Batting Practice – 8 Strategies for Success

My friend Kelli Hughett is my guest today. She wrote a novel about football . . . so what’s not to like. So, as the pro-football season is heating up, the little league baseball season has wrapped up, and Kelli found some life lessons from her sons’ summer to share with us.

Summer Baseball was about to begin. It was the first batting practice and anticipation was high. We were there to see our 7 year old shine. But his feet were all wrong. He stood so awkwardly at the plate. The bat extended from him at such a strange angle. Our stomachs flip-flopped as his first swing went everywhere except to meet the ball. We lost count of how many balls swooshed by him as we shouted encouragement to little man. The coach, seeing the distress, slowed down the pitches, but our son connected only occasionally.

DCF 1.0

DCF 1.0

The game wasn’t much better with players on our 12 year-old’s team, but as the weeks passed, their stances improved as did their swings. Players on each team learned to connect with more pitches.

When late July arrived, they both played in the end-of-season tournament.

What a difference! Both teams, and both sons showed major improvement at the plate. They were taking fast, hard pitches and sending them into the outfield! This year, both their teams won their bracket! What a joy to watch them learn and improve in a sport they love.

Even with all the improvement, pitches still got past every hitter on both teams. Out of three pitches, they might foul one before sending a big shot to left field. How we would cheer when they connected! The fans (read: parents) won’t remember the balls they didn’t hit. We remember the balls they did!

As Christians, we so often put tremendous pressure on ourselves. We look at the challenges and opportunities of life like batting practice, only we expect to hit every pitch to the fence. When we don’t we feel guilty or like failures.

Here are 8 winning strategies for success when opportunities come your way like batting practice.

  1. Step up to the plate. You’re never going to improve if you don’t take batting practice. Pray God starts sending “pitches” you can hit. Opportunities to serve and share the gospel will come if you step up to the plate!
  2. Trust your coach: God’s a good coach. He’s promised to be patient with you. If you’re at the plate, that’s all he wants. He’ll allow some slow pitches while you’re learning. Take correction by getting into the word on a daily basis.
  3. Swing batta, batta. Take the risk and swing! Don’t let the best opportunities pass you by because you weren’t ready to swing or feared failure.
  4. Shake off the strikes. Stop feeling guilty about the pitches you missed. The ones that matter are the ones that connect.
  5. Wait for your pitch. As Christians, we can get busy “swinging” at any ball (opportunity). Set your priorities and wait for your pitch to make the biggest impact for the Kingdom of Christ.
  6. Sometimes you get walked. God’s grace can send any batter to first without a hit. Capitalize on this to persevere when the game gets hard.
  7. Quit keeping the count on other Christians. We’re quick to call 5 and 2 when our fellow players are at bat. Be an encourager of your teammates, not the umpire!
  8. We’ve already won the game. Jesus Christ has already sealed the victory with his blood. We play, not to earn the win, but because we’ve already won! Step up to the plate like a winner!

 

Here’s the link to Kelli’s book:  http://tinyurl.com/qesthpm

You can also visit her website at kellihughett.com

Enjoy!

 

9781941103364 (1)

Forgiveness — Let It Go

There it was again. I was out walking, enjoying the day, and my mind reached down and pulled up that hurtful memory like a cow pulling up its cud to chew. And chew I did. I was there again. I rehearsed what they said, what they did. It was simply wrong. It wasn’t true or right. I saw their expression. It hurt. It made me mad. My body tensed. All the words I should have said coursed through me.

2472

Finally, I said to myself, “That was five years ago! WHY am I thinking about that now? I thought I forgot that.” Obviously I had not. As I settled down and focused on why I was remembering so vividly rather than what I was remembering, I had the thought, ‘perhaps I need to forgive’.

The word forgive comes from the Greek word aphiemi which means to release or send away. Bottom line it means ‘let it go’.

Unforgiveness puts us in a prison of torment. They say it’s like preparing poison for the person you haven’t forgiven and then drinking it yourself, not understanding why they don’t change. You live with tormenting thoughts day and night of what they said or did. Those thoughts can exhaust you and dominate everything and anything you need to do.

Unforgiveness makes us ugly. We think we are unaffected because we are sure we are right. The truth is we become difficult to be around. Perhaps we are always the victim, promoting the poor me attitude. Perhaps we put up a wall so no one else can hurt us or deceive us. We also may go on the aggressive, just to make sure no one has the opportunity to do anything against us.

1429

Forgiveness sets us free. Most of us think forgiveness lets the other person off the hook. Not so. It does not deny what they did or that it was wrong. They will have to answer to God, to themselves, and perhaps the civil/criminal court of law. But we can be free of their sin’s control over us. That person may not even know anyone was offended. It’s possible their comment or action was inadvertent. And, certainly, it may have been on purpose, mean-spirited, and downright evil. Either way, forgiveness sets us free from those chains.

Forgiveness is the highest order of life.  If you forgive constantly, if you make a habit of letting things go, life is a joy.  Forgiveness destroys the stumbling blocks of anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness, and wariness that seem to place themselves right in your path. You have opportunity every day to take offense, but it will be poison in your veins.  Forgiveness cleanses you, protects you, and so blesses others. Why not begin developing the habit? As with any habit, you will have to practice. Sometimes you may need to forgive the same thing many times, but it becomes easier and easier.

2671

I spent a whole summer walking and forgiving.  It seemed all those things that had festered below the surface were brought up to my mind, like the cream rising to top so it could be skimmed away. I learned to let it go, to skim it away. Some were easier than others, but I began to develop a pattern, and I began to learn to recognize the poison for what it was. Looking back, a lot of good doors opened after that summer. I think when those ugly thoughts aren’t dominating our thinking that we are open to hear God’s thoughts and good plans for us. I still have to work at it at times, but life is so much better when I let it go.

Between Two Trees – How To Find Your Way When the Path is Unclear

1440

Spring has arrived and it’s time to walk in the woods again.  We have a wonderful trail a short distance behind our home, and we created a path from the house to the trail. But after a winter away from that path, it’s always a bit difficult to maneuver. The woods are always changing while looking all the same. I developed a phrase which helps me locate our path: between two trees. It sounds so silly. In the woods, everything is between two trees.

Yet I’ve gotten to know, to recognize two particular trees not too far apart. As I walk between them, I look for the next set of trees that are my markers.  I have four sets of two trees that get me home.  The last set always makes me think of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The trees are tall and wide and seem like a gateway to another world just as in C.S. Lewis’s wonderful story.

The woods change with the seasons. In early spring, I can see our house in the distance while I locate my trees. Soon my feet have shuffled away some of the dead leaves so the path is fairly plain. However, when the leaves bud and open – I always call it the greening – the house is no longer visible and I have to pay attention to my trees again. In the fall the leaves blanket the ground hiding the well worn path and my trees lead me once more.  If I walk in the woods in the winter, all is white and gray with nothing to distinguish my walkway. The  two trees beckon me home.

Life constantly changes while often looking the same, just like the woods. You know the path is there, but it’s just not quite clear. Things get in the way, seasons change, and it seems so hard to see where you know you should go, where you thought you knew the way. What can you do? How can you pick out your own two trees or several sets?

In life, you only need one set of two trees and you only need to look up to see them.  When Jesus died on the cross, He hung between two thieves, also on crosses. A cross was called a tree.  Jesus hung between two trees and He is your way home. When you look to Him, He will show you the way, no matter how much life changes or stays the same.  He tells us He is the way, the truth, the life.  He also says He is the door.

He will give you wisdom, give you answers, and give you peace and strength for the journey. He may do it with a verse from the Bible, a knowing in your heart, a thought in your mind, or perhaps a friendship you weren’t expecting. He will hold your hand and walk with you. Ask Him to lead you where you need to go. Look to the One between the two trees and find your way through the beauty, the confusion, the changes, and the blessings of the many seasons of life.

The 45 minute Principle to Success: How to survive the chores of daily life

3035

I had a book to write, not only write but finish.  I did not have a publisher yet setting deadlines, but I knew inside I needed to write and to get it done.  I have 2 other books partially done and one that I need to rework, but this one I knew I had to get done. But I was distracted.  Everyday there was something else that demanded my attention whether trivial or important. I kept setting goals to write 2 to 3 hours a day. That seemed reasonable. Gosh, I knew authors who wrote daily for 4 hours, even 8 hours.  2-3 hours should be doable, I told myself.  However, there never seemed to be enough time in the day, or if there was on occasion, I just could not sit myself down for that long. I was like a little kid with no discipline it seemed. And so because I couldn’t see that happening, I didn’t start.

After a couple months of this, rather than apologizing to the Lord daily about my lack of discipline, I asked Him how I would ever get it done.  Inside, I felt Him ask how I got my first novel (already published) written. I replied, “In 45 minute segments, here and there.” It was as if He said, “then do it again – it’s how you write”.  Amazingly, that was my answer.  I could easily set aside 45 minutes, and because I could, I did. Often those 45 minutes turned into an hour and a half and sometimes a few hours, but the 45 minute thinking allowed me to start. About 3 months later the book was finished.

I have since found that the 45 minute principle helps in all sorts of other things.  Maybe I should walk an hour a day, but I just can’t get it together enough to do that. However I can walk 45 minutes. Sometimes in the morning I wish I could spend 2 hours in prayer and bible study, but with everything else that needs to get done, it won’t happen.  I can often get in 45 minutes, though.  And if 30 or 20 is all I can do on somedays, that’s OK.

Now, the chores. The closet sorting, the cleaning, and all those things we don’t enjoy. They take hours and hours. But wait, I can do 45 minutes. When it comes to that closet, I tell myself “45 minutes, that’s it. What I get done, I get done, and then I’m off to other things. Now, if I get into it and want to go longer, well I can if I want to, but all I’m promising is 45 minutes.

My sister-in-law’s closet collapsed – she said the closet cyclone hit and put a picture on facebook.  I immediately commented: Go in 45 minute segments and do phase one . . . get rid of all the clothes you don’t like and know you’ll never wear. If you aren’t sure, just leave it. And take them away immediately if not sooner. The next day do phase 2: get rid of the clothes that don’t fit and adopt the thought ‘I can bless someone with this’ rather than ‘Oh Gosh, I really like it, so and so gave it to me, maybe it will fit next year’. And take them away. Phase 3 is those things that you so loved and paid so much for but after you got them home they just don’t work. It seems such a waste and you should really wear them.  If so, wear them. But if you can push yourself a bit, be realistic and let someone else be blessed.  When I do this I can fit what I actually wear into my closet space and I can see those great things I forgot I had.

You can apply the 45 minute principle to just about any chore and responsibility in your daily life – probably any pleasure, too. Only spend 45 minutes on that hobby, or puzzle, or facebook, or reading your favorite magazine, so you can still get the other things done that are necessary. You may have to adjust it to 30 minutes, but if you tend to procrastinate because the job is overwhelming and you know it will take so long, chunk it up and do it in incremental segments. You will always see progress this way and progress brings success.

3 Aspects of Hope for Daily Life

I’m sorry, Judy, but we selected two very qualified teachers for those positions.” I was crushed. Other than wanting to cry, I was baffled because I didn’t know how to be any more qualified. But I kept on. I subbed. I offered to help with any and all extra-curriculars. I applied for an aide position and got it. I chose to be thankful, and believe. I had hope that there was a position for me in that school.

Hope is a seed.  It starts small. Sometimes it’s just a tickle, a thought in the back of the mind, a phrase that someone says in passing.  But it has a persistence, a flash, a spark that captures your very being.  Sometimes you have to dig for it, because it seems so far out of reach, but you just can’t let it go, even though everyone, including you, keeps telling you that you should.  Like a seed, it is planted in darkness and remains unseen. You know it’s there, but you can’t see it. You long for it, wonder if it’s real. So you water it and keep the weeds away because somehow you know that it will come forth and bear fruit.

1027

Hope is placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  Romans 5 tells us that we have peace with God through Jesus and through Him we can walk into faith and grace and rejoice in hope of glory of God.  His glory is all His goodness. He gives us the ability to walk into it. And in the book of Hebrews He tells us this hope that He puts in us is an anchor to our souls. If you’ve ever been in a boat in rough seas, you know how important and life-preserving an anchor is. Life in this world can be very rocky. Thank God He puts hope in our hearts.

Hope does not disappoint. Romans 5 also tells us we can glory in adversity and pressure because it produces endurance and perseverance. That perseverance develops character and character produces more hope. This hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in hearts by the Holy Spirit, and that love brings perspective and confidence.  So, no matter how you come at life or how life comes at you, if you trust God, you will not be disappointed because His love comes with it. This doesn’t mean to lay down and let terrible things happen to you, but when things do happen, let hope arise within you and hang on to God.

That year that I was an aide was tough. It was with the students who had behavior issues. Oh did I learn. I persisted, I hoped, and I gained experience. In the next set of interviews, I was hired to teach the following year in a position that I held and loved for 22 years. The seed from God did not disappoint. I worked hard, had a blast, and know I was a positive influence on many young people. Let your hope grow. Water it, nourish it, protect it, don’t let it go, and see what God can do.

3 Aspects of Faith for Daily Life

I was so upset one day after a phone call from someone I dearly loved.  I was not happy with the situation I thought they were allowing…I wanted them to do something different, but I knew I couldn’t tell them that . . . I’d already done that a few times. . . and it didn’t work. So I went for a walk on the beach.  It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and glitters on the aqua blue waves. The air was warm. People were walking and swimming and playing. . .a beautiful day.  I took in the beauty, but inside I cried out to God. “Lord, I need to hear from you on this. I need your perspective.  I don’t want it to go this way.  I want to fix it. I want to shake someone so they see it correctly.” I was looking up and there may have been tears in my eyes. When I finished my little rant, I glanced to my side.  There on a bench about 20 feet away sat a man with a black t-shirt on. In huge white letters his t-shirt said, “Stay Calm and Walk On.” At first, I did not want to acknowledge that God was answering me like that. But He was.

1408

Faith needs Hope. Without hope, there is no foothold for faith, no path to walk on. The Bible tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, so hope needs to be present.  You have a desire, a need, a dream and you hope for a fulfillment, an answer to your desire.  If you spend time in the Bible, known as the Word of God (what He says), you’ll find all kinds of promises, and more often than not, there will be a promise for what you want or need.  So, you want it, God promises it, and now you build on that with faith. You believe and trust that you will get the answer, the need met, the desire fulfilled.

Faith works by Love. Faith doesn’t stand alone when you are believing and trusting. It travels down a two-way street of love.  One direction is knowing that God loves you and wants the best for you, and the other direction is loving Him and the people He has set around you.  1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible holds amazing truths about love.  We can have all kinds of faith, but faith is nothing without love.  That chapter in the Bible tells us love isn’t rude, but is kind. It doesn’t rejoice in evil but in truth. Love isn’t resentful and touchy. Helping others in faith, hope, and love will open doors for you.

Faith without Works is dead. The Greek word for work is ergon, meaning toil, effort, labor. Sometimes we want to believe God for what we need and never do a thing…just sit back and wait. There is a certain truth to that…it’s called resting in the Lord, letting go, not trusting in our own efforts. However, there is a toil, an effort, a labor to standing firm in your trust, in obeying God in those little and big things He may nudge you to do. It is a bit of a dichotomy, but you let go of your own way of doing things, put your situation in God’s hands, and then speak and act as if it’s done, staying vigilant to hear and obey what He wants you to do.

So now what do I do about the situation that so upset me. I have to walk in faith. I have asked God to lead me to promises and verses that lay a foundation of hope. On those I build my faith and trust God to fulfill those promises. I stay calm in faith and make a continuing effort to walk in love, knowing God loves those involved more than I ever could, and He can guide them. And then my work, my ongoing effort is to pray for His will to be fulfilled, to trust and believe and to speak the promises in faith, knowing God will bring them to pass. And if He nudges me to say something, do something, I will obey.

Blood Moon Time

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, October 8, there will be the second total lunar eclipse in a set of four.  Because of the refraction of the sun’s light passing through earth’s atmosphere as the earth slides between the moon and the sun, the moon appears red, hence the name Blood Moon.

lunar eclipse, moon, space

I love these things because I loved teaching fifth grade science, and delighted in informing the students that a lunar eclipse was viewing earth’s shadow passing over the moon.  Imagine seeing the earth’s shadow! How exciting! And refraction, the bending of light, as it passes through a substance, creates colors. How cool is that! Science is so much fun.

But these Blood Moons carry a much greater significance.  This is a series of four consecutive Blood Moons, that began April 14, 2014, and will continue to next September, each of them falling on a Jewish high holy day.  The spring ones occur on Passover and the autumn ones on the first day of Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles.  Rabbinical teachings indicate that Blood Moons hold great significance for Israel.

Let me give you some background.  Although there can be as many as 7 lunar eclipses in any year, there have only been a few times in history when 4 in a row occurred on Jewish holy days.  The next time this will happen is a few hundred years from now.

There was a blood moon tetrad in 1493-94. The Spanish Inquisition required all Jews to be out of the country by July 31, 1492.  It was a terrible time for Jews.  Christopher Columbus sailed on August 3 of that year. Not too many know that Columbus was part Jewish.  He was a provision for the Jews in a time of great persecution.  They were given a whole new world to live in.

The next blood moon tetrad was in 1949-50. The Jews had such tragedy with the holocaust and then great triumph in obtaining their own country, Israel.  1967-68 was the next tetrad.  All the countries surrounding Israel wanted their annihilation, but Israel won the Six-Day War and regained Jerusalem.

Now Hamas has been pounding Israel with rockets and ISIS is decimating the Middle East. And we are in another set of Blood Moons.  What will be the provision for Israel? What will be their triumph this time? Doubtless, God will help and bless Israel.

John Hagee and Mark Biltz have written informational books about all of this. They will increase your understanding.  I have written a political thriller novel about this entitled Blood Moon Redemption. I have not yet secured a publisher, but I hope to soon.

So be sure to rise early Wednesday morning and watch the second Blood Moon of this holy day tetrad. Know that you are watching your planet’s shadow. Know also that God has set the sun and moon in the sky for signals and ask God what He would have you do.

Take the Plunge

It seemed unlikely. Thousands of people would have entered. But then, there’s always God’s favor.  Yes, and probably every person that entered prayed for God’s favor.  Who am I? But I knew my niece’s story should be told.  BJ Taylor had presented a short workshop on how to write a good entry and had even given me  a critique. Still . . . it took her four times, and they only held the contest every two years.  Mid-August came and seemed to have gone.  It was August 20. I’d prayed again that morning. “It’s OK, why would they select me, but Lord you know, and Clare’s story should be told. And it would look nice on my resume. And I would learn so much.  It would be so cool. I praise you, Lord.”

The phone rang about 2PM. I didn’t recognize the number, but was focused on something on the computer. “Hello.”

“This is Guideposts Magazine calling.” A flutter, dropped mouth, excitement, disbelief. I was one of 12 who had won the 2014 Guideposts Workshop Contest. I would be flying to Rye, New York in October to be trained in the art of inspirational storytelling. Clare’s story would be told.

My first words were “Are you kidding?” Seriously, Self, would they randomly call the non-winners and tell them they won? I was simply stunned.  Then I was so excited, I don’t know what else I said.  I quickly texted and then called my niece. “I won, you won, we won!”

My niece had fallen off a boat a few years ago and subsequently spent 7 hours alone in the ocean overnight.  God gave her such peace and strength. It was difficult, but she survived, and I was given the privilege to write her story. Hopefully you can read it soon in Guideposts Magazine.

I will have so many opportunities to tell so many stories. The last few weeks so many stories from my past and from other people are stirring in my heart and mind.  What opportunities this workshop provides.

I still am somewhat flabbergasted (isn’t that a great word), as are the other winners.  We have met through email and on facebook.  We have met several that are already a part of the Guideposts family as well. What a kind and welcoming group. The workshop begins two weeks from today.

So, if God has given you a nudge to proceed in a certain venture that seems unlikely of success because of the sheer volume of competitors, go ahead and step out.  You’ll not get there if you never start. It may take a while and you may have to do a lot of do-overs, but you’ll be the better for it, and it will put you in a place to see the next step and the next opportunity. At first, for me, this seemed a whim, then it seemed an assignment from God, then it seemed a calling, a purpose.  I’m not quite sure what doors this will open for me, but I think there will be connections and open doors that I never would have experienced if I didn’t take time and try.

 

 

More Than One Way to Pitch a Book

I had just arrived at the Write to Publish Conference in Wheaton, IL, and placed my book, The Cheesehead Devotional, on the consignment table. A man named Bob Hostetler picked up a copy.  I said, “That’s my book”, excited that already someone was buying it, or so I thought.

He replied, “I’m going to pitch it tonight.”  I was pleased, noting he held several books in his arms.  We chatted a few minutes and then I hurried off to my first workshop of the conference.  When I arrived for the evening meeting, I learned that Bob Hostetler was the featured speaker for the conference.  He’s co-authored several books with Josh McDowell and written many other well-known books and articles.

His message was to not allow discouragement to keep us from writing what God has called us to write.  He showed humorously how comparing ourselves to other writers is not helpful.  He began picking up books of workshop speakers and making comments on how his books just didn’t compare.  His comments brought lots of laughter.  Then he picked up my book and said, “Now Judy here has written The Cheesehead Devotional . . . That is just wrong!!!” and threw (pitched) it across the room!  It was absolutely hilarious — everyone roared, including me.  I was so surprised, but I so understand that non-Packer fans have their issues. I found out later that Bob is a Bengals fan — explains it.

The next day, I told him, “Bob, I’m going to use your name — that you pitched my book.  You told me you’d pitch it and you did.”

He replied, “Judy, you can tell them I was compelled.”

I added, “And it was a big hit.”

The humor surrounding my book continued throughout the week.  The director of the conference listed the titles of Bob’s books one evening before he came up to speak.  When she got to the book, “Quit Going to Church”, she paused, then said, “Now that’s just wrong!” and threw it on the floor.  Again, it brought the house down.

At the editor’s panel, editors were asked to describe the type of books they were looking for.   Eddie Jones, senior editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, who published my book, explained that they published devotionals that addressed a particular niche or specific wound. He went on to mention my book saying that it addressed the particular niche of the Green Bay Packers.  Another editor leaned over to his microphone and added, “Or a specific wound”. Again, a ton of laughter.  I don’t remember his favorite team, but obviously not the Packers. A small football war beginning??

To cap off a great conference with wonderful teaching, great networking, new friends, and so much laughter, I received the  Best New Writer 2013 award at the Saturday night banquet.  As I went up to receive the award, very surprised, one of the organizers of the conference shouted, “Now that’s just right!” I am very honored to receive the award, and thank God for all His goodness to each of us.

So if you want to pitch a book, realize there may be many wonderful results. And if you want to read the book, check it out on Amazon.

 

Those Rascally Critters!!

I had to brake for a turkey crossing the road the other day.  It was so sad.  I rather enjoy braking for deer as they are so beautiful to behold.  Yes, it’s so dangerous to hit a deer, but when it’s a turkey, I actually consider hitting it.  Turkeys came on our property once and totally demolished a bird feeder.  One flew through a neighbor’s window and almost destroyed his kitchen before destroying itself.  He came home to find the mess.

I have flower gardens, so I don’t want turkeys.  I also don’t want deer eating my flowers, and that’s one reason we have a dog.  She does a great job shooing them to the neighbors.  I apologize to them once in a while for that.  We had one dog, though, that was so mild-mannered that the deer would come up and eat his food. Wish we had a picture of it.

The creature at the top of my list of those not allowed is the red squirrel.  The grey squirrels are abundant, and my husband spends a great deal of time designing methods to keep them off the bird feeders.  Quite comical.  We even had those nocturnal flying squirrels once.  A red squirrel, though, is destructive.  They have gotten into our shed and shredded things as well as chewing up a seat in the boat.  Plus, they chatter.

I decided to follow Jesus’ example when He spoke to the fig tree and told it that no one would eat its fruit again. The next day it was dried up from its roots.  So, I started talking to the red squirrels.  I told them that they were to no longer live on my property, that it was not their home, that they needed to go somewhere else and have a happy life, but they were not to remain on my property.  I didn’t yell, I just spoke very firmly.  It took about five weeks, but they left.  The next year it only took two or three weeks with those that came.

I think we went a couple years with no sign of red squirrels.  Then two years ago, one came and he was sassy.  He would chatter at me when I was outside like he was telling me to get lost.  I calmly told him to leave as it was my property, not his.  I did throw a couple rocks at him — he was really annoying.

About the same time a raccoon visited.  Now I kind of like raccoons.  My brother and a friend found two baby raccoons next to their mother who had been hit by a car.  Each took one home.  My brother named ours Yunior.  Yunior would walk down the sidewalk between my brother’s feet.  Mom would not let Yunior in the house but Grandma would.  Her house was old and had pipes outside the walls.  At the joints of the pipes there were drips so she kept a pan there to catch the water.  We would give Yunior crackers and he would wash them in the pans.  We kept him in a dog house with a cage outside its door.  My cousin and I would lay on the ground with our heads against the cage and let Yunior play with our hair.

My husband, however, was not quite so fond of raccoons and borrowed a live trap from a friend.  He put some bread in it and placed it behind our little pond about 30 feet from our door.  The next morning he woke me to tell me we got the raccoon.  I ran downstairs and opened the door to see it.  As it lifted his head, I was saying, “Oh aren’t you cute.  Wait, you are not cute.  Lee, it’s not a raccoon, it’s an opossum.”  We laughed and went out to see it.  By then it was trying to play dead, so we joked that we could no longer see it.  Lee loaded the cage into the car, drove to the other side of the peninsula and released it.  We were hoping that someone over there wasn’t catching critters and bringing them over by us and releasing them.

That night, Lee put some meat in the live trap and the next morning the young raccoon was in there.  Now, he was cute.  I love those little bandit faces and inquisitive eyes.  This time, I went with Lee to drop the little guy on  the other side of the peninsula and hoped he would have a happy life.

So, mission accomplished.  Lee set the trap out where it had been and we thought no more about it until the next morning.  Our dog was going nuts out by the trap.  I went out and who would be there, but little Mr. Chattering Red Squirrel.  I tried to contain myself.  I said, “Hello, Mr. Red Squirrel.  I think we had a talk about this, that you needed to leave, so I’m glad you have accommodated us so nicely.  I hope that you have a long and happy life where we take you.  You could have left yourself, but, as I told you, this is not your home anymore.  I do apologize for throwing the rocks at you.  That was not my best moment.  But, having said that, it is time to say goodbye.”  Yes, Lee took him across the peninsula.  We wondered if we should have banded them all to see if they came back, but we’ve had no opossums, raccoons, and thankfully, no red squirrels or turkeys since then.

Spring has just sprung and I am looking forward to sitting out on my patio by our little pond and viewing only birds and grey squirrels.  I may have to exercise my faith and authority again, but in the meantime I will be content to see raccoons, opossum, deer, turkeys, and red squirrels at places other than my property.  I will continue to talk to the animals.  They listen.  And, if need be, I will tell them where they cannot be.

Our voice of authority is a real voice.  It is, of course, for more important things in our life than just pesky animals, but animals provide great practice and some funny stories.  Read Mark 11 and learn how important what you say is.