Category Archives: It Happened to Me (personal stories)

How People React in a Crisis – China’s 2008 Earthquake Remembered

It was 48 hours before we learned in Inner Mongolia of the extent of the damage due to the earthquake down south. Isolated as we are here in the small town of Daban many people never get the news – the newspaper is actually all advertising circulars – but we now know China is in pain. The government has claimed to be everything – provider, comforter, manager, healer, in fact, “god” but now none of the above.

Thousands of parents will bury a child, if they can find the body at all, and in most cases an Only Child. The 3 Gorges Dam displaced millions of people during its construction and drowned thousands of homes in its path. Now it and other dams in Central China are showing signs of stress. If the 3 Gorges Dam fails, 10 million will be wiped out in a single swoosh.

Food prices have risen 20% and pork has doubled because farmers do not want to waste the grain on the pigs. Taxes, but not wages, have increased in order to fund the glitzy Olympics and all the attendant waste and public show plus billions into the Navy. People notice when their taxes go up and they change behavior. People are angry at each other, and at me too. The country is on edge.

And there have been other aftershocks as well. This week the police demanded that I leave town within 12 hours! I thought it was a scam organized by public and private schools angry over our success. We have run out of teachers and classrooms as we added several classes and many new students. But no – they were serious – no one can pack for overseas in that period of time. After some negotiations a $1,500 fine will be paid to the brigands (i.e. bribe) and I can stay.

The 2nd local aftershock was that the police went to the perfectly legal registered church and confiscated the perfectly legal Bibles – 240 of them – and took them away. We don’t know where they are. Apparently the church members felt they were safe and had not hidden them in their homes. Again, an illegal act because the Constitution of China allows freedom of religion – in theory.

This is the time to pray for China. God wants to comfort the Chinese people.. But He has promised to destroy all idols.

In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart told Ingrid Bergman that the lives of 2 people “do not amount to a hill of beans.” Missionaries know they do not amount to a hill of beans either – what counts is the gospel and prayer reaches everywhere on the globe. As God would have it I was not forced to leave.

When God promises to destroy all idols, (Exodus 30:13) that includes governments and political leaders who claim to be god. In actual practice, God need do nothing. Over-promising by arrogant leaders will eventually expose their folly. Then men can seek the real God with greater wisdom and humility.

What it means to judge righteously?

This may surprise you but when God says Romans 2:1 “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
If you judge someone wrongly the judgment comes back to you. It seems simple but it is not. Here is an example.

A young woman leaves her husband of 8 years. This couple had been leaders of young marrieds, well respected in the church, and the predictable reaction was that she sinned by leaving. Here is what the members did not know:

1. Her husband was a practicing homosexual.
2. He had brought venereal disease into the home and she was infected.
3. He had no intention of changing his lifestyle and said so!

What would you have done?

The church had no knowledge of these sins and it is not the responsibility of the wife to confess her husband’s sins, nor is she expected to discipline him. The Bible is clear on that point. If she had stayed she would become an enabler of sin. If the church did not discipline him, the church becomes an enabler of sin.

He was charming, much loved and believed when he played the victim. He also was a thither and the church fathers did not want to challenge a big donor. Churches are charged by God with the discipline of its members. How often does this happen?

Now the rest of the story. The church members judged the woman as not submitted and in error. They called her a bad wife and she became the subject for gossip. Where is their judgment?

People would be judged on this basis:
1. Were they submitted to God?
2. Were they personally obedient?
3. Were they faithful to the Word?

At every point where the wife was faithful her judges would be condemned. In addition the church and its leaders must face an additional penalty – for not examining the situation in the Holy Spirit, and in addition to the unnecessary gossip there is the greed involving the husband’s donations.

I met this woman in seminary and she has had a long-lasting career as a foreign missionary. God rewards those who follow Him, whether a wife or a church.

Why should I pay 10% (tithe) to God?

Of course you don’t “have” to pay God anything, but if you want a blessing from Him, it’s another story. The principle of giving God 10% of your income goes back thousands of years. It was the way for Jews to support their religious system as well. But most of all, it was a blessing for the giver. Abraham started the tithe to God.

Hebrews 7:2-6 Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.

And when you bless God, He blesses you back. Many Christians are only half-happy (or 90% unhappy) living without blessings. Maybe this has something to do with it? Furthermore, not giving God His due carries with it a curse.

Malachi 3:8“ Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘ In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

God has no blessings for robbers. In addition, the money given to God’s work must be His work. This is called, in scripture, the storehouse. A storehouse holds seed grain. The seed is the word.

Luke 8:11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

That is your requirement too – that what you give to God will involve His Word, not just any ‘ole charity. (Not everything that is tax deductible glorifies God.)

Years ago I left a church. I felt a sense of loss – I had some fine friends there but God told me, “I cannot bless you because I WILL NOT bless them.” There was no Word of God going out from that church. It was all social work and social work is man’s work. It was not a storehouse.

Here is the storehouse passage.

Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Finally, there is the issue of a good conscience. Sometimes we just do things because we want to be able to respond to God when He asks us – did we do everything we could when we were alive? These are called ordinances – we don’t do them in order to be saved. We do them because they are part of the witness of a Christian life. Your friends see it, your employees, your children, your neighbors. It shows you, God and others that you are serious about obeying God. In this passage, we are baptized in water occasionaly because we want the answer of a good conscience.

1 Peter 3:21-22 You know, even though God waited patiently all the days that Noah built his ship, only a few were saved then, eight to be exact—saved from the water by the water. The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus’ resurrection before God with a clear conscience. Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He’s standing right alongside God, and what he says goes.

[from The Message version of the New Testament.]

Experiment with God. Give a tithe and see if you don’t see a change. And what do you have to lose anyway? You can pump up your faith and learn about His Kingdom at the same time.

Never compromise with evil

In the 1980s I faced a wonderful future job, recognition, community status, and clout. A large lobby offered me substantial money, enough to guarantee this position, presumably an offer so good I could not refuse but I must promise to support their goals. I disagreed completely with them, and a bribe is a bribe no matter how you pretty it up.

Over a period of two weeks, I had a long talk with myself and God. This group had evil in mind, the control of other people and political corruption as well. With a heavy heart I refused their offer and lost my investment of $14,000 which at that time was a major piece of cash. I also lost much of my reputation regarded a failure, condemned by many including my family who did not know the facts. In reality, they never asked me anything about it..

It was then that I made a decision, one which turned out to change my life forever. I decided never again to compromise with evil. And I would not need two weeks to think it over either. Since then many, many times I have been faced with that choice and didn’t fold, but the personal costs have been high.

Here is why you can’t do it. First if you compromise with evil you lose. You lose your self-respect, your integrity, and occasionally a lot more. I think of the people who find themselves forever tied to someone who gave them a “break” and then ended up in some criminal enterprise. There are women and men who married for the wrong reason and then have decades of unhappiness to reflect on their bad choices. There are those who go along for a joy ride, ending up in a hospital with a broken leg or someone dead bashed into a tree, with years of legal and physical consequences.

The past cannot be retrieved. If someone is beating you or raping you, you must get out. If you are inadvertently involved in crime you must flee. If you are underage and being abused you must tell someone you trust and hope they don’t drop the ball. God knows who you are and prayer changes situations and things.

But there is a second reason – if you compromise with evil, evil wins yet another victory, and in doing so becomes stronger and stronger. Merchants who pay protection money to the Mob- and this nasty bunch operates in every poor section of every major city world-wide – only gives more money to the very people destroying local business. The whole of society is torn down when we cave like this.

That is two victories for Evil and not one for Good. Count ‘em.

Later I had a nice job teaching my specialty where a fellow teacher tried to seduce the high school boys, most of whom were in this school because of horrid choices involving sex, alcohol, drugs, crime or all four. They were vulnerable; how could they report this? They might be endangered – she was the authority figure. As their teacher I saw they could have a good future, but not if they sunk into trouble again. Finally after three months of this, I quit my job and reported her to the director who listened to my story and said something that shocked me – I am sure he saw my face.

He said, “Oh she’s not doing that again!!!” So I had done the right thing but losing my job caused me a great deal of trouble. I never had another job that paid anywhere near that much money.

That story has repeated itself many times over, corrupt officials, managers, leaders – I’ve had to challenge them. One minister stole $10,000 in tithe money; he was never censured but God knows his address. Another person was a master slanderer and I did live to see her get her comeuppance, albeit many years later, long after I had left the scene.

Compromise itself is not bad; it is only compromise with evil that demands confrontation. Choose your battles carefully.

My brother’s blood cries from the ground

Back in the 1970s I met a poor Indian woman who lived in the woods; she had never been allowed to go to school so when God spoke to her we knew it was true because she could not read the Bible.  She frequently would quote scriptures she had neither heard nor read and her experience in churches was limited.

She told us a story of when she was three years old.  She knew she was the second child in the family and that her older brother had been born and cried continuously, but he died. She told her mother repeatedly that she could hear a baby crying down by the creek which bordered on the far end of the property.  This went on for several years.

Later as an adult she learned her father had killed the baby boy and dumped his body in the creek. Genesis 4:10 tells of God hearing the blood of the slain Abel crying from the ground.

Genesis 4:8-10 New International Version (NIV) 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[a] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

My Indian friend had no knowledge of the scripture, but she certainly could hear her brother’s cries.  That is why we can say the “little children” are in the Kingdom of Heaven. They have access to truth from the other side of the grave.

Matthew 19:14
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Bible came in handy in a high school class

Years ago I was a substitute teacher in a local high school when I was just out of college with no experience with teens. They can be a drag. This school system had just integrated black and white schools and there was a lot of tension. During one class a girl complained that a boy had stolen her pencil. It did not appear she had another one. Then I remembered this story from the Bible:

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.” 22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.” 28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

So I took the pencil and threatened to snap it into two pieces, telling them each could have half. The girl protested – Oh let him keep it, she said. Then I handed the whole pencil to her saying “I see it is yours,” and walked away.

The true owner of anything will not want to see it destroyed for any reason. The Bible is full of great ideas for explaining human behavior and helping you make decisions as this story did for me.

The Problem of Projection -no, people don’t think like you

The scripture which outlines this problem is: Psalm 50:21 You thought that I was altogether like you;

This is called projection – the notion that others have the same motives, desires, theologies, and opinions as you do. And they base their behavior on this.

We all know the jealous woman who believes every woman is after her husband. Or worse yet, the men in the church actually believing that single woman are after them. Or, worse even than that, the pastor thinking all the single women are after all the men regardless of station.

This is a function of an overblown ego and has traditionally made the church a hostile place especially for single women and one of the reasons that pastors often go to lengths to marry single women off. It happened to a friend of mine in her later 20s. The pastor kept encouraging her to marry a young man who turned out to be homosexual. She left the church. And you wonder why people are church hopping. And maybe all this is because the men themselves rally are seeking to be pursued by women? Who knows.

Projection also infects nations. The Chinese are convinced that America is plotting to attack them with an armed force and take their land. If you will check on China, you will find that there really isn’t much there to acquire. China has minerals, but no water and fouled air. It is not a place anyone would want to acquire. But that is the mentality of a nation that is predatory and lurking about the South China Sea for lands to subsume. That is why China already snatched Mongolia and Tibet, and why the nation continues to suffer from the theft of land.

Tibet meanwhile has no desire to be part of China or to be anything but Tibet. Russia was also greedy for land, having assumed that grateful China would become part of the Soviet Union, a problem Chairman Mao recognized, Russia being unable for some unknown reason to develop their own properly and even today is nosing around the Middle East looking for territory. Always ambitious for someone else’s turf!

Working in China I learned that the Chinese thought all Americans were rich and white. I put on the blackboard a breakdown of races here – 55% Anglo (a word they prefer) 15% black, 12% Asian, 16% Hispanic, and so on. The number has no doubt changed today.

When I said I wanted to get a tan (the sun did not shine there for 2 straight months) they were horrified. Chinese girls put a product on their face to make them white. They look like ghosts to me. I used some indoor tanning product and they were shocked. I said I wanted to look like an American – but they didn’t understand. Americans are NOT white.

We assume people have the same beliefs. A woman told me a few years back that her son was gay. I said I was sorry. (Yes I am sorry. Gays die many years before straight people, are more often involved in domestic violence, and “divorce” more often than straight men.) Yes, I am sorry. She got huffy and said she was not sorry. I had assumed she knew something about this but I guessed wrong.

A Chinese underground press which I read daily was very happy about Anderson Cooper “coming out” as being gay. I wrote a comment on their blog that CNN was hardly much viewed by the American public, an established fact if one checks the TV numbers which come out daily.

CNN is very popular with English viewers abroad however. The man was irritated – what difference does that make he wanted to know. I replied that the CNN endorsement in foreign lands looked like something it was not; it may appear that American audiences are interested and involved, but not so. The perception of foreigners is that CNN is popular here; they could not have guessed of its dwindling audience. You can check TVbythenumbers online for a URL.

We make assumptions about culture. In the USA when you want someone to follow you, you wave with your hand at them. TOO LATE I learned that this was an obscene gesture in the Philippines. Sigh.

In Japan yellow is the color of death. For many years Isuzu would not paint a car yellow, but I was able to buy one myself when they realized Americans like yellow; it is the color of friendliness.

The list of projections can go on and on. The moral of the story is you assume nothing. Find out where people are and go from there. Many a marriage has crashed when the couple found out they shared little in common but their bedroom.

How I Came Out of a Nervous Breakdown

Someone told me there was no literature on this and asked me to write about my experiences since my first collapse was when I was 9 years old. When I was 44 it happened again and finally when I was 51. I never received any medical attention or sought any over these years. I just finally saw the pattern of my life and realized “Hey, I’ve been through this before.”

At 4, as an only child living in a house with my grandparents, I showed great musical promise and started lessons. Within a few years I was polished enough to enter a contest. The prize was lessons at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music available only to gifted students. My mother and grandmother decided nothing would do that I must win this, heading me to a music career.

I was lazy and unmotivated as most kids are, but it clearly was their agenda and not mine and like all children I wanted to be obedient or at least keep the peace. For months I was beaten, badgered and forced to practice long hours. It all came to a head in the spring when I had 2 violent, terrifying identical 2 nightmares in a row. A giant huge spider hovered over my bed and threatened to crush me to death. I never told anyone at the time of the dream. I don’t recall anyone much listened to me anyway.

Exhausted but ready, I did win this contest, beating out a 17 year old boy.

But the victory was pyrrhic, not for me, but for my family. I remember thinking, and can recall it today, ‘well, this is their contest, they won it and they can have it.’ I vowed never to take an interest in music or anything else they could ruin. I went to the conservatory but soon left as my teacher saw I was only going through the motions. I did this, of course, to avoid additional beatings.

I emotionally divorced my family at that time. I remember standing in the middle of the living room when I was 15 thinking, I am going to have to raise myself. Of course I was not doing all that great a job at it, but I knew I was little more than an actor in someone else’s drama. BUT, I did learn some work standards. I married as quickly as possible and left home.

Now we jump to when I was 44. I had been working night and day, trying to save my marriage, and completely unaware of what was happening. My husband’s business was in a state of disrepair, he eventually had to close it, and he was living almost entirely off my inheritance and alcohol. I received not a dime of this – nor from his earnings for 9 years. I guess that lesson of sticking to the bitter end I had learned as an elementary student.

I was doing everything in my power to keep the family in tact, and so the money was not important. At least not until I had this epiphany, “He married me for my money and when it was gone so was he.”

Things came to a head in November of 1982 when he got dead drunk and tried to seduce an acquaintance at a party. The poor woman was terrified. I realized this 26-year marriage was over.

I went into some sort of mental state where I just “did” what I knew to do. God showed me the giant black spider was my baby grand piano on which I had practiced so many hours. And here I was, back in this situation again. Every bit of energy and hope had drained away. This is the point where people ask me, what did you do to change things.

First I did not go to a doctor. I avoided them at all costs. I believed as a child that adults were not my friends and not on my side. I never really got over this.

But my daughter was getting married and I needed to sew a dress. It was quite a complicated pattern with a difficult lined collar. The more I worked on this (and mind you I have no real talent in sewing) the more I got some of my personality back. The wedding was a success but that marked the end of my marriage for good. When people ask “Can this marriage be saved?” I can guarantee you the question comes way too late for the couple.

The same thing happened again in 1989 when I was overworked to the point of exhaustion, and life piled in on me again. But this time I saw the pattern and just sat down in a rocking chair on my porch and looked at the Blue Ridge skyline. I ended up losing my home, but as a close buddy said, “You never lost your sense of humor.”

I’ve concluded, and you may have another idea, that satisfying work is the cure here. I was physically pressured beyond my limits. Apparently I have unlimited mental endurance, but not physical. I have learned to stop cold now when I feel my body failing under me.

I was the cause of my problems. I made 3 false assumptions. (1) that if I worked hard and pleased my parents I would be rewarded (2) if I worked hard I could save a marriage and (3) if I worked hard I could save my home.

I hope this helps someone else pull out of a breakdown. Don’t hit the bottle or the drugs. Sit in a chair and think about who and what you are. Whatever it is, it may not be what you thought. Then go on, take a better path, and rejoice in the end.

Preparing the Body for Burial as a Memorial

It was a beautiful fall day in 1970 when we learned that Little Tate was coming to dinner.  He could hardly be called little anymore.  He was the son of Tate and Brown, our aunt and uncle, a freshman at East Carolina University, full of himself, full of life and promise.  His parents had waited to marry until after WW 2 so he was the prized child of old age, a success in high school, untouched by the drug culture, HIV, constant sex-immersion – all the ills of  decades to come.

He was coming to dinner!  I marshaled my younger kids – get out the long table, the white tablecloth with the lace covering, the $125 water goblets from my grandmother, the best china and all the best serving dishes.  Being from small families my husband and I had few relatives for meals.  This was a treat.

It was truly a day when nothing went wrong.  Little Tate was full of the hope only an 18 year old could have as he prepared for a radio and TV career, personable, friendly, easy to like.  My children enjoyed him as though he were an older brother. When the sun started to set he headed back to school.

We had no reason to believe this would be the last time we saw him alive, but he got on the back of a motorcycle without a helmet (it was not against the law then) and before October was finished he was dead.  It was a terrible blow.  Our aunt and uncle never really got over it but we had something – we had the celebration of preparing for his burial.

The story of the woman wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair with a costly perfume which represented about one year’s wages is something Jesus said “would be remembered forever.”  Isn’t it interesting that we speak of this without really knowing what it means?  It is a memorial of a special life prior to death, not a morbid sad time filled with the regrets of loss and hopes dashed.  It was the costly elaborate celebration of a life well lived.

Jesus, like Little Tate, died before his expected time, a child of promise, loved and loving, a special person with a future.  It was our unique privilege and blessing that we could say goodbye in this spectacular way.  And like the woman at Jesus’ feet, completely unaware of what we were doing or how soon his death would occur.

When I told of this blessing to my friend from Grandfather Mountain she said, “Oh, I had a day like that with an old woman.  We spent an afternoon looking for one button to replace on her winter coat.”  And then the woman died rather unexpectedly.

How many of us have rued the day we neglected to call someone or write, or send a note – thinking of you – only to learn later they had gone without our hearing a single word.  One Christian artist sings, “No Regrets” – If we celebrate another’s life before they go, we should have no regrets.

Mark 14:7-9 New King James Version (NKJV)7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

How the Word of God Exposed a Thief

Nearly 30 years ago I started working as a cashier at Shoney’s.  I’ve had this kind of work 5 times and every single time some employee has set me up to be accused as a thief.  But this was my first job as cashier so I was not prepared for what happened.

The manager, a hard-driving, hard-smoking, hard-drinking woman who had lived in or near the streets was in no mood to tolerate the missing $135.  She dragged us all into the dining room and said she wanted the money back in the drawer before 9 pm that night.  She would be happy to speak to any of us about this if we wanted to see her privately.

After that shift I went to her and said I wanted a private conference.  We met in a booth.  I told her I was a Christian and I took the Bible very seriously.  Oh no! You could see the disgust all over her face. Now here was some religion nut, she was thinking.  I told her I didn’t know the names of the employees having just started but that I did know the Bible.

All the time she was puffing disgustedly on her cigarette.  I told her that if she would read Psalm 50 she would learn that a thief, to God, is in the same category as an adulterer.  Here is the passage to which I was referring.

Psalm 50:18 -When you saw a thief, you consented[a] with him, And have been a partaker with adulterers.

I said to her – if you find the adulterer you will find the money.  A strange look came over her face and we parted.  A few days later I returned for my regular shift and to my surprise someone said the missing money had been returned.  I knew then the manager knew who the adulterer was and had herself identified the crook.

But it was a big lesson to me of how God can step in.  Three things happened – I was freed of the possibility of being thought a thief, the thief was exposed, and the hard-drinking, hard-smoking manager learned a lesson about God.

God knows everything and everyone.  Not one of our sins is hidden from his face.  We don’t get away with a thing no matter how far we are from him.

And I learned too – that the Bible would and could be my defense in any situation.