“Do you absolutely have to go out this evening, Gwen?” Dave asked as he watched her wipe off the counter.  “Seems like the girls expect so much of you: baby showers, bridal showers, Tupperware parties, candle parties, card parties, someone in the hospital… someone’s husband, mother, or sister in the hospital.  I hardly see you anymore.”

Gwen felt a stab of guilt over the long list of excuses she’d given him.  This was so hard on him, too.  Things just had to change.  “I’ll wipe everything off my schedule and stay home every evening next week.  I promise.”

“You said that last week, too, remember?  So you’ve been gone two evenings now and it’s only Wednesday.”  His tone was suspicious.  “Gwen, tell me the truth…  Is there someone else?”

“No, Dave!  Please don’t think that.  I love you.  I’d never want anyone else.”

“But there’s something else,” her conscience nagged.  Oh, shut up!

Dave put his arm around her.  “I hope not.  But I had to ask; I’d rather know the truth than wonder every time you go out.”

Another stab from her conscience.  “He’s been such a good husband.  How can you do this to him?  How can you do this to yourself?”

How did I ever get into this in the first place? she asked herself reproachfully.

“I’m sorry, Dave.  I’ve been too busy lately.  I’ll cut my visit as short as possible tonight,” she promised.  “There’ll probably be a lot of family at the hospital and I won’t be able to stay long.”  She winced inwardly; she was getting too good at lying.

“By the way, has there been a bank statement lately?  Seems like months since I’ve seen one.”  The tension had gone out of his voice; his question sounded innocent.

Gwen broke out in a cold sweat.  Please, let’s not go there.  “I guess I have a few sitting in my office…  I’ve been studying them and…forgot to…  I’ll bring them home as soon as I think of it.”

“Well, yeah.  Please.  I want to see them, too.  A person likes to know how much money he has.”

Oh, no you don’t, Gwen thought grimly.

I need to write up another loan, she decided.  I need to put money back into the account before I bring that bank statement home.  But how was she going to pay back the loans she’d already taken out?  The question gnawed at her as she put on her coat.  She felt so guilty for doing this to him.  It had to stop – soon.

“ Good bye, sweetheart.  I won’t be long tonight.”  She gave him a kiss on the cheek.

He responded with a big hug.  “I do love you, and I don’t want to lose you.  Please make some time for me in your life,” he said soberly.

“Gwen, you have got to get a handle on this,” she scolded herself as she backed the car out of the driveway.  “This just can’t go on!”  She thought again of their overdrawn bank account, the loans she’d taken out.  As bank manager, she’d okayed them without any of the other staff catching on, but how long would her luck hold?

Yes, she’d sidestepped the bank statement issue for several months, but sooner or later Dave would insist on seeing it.  Someday the bank would do an audit and find out that those five borrowers hadn’t paid a penny on their loans – that they didn’t even exist.  Then where would she be?  A tsunami of impending disaster loomed over her, ready to crash down any day.  She had to beat this thing!

“Oh, Lord, just one big win and I’ll pay it all back!  Please let it be tonight,”  She prayed as she turned her car into the casino parking lot.

While the above conversation is fiction and names have been changed, the situation was too true.  Eventually “Dave” did demand to see the bank statements.  Eventually the bank did that audit and found out about the bogus loans.  “Gwen” promised to quit gambling — and for awhile she did manage.  But the casino pulled her back.

One night as she was standing at a slot machine, she got a funny feeling, like she was being watched.  She whirled around and there was Dave.  He made it plain that this was the end for them.  Gwen finally faced the fact that she was hooked and went into treatment for her gambling addiction.  Amazingly, their marriage survived.

Some time later Gwen shared her story with a reporter in hopes of warning others about the pitfalls of gambling.  She admits that she was addicted from the first time she entered a casino.

One day back in Montreal we visited with a financial consultant.  Our conversation drifted to the area of gambling and he told us that he considered gambling a corruption of society.  Judging by the social problems it brings, we must agree.  Studies have proved that people who can least afford to lose money are gambling away the grocery money.  People who “win big” at lotteries and sweepstakes often end up bankrupt within a year.

The government has seen the need to set up addiction counseling for people who get hopelessly hooked.  Intelligent, well-educated people get snared in this just like the poor and illiterate.  Addicts like Gwen turn to crime, embezzlement and deception to secure their gambling money.

Can Christians gamble?  Should they?  What does your conscience tell you?

Can we consider the evidence above and still say gambling is an innocent pastime that some people just get carried away with, or is the whole system inherently evil?  Considering the danger, does God smile benignly at His children frequenting the casinos or lottery ticket sellers?  Or is gambling the devil’s game that Our Heavenly Father wants us to have no part in?

Part of society’s problem nowadays is that our culture has rejected the idea of the devil.  People still understand–and are fascinated by–evil.  Vampires and zombies are big hits these days.  Society is intrigued by the occult, witches good and bad, the communication with the souls of the dead.  But people have a very vague concept of the enemy the Bible warns us about.

Satan has done a snow job on western civilization; even Christians have switched their message away from warnings about demonic interference in favour of “God loves us all.”  Yes, folks may like to pass off responsibility for their bad choices by saying “the devil made me do it,” but do we honestly believe there is a supernatural being who can –who does– speak to us and influence us?  Whose goal is our destruction?

Do we as Christians grasp the reality of spiritual warfare that Paul writes about in Ephesians 6:12?  Do we understand that there are forces and powers in this world, of this world, that are “earthly, sensual, devilish”?  More particularly, that to avoid being ensnared by the devil in the lusts of this world, we need to “touch not the unclean thing.”  Are we concerned enough about the danger of committing spiritual adultery?

God has not left us without help and guidance in this alluring, deceptive world.  There are a number of scriptures we can use to judge that which is good and acceptable in His sight.  In James 1:13-17 we read that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.”  Can something that produces such sad results be from above?  Jesus asks his disciples, “Can men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Gambling, with its promise of big money, opens itself to criminals and cheaters.  Some, like horse racing and boxing, have been corrupted by doping or laming horses just before the big race, or rigging fights.  Gaming fights, like the pit bull fights that are increasing in popularity in the US, are so cruel.  Some dogs are horribly mistreated to make them vicious.  They are again mistreated or executed if they lose fights.

Gambling is a system of this world, subject to the corruptions of the “prince of this world.”  He shows no mercy; neither do some of his subjects.

Matthew 7:17-20 tells us that “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.   Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…” 2Co 6:17  See also Ephesians 6:12.

You can be sure that if you as a Christian meet the devil at his gaming tables, you’ll lose more than just your shirt.
To be continued….

The Crows

High in the trees o’er the rain-soaked earth
The birds all sing to the new day’s birth,
And above it all comes the rasping call
Of the crows in flight as they survey all.

Black wings high over greening fields,
Off in search of a new day’s meal.
Their call’s not sweet and their flight is slow,
But work they must, so off they go.

Their eyes are sharp to the earth beneath
For food to put in their little ones’ beaks.
Scavengers all, as they scout around,
Their scent is keen as they comb the ground,
Back in the nests their little ones cry,
And they must eat, so the crows must fly.

Though oft’ despised, still they carry on;
They do their work and they sing their song.
They have their part in nature’s plan
And their call is heard all across the land.

Well, I may not be with beauty endowed;
My song is hoarse and my voice too loud.
Be my failings quick and my movements slow,
I still have a place in this world below,
And I must work, so off I go
Just like the crow.

By Christine Goodnough

First published in Letters from Home c. 1996 by Christian Robin Writers

Overcoming Fear

We had a Sunday School lesson one time on the subject of Fear.  As we were discussing this lesson and I was considering various angles of the topic, a completely new thought popped into my mind: “Fear is self-centredness.”

Another gem falling from heaven!

I pondered this thought and soon realized how true it has been in my life.  I’ve never had much self-confidence, have always been quite fearful by nature.  I’d assumed this is just the way I am; some people do worry and start quaking sooner than others.  But this sentence helped me to look at fearfulness in a new light.

When I look in myself for the strength to tackle some difficult thing, I often come up short.  Then I fear.  How can I do this alone?  How will it ever get done?  When I look to myself to solve problems that arise, I soon admit that within myself I don’t have the wisdom to deal with them.  Then I fear.  What if I try and things go very wrong?  What if I make bad choices?  Soon I’m panicked and paralyzed.

Some people seem to have a lot of confidence in themselves.  They give the impression that they can manage quite well; they’re capable of handling life’s problems and overcoming any obstacles in their paths.  Some of us lack this kind of confidence and rather opt for fear and trembling each time a new situation comes along.  But either way, it’s looking to SELF.

I have always believed that when we look to the Lord we do not need to fear; in any major trial His power and ability will come through on our behalf and we will be safe.  However, I could see that I’d not been putting my FAITH into PRACTICE in the small tests of life.  I thought God would look after the big stuff, but He’s leaving me to take care of the small stuff.  I never thought of pestering Him for help in every little difficulty I face.

That day I resolved to stop letting the dark spirit of fear overwhelm me.  Rather I was going to try looking in confidence to the Lord when new and unusual situations or problems came up. I wanted to have this perfect love that would trust Him completely and cast out my fears. (II John 4:18)

My resolve was put to the test some months later when I needed to climb up a ladder to the upstairs window.  Normally I never go higher than what the fourth rung on a step ladder will get me; tall ladders have me quaking, envisioning falls, broken bones, cracked skull, etc.  This time I looked up the long ladder and said to myself, “Fear is self-centred. I’m looking to the Lord.”  Then up I went without a tremor; my fear was gone.  It really works!

I’ve found it to be true in many areas: focusing on the Lord does cast out fear.  Since that time I have faced some real challenges and had some very hard things to do at times, but as I have looked to Him for help I have been able to do things I never could do before‒without that paralyzing fear.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear…” See Psalm 46:1-2

Isaiah 43: 1-2  But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

(Reblogged from my website: christinegoodnough.ca)

Encouraging Thought for the Day

by Edgar Guest

The joy of life is living it
or so it seems to me;
in finding shackles on your wrists,
then struggling till you’re free;
in seeing wrongs and righting them,
in dreaming splendid dreams,
then toiling till the vision is
as real as moving streams.
The happiest mortal on the earth
is he who ends his day
by leaving better than he found
to bloom along the way.

Were all things perfect here there would
be naught for man to do;
if what is old were good enough
we’d never need the new.
The only happy time of rest
is that which follows strife
and sees some contribution made
unto the joy of life.
And he who has oppression felt,
and conquered it, is he
who really knows the happiness
and peace of being free.

The miseries of earth are here
and with them all must cope.
Who seeks for joy, through hedges thick
of care and pain must grope.
Through disappointment man must go
to value pleasure’s thrill;
To really know the joy of health
a man must first be ill.
The wrongs are here for man to right
and happiness is had
by striving to supplant with good
the evil and the bad.

The joy of life is living it
and doing things of worth,
in making bright and fruitful
all the barren spots of earth,
in facing odds and mastering them
and rising from defeat,
and making true what once was false
and what was bitter, sweet.
For only he knows perfect joy
whose little bit of soil
is richer ground than what it was
when he began to toil.

From his book, JUST FOLKS
published 1917 by The Reilly & Britton Co.

I Witnessed a ‘Mugging’ Today…

And Rescued the Victim With My Bare Hands!

Fellow blogger ApronheadLilly wrote a post yesterday about witnessing a murder: she saw a Cooper’s Hawk kill a blackbird in her back yard.  I know that nature takes its tragic course around me all day every day, but I’m too soft-hearted: if I get the chance I do intervene to prevent the slaughter of some helpless creature.  Today I got another chance.

I woke up from my afternoon nap in the recliner and found the living room quite warm, so I went out the side entrance (to our addition) and sat on the deck.  Because it was sunny and mild I left the door open in case one of the cats wanted to join me–and Angus did a few moments later.  Then he went to snoop under the other set of stairs (to our main entrance.)

Suddenly he ran into the house and I decided to get up and shut the door.  Then I saw him inside–with something hanging from his mouth.  He’d ‘mugged’ a mouse?  “Outside!” I insisted several times, but he just stood there looking at me.

Closer inspection revealed that it was in fact a little junco.  He had it by one shoulder, but it was still twitching.  Likely he’d brought it in to play with and here I was, being such a wet blanket.  I ordered him outside again, fearing he’d let the thing go and we’d have to chase it all over the trailer.  When he didn’t budge, I picked him up and carried him out, thinking he’d let go of it any second, but he was still holding the bird when I dumped him on the deck.

Then I reached down and pried his mouth open.  Unmugged, the bird flew away–showing no sign of injury.  He dashed after it, but it settled in the caragana hedge and he never did catch it again.  I tried to impress on him our “NO BIRDS” rule; I doubt it sank in.  To him a bird is a toy and that’s that.

Anyway, now I could say that I prevented a murder today. 🙂

I wrote a story once about a little elephant that finds a child and sort of befriends it.  Later he sees his child friend asleep and a huge snake is about to swallow the child, so the elephant intervenes: he stomps the snake flat.

“No, no, no!” said my writing school instructor.  “You can never have your main character commit a murder!”

“But it’s a snake!”  No dice.  I had to cut out all the violence.  He could chase the snake away, but not stomp on it.

I had figured that a child reader would identify with the little elephant, but I hadn’t considered that a snake would be seen as an animal, too.  In my books, a snake is a snake.  Life gets complex in the world of children’s literature.

Back to today:  After my daring rescue, my husband and I went for a drive just for anyhow.  No signs of green grass in the ditches yet and ice patches still cover a lot of ponds, but we saw small flocks of Canada geese heading north.  And we have this flock of juncos hopping around our yard.  One less would never be noticed, right?

Comforters for Children, Timing for Birds

A friend and I went shopping for fabric yesterday.  It was a pleasant outing, but this morning I’m dealing with the consequences: a plugged sinus that prevented me from falling back to sleep when I awoke at 5am.  So I’ll write instead–and likely resort to decongestant before long, since I’m scheduled to cook at the Villa today.

We two shoppers are members of the Church’s Sewing committee and it’s part of the committee’s job to purchase fabrics to use as comforter tops and backs.  We hit two fabric stores and came back with a bunch of fabric and a big roll of batting.  I tend to be sensitive to the chemicals in new fabrics–and more so if they are a bit musty–so at times I get a shopping bonus of sinus problems.

On Sewing Days we, the Committee, match and measure these fabrics; we sandwich a layer of batting between and pin them together for some ladies to tie.  Last Sewing Day they got about eight comforters tied and there are two Sewing Days a month Nov to March so it keeps the Committee hopping to keep the ones who tie supplied with blankets.

These blankets go to inner city schools; from there they are distributed to families who need them. The Sewing ladies also cut and sew gowns for the palliative care wing of one Saskatoon hospital, and layette blankets for the nursery of another.   Our work seems to be much appreciated and it gives the ladies a pleasant day of visiting & fellowship.

We had a beautiful day for shopping: sunny and spring-like.  All we need now is for the birds to start coming back.  (But they better not!  March can be nasty, April iffy.)

I was reading in an old devotional booklet this morning about the Swallows of San Juan Capistrano.  The writer makes reference to the old song, “When the Swallows Come Back To Capistrano” and says how reliable this event is.  They come back on March 19th and leave Oct 23rd every year without fail.  Even on leap years.  Incredible timing!

We, too, have seen an example of the timing of wild birds and it really is amazing.  Back when we lived near London, Ontario, one day for an outing our family went to Jack Miner’s Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville.  Jack Miner became known as a friend of Canada geese and he left this sanctuary so others could come and observe these beautiful birds close up.

His descendants were maintaining the property–hopefully still do; one of them went out every day at 4 pm to feed the birds.  When we arrived at 3:45 pm we walked around a bit and saw about a hundred or so Canada geese in the field obviously waiting for their supper.  At 3:50 a few dozen more had joined them.

At 3:55 the sky was full of Canada geese, hundreds of them coming in from every direction.  (I told my husband this is just like Mennonites getting to Church. :))  By 4pm they were all settled in the field waiting; I don’t remember that there were any latecomers.  It wasn’t the sound of a motor that brought them, for they had to wait another twenty minutes until the food came.  So what inner clock would give them such precise timing?

For an answer to this and other intriguing questions about the natural world, read Job Chapter 39.