Monthly Archives: July 2016

Miracles of Living Hope: The Drug Deal

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma Kenya could not happen without God.  She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows.  Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways, even when she didn’t believe he would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us. “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with these true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

photo credit elab.emerson.edu

photo credit elab.emerson.edu

Murunga’s Story: The Drug Deal

Murunga had one dream: to go to High School.  He’d worked hard every year in primary school and graduated from 8th Grade with top honors.  Despite all he had accomplished; his family was not able to meet the costs for him to attend 9th grade.  His mother had passed away and his father had sold all their property to support his drinking habit.  Having families and problems of their own, his brothers were also unable to furnish the money he needed.

The yearning Murunga had to go to high school did not diminish.  He not only longed to attend; he knew he needed to attend to live the successful life he dreamed of. If money was what was standing between Murunga and school, then he would find a way to get the money.

With 8th grade graduation behind him and the goal of attending high school in front of him, Murunga became a “Boda Boda” ….a motorcycle taxi driver. Because he kept his bike clean and in good shape and he never ran out of gas, Murunga built a regular customer base.  He worked long hours for little pay.  On the rare occasion that he was given a little extra money for the ride, he bought one thing he knew he’d need for school:  a pencil, a notebook, a small can of shoe polish. Each precious item was put in his “faith box” hidden beneath his bed.

Despite Murunga’s hard work and belief that he would one day be a high school student, two years passed. Discouragement began to set in and waiting became almost more than he could bear. One day, a man from the village approached Murunga and offered him the job of being the transporter in a drug deal.  It sounded easy.  All he had to do was carry a box of drugs, worth more money than Murunga could imagine, from point A to point B. He knew it was wrong, but it was the only way he could see to get the money he needed for school.  He decided to take the risk and do it.

In preparation for the transport, he drove his motorcycle down to the filling station.  As he gassed up, Pastor Martin, a teacher at Living Hope High School, pulled in to the pump right next to Murunga.  Both were from the same area so Pastor Martin was well aware of Murunga’s family situation.  He struck up a conversation with him and as they talked, Pastor Martin told Murunga about Living Hope and that there was one spot left open in the Freshman class. The words rang in Murunga’s ears and his chest felt tight.  After what seemed like an eternity to Murunga, Pastor Martin said the words he longed to hear. He asked him if he’d be interested in filling that spot and become a Freshman at Living Hope High School. Without realizing it, Murunga had been holding his breath.  As air escaped between his lips, he remembered that the drug deal was to take place in less than two hours.  Once the delivery was completed, he’d be paid a large sum of money: more than he could have ever hoped for!

The promise of money did not compare with the desire Murunga had to attend high school.  He’d waited so long for this moment to come and so, without hesitation, he accepted.  Before they headed off to Living Hope, Murunga had one stop to make.  Pastor Martin followed him home.

Yes, God works in strange ways.  Murunga would have risked everything, even his life, had he completed the drug deal. He hadn’t seen any other way until in the eleventh hour God stepped in and saved him. The waiting was over. With hands shaking in excitement, he pulled the cardboard box from under his bed. For two years he’d faithfully collected supplies he knew he’d someday use at school. Once the cargo was loaded on the back of Murunga’s motorcycle, the two, teacher and student, began the journey down the road to a brighter future.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Marilyn’s sister, Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254

Looking for a Sign

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

Blurred vision. That’s what I dealt with yesterday, after my eyes were dilated at the Optometrist’s office. Note to self:  don’t plan to pick up a prescription after an eye appointment! Trying to decipher the small print proved to be a challenge.  I squinted, held it out as far as my arm would stretch away from me, and squinted again; it was still hazy.  Finally, the kind clerk read to me what I needed to know so I could move on. (We won’t talk about what my signature looked like as I checked out.)

It occurs to me that I was having trouble seeing clearly long before my eye exam. Can I let you in on a little secret? I don’t like to make mistakes, let someone down, not measure up…as if you didn’t already know that.  So, when it comes time to make a big decision: change jobs? retire? take on a project?   I look at it up close, far away, and from many different angles. When the answer still seems obscured from my view, I want God to send me a sure sign I’m not making the wrong choice and clear the way for me to proceed. 

In the midst of all the house decisions we’ve needed to make, I’ve prayed for a sign. Not just ANY sign, mind you. Because our beautiful tree must come down; I’ve prayed:  “God, if tearing down our house and putting in this modular is what you want us to do, (1) while we’re not here, (2) create a wind so strong, (3) it knocks over the pine tree, (4) but don’t let it hurt anyone or set the house on fire!” 

Did you happen to notice that I didn’t just ask God to show me the way; I told Him where, when, what, and how! Wait! What? I TOLD HIM? Needless to say, our tree is still standing.  Tell me I’m not alone in wanting what I want, when I want it! Oh, I can be so short-sighted!

I believe that God sends us signs all the time; unfortunately, like me, we are often looking for something of our own making or understanding.

“But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;  He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)

I’m pretty sure that those waiting for a sign that the Messiah had arrived, never expected it to be cloths covering an infant! In a manger yet!  They were watching for grandeur and might, kind of like a giant pine tree falling to the ground. Because of their “blurred vision”, many missed God’s greatest gift. How often are we too, blind to the signs that lead to His gifts for us? 

My sight returned to normal later the evening of my exam and I’m beginning to “see” a little more clearly today, too; that life is going to constantly be full of different kinds of decisions. We may not  always be able to perceive the way to go, but when we focus on the most important Sign: the Baby wrapped in swaddling cloths; we can trust, that with “20/20 vision” He’ll guide us to the cross, through life, and all the way home. 

Joining others looking for “Signs” this week at http://www.tsuzanneeller.com

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M’m! M’m! Monday 7/18/16

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

Today I’m lost without ever leaving home.  My sense of direction, dulled; I find myself aimlessly floating between the past, present, and what’s yet to come. Wayward, I drift on the rising and falling   tide of “what ifs” and “why nots”…. leading me only farther from where I need to be. 

Yes, I’m adrift on the sea of woe is me.  Ever been there? It’s a much too familiar place where my blessings feel obscured, as if swallowed by the fog.  And my wants?  They seem far out of reach; just minute dots on the distant horizon. Sucked into the whirlpool of my own churning thoughts, the me I want to be, is missing.

SEND OUT THE LIFEBOAT!!!!!

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see.”  John Newton, 1779

Join me in singing those words over to yourself a few times.  They remind me that whenever we feel lost…lost in grief, in sickness, in conflict, in worry, in fear, or even in our own self-centered thoughts; Grace. Is. Our. Way. Home.

Sometimes, like today for me, it feels like the person we want to be is nowhere to be found. Isn’t it reassuring that we’re not navigating this journey alone? We have each other to hold on to, inspired music and writings to keep us on track, and the amazing assurance that we’re never too lost that we can’t be found by the One who leads the way!

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he finds it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.” Luke 15:4-5 (NLT)

Days like today just require comfort food so I’m sharing with you one of my very favorites!

Peach Crunch

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sliced, ripe peaches
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups oatmeal (I use old fashioned but quick works too)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbls. butter or margarine, melted
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg

Instructions

  • Spray Pam in a 9 x 13 dish.
  • Spread the sliced peaches over the bottom of the prepared dish.
  • Sprinkle peaches with white sugar and a little cinnamon.
  • In a bowl, mix together oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, salt and melted butter. (I use a fork)
  • Pour crunch mixture on top of fruit, spreading evenly.
  • Sprinkle a little nutmeg over the top - if you prefer, you can leave it off (I love nutmeg!)
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes until fruit is bubbly and crunch is golden brown.
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Comfort at its best! Yummm!

Comfort at its best! Yummm!

This is my Grandma Stevens’ recipe that we tweeked by doubling the crunch.  It works well with apples in the fall, too! Serve warm with ice cream or my preferred way….with milk!  Makes any day better! Enjoy!

 

M’m! M’m! Mmmmm-uesday!

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

So, me and this Monday thing are just not working out! Somehow I keep missing it!  Retirement’s to blame, I think.  It’s taken a while but, I’ve finally reached the point where Sunday night stress doesn’t set in anymore and so…. I now hardly recognize Monday. (I’m sorry to all you young working people out there. Don’t worry I remember what it’s like and it makes not getting up to go to work everyday oh, so much sweeter! Don’t despair! It’s what you have to look forward to!)

I’m excited to report that one of  the last members in my circle of teacher friends retired in June! Now we are all hoping to spend a lot more time together…..OUTSIDE of school! Between us, we have well over 200 years of teaching experience.  That’s a lot of lesson plans and hours supporting each other through tears, laughter, frustration, achievement, sickness, health, bad days, good days, bad years, and good years. We’ve been sounding boards, cheerleaders, advocates, listening ears, and so much more for each other. Anyway, now it doesn’t matter if it’s a weekday or the weekend; we are overjoyed that we can get together whenever we want to!

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Whether you’re retired like us, close enough to be counting down the days, or just starting out; don’t forget to “rejoice”!  It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday of life (even for us retired folk) that we miss out on the everyday of life. I’m speaking from experience so listen to your elder……Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, trying. Yes, sad, scary, and hard! It’s also short. Don’t. Forget. To. Rejoice. Dinner with your family, a call from your mom, reading a bedtime story, a hug, a touch, a rainbow, a car that works, pets, a dishwasher, and a million other things!

Yep, I missed posting on Monday, BUT I’m not going to miss out on finding reasons to rejoice no matter WHAT day it is!  And for starters, here’s a delicious reason! In honor of my dear friend’s retirement, I’m going to share one of her recipes that’s also one of my favorites! Enjoy and….I’d love for you to go to the comments section and let me know what you’re rejoicing in today!

Robin Ann's Squash Casserole

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of yellow summer squash, cubed
  • Small-medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of Minute Rice (uncooked)
  • 1 can Cream of Celery Soup
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
  • Grated cheddar cheese to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook squash and onion in a small amount of water until soft.
  • Drain excess water. (I leave a little in)
  • In a bowl, mix together rice, soups, and squash/onion mixture.
  • Put in a 9 X 13 greased pan.
  • Top with cheese.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes.
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This is a perfect recipe for this time of year as the Summer Squash are ready to pick right now!  I’ve thought about adding ham to this recipe but haven’t tried it yet.  We just had it as a side dish with grilled steak and fresh strawberries! Did I mention REJOICE?

The Qualities of Salt

 

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 (NIV)

I’m a sucker for a happy ending.  Whether it’s a Hallmark commercial, a video of a soldier surprising their family, or a sappy movie; you can bet I’ll cry.  Last night, there was no doubt this is true.  Curled up on the couch, I got lost in a movie I’d recorded. In the last minutes of the story, all the problems were solved, the characters were going to live happily ever after, and tears trickled down my cheeks gathering at the corners of my mouth.  Their brininess remained on my tongue even after I’d visited the tissue box. Why do you think God filled our tears with salt? I don’t know what the answer is, but it did get me thinking. (Oh boy, hold on!)

“Salt is good for seasoning.  But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

Mark 9:50 (NLT)

Have the “qualities of salt”? Now that’s something you don’t hear everyday! What are they? Do I have them? Do you?

One thing I know for sure about salt is – I love it! Probably too much…. but it just makes almost everything taste better! So, maybe we need to shake things up by adding good flavor to a world where many things are happening that leave a bad taste in our mouths. By infusing God’s love into every relationship, situation, and challenge; we have the opportunity to enhance each experience and maybe even cause others to want more!

Thinking back to my days teaching Second Grade, our Pioneers unit was always a highlight.  In that, we learned that having no refrigeration meant the people who lived long ago had to salt their meat to keep it from rotting. Salt not only adds flavor to things, it also preserves them. It makes sense then, that we are to act as a “cure” that protects traits like common sense, respect, honesty, kindness, and integrity.  I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look today, whether  on Facebook, TV, Twitter, or in the newspaper, I see a world in decay.  Instead of worrying or ignoring what seems overwhelming, like salt; we need to make it our goal  to season the world with peace, prayer, and the Good News of Jesus as a way to lead others to the One True Way of preservation.

Have you ever thought about all the ways salt can be used? I hadn’t until now. It reminds me of summers, when I was growing up. They were filled with swimming in the lake, catching fireflies, and making homemade ice-cream on the cottage porch. We took turns churning. It took a while and it wasn’t easy, but it would have taken a lot longer if it weren’t for the addition of salt to the ice to help it melt more quickly. And, at least around here; salt is put on winter roads to keep them from freezing and becoming dangerous. Let’s face it, we don’t always get a happy ending.  Life. Is. Hard.  It often leads us down the slippery slope of despair and that can lead to icy, cold hearts.  Maybe as “the salt of the earth” we are to find ways to make life and hearts just a little softer. Smile more. Give more. Help more. Listen more. Love more. Pray more.

I definitely don’t think I’m salty enough… yet. I’ve got some work to do. So, maybe that’s the answer I’ve been looking for. Why did God make our tears salty? To remind us, in good times and bad, to continue to become a person who possesses the qualities of salt, to live in peace with one another, and to freely pour out our flavor wherever we are. If everyone would do that, it WOULD be a happy ending! (cue the tears…)

Linking up with #livefreeThursday (I know, late again) . Suzi’s prompt this week was “salt”. You can read more here http://www.tsuzanneeller.com

 

 

 

 

M’m! M’m! Monday 7/4/16

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

Last week we were just thinking about the Fourth of July and now here we are!  My weekend didn’t turn out quite as we had planned.  It’s disappointing how easily I get out of whack when MY plans don’t work out the way I’d hoped.  (Cue the sad violin music) I sigh, (loudly) I boo hoo, (pitifully), I grumble about how it’s not fair, and… I. Feel. Sorry. For. Myself!  I am such an Israelite!

 The Israelite people were living a life in slavery. Through Moses, God saved them. To do this, they’d walked across the dry bed of the Red Sea, followed a light at night and a cloud in the day to guide them to safety, manna fell from Heaven to satisfy their hunger, and water poured from a rock to quench their thirst. They’d witnessed miracle after miracle, grace after grace, and what did they do in return? Felt. Sorry. For. Themselves. And just like me, they grumbled!

“Moses also said, “you will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we?  You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” Exodus 16:8 (NIV)

“Grumbling against the Lord”…..Yikes!  It’s so easy for me to invite myself to that pity party, dance with my disappointment, and never once think that I’m grumbling against the One who saved ME!  The Israelites pity-partied on for way too long and it didn’t turn out so great for them. Pretty sure there’s a lesson here for me! Please tell me, I’m not alone!

It’s time for me to establish a no grumble zone and instead look at all my blessings! So, our weekend didn’t go according to plan…. we still got some jobs done that we’ve been avoiding, had an unexpected visit with our son, daughter-in-love, and granddogs, and have had some much needed down time, too. Manna from Heaven for sure! 

Our weather didn’t really cooperate today for our traditional Fourth of July grilled hot dogs either. No worries though, I pulled out my Fancy Hot Dog recipe, instead. Super quick, easy, and the best part? No grumbling! Enjoy!

Fancy Hotdogs

Ingredients

  • 1 package of hotdogs (I've used Oscar Mayer and Ball Park)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

Instructions

  • Cut hotdogs into quarters.
  • In a saucepan, combine ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar.
  • Add hotdogs and simmer 15-30 minutes.
  • This recipe can be easily doubled and also fixed in a crockpot!
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