Monday, July 20, 2015

WHAT WOULD THEY SAY?

If the patriarchs and saints of old who are familiar to us through Scripture could step down from the grandstand of heaven, what wisdom would they share?

        I've often wondered. Have you? If you are a believer, what would you like to share with others? Witnessing and evangelizing can be scary words which sometimes make us feel a bit uneasy. In reality, all you need to do is share what God has been teaching you, and experiences you've had that have stimulated and sealed your faith. I believe that the apostle Peter said this very well. . .

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have."  I Peter 3:15

        It can be a struggle to keep the pieces of our lives where we think they belong. We want to create a perfect picture that we can see and understand. As soon as the puzzle is in good shape, a piece falls out of place, than another and another. STOP! Stop this mess! When we calm down, we come to realize that even though we are a child of God, we live in a fallen world and we can't expect perfection. Among the promises Jesus made is this one. . .

"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

        Notice Jesus didn't tell us to get stressed out, work harder, try new things, etc. NO, He said to expect trouble, and to "take heart" because He has already done the work and overcome the world. We are tucked into His life, secure and safe. If my audience was primarily teenagers, I might ask, "How cool is this?" What does overcome mean? If we look at the Greek, we see it comes from the work  'Nikao' which means to subdue, conquer, prevail, get the victory. The primary word is Nike - think of the swoosh on the Nike tennis shoe - literally, means of success. This company picked a great logo for what they wanted us to think of as a way to conquer and enjoy victory.

        I've been reading a book of stories written by those who attend a Bible Study for seniors. Mysteries, espionage or wild adventures, although fun to read, can never compete with the thrilling real-life experiences that believers share. How blessed friends and relatives will be when they read these stories; what a wonderful gift to leave for those you love. I noticed that only first names were used; all the glory of our lives belongs to the Lord.

        When I share or teach, my desire is for others to be able to view themselves through God's eyes and know they are loved, forgiven, righteous, enabled, without shame and one day will sit at the banquet table with their Creator!

        Recently a young woman wrote me that the last thing she wanted was to have an "ordinary life." Those who have a relationship with Jesus never have an ordinary life. He plans things for us that our human minds could never conceive. Paul wrote. . .

"No eye has seen,
     no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
    what God has prepared for
          those who love him."

I Corinthians 2:9


Lord Jesus, we praise You and thank for our life in You.

       

Thursday, July 2, 2015

SIX IMPORTANT INGREDIENTS FOR A HAPPY LIFE

A neighbor sent me an e-mail several weeks ago that contains profound truth. The more I pondered these elements of truth, the more convinced I became that they are crucial to living a happy, contented life. What do you think? Often we need to place a word within a 'story' to be able to embrace it's significance. Profound can become very simple.

Once the villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer all the people gathered, but only one boy came with an umbrella.

That's FAITH

When you throw a baby in the air, she (or he) laughs because she knows you will catch her.

That's TRUST

Every night we go to bed without any assurance of being alive the next morning, but still we set the alarm to wake up.

That's HOPE

We plan big things for tomorrow in spite of zero knowledge of the future.

That's CONFIDENCE

We see the world suffering, but still we get married and have children.

That's LOVE

Written on an old man's shirt was this sentence..."I am not 80 years old, I am sweet 16 with 64 years experience."

That's ATTITUDE

Lord, we thank you that you are the one who supplies our faith, that we can place our trust in You, that our hope  is assured in Your promises, and there is no greater love than the love God bestows on His children. Because of all that is true, we can rejoice with an attitude of gratitude for the One who loves us, sustains us, and holds us in the palm of His hand. To Him be the glory!

Friday, June 19, 2015

MEMORIES OF MY FATHER

 


SAYING GOODBYE

       by Bobbe Van Hise
        Written March 2010

"Just minutes ago (December 11, 2001) we received the call; he was gone they said. It shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was. Not today, or tomorrow, not yet. As my husband and I arrived in the parking lot, I was opening the door before the car came to a full stop. I ran toward the nursing facility where my dad had been for several weeks. He had fallen and broken his pelvis while reaching out to keep someone else from falling. It was not surprising to me that one of his last acts was one of kindness.

I ran through the hallway to his room. I wanted to kiss a warm forehead and cheek. I wanted to hold my dad's big warm hand one more time. I didn't want him to slip into coldness. He was just shy of his 89th birthday, and I came to say goodbye."

This is my favorite photo of my dad and me taken before I was a year old in front of the apartment building where we lived in Minneapolis, MN. There seldom is a week that passes, even though he's been gone for many years now, that I don't think of my dad and miss him. He was honest, fair, loving, loyal, responsible, and smart. The best.

Robert Harry Hedin was born on a cold winter day in Chicago, January 18, 1913. His parents, Harry and Ruby, both first generation Swedes, were eighteen years old. They had met in a Lutheran Confirmation class in 1909 when they were fourteen. After my dad was born they lived with my grandma's parents at 3015 Seminary Ave. My dad's grandfather was a cobbler and was able to provide for the family. Very few had much money in those days; everyone just got by. It wasn't until my dad was eight years old that his parents could afford an apartment of their own. A lack of material belongings didn't keep them from having a good time; they found a way. My dad told me once that "everyone was poor". . .and so it was.

Grandpa Harry got a job with Cadillac. He was such a good man. He had a tough life, his father left the family and he helped his mother support his younger brother and sister but he always had a sense of humor and never complained. My dad was born the year that Wrigley Stadium was built and he spent many hours watching the Chicago Cubs play ball. After the games, he stayed to help clean up the mess and got a free ticket to the next game.

They had family, friends, enough food, shelter and lots of love. It was a good life. My dad was very bright and was able to go to a special high school, Lane, for college preparatory students. He rode the 'el', elevated train, for four years back and forth to high school, and another four years to college, Armour College of Engineering (now ITT) where he earned a degree in engineering. He lived at home with his folks until he graduated. He was told he could stay in school as long as his father didn't lose his job - he didn't, in fact Grandpa Harry had a thirty-five year career with GM - Cadillac.

My dad remembers getting only one spanking. He'd hitched his sled to the ice truck one icy-snowy day to get a ride down the street. This was dangerous and absolutely forbidden. My grandpa came home from work early that day and caught him. He learned that behavior has consequences.

After graduating from college, my dad worked in Ohio, then took a job in Minneapolis. He moved into a boarding house where he met my mother. They were married in 1939. When I was about a year old, he took a job in Chicago, and then was transferred to Los Angeles when I was five.

My parents bought their first home in Whittier. I have memories of my dad tying a small tree he had planted to a stake so my cat Boots wouldn't knock it down. That tiny tree almost took over our small backyard. The root system spread under the patio and the tree needed to be removed. My dad remembered how he had nurtured and protected it and was sorry it needed to be removed. This is what fathers, and mothers, do for their children, nurture and protect them until they can stand on their own.

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12

This is the only one of the Ten Commandments that has a promise connected with it. The Hebrew word for 'honour' is kabed and implies more than simply being tolerant which is what we sometimes do, tolerate our parents. The Hebrew word is to 'make weighty', give importance, glorify and promote.

I know not all fathers, or mothers are worthy in our estimation. You didn't choose your parents, God did. He had a reason and purpose for choosing them. Not all children grow up appreciating the life they've been given, sacrifices made, the love, protection and nurturing it takes to grow a child. This is a far from perfect world and some children feel cheated by poor parenting. We're all frail and imperfect; we all need a Savior to make us whole. God picked the father - son relationship to make us aware that this is a natural strong bond of great importance. Jesus could have come to earth as a 'brother', 'uncle', 'friend'. . .but God called Him His Son. Jesus claimed in John 10:30 that "the Father and I are one." Could there be a closer relationship than this?

Children are anxious for validation and approval from their parents. Often they don't realize parents would love also to hear these words spoken, "Good job, I'm proud of you, you did a good thing." Those who demean their folks usually wind up making themselves look bad, not their parents.

Probably one of the best things a father can do for his children is to love their mother. The love and caring my dad showed my mother gave me a feeling of security and that all was 'right' with the world.

The first time I took off with my teen-age date behind the wheel of a car, my dad ran up the driveway and shouted, "You have a precious cargo there!" Embarrassed, yes, but even then, at fifteen, I realized it was a good thing to let this young man know that he should take good care of me.

When my dad was in his late 70's he had extensive heart surgery. They were trying to waken him from the heavy sedation. My mother leaned over him and asked, "Do you know who I am?" My dad's eyes fluttered open, he looked at her and said, "You're the one who's used to me." We knew he'd be okay and were amused by the words he used. He couldn't think of words like, 'my wife' or her name, or even 'mother' which he sometimes called her. . ."the one who's used to me" - perfect description we thought - they'd been married over fifty years.

It was a chilly winter evening in January, 1971 when I heard the doorbell ring about 8:30 at night. I'd just tucked in my three very young children. The events of the past few weeks had left me numb, alone, fearful. I desperately needed to be comforted. God didn't appear to me, but He sent my dad. There he stood on my doorstep and said, "I couldn't think of you by yourself." He could come to me because I was vulnerable, honest and able to share what was happening in my life. Grown children who can't, or won't, do that often feel 'left out', their needs go unfulfilled. And, just like with the Lord, there isn't a 'to-do' list to make us presentable or worthy, we just come and stand before our heavenly Father with all our mess and baggage.

Hebrews 12 has some interesting facts about fathers. This passage, verses 7 - 11 states our human fathers "disciplined us and we respected them for it." It says our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; "but God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness."

When we set about to become parents, we seldom think that God's purpose might be to make us holy, rather than happy. But just as with marriage, the end result is to be brought into 'holiness' through grace, supplied totally by God.

I wish you dads a nice 'Father's Day' and please remember how important you are and the awesome task the Lord has assigned you; it never is over, it never ends.

Thank you Lord, You truly have beautified my life - I live, breathe and have my very being in You...Acts 17:28










Monday, June 1, 2015

HAGAR'S STORY; MOTHER OF ISHMAEL


I might have made the title of this book very long. . .'The God Who Sees Me, Loves Me, Protects Me, Died for Me, Forgives Me, Calls Me His Child. . ."

I could fill the page with words about God; but think you get the idea. I decided to keep it simple. The name is from Hagar's story in Genesis 16. Hagar was part of the household of Abraham and Sarah. God had promised Abraham that his off-spring would number as many as the stars, Genesis 15:5. He and his wife were way past child-bearing years. Ten years had gone by with no off-spring in sight. Like most of us, Abraham decided to help God with His plan instead of waiting for His perfect timing, so he slept with Sarah's servant Hagar who bore him a son, Ishmael. It's important to know that he wasn't a wayward husband; Sarah agreed to this plan.

As you might guess the two women, Sarah and Hagar, couldn't get along. When Hagar got pregnant, Sarah was jealous and mistreated her. Hagar ran away. Did you think the heroes of the Bible were good and perfect people? No, they weren't, they were just like we are; flawed and imperfect. This is why we all need a Savior. When Hagar was out in the desert alone, afraid, not knowing where she'd find refuge or to whom she belonged, the incarnate Christ met her there. She recognized Him, God in the flesh. Whenever God has appeared to man it's been in the body of Jesus. They, God and Jesus, are one in the same.

"I and the Father are one."  John 10: 10

I love the words that came from the mouth of Hagar -

"She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." Genesis 16:13

God directed Hagar to go back to Abraham's home. He had a plan and these two women were not able to disrupt it. Try as we might, we aren't able to disrupt God's plan for us either. I can imagine that life was very different after the Lord spoke to Hagar. She and Sarah probably weren't the best of friends, but now she knew that God Himself loved her and would protect her.

Not much has changed. When we have a relationship with the Living Lord, the struggle we face becomes bearable. When we understand that He is directing His ultimate plan from above, we can be at peace, even when something doesn't look 'right' to us. As we bring the Word of God into our daily life, the calmness and confidence we desire will come. Soon, we'll see God's hand on every aspect of life and learn to trust whatever He's doing and to walk by faith.

Oops! I didn't mean to write so much - this is really to let you know about my new book. I'm so in love with my subject I get a bit 'carried away' at times. This book, like my other one, Blogging God's Word, is a collection of blogs I've written during recent times.

You can purchase it book at Amazon.com

THE GOD WHO SEES ME

by Roberta Van Hise

Thank you Lord for getting this book into print. I know you've already chosen those you want to read it. I have a hard time with all the details that need to be taken care of during the publishing process. Without You, it would never have gotten done.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A MISSED MOTHER'S DAY


"There are two lasting bequests we can hope to leave for our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings."  ~ Unknown author

You can't miss Mother's Day when God has entrusted you with five children. I sometimes feel a bit smothered by the reality of being 'the mother'. This is one relationship that is not easy to ignore; it will last until your final breath. I must admit, a perfect day for me might be to totally ignore my whole family, even our little dog, grab my sun hat, a good book and sit on the beach. The rhythm of the waves reminds me that if the Lord can control and contain the oceans of the world, He can handle my insignificant challenges - which sometime seem very significant to me.

I pray for my children to connect with God and know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Everything else starts and ends with this relationship.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
Colossians 2:17

Paul wrote in Romans 11:6 - "if the root is holy, so are the branches." Most Christian parents try to be 'holy', because we want our branches (the kids) to be holy. That's why it's important for them to know it is Jesus who is the Holy One, God Himself. We humanly fail, and can only be holy and righteous because of His love and forgiveness.

I continually pray for all my children not knowing what God's plan is for them, but trusting Him to make His will known. It's hard not to give advise to your grown child if you feel they are headed in the wrong direction, but we need to sometimes take a deep breath, step back, and watch them try their wings. I was e-mailing my daughter-in-law, Dawn, a few days ago and the Lord reminded me of several of my prayers for her over the past few years. Every one was answered, maybe not in the way I had planned, but the result was answered prayer. For instance, I so wanted a new home for my grandchildren. God sent a tree-tossing tornado type storm that destroyed their old home, then provided a way for them to get a new home! I never would have prayed for the storm.

We mothers often struggle with the thought that we've done the wrong thing for our child; sometimes we do in our eyes, but when we lean on God's grace and are convinced of His sovereignty, we can have peace. I spoke with a young mother recently who'd withheld some medication from her son hoping that another alternative would come to light.  It didn't, things got worse, and she fears harm has been done. I want her to know that God's timing is always perfect. If her son should have taken the medication earlier, he would have. It is God who "knit us together in our mother's womb", Psalm 139:13, He knows what our children need and when they need it. He sees the whole picture, we can only see a small portion; walk in faith, this is when peace will come.

I like what someone said about their mother, "She was our center of gravity, and saw life as a controllable project". That little belly button we all have is to remind us that we were protected and nurtured by the woman who bore us. It's a big deal to have a child, a truly momentous decision; like having your heart walking around outside of your body. We often feel that our children take us for granted, and in way, I think that's a good thing, sort of like a fish swimming in the ocean takes the water for granted. It's just there for them, no big deal. I want to be 'there' for my children, no big deal.

I wish that every baby's face was sculpted by their mother's kisses. Amazing how most of us love that baby within our body, sight unseen. We have a job to do - applaud success, weep over failures, encourage, discipline, love when it's not wanted or you don't feel the love, and eventually, let go and watch God work in your child's life. This is the hardest of all. 

Most mother's spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I put dinner on the table for a family of seven for many years. I'm still in the kitchen a lot so decorate the counter top with things I like. During the winter I had this beautiful potato plant, pictured above, on our sink. It grew from a sweet potato. I put it in water and the roots of the potato sprouted and grew into this lovely plant. I gave it fresh water and plant food so that it would grow and be healthy and strong. We nurture our children so they will grow to be healthy and strong - not only in body, but in faith.

Maybe, if you had a choice, you'd have chosen a different mother other than the one you have. You may not think you have a good one, let alone a 'perfect' one. Remember this, she may not be perfect, but she's perfect for you. You had nothing to do with choosing your mother; God arranged it all. If you were adopted, God gave you two mothers, the one who gave you birth, and the one He trusted to grow you into the person He wants you to become. There is only one of the Ten Commandments that has a promise - "Honor your mother and father so life will go well with you."

I've been occupied with the task of getting my last book to press. As of yesterday, 5/20/15, it has been published and is available on Amazon.com. The writing is easy for me, like a labor of love, the publishing part is not. Within a couple of weeks you may purchase the e-book version to download to Kindle, i Pad, whatever you have. This book, as with 'Blogging God's Word' has been written from my blogs. . .THE GOD WHO SEES ME  - by Roberta Van Hise

Lord, thank you for allowing me to be a mother. Assure me that my children see that I honor You above all. Help them to grow deep roots of faith so they can stand strong when the storms come.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

WHO NEEDS SELF-ESTEEM?

"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe it was in the early 1960's when the 'self-esteem' ball got rolling. And it continues to roll. According to the majority of psychologists self-esteem is what makes us, or breaks us. We as flawed human beings are always looking for a reason, or perhaps an excuse, for what we do not like about ourselves.

Personally, I'd rather have self-control than self-esteem. Especially after reading these definitions. . .

Self-esteem - undue pride in oneself, conceit, vanity and egotism

Self-control - poise, restraint, reserve, discretion, stability, and dignity

In my humble opinion, if a person has self-control, self-esteem will follow. You can't have one without the other. Most of us have noticed that controlling one's self isn't all that easy. To do this, we need to rely on the help of the Holy Spirit.

If we are not a confident person, probably others won't have confidence in us either. A believer should understand that it's not about having confidence in our abilities alone. God has made us according to His design. Psalm 139:13-14 says that God "knit me together in my mother's womb", and I am "fearfully and wonderfully made". Paul writes in Romans 9: 20 that God is the potter and we are the clay. He molds us into the person He wants us to be. God has an eternal purpose; we're centered on the 'here and now'.

We need to view ourselves as a three dimensional person. First, and most important, we need to see ourselves as God sees us, second, we need to see ourselves as others see us. Last, we need to see ourselves as we perceive ourselves.

You may think that you're a 'nobody', but if you are 'in Christ', believe me, you are a 'somebody'!

"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."
Colossians 3:3

If God has hidden our life, we can't see it unless or until He wants us to. But we can trust that it is safe with Him. He has given us the gift of faith, grace to be saved from our sinful nature, the fruit of His Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  He's also given us spiritual gifts that will bring joy and peace to someone else's life. You have a place and a purpose in this world. Remember that man looks at our outward appearance, but God looks at our heart - I Samuel 16:7.

It's difficult for me to think of Jesus gathering His disciples and telling them they need to have more self-esteem. Or preaching to the multitudes and telling them that life would be so much better if they learned how to esteem themselves. Instead, He told them to esteem God. He did say that we are to love our neighbor as ourself - Matthew 22:39. I believe Jesus was teaching a simple truth; other people are as valuable as you are, honor them.

We have to wonder what causes the common malady of low self-esteem. Sometimes it's merely a personality trait that we need to accept. It isn't always something or someone who has caused a poor self image, it's just the way we are. However, we can point to some very specific causes based on many years of psychological data. One of these is living in a way, and doing what you know isn't right. It's hard to think well of yourself when you're ashamed of your behavior, or who you are. Self respect comes from behaving respectfully.

David, who wrote most of the beautiful psalms, was in terrible distress about that whole Bathsheba mess until he admitted his sin to the Lord and asked for His forgiveness. Read Psalm 32: 1-5; it's a beautiful passage and paints a picture of the agony we may go through until we 'get right' with God.

Sexual promiscuity is so pervasive. During this time in history when the moral code has slipped off the radar,  it's easy to be caught up in a vicious circle. Psychologists tell us that a lack of personal esteem is the prime cause of sexual immorality. Sexual activities then produce more feelings of low esteem. This is not a winning scenario that results in feeling good about yourself.

I've taught in our local jail for over fourteen years. The majority of people in jail or prison are there because of alcohol and drug addiction that ultimately causes them to cross the line, commit a crime and be incarcerated. We're told that low self-esteem is the cause of addiction. Not being able to control the drinking and drug use causes even lower self-esteem.

Low esteem leads to feelings of insecurity and often reflects itself in becoming materialistic. The Lord wants us to have good things. Do you know that Abraham had an indoor bathroom in his home over 4,000 years ago? They've found the ruins in the Ur of Chaldeans, modern day Iraq. David, Solomon, even Job had great riches. There are many people in the world who have worked hard, done well, or had wealth passed on to them. It's not a bad thing for them to enjoy their wealth. I'm referring to those who need to wear the 'right' clothes, drive an eye-catching car, shop at the Nordstrom's of the world, who spend every spare moment beautifying their home etc., all because 'nice things' help them to overcome feelings of low esteem and insecurity. But they never do, it's still there, still hurting them. Most of us learn sooner or later that material things cannot make our life more meaningful.

So, what's the answer? How do we 'fix' this? I'm aware of only one way that is consistently successful. Secular psychology cannot generate any true and lasting sense of personal dignity. No matter how hard we try, we need help from God. He created us and when we're broken, He can put us together again - no one else can do that, not ourselves, not a psychologist, only God.

The book of I John speaks to us about God's love. John tells us that God is love, 4:16, and that we love because he first loved us, 4:19. My summation of this book is that we are to be who God created us to be, His beloved child. Let us look at ourselves as God does; holy, forgiven by Jesus, and righteous in His eyes. We do the will of God, I John 2:17, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

"Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." John 6:28 - 29.

There is only one 'work' to do, believe in Jesus, the One God sent. Bask in this love, relish it, drink it in, bath in it, swim in it, luxuriate in it! I may be getting a bit carried away but I'm trying to make a point that this is the only way to solve the problem of self-esteem. If this isn't a problem for you, I'm sure you don't need to look far to find a family member or friend who is suffering. The temptation is always to elevate this person so they'll feel better about themselves. Resist this and elevate the Lord instead. Once we understand how much the Lord loves and esteems us, we'll be able to see ourselves in a different light.

And by the way, the Scripture is full of accounts of those, like Moses, who weren't sure of their value. This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden and a broken promise with God. God gave the Apostle Paul a thorn in his flesh. We're not sure what that was, but we do know from Paul's words in I Corinthians 12 that he was tormented by it and pleaded with the Lord to remove it. This is what the Lord told Paul in vs. 9

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Torment comes in many different forms - disease, loneliness, difficult relationships, lack of money - you can come up with your own list. We had five teenagers at one time. The youngest turned thirteen and the oldest was nineteen. That was torment!

Ever feel a little weak? I do. Do the problems and decisions in life seem overwhelming at times? Stand tall and believe as Paul did.

"Therefore I will boost more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. . .For when I am weak, I am strong."  II Corinthians 12: 9,10

I want the Lord's power to rest on me because I've noticed that my own power isn't adequate to deal with all the problems in this world. I believe this is what we all want, God Power!

Thank you Lord that we can count on Your power and strength. Help us to see ourselves through Your eyes, and understand how much you value those who love You.






Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CUBA, CASTRO, COMMUNISM and GOD



I could add the word 'cars' to the title of this blog. When you go to Cuba, you can't miss the Cubans love for the American classic cars. I'm sitting in a 1956 Ford Fairlane, I think. I'm not good with cars, old or new. One evening our tour group was getting ready to go for dinner. The twenty-four of us expected to get into our bus, but not tonight. As we stood in front of our hotel, we watched six classic cars drive up. Some took photos and we all wondered why they were there. Soon we discovered they were there for us! What fun, we hopped into the cars and cruised the Malecon for several miles, wind blowing through our hair, waving, laughing, and tooting the crazy horns. In short, re-living our teenage years. Many of us had driven cars like these, or had parents that drove one like it. It's a pleasure to engage in nostalgia, and it feels good to be a kid again! Life is too serious most of the time. I know the Lord wants His children to enjoy themselves. I think in Bible verses so will share some with you.

"A man can do nothing better than eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?" Ecclesiastes 2:24 - 25.
"I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. . .this is God's gift." Ecclesiastes 3:12 - 13.

I do appreciate the Lord sending me to Cuba; I've wanted to do this for many years. I will describe Cuba with a few 'C' words, in no special order. It is colorful, cultured, a Caribbean Island, creative, Castro-ized, cigars, coffee, complex, calm and colonial. It was a sad day when Castro took control after the Revolution in 1959. The country soon fell into Communism. The government took away people's businesses, land and often their home. It is difficult for an American to comprehend a government taking what doesn't belong to them. Well, come to think of it, we do have a little of that in my country, and if we're not careful who we vote for, we may have a lot more. Communist Russia supported the Cuban economy for several years, then pulled out as their own country fell apart and their economy was in trouble.

I traveled with the Road Scholar program called a "People-to-People Cultural Exchange". Our group consisted of Americans from all over the country. We were all eager to learn about the Cuban people and have the opportunity to know them personally. We found that we were accepted even though ties between our two countries were severed long ago when the Communist government came to power and there was a build up of nuclear weapons just ninety miles off our shore. So many Cubans have family in the U.S. and I'm sure they get news from them via letters. They don't have access to the internet.

Cubans are able to get a college education without any payment. However, they must work for the government for four years to re-pay their education. Our wonderful Cuban guide was a teacher. She was paid by the government, also by Road Scholar. The man who 
drove the classic car I road in was a medical doctor. We asked why he was driving a 'cab'. "I make $60.00 a month as a doctor. I can make so much more taking people for a ride in my car", was his answer.


The money taken by Castro's government was supposed to be distributed to the people, but the majority of the people are desperately poor and live on an average monthly income of $20 U.S. dollars. It's reported that the Castro brothers have many millions of dollars stashed away. We stayed in nice hotels that are owned by the government, and often ate in government - owned restaurants. Free-enterprise can't be entirely suppressed, so we were able to eat in 'Paladars', non-government owned cafe's and restaurants, and were told that there are now privately owned Bed & Breakfast type lodging available. In fact we visited one in the Colonial town of Trinidad. Old Havana has some nice 'boutique' hotels.

Several lectures were included in our program. The first one was about Cuba's religion. The woman who presented, a university professor, painted a picture of a country that had no real interest in religion. "Cuba is not religious", she said several times.  This lovely island was originally occupied by Spain having been 'discovered' by Christopher Columbus. The Catholic church was prominent and Christianity was their religious belief. We visited an amazing cemetery where 2.5 million are buried. The statuary made of fine marble was so impressive. Figures of Jesus, crosses, even replicas of the Pieta were displayed. As many groups moved to the island they brought other beliefs with them and were free to practice those beliefs. Cuba imported slaves from Africa, Ireland and China. I believe they worked in the sugar cane and tobacco fields. Most every country at some point has had a history of slavery.

When Castro came to power, he closed the churches. Communism and Christianity don't mix. Only the government is to be 'worshipped', not God. But just like you are unable to stifle free-enterprise completely, spirituality cannot be taken away from people. The Christians simply went 'underground'. The lecturer did not say this, maybe she didn't know, but I know because I've talked to Christian missionaries who've brought in Bibles and taught classes to those gathered secretly in homes. God will always make His presence known! David wrote this in Psalm 139:7. . .

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?"

I was thrilled to visit the home of Ernest Hemingway; a delightful place. I remember the 'Bay of Pigs' as a young student and was excited to be able to wade in the warm water along the shore. How different life would have been for the Cuban people if the Cuban rebels, armed and trained by the U.S., had been successful.  I don't doubt that God's plan will ultimately prove 'perfect'. Faith is believing in what you can't see.

** Note about my book, Blogging God's Word. I recently was informed that the publisher, CrossBooks, would not continue to publish. I guess they couldn't compete with so many other publishers. The book will be available until April 30, 2015. Then, it will be unavailable for about two months while I get it re-published.

Thank you Lord for allowing me this pleasant time in a country I've wanted to visit for so long. I trust You to bring about good things as these wonderful, cheerful, bright people look to You to provide change and give them hope for a better tomorrow.