Ever watch the TV show “American Idol?” Me, too, when I have some free time. But this morning, something about the show’s title caused me to look at life differently. Perhaps you can relate.
Let’s say that I’m in a rush. I’m late and I’m supposed to be at a meeting in ten minutes. “Not now, honey. Outta my way!” “Oh, no! You’re all sticky, Susie. Mommy can’t kiss you when you’re all sticky and I’m ready to leave.” “No, Johnny, Daddy doesn’t have time to talk with you right now. Listen, we’ll try to talk later tonight. I’ll try to get home before you go to bed. Okay?”
Uh, no, that is not okay. Not by a long shot.
I hear it all the time. Women who wonder where the passion in their marriage went. Men who wonder why their relationship with their wife is not fulfilling. Parents who wonder why their kids are disrespectful to them. Children who wonder why their parents don’t love them.
Want to have a close relationship with your spouse or your children? Then have a real relationship with them. Don’t treat them like they are obstacles thrown in your path. Don’t delay listening to what they want to tell you. Don’t treat them like they aren’t as important as your job or, well, things.
Spend time with your spouse and children. Every day. What’s that you say? You just don’t have that much time!
Let’s play pretend. Do you mind? Indulge me for a moment, please. Let’s say that your spouse and children seem to have a knack for getting in your way when you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities. Which – because you’re a mom or a dad – is all of the time. Grrr!
They want to talk to you – probably about a problem they are having – but you need to put your makeup on, shove papers in your briefcase, grab the car keys and leave for your appointment. And you’re already late. How f-r-u-s-t-r-a-t-i-n-g!
What’s wrong with them? Why are they always bothering you when you’re in the middle of something?! Gosh. Don’t they know how busy you are?!
Now, let’s pretend that after you push your spouse away once again and brush the kids off once more, they leave the house together and are all killed instantly in a horrible accident. Do I have your attention? Thought so.
Now that your family is permanently gone from your life and you are all alone, how would you view your life with them?
Would their interruptions seem so frustrating to you now?
Would you gladly set aside time to talk with them?
What would you give to have your crying child reach out to you for comfort?
Would you kiss that sticky face and not mind?
Would you make your spouse and children your top priority?
People get so caught up with mindless, silly stuff that they forget about life. That’s right. They forget what’s truly important in life. It’s not the job, the kids’ soccer practices or your bunco group. It’s the people whom God has placed in our lives who are most important.
If a person lives long enough, what do they remember at the end of their life? Not their job promotions or their raises. Not their clubs or favorite TV shows. No, people remember those who loved them, those who paid attention to them, those who spent time with them, those who shared their faith with them.
God has given you a wonderful spouse. Pay attention to them. Let them know how important they are to you. Say “I love you” – don’t make them guess it. Then watch the romance that had faded away reignite.
The Lord has blessed you with children! Beautiful children. Not robots that run on batteries. Children who will be there for you when you’re old if you give them the love and attention they need to flourish now.
One look through either the Old or New Testament shows us that God loves relationships. Not idols. You see, God always knew that idols can’t express love or commitment. To put it another way, relationships with idols are one-way.
In the blink of an eye, your life on this earth will be over. Don’t delay love. Banish the idols. Forever.
Adore your spouse. Cherish your children. While you still can.
“Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:8a.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011
I want to thank everyone who read “True Americans” as well as those who re-posted the article on their Face Book accounts. Thank you also for asking others to read the article.
I humbly thank each person who took the time to contact me via telephone, email, blog comments, Face Book comments and private messages. To say I am overwhelmed by the number of readers and responses is an understatement.
I am not a Patriot like Colonel Kelly, George Washington or the multitudes of other Americans who have taken a stand for our country since the 1700’s.
But what I am is a Christian woman who was brought up to love our country deeply and passionately. I was taught the stories of what it really took to separate the Colonies from the Crown. I’ve read the letters describing the Civil War that were written by my g-g-g-uncle who served in the Union Army. I listened intently to my uncles and cousins and neighbors describe the battles they fought in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. None of it was pretty or easy. But someone needed to do it.
I also know that what a person deeply loves can be lost. Sometimes forever. And I won’t let my beloved country slip through the cracks without doing what I can do to help save it.
Some people, like Colonel Kelly and George Washington, can do a lot. Perhaps I can only do a little. Doing nothing cannot be an option. Even Young David knew he had a responsibility when he observed Goliath taunt the Israelite army!
So what can an average joe do?
Can you talk? Can you keyboard? In today’s world, that’s the equivalent of picking up your long rifle or musket!
Locate the name, address, phone number and email address of your U.S. senator by going to: www.senate.gov/. To get the same information for your U.S. representative, go to www.house.gov/. To obtain the contact information for your state representatives, simply Google the name of your state and representative (for example, “Virginia state representative”). Call or write. Do both. But do something. And do it with decorum and dignity.
Perhaps you would like to politely tell them how you want them to vote on upcoming issues. Or tell them in a mannerly way what you think of their voting record. Or whatever it is that you feel strongly about. Always be respectful. For you are a representative of Christ.
But above all, pray for our country. Pray daily without fail. God is Sovereign. He is the One in charge. George Washington knew this and He never started his day without talking to God. Nor did he ever undertake any situation without first seeking out the Lord.
You see, someday your children and grandchildren will ask you what you did during the difficulties our nation faced.
Will you look at the ground and tell them that you did nothing because you expected others to do something?
Or will your face glow with pride as you tell the little ones and young people how you did all that you reasonably could?
You choose the example that you set.
As for me, I have a legacy to continue. While I cannot take a long rifle and go to war, while I cannot stand in the face of musket balls and cannon balls and chop down a bridge, I can talk and I can write and I can encourage others to do the same. And I can pray daily to God and ask Him to be the Guide of our country.
What say ye?
I vow to thee, my country – all earthly things above –
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.
Words: Cecil A. Spring-Rice
Music: Gustav T. Holst
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
Sometimes I just don’t know what to do. Should I speak up or be quiet? Should I let someone else do the work or should I step forward?
Sometimes, if I am to be honest with you, I ascertain what the cost will be to myself if I engage in a particular activity. What is the risk? The price I will pay?
You see, the older I get, the less inclined I am to participate in challenging situations. It’s easier for me to be complacent.
My pride takes over and I justify my lack of involvement by believing that I’ve already done my part. Let someone else do the work, I think to myself.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but half the time it doesn’t even occur to me to pray about the situation.
Am I describing you, too? Oh, dear.
I’m reminded frequently of a man who didn’t think like this. My inclination to slink away from an issue would embarrass him.
He would not be proud of me. And knowing that I would dishonor him spurs my conscience into life.
John Kelly’s parents died when he was still a teenager. He could have thrown his hands up and claimed that he had gotten a bad deal, that someone owed him something. Heaven knows, we’ve all seen people do that.
In 1769, he took his inheritance and moved into the Pennsylvania wilderness where he purchased land and married Sarah Poak.
The property was heavily forested and with only hand tools and a steely determination, John gradually cleared enough land for him to farm.
John and Sarah were happy. They loved and worshipped the Lord, and He blessed them with a good marriage, healthy children and a prosperous farm.
One day, John heard rumblings from his neighbors. I can picture him, jaw clenched, listening to the reports of trouble. He kept quiet, though, and continued working his land.
The rumblings from the East got louder and John could no longer sit on the sidelines. You see, everything he knew and loved was at stake: his land, his country, his way of life. The stakes were high.
Either he took a personal stand or he risked losing all he had at the hands of other people.
John picked up his Pennsylvania long rifle and kissed Sarah and the little ones. Sarah held the baby in her arms as she and the children watched him walk away, not knowing if he would ever return to them. But knowing that he had to go.
John traveled to Philadelphia where he was a member of the Constitutional Convention. At the close of the convention, John joined the Revolutionary War Militia. He was a natural leader and was soon commissioned a Major. The Militia and the Continental Army spent a wretched winter at Valley Forge. The place where American men, freezing and starving, boiled shoe leather for food. John was there.
The fate of the new country lay in the hands of General George Washington, the Militia and the Continental Army. If they failed to defeat the British Army, every American’s hope of independence from England would be gone.
And the Militia and Continental officers? Hung. For treason. By the British Crown. Talk about pressure.
George Washington’s response? That is, his usual daily response, was to focus on Almighty God. Washington knew that God was the One in charge. That he served God and not himself or anyone else. Many people in the American Colonies at that time shared the same belief. A regular church-goer, John Kelly shared the same belief in God and His Sovereignty.
On Christmas Night, 1776, Major John Kelly climbed into one of the boats on the bank of the icy Delaware River with General Washington and the other soldiers.
Before they even crossed the treacherous river, a fierce winter storm pounded them with sleet and snow. Once across, the wet men marched all night in bitter temperatures to Trenton.
John fought at both battles at Trenton and distinguished himself during the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777. Upon reaching Princeton, Washington and his men engaged in battle with a unit of British soldiers. The main British Army, led by General Cornwallis, was enroute to Princeton at the time.
Only a wooden bridge that crossed the flooded Stony Brook stood between Cornwallis’ men and the Americans. John and the men assigned to him were ordered to chop down that bridge.
If Cornwallis’ group crossed that bridge, Washington’s smaller army wouldn’t have had much, if any, of a chance. The entire American Revolution could have been finished right there at Princeton. And every man present knew it.
When the British fired bullets and cannon balls at the men on the bridge, John’s men ran away.
But John stayed. He had a responsibility. To George Washington. To the American military. To his fledgling country. To his family. To himself. To God.
While the British fired everything they had at the bridge, John stood alone on it with an axe. As he chopped the last timber on the bridge, a cannon ball landed near John and he fell into the swollen Stony Brook Creek. He was swept away by the swift, icy current.
Some of his men saw his body float downstream, but they could not go after him. The battle required that they stay and fight.
Besides, they knew that if the bullets and cannon fire hadn’t killed Major Kelly, the fast-moving freezing water certainly would. No one could survive that.
No one without a faith, that is. But by God’s grace, John not only survived, he managed to capture a British soldier on his way back to the Americans.
At the end of the Battle of Princeton, John Kelly was promoted to Colonel, and was asked to return to the central part of Pennsylvania to fight the British and Indian uprisings. This was where John’s farm was located.
Things were awful at home, John discovered. Friends and neighbors had been brutally massacred and those who had survived were living in utter terror. John put his wife and little children in a boat and sent them down the Susquehanna River to the safety of Philadelphia.
Some would argue that John had done enough, that it would be alright if he let someone else take over.
Who would speak badly of him if he chose to do no more?
But the job wasn’t finished. The Colonel wouldn’t quit. He stood his ground, even though the British and Indians sought to kill him, and fought to protect the area’s settlers. On those occasions when he and the Militia arrived too late, they buried the dead, many of them his friends.
It is said that John Kelly would never ask another to do what he himself could do.
When the Revolutionary War ended, Colonel John Kelly returned to his farm and resumed his life with Sarah and their children. He sat in Pew 33 of the Buffalo Crossroads Presbyterian Church, and served for many years as a magistrate in his county. When he died, the entire area knew they had lost a great man. A true American man.
I like to visit Colonel Kelly’s grave. I often take my daughter, Megan Kelly, and I am always acutely aware of the man I’m descended from and the legacy that continues in me and my children. My daughter understands the solemn responsibility of bearing his name. My son understands that he, too, has a responsibility to continue supporting the God-fearing country that the Colonel played a part in starting.
When I watch the news and see the shape our precious country is in, I wonder who will step to the plate to help our nation get out of this mess.
Should I sit here and say nothing? Do nothing? Should I call or email my representatives in Washington and my state legislators in Richmond and tell them what I think about their decisions? Or should I let someone else do that?
Someone else will do that, won’t they?
Perhaps I should talk with others and encourage them to be vocal, to use their rights as an American citizen to be heard. But I could offend someone. I could make myself look bad if I spoke out. Well, that didn’t seem to be a worry for Colonel Kelly or George Washington or their contemporaries.
Should I wait for someone else to speak?
Someone else will speak, right? I mean, the right people will come forward. Won’t they?
And God. Will God shine His face on our country again? Because, unlike in the Colonel’s time, I don’t see God’s importance and sovereignty being proclaimed. I don’t see our leaders praying and focusing on God first.
After God gave the promised land to the Israelites, they eventually turned their backs on Him. And their misery began.
God could do that here. Perhaps He’s already started.
Photograph of Col. John Kelly Historical Marker ©Cynthia Howerter
I used to listen to women talk about their mothers-in-law. I heard them speak about going to lunch together. How they took cooking classes together. The way they planned family holiday dinners together. And I always felt so left out.
You see, my own mother-in-law was a person who had favorites. And I wasn’t one of them.
One day, my heart so broken, I asked God to send me a new mother-in-law. Someone who would love me. Someone who would find value in me. Someone who would want to do things with me.
“Oh, and God, don’t get rid of Tim (my husband). I just want a new mother-in-law – not a new husband.” I didn’t know how God was going to pull this one off, but I had every confidence in Him. “And one more thing, God: hurry. Please. From what I hear, I’m missing out big-time.”
What a tall order, huh? Well, I had a big need. I prayed a lot, but an entire year went by, and no new mother-in-law appeared.
Ever notice how slowly God answers some prayers? Well, don’t give up on Him. When He doesn’t answer right away, it just means He’s working behind the scenes.
One day, out of the blue. Oh, come on. Who am I kidding?! With God, there is no out of the blue! My phone rang and it was Jean, the mother of Patty, one of my husband’s childhood friends. Jean and Patty had lived on the same street as Tim’s family, and Jean was like an aunt to Tim. Jean had never called me before. So why was she calling now?
“Did I have time to talk?” she asked. I half-whispered an “Uh huh.”
“Well, honey, I just wanted to say that I think of you and Tim often. I’ve known Tim since he was a baby, you know. Because you two live so far away now, I thought it would be nice for you to know that Patty and I miss you both.”
Jean had such a soothing voice. I could have listened to her talk all day. And she had a gift for conversation. She knew just how to draw me in and make me feel good. When she was ready to hang up, she asked if she could call back in a few days.
That was the start of it. Jean kept her word and called back several days later. We talked and talked. We began calling each other frequently and soon learned that we had so much in common.
She asked me to come see her and I traveled five hours to do so. We talked and laughed and went to lunch and dinner together. We sat on her lovely shaded porch and talked for hours.
On 9/11, my mother and I spent the entire day with Jean at her house. We were glued to the television as we watched horror unfold in our country. I had brought my mom to Jean’s so we could celebrate both of their birthdays. Instead, we huddled together in Jean’s family room for hours. Although we spoke very little that day, we felt comfort in being with each other.
Jean had traveled all over the world. She and I oohed and aahed over her photographs. Her stories of adventures in foreign lands were mesmerizing. She gave me a photo of her riding an elephant in the jungles of Thailand. She was in her 70’s at the time. The picture continues to inspire me to keep reaching, to keep growing no matter what my age or circumstances.
She wrote beautiful letters to me telling me how much she loved me, how I’d brought joy to her life, how proud she was of me.
My daughter, too, had felt a void. If only she could have two grandmothers like her friends. I took Megan with me to visit Jean and my daughter was quickly smitten with her. From that time on, she was “Grandma Jean” to Megan.
One day I realized that Jean had been handpicked for Megan and me. You see, the Master Himself had carefully selected her. God knew that Jean had a tremendous gift for filling voids.
The love and joy and devotion that she has brought to our lives can never be measured. And no one could ever take her place. She is the perfect mother-in-law. My lovely, wonderful mother-in-law.
Jean always says that we are making memories in whatever we do or say.
Jean turned 91 years old on September 3. Make that years young. Someone like Jean never really ages; they just become more precious.
God, I knew You were up to the task. Thank you.
Who has a void that you can fill? Ask God to show you. And when he does, don’t be afraid to reach out.
“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011