battle."

The next Thursday, at work, Carol had a head injury and ended up in the hospital. She was there until Saturday. I was invited to dinner at Stan's house on Friday, and enjoyed dinner with him and his wife and four sons. After we finished eating, and Anita had cleared the table, and the boys had disappeared to the living room, Stan had me stay in the kitchen with him and he laid the facts of Christ's sacrifice out for me very clearly. Stan knew how sinful I was ... he had a similar history ... and he didn't look down his nose at me at all. He knew God could turn my awful life around, no question. I told him that I believed what he was telling me about Jesus and His sacrifice and the possibility of salvation, but I said I needed to straighten up first or I couldn't come to Him. Stan, of course, said it was the other way around -- come to Christ and the changes would start to take place. I knew he was right, and I made the commitment and invited Christ into my life. In my mind, because of all the abuse I had experienced from many others, mostly men, this was simply a "contract"... no emotional attachment to the Father or Son, just an agreement to follow the rules He laid down and, if I messed up, take the punishment that would hit me. After my prayer, Stan and I went to a young adult Bible study, so only an hour after I was saved I made the public statement and people rejoiced. I remember that the next morning when I woke up my first thoughts were about the new life I had before me.

And it was and has always been. Even though I was far from perfect, the Lord kept moving me along; He didn't give up on me. Stan wrote an article for a Baptist teachers magazine a year later and described someone who walked with the Lord, fell on her face in the mud, and climbed back to her feet again, and went forward and... fell on her face in the mud. How often this took place. He also said it was the climbing out of the mud and back onto her feet that made the difference. And that he trusted that as she grew in the Lord the pattern would simply be the walking.

After all these years, most of the time I can say that is true. Occasionally, I do end up with a little mud on my face, but it wipes off thoroughly ... by the blood of Jesus.

Where would I be if this all had not come to pass 44 years ago? Most certainly no one would know me today. I would have been a victim, or cause of, violence, domestic or otherwise; a suicide statistic; dead from alcohol-based illness. No friends, no family, and, most certainly, no hope for my future.

So the key word today is HALLELUJAH!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


We had a winter with more snow and ice and no thaw in between storms than has ever occurred as far as anyone in our area can recall. For 2-1/2 months our yard was buried and Dave shoveled just a path from the front steps to the driveway ... that was it... nada, zero, nothing else. We all had much concern about flowers and how they would manage to survive, what our yards would look like when this wild winter had passed. What we discovered was that the flowers were incubated; no icy wind to burn the ground and kill their roots and bulbs. As soon as the snow melted, they started popping up like crazy little creatures that wanted to see the sun and relish its presence. Last Friday I decided to take some shots in our front yard. AND, by the way, I'm a purple freak, and a rock addict. That will be obvious to anyone who didn't know that already. Welcome to my world!

I always think these little ones are smiling at me and want attention. I always give them a sweet blessing as I walk past. Just love them.

My 5-yr old grandson, Jamie, carried this rock from the backyard for me and told me this was his favorite, so I made sure it was in an obvious place under the tree in the front and had a bright little flower right in front of it. Anything to try to build a generational love for rocks and flowers.

I refer to this one as one of my "Rock Stars." The delightful textures don't show well enough in the photo, but it makes me grin every time. I was so excited when the snow melted and I could see this piece of beauty right next to my front steps.

And then, of course, there are daffodils. Lovely, enjoyable, filled with promise and hope for the seasons to come.

My blog posting is usually based on seriously serious or provoking thoughts -- not this time.

Wanted to share the following:



Tuesday, April 6, 2010


For most Ugandans a taxi park is a normal part of life, but Westerners rarely have this “wonderful” experience; I hadn’t done it for several years. I arrived at the park in the blazing afternoon heat after spending three hours in transit, beginning with a walk, then a very uncomfortable ride on the back of a bicycle, followed by a 10-mile hot and dusty motorbike ride. Finally, I was ensconced in a matatu and finished my intense jaunt to Kampala.
Not only emotionally and physically exhausted from ministry in a refugee portion of Uganda, unbeknownst to me, I was in the beginning phase of malaria. I plowed through the crowd, juggling around my heavy duffle and my bulky backpack. I knew when I reached the street I could find a ride to a hotel. However, I felt totally overwhelmed, not sure I could make it.

At that very moment, a young teen stepped up and asked if I wanted a “special hire”(a non-public taxi) and I said I did. He said “We'll find and I'll carry.” He reached for my bag. I told him “I don't have any ‘small’.” (I had no money for a tip.) In spite of this, he took my bag and said he didn't want money. I was absolutely stunned and couldn’t believe him. Even though he was slightly built and my duffle was very heavy, I was nearly certain that when we reached the park’s exit, an accomplice would grab the bag from him and make a run for it; consequently, as hampered as I was by the crowd and the heavy back pack, I rushed along, carefully keeping him in view. Amazingly, he was faithful. When we reached the street, he said he would find a special hire and asked me how much I would pay. I said 7,000// [Uganda shillings]. He said, "You can get for 5,000//.” Another miracle – even if he could have hired a taxi for 5,000//, it would have been normal that he tell me it was 7,000// and pocket the difference. Then he asked, “Do you know why I am helping you? My Pastor said we should bless our elders and God would bless us.” I nearly cried on the spot. I felt God’s hands encompass me with His gentle and very timely care.

Joseph found a car, arranged the fee, and escorted me to the hotel. At the reception desk, bending to retrieve my passport from my backpack, I started to faint. Seated in the lounge, resting, My Angel sat near me, watching with great concern. A little later, able to change larger bills into some smaller denominations, I paid the driver. Then I gave Joseph 2,000// (four times more than what I would have paid at the park), which he tried to decline. I said, “You said God would bless you for helping. He is.”

I had many adventures in Uganda, some very difficult and sad and some very funny. But among the most wonderful was this amazing encounter with Joseph, my Taxi Park Angel.

To see posts on Gentleness blog carnival

Thursday, April 1, 2010


When Adam and Eve sinned and God instructed them to kill animals for skins to cover them, God did not shrug off the loss of life. The animals were His creation — maybe not His PRIZE creation, but still the work of His creative voice.

Similarly, God did not, through the Law given to Moses, blithely assign the death of bulls, goats, sheep, and doves. He did not set the rules in place for covering sin and walk away. Each animal was ritually sacrificed to maintain the constant awareness of sin and sin’s resulting death. The heart of God, always viewing the sacrifices with the forward vision towards Christ and His death to redeem man from sin, experienced pain as their Creator.

The pain attached to the death of God’s Son, the ULTIMATE sacrifice, was a culmination of all the centuries – all the millennia – of representative sacrifice.

Can my head even begin to “go there”? The totality of the pain is unexpressible. It makes the sacrifice of Christ even more poignant as the Father’s extreme climactic, accumulated pain was manifest in the rending of the veil.*

Sacrifice –
Striking the throat
of bull, lamb, dove, or goat.

God –
Searing pain –
A daily refrain.

Christ –
Accepting life’s loss,
Faced the cross.

Redeemed Man –
Viewed Eternity’s Rift;
Received God’s Gift.

* A Messianic Christian friend once said that when a Jewish father heard of the death of a son, he tore his garment from top to bottom in grief; he had been taught that the temple veil was torn top to bottom to express God’s grief at the loss of His Son. I am aware of different understandings/ interpretations; however, a multi-faceted God can most certainly have multi-faceted meanings to these critical events.