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About this column

by Linda Roorda - Poetry and other inspirational writing

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Linda Roorda

There comes a time when all good things come to an end.  And that time has come for The Poet’s Chair here at the Elmira Telegram website which is closing June 1st.  Life for each of us moves on to new beginnings all along the way.  And so it’s time to embark on a new beginning with a new blog.  But, endings are never easy.  It’s difficult to say goodbye to something that’s been a great experience, especially to new friends made on this journey.  Yet, beginnings are not easy either.  They come with a whole set of adjustments to make.  And I have never welcomed change.  It’s been humbling to hear how much my poetry and blogs have meant to you, my readers, and I’d be honored to have you join me at Lifesong Poetic Devotions.  There’s a new poem and reflection waiting for you to read, enjoy and share! (Please let me know if this URL does not work.)

 

Linda Roorda

Ahhh, spring!  My favorite season!  And isn’t this beautiful weather?!  I love to see the signs of new life emerging slowly, almost imperceptibly, after earth’s long wintry sleep.  To smell the fresh earthy aroma that follows a gentle spring rain is refreshing, and to watch the daintiest leaf or flower bud begin to emerge brings joy to my heart.  With a bright sun’s nourishing warmth, those leaf buds swell and burst open, bringing many shades of green to life.  Then, as flowers begin to brighten the landscape, it’s as though all of creation rejoices with endless color.

 

I’ve often thought about the joy and pleasure it must have given our God as He created every aspect of this world, every plant and every creature… each uniquely designed!  After His work of creating a separate aspect of this world each day of the week, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31 NIV)  Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have been a witness as this marvelous creation all came to be?  I’ve also imagined that the first week of creation was spring with vivid colors bursting forth in blooms from every kind of plant and flower imaginable! 

 

Then He created man and woman to tend and care for the beautiful Garden of Eden, ultimately to be caretakers of the world at large.  And to know that all this beauty was created for our pleasure, to treasure and nourish… what an awesome responsibility and beautiful gift we were given! 

 

Enjoy the beauty of spring in all its glory as it bursts forth anew to color our every-day world!

 

Colors of Spring

Linda A. Roorda

 

From brilliant yellow of forsythia arched

To burgundy red on trees standing tall

The colors of spring emerge in great beauty

To brighten our days from winter’s dark sleep.

 

From chartreuse shades as leaf buds burst forth

To pink and white flowers in cloud-like halos

Hovering on branches in glowing full bloom

Swaying above carpets of undulating green.

 

From rich azure sky with puffs of white-gray

To pale blue horizon at forested hills

With sun-streaked rays like fingers of God

To lengthening shadows as light slowly fades.

 

From velvet black night as moon rises full

To glittering diamonds twinkling bright

Up over hills on a path through the sky

Gliding above trees with limbs reaching out.

 

From earth’s colorful palette awakening clear

To the crisp and bold and shades of pastels

Shimmering and dancing to brighten our day

Created by God, our pleasure to behold.

~~

05/02/13

All rights reserved. 

May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

~

Linda Roorda

Impetuous Peter… the disciple like so many of us, if we’re honest.  I tend to speak quickly, not always giving as much thought to my answer as I should.  My husband, on the other hand, takes time to formulate his reply.  And how often I’ve realized the depth of wisdom he shares in what he’s mulled over.

 

Then, there’s the side of us which promises never to abandon a friend in their time of need.  Yet we do.  And I can’t help but wonder… aren’t we a bit miffed at denials to protect themselves?  Does their conscience ever pierce their heart?  Is guilt or shame felt?  Don’t they know that a humble heart-felt apology for wrongs done can begin to restore relationships?  But, more importantly, have we forgiven them anyway?  For faithful are we as the friend who remains supportive with encouragement, no matter what.  Which reminds me of the twelve disciples gathered around Jesus and their inner thoughts… no different than us.  Unbeknownst to all but Jesus, one of their own, Judas, was in the process of selling out their Lord for thirty pieces of silver, even as they ate the Passover meal together. (Matthew 26:14-16, 17-30)

 

The disciples all knew how much Jesus loved them, so it must have caused great consternation as they heard Him warn Peter that before a rooster crowed twice, Peter would deny ever having known Jesus.  Peter protested that he would go to prison or even die with Jesus, but never renounce his best friend!  They must have all wondered how their Teacher could think such a thing, let alone say it! (Luke 22:31-34; Mark 14:27-31)

 

After dinner, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to rest and pray.  Judas eventually joined them, bringing a large entourage of soldiers.  But then he gave Jesus a traitor’s kiss as soldiers surrounded him.  To prove his own devotion to his best friend, Peter rashly sliced off the ear of one of the Roman guards with his sword.  But, with tender love for those who meant him harm, Jesus gently restored the man’s ear, and rebuked Peter for such hasty behavior. (John 18:10-11)  And then, as Jesus was being arrested, His closest friends turned their backs in abandonment and ran. (Mark 14:50-52) 

 

Still later that evening, as Peter warmed himself around a fire in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial, a servant girl thought she recognized him.  Concerned for his own life after Jesus’ arrest, Peter vehemently denied being among Jesus’ closest friends… three times he rebuked their remembrances, the third time swearing like the old fisherman that he was.  Just then a rooster crowed for the second time.  And Peter immediately recalled what Jesus had predicted.  His heart sank in broken-hearted grief.  He had denied that he’d ever do such a thing to his closest of friends, and yet that’s exactly what he had done.  Feeling utterly ashamed and alone, he walked away from everyone, and wept tears of great sorrow and remorse.  (Mark 14:66-72)

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 2.09.54 PM.png

 

Once again, Peter reacted rashly, thinking he was deflecting harm to himself by denying the truth without taking the time to think of the consequences.  Yet, Peter loved his Lord.  And Jesus loved Peter… unequivocally.  For, after Jesus’ crucifixion and then resurrection, the angel in the tomb told the women, “[Jesus] is risen! He is not here… Go, tell His disciples and Peter.”  To me, those words signify how deeply our Lord loved Peter.  Despite Peter’s hasty denials, God wanted to be sure Peter heard and understood the good news!  (Mark 16:7)  In Luke 24:9-12, we read that as soon as Peter heard about Jesus’ resurrection, he got up and immediately ran to the tomb to check out the story’s validity for himself.  So like our impetuous Peter, isn’t it?!  But, it also shows how deeply Peter truly loved his Lord!

 

Some days later, unexpectedly meeting their Lord on the shore of Galilee after fishing all night, John retold for us how Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  With a tone of voice that likely reflected his deepest feelings, Peter was hurt that Jesus would ask him the same question for a third time, but Peter replied each time the same, “You know I love you!”  (John 21:15-17) Yet, it was all done to help Peter understand that he was truly loved, and forgiven for his denials with his repentant heart… and that Jesus was now giving Him a second chance with a new responsibility.  Peter was to reach out to a world of hurting souls with the same love that he had been given from Jesus after his own failures! 

 

The reason Jesus was born into this world… the reason He died on a cross… was to pay for the sinful deeds we’ve done, no matter their size.  “For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption of Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)  As we confess our sins and need for a Savior, we receive God’s most gracious gift of forgiveness.  What depths of mercy and grace!

A Blessed and Happy Easter to each of you!

 

Do You Love Me?

Linda A. Roorda

 

Do you love me?  More than all these?

You know I do, Lord!  A loving friendship.

You know my thoughts, my words and my ways,

Surely you know how deep is my love.

 

Do you love me?  Do you truly love?

You know I do, Lord!  I’d sacrifice self.

Then feed My sheep, meet them in their need,

Go to My flock, and lead them in truth.

 

Do you love me?  With your heart and soul?

Oh Lord, I am grieved!  My heart has been stabbed.

But oh! the shame of having denied

One with whom I’d walked, the leader of hearts.

 

Did you not warn of what was to come?

I pledged you my love above all others.

I’d follow you Lord, even unto death!

I’d never disown my Savior, my God.

 

But when confronted, my heart shrank in fear.

I heard my own words deny with alarm.

Twice more they claimed I was with the condemned,

When out of my mouth came vicious cursing.

 

I winced in shock to hear the cock crow.

My heart sank in shame for what I had done.

My Lord had said deny Him I would,

Now all I could do was bitterly weep.

 

You gazed thru my heart. You saw my soul’s depth.

You poured out Your love though faithless was I.

And now, Lord, you ask, do I truly love?

Yes, Lord, I do! With heart, soul and strength.

 

Then tenderly care for the sheep of My fold.

Go to the fields and guide them in truth.

Feed them the Word, everlasting life.

Shower with mercy and grace in My name.

~~

08/05/16

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

~

Linda Roorda

Beauty – we all admire the aesthetic and beautiful in both people and nature, though beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say.  Often, as our young girls strive to be beautiful, they imitate the actresses and models they admire on the “silver screen” or magazine covers.  But, too often our young girls fail to realize the images are fake, made more beautiful and glamorous by much makeup and the air brush, not a true reality beauty.  And, a pretty face may not always have a heart of love.  So, what is beauty?  And how do we define it? 

 

There’s an old-fashioned philosophy which I think still holds true today.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as [elaborate hairstyles] and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  (I Peter 3:3-4 NIV)

 

With those words in mind, when we give of ourselves to benefit others, a depth of beauty is seen through the glow of an unselfish act… with a genuine love for others.  We show true character by reaching out to help those in need, especially those who cannot pay us back for such a free gift.  It’s a heart of humility, with grace and gentleness, that shines brightly when we don’t call attention to ourselves… and quietly go about living a life of peace by showing honor and respect to all we meet on our path.

 

And what is the opposite of love’s beauty?  The generous airs put on to cover that which has been defiled… airs to disguise a selfish attitude of pride leading to self-centeredness and greed.

 

Which brings us back to our question, what is beauty?  Smiles to brighten someone’s day.  A helping hand to those in need.  Sharing the truth with humility.  Generous acts of kindness strewn among friends and strangers.  An unfading gentle spirit of love and peace found within the selfless heart.  Therein lies true beauty…

 

What is Beauty?

Linda A. Roorda

 

What is beauty if the heart is shallow

Where is glamor when rudeness takes charge

And what is charm with selfish desire

For what is love but the giving of self?

 

What then are words when the mind deceives

What is character with rebellious soul

Why enticing lures to captivate hearts

For what is virtue but integrity’s truth?

 

What is kindness if the tongue reviles

And what is honor without reputation

Or the humble soul if boastful and proud

For what is grace but gentle elegance?

 

What is adornment when respect has fled

What are principles if deceit is the core

What is esteem when self is worth more

For what is honor but morality’s judge?

 

What then is beauty but innocence pure

The charm and grace of respectful repute

Humility’s stance with integrity’s honor

For what is beauty but the gift of self?

~~

10/25/16

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

~

Linda Roorda

Life being what it is, an imperfect entity, there are things that happen to each of us over which we have no control.  What we do have control over, however, is our reaction… either to our detriment, or to our recovery and growth.

Recently, a friend’s post about PTSD suffered by combat veterans reactivated memories for me.  I’m going to share my story because I no longer suffer with it, or certainly not to the degree I once did because bits pop up from time to time, but also because I did nothing to cause it and no longer need be ashamed.

Post-traumatic stress disorder - it’s not just a syndrome affecting our military vets returning from the war zone.  PTSD carries a host of after effects from various traumas including emotional, physical or sexual assaults, natural disasters, serious accidents, and many other traumatic life-altering situational stressors.

PTSD is an invisible pain with its own specialized mental challenges.  Unlike visible wounds, it often lacks outward evidence or proof, taking prisoner one’s deepest inner self and emotions.

PTSD is typically evidenced by flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, panic attacks, and feeling detached from reality, etc., essentially an unstable emotional equilibrium.  At times, no one else knows the victim has a problem, who may even be in denial that anything is wrong, or totally unaware of the problem.  I know.  I was diagnosed with PTSD well after the trauma of verbal rape had occurred in junior high.  For me, PTSD reared its head to strike years later after having to steel myself daily in an abusive employment situation.

Predating that traumatic event though, my family was abruptly moved from a farming community of everything and everyone I loved to city life, and I was an emotional “mess.”  But, I overcame the challenges and adapted, making a new life with new friends. Yet, just a few years later, my family never knew why I became withdrawn, was easily agitated, and startled and screamed easily at the unexpected.  I shied away from making close friends, withdrew from a great group of friends in our church youth group being afraid of even them, and typically “clung” to my sister’s side when I should have been making my own friends.

I also never shared my fear of the dark, literally sensing someone was right behind me to grab and kill me.  It was a very real and horrendous fear that I battled for at least 20 years.  I was afraid to tell anyone, fearing they’d think I was absolutely crazy.  But, to be fair, I also had no idea a traumatic event in junior high could have been causing my problems.  I thought that event had simply been tucked away in the distant crevices of my memory.

Only a couple years after that emotional trauma, came taunting/mocking by the neighbor’s sons, or so I assumed, hidden from view in their yard as I took care of my mare.  Unfortunately, my hate for them was very real, now wishing I could apologize for my own error.  Because, unexpectedly, I was reminded of the incident by the perpetrator some 15 or so years ago who still thought it was hilarious fun at my expense, while I was afraid to share the hurt done.  Sadly, it was someone I was very close to, and who does not comprehend the damage her mocking did.

Just a few short years later, when returning home after my and Ed’s dates, (he was legally blind, unable to drive), I would park my car as close to the house as possible, and run as fast as possible to get into the house.  The closer the car to the door, the more severe the fear.  It was laughed about, but I never shared what I feared with anyone except my husband-to-be. (I did share it with my Dad a few months before his passing, and heard the pain in his voice for his never having known in order to have been there for me back then.)

Fast forward several more years when, after leaving an abusive employment situation, nightmares and flashbacks set in.  Resigning from the new job because of a sudden inability to function and make office decisions, I felt like an absolute and total failure.  Driving past the home of my Dad’s best Army buddy, I heard a voice (which I truly believe was the Spirit of God) saying, “I’m here for you.  Your family needs you.  You will be okay.”  Like ancient Israel’s King David had said in Psalm 91:2, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’”, He was there for me in so many ways.  

Having to support my family with Ed unable to work at that time, I put one foot in front of the other and worked as a secretarial temp for executives before being hired at my current position – both employment situations being a boost to my moral, especially the letters of recommendation from a bank president and Cornell professor.  Finally seeking professional counseling, I got a diagnosis - PTSD.  Told I really would be okay, and that none of it was my fault (which I’d always believed), the healing process began with my husband’s loving support. 

It seems like a lifetime ago.  I have forgiven those two boys, hoping they’ve gone on to become better citizens, as well as having forgiven my mocker.  The effects of any bullying, like our youth and even adults see today, are truly devastating.  And I will no longer allow myself to be mocked or bullied by anyone.  Yet, because of what I’ve been through, I’ve also learned God really does use even the traumas of life for a higher purpose, like my poetry.  As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” 

I’m so thankful to say I’m doing well, and so appreciative of all the great and supportive friends who have blessed my life with their presence!

 

Where the Heart Soars Free

Linda A. Roorda

 

Little girl sad, withdrawn and teary

   Changes and loss disrupting life’s flow

   Leaving behind remnants of what was

  With emotional scars, reminders vivid.

 

  Where once her heart ran free, unhindered

Clinging to joys and ease of childhood

    Now all the world was seen through the lens

      Of deepening gray on guard for the unknown.

 

Open her eyes, Lord, that she may see

All of the wisdom You share with her

May she then know how great is Your love

That You care enough to shelter her heart.

 

For there is a place where the heart soars free

Where love shines bright in a world grown dim

Where hopeless need meets faith to overcome

By walking the path that conquers defeat.

 

As an airy joy with a zest for life

Brings cheer to the sad and light to the dark

Where peace in the heart and contentment calm

Cover her wounds with a loving grace.

~~

12/21/16

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

~

Linda Roorda

The Beatitudes – Jesus’ blessings to all who seek Him.  My hope was to rephrase Jesus’ perfect words of love for us into thoughts from my understanding... not to take anything away from what our Lord said, but simply to add contemporary meaning and dimension.  And then, as I read further in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, more rephrasing into poetic verse came to mind.

 

From there, further rephrasing of Scripture came to mind from Philippians 4 which seemed to fit the context of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Again, it is not my intent to take anything away from God’s Holy Word, but to add another dimension for our hearts to contemplate as we bring His words into our daily life… an exercise which illuminates how great is His love for each of us. 

 

Blessed Are You

Linda A. Roorda

(Based on Matthew 5-7 and Philippians 4)

 

Blessed are you with no hope left but God

For you will know acceptance by Him.

 

Blessed are you whose heart has been broken

For you will find your comfort in Him.

 

Blessed are you with humility mild

For you will show His love from your heart.

 

Blessed are you whose heart seeks His will

For you will share the wisdom of God.

 

Blessed are you when hurting and stressed

For you will have a life filled with mercy.

 

Blessed are you untainted by vice

For you will have a pure heart before God.

 

Blessed are you who humbly seek peace

For you will be a true child of God.

 

Blessed are you when mocked for your faith

For you will stand firm with the Lord at your side.

 

Rejoice and be glad as salt of the earth

For you shine forth His light from your heart.

Then be reconciled to those you offend

That peace may abound in the hearts of all men.

 

Love your enemy as your neighbor dear

That you may be called a child of our God.

And blessed are you on forgiving those

When they have sinned against you and the Lord.

 

And worry not what the future holds

For your Father knows the needs of your life.

Ask, seek and find, knock to open doors

For our Father waits to bless those who ask.

 

Broad is the path to destruction goes

But narrow the gate that leads us to Life.

For as the good tree will bear its best fruit

So we shall see the fruit of our deeds.

 

Thus he who hears must show in his life

The wisdom found in the house which he builds.

For that upon sand cannot withstand storms

While that built on rock stands firm in the Truth.

 

Do not be anxious, but think on these things

And with thanksgiving send prayers to our God

That content you’ll be regardless the task

Knowing you can work through His strength alone.

 

Stand firm in the Lord, press on to the goal

Guard well your heart and mind in the Lord

For He gives peace beyond understanding

Rejoicing always in His gentle spirit.

 

For whatever is true, whatever is honest

Whatever is right, whatever is pure,

Whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable

Whatever is excellent, whatever worth praise…

Think on these things and blessed you shall be.

~~

04/25/14, 06/04/14

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

~~

 

Linda Roorda

It was a simple photo of a wooden gate taken by my friend, Fran Van Staalduinen.  But it said so much.  The gate of old weathered wood stood open, leaning against a fence which was, in turn, enveloped by a dense hedgerow of lush green bushes and vines.  Nearby stood a tree in full leaf as I imagined ample branches out of view reaching upward and outward, overshadowing all to provide cooling shade.  Sunlight managed to penetrate the thick canopy of leaves, spreading out a dappled glow at the foot of the tree.  And through the aperture left by the open gate, my gaze was drawn to a matted path as it wound its way into a bright sunny field of rich grasses growing wild and free… beckoning us to venture out into the unknown. 

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-01 at 12.39.59 PM.png

 

Fran’s photo taken in 2015 instantly drew me in – I loved it at first sight!  And it’s literally worth a thousand words.  Immediately, I saw that the tree resembled the family’s patriarch with an overarching reach, covering his children and their children and their children (you get the idea) with his love… rather like our God and His love.  And, then I saw the open gate as indicative of life… for life is like an open path set before us.  We can either sit back, afraid to take hold of life’s possibilities and stay safe, sheltered by the familiar… or, we can move forward through the gate as we find our way out into the world, often by trial and error among life’s vicarious ups and downs. 

 

These thoughts fittingly reminded me of the song by David Gates (of the 1970s rock group, Bread), “If a picture paints a thousand words…”  Derived from an axiom we’re all familiar with, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” that phrase aptly fits Fran’s photo.  American in origin, the phrase became popular in the early 20th century with its initial use attributed to Arthur Brisbane (editor of the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club).  In March 1911, he instructed fellow newspapermen to “Use a picture.  It’s worth a thousand words.”

 

As I continued to contemplate Fran’s photo and the imagery the scene created, I realized that we so often gain wisdom along our journey of life especially when we travel the unknown and difficult paths.  And yet, we can simply take that first step forward in faith, no matter what lies ahead, knowing there’s One who will guide our steps along the way.

 

Which, in turn, brought to mind a few of my favorite Scripture verses: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105) as we “Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart and lean not on [our] own understanding.  In all [our] ways acknowledge Him and He will direct [our] paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

Especially as we begin a new year, what fitting reassurance we find as we look to our Lord to guide and lead us through the open gate of life!

 

A very Happy and Blessed New Year to you!

 

You Lead Me On

Linda A. Roorda

 

You lead me on through an open gate

To a world beyond that beckons my heart

Where sunlit vistas and dappled shadows

Reveal rich treasures along life’s journey.

 

You lead me on over paths unknown

To guide my steps as I learn from You

You light my way that once seemed dark

As joy I find with You at my side.

 

You lead me on and guide my voice

For only when I seek Your heart

Is wisdom gained to handle life

When darts assail and cares weigh down.

 

You lead me on so I may know

That even though my feet may stumble

You care enough to pick me back up

As loving grace and mercy set free.

 

You lead me on to praise your name

Within the turmoil and waves of despair

For it’s often then I know You carry

My reeling heart through pain and loss.

 

You lead me on that I may learn

The lessons found in trials faced

For wisdom gained first walks the path

From troubled storm to the heart at peace.

 

You lead me on to songs of joy

As morning dawns with light of day

Hope in the truth, cleansing for the soul

And faith in Your love to guide my way home.

~~

03/11-13/16

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

~

 

Linda Roorda

The Eyes of a Child

I think that we, as adults, have forgotten how to view life through the eyes of a child.  Their wide-eyed innocence and purity comes to us like a breath of fresh air… like a flower opening its beauty to the sun’s warm rays. 

 

But, as adults, we sometimes become hardened by the realities of a harsh world.  The evening news on Christmas Day 2014 (as told in Huffington Post, “Prankster Gives Homeless man $100…”) showed a brief documentary of what one homeless man did when given a $100 bill by the commentator, Josh Paler Lin.  Standing at the side of a highway with a cardboard sign, the poor man must have felt like Lin was his savior when he was handed that much money!  He was reluctant at first to take it, but then gladly accepted the free gift and walked away.

 

From a distance, the cameraman inconspicuously trailed the homeless man as he took the money and walked into town.  There, the man promptly entered a liquor store… exiting with two large and heavy bags.  The assumption spoken in the video was that the money had been used by the homeless man to buy an awful lot of alcohol.  I will admit that I, too, had felt great disappointment as I watched the man enter the liquor store.  I, too, made an assumption by association.

 

But, as the cameraman and Lin continued to follow the homeless man without his knowledge, the gentleman walked directly to a nearby park, set his bags down, and began to pull out packages… which he handed to others sitting around at picnic tables.  And what was he handing out?  Food.  After watching for just a little bit longer, Lin went over to speak with the homeless man.  Lin explained what he was doing in his documentary, pointing out the cameraman a short distance away, and then asked the homeless man to explain what he had just done with his $100 bill. 

 

I was impressed and teary-eyed to see a youthful Lin, with hair dyed both blond and black, tell the older man he owed him an apology for his wrong assumptions.  They hugged as the younger man shared he assumed the older man had come out of the store carrying two bags full of liquor.  Instead, he had learned a valuable lesson from this selfless, older man who carried all his worldly possessions in a bag… and who thought of the needs of others before his own.  “You just touched my heart,” Lin told him.  It was then the homeless man told Lin:  “There's a lot of people that are just victims of circumstance, and they didn't go homeless because they're lazy… There's a lot of good people that are homeless.”

 

And I was reminded of this poem I had written a few weeks earlier.  May I have the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child, coming to the Lord with a simple child-like faith as I put my trust in His great love.  For as Jesus said, “…I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven… And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” (Matt. 18:3,5)

 

With a child-like faith, may I show the world around me the same love the Lord has lavished upon me, a sinner, in need of a Savior…. quite like the homeless man in our story.  It was his simple and generous love for his friends which allowed him to share the food he’d bought with the gift he’d been given.  He hoarded neither the money nor the food.  And in this, I learned a valuable lesson and must ask myself, “Would I have been so generous?”

 

For isn’t that why Jesus humbled himself to be born into this world of sin, a world far different from the glories of His heavenly home… to share His generosity by coming to us as a newborn babe, to view this world from our perspective, and to save us from ourselves?  Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much that you saw my world through the eyes of a little child so long ago. 

 

Wishing each of you, my readers, a Merry and Blessed Christmas!!

 

The Eyes of a Child

Linda A. Roorda

 

Through the open eyes of a little child

We see our Lord without the blinders

To know His love as gentle as a lamb

And feel His arms envelope with peace.

 

The tender faith of one so young

Is a gift from God through eyes without fear

A simple trust with expectant hope

Holding out hands for others to lead.

 

No guile is found within this wee soul

Whose love is pure like a heart of gold

Who freely gives to others in need

That all may praise and bless His name.

 

Untainted youth by worldly vices

Pure and trusting are innocent minds

With hearts that see the best in us all

And faith that hopes with unfailing love.

 

To tenderly hold the hands of a child

And feel secure, encompassed by love,

To view the world through innocent eyes

Is to see the best in all whom we meet.

 

For judging others is not their concern

They simply believe that all will be well

And though their pride may rear its revolt

How willing are they to forgive when wronged.

 

Their trusting heart accepts our reproof

When patience is taught by living examples

For character grows with perseverance

As praises true will confidence build.

 

What would we see through the eyes of a child

Is it pure love that encompasses all?

Is it a trust in those who provide?

And through such faith do our eyes open wide?

 

Faith to trust Him who holds us through storms

A trusting belief in His loving heart

And with this love to simply accept

He knows what’s best as He leads the way.

 

With eyes of a child may we see our Lord

The giver of life, bestower of gifts

The One who guides with a Shepherd’s voice

Who lay down His life that we might live.

~~

12/02/14

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~~

 

Linda Roorda

Heaven's Love

Can I share a secret?  Well, ok, it’s not really a secret.  I suppose it’s an admission of sorts… and a thanksgiving.  Every poem that flows through my fingers comes from the depths of my heart, from our share of life’s pain and sorrow to the joy and blessings poured out from God above. 

 

I have yet to meet someone who has a perfectly smooth and untroubled life.  With that thought in mind, many poems seem to reach out to touch the heart of someone in need.  When we go through a difficult time, we often grumble and complain about it.  And I’m guilty as charged… for I, too, can feel so utterly overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that I react negatively.  But, then, by God’s good grace, we learn to accept and deal with our situation.  Ultimately, we gain wisdom and understanding in the process as we come to terms with life’s ups and downs.  And with that wisdom, comes a sense of peace and a desire to be there for someone else on their difficult journey.

 

Sometimes a poem seems to grow from this understanding of what others might be going through because my husband and I have faced certain difficult situations.  Sometimes a simple phrase or idea takes root and the words begin to flow… sometimes faster than the hands can write.  Sometimes the words need time to fully emerge… time for fine tuning… and sometimes verses written months apart come together as though written specifically for the single poem they become. 

 

But every poem emanates from the depths of my heart as I feel the Lord’s guiding hand.  He’s teaching me… and opening my heart to the gift of His word… His forgiveness, grace, love, and peace… and it’s this I hope to pass along to you. 

 

For as the Apostle Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 1:3-6 NIV) 

 

At times, I’ve looked back to read my written words only to say, “Oh my!  Where’d that come from?”  And it’s then I bow my head and say, “Thank you for those words, Lord.  May they be used to bless someone else, someone who needs a loving touch from the depths of Your heart… a touch of Heaven’s Love.” 

 

Heaven’s Love

Linda A. Roorda

 

Sometimes when life comes hard against

Pounding upon the door of your soul

It’s in those times as we despair

That overwhelmed our heart cries out.

 

Our desperate pleas reach heaven’s gate

Where Someone waits with open arms

To shield our heart from further pain

With comfort brought through healing grace.

 

Look upward now to One who waits

As in prayer you reach your hands out to Him.

He’ll calm your fears and ease the aches

To give you peace midst swirling waves.

 

A peace that soothes and fills your heart

Within the dark and lonely nights

Or anxious days when doubts assail

He’ll never leave. He won’t forsake.

 

He’s always there as you face this life

When changes mar the smoothest path

He’ll gently hold you in His arms

And bless your days with serenity.

 

Then as you go along life’s path

Bring healing touch to those you meet

That they may know the peace you share

Is wrapped in grace from heaven’s Love.

~~

01/30/14

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~

Linda Roorda

October Whispers

I puttered around the kitchen this first-of-October morning, baking Ed’s favorite chocolate chip cookies and my hearty squash.  Every now and then I glanced out the windows.  I love the scenery of our backyard… the gardens, bushes and trees… all planted by us once upon a golden time.  And the creek, fields and hills beyond, all formerly part of Ed’s family’s farm, now filled with cart paths and well-kept green grass circles that swallow up dimpled golf balls.  But, instead of a summery sun, I glanced out to see another dreary day… with a hidden sun trying its best to brighten our world through the cloudy haze of autumn… and this poem began to take shape.

 

I know many of my friends say fall is their favorite season.  And rightly so, I suppose – for the cooling temps are welcome relief from summer’s intense heat and humidity, and the brilliant leaf colors reflect different types of trees framed against the backdrop of a bright crisp azure blue sky with puffy clouds all make for a gorgeous display of nature’s beauty. 

 

I do enjoy the aromas of baked spiced apple and pumpkin pies, the odor of wood smoke wafting on the air (at times Ed can able to tell just what wood is being burned), familiar barn smells carried by a gentle breeze down the valley with a hint of well-cured silage, along with enjoying colorful fall flower arrangements, and the countrified pumpkin and gourd displays with corn stalks and hay bales some folks set up by their front door.

 

But, truth be told, I find autumn to be the harbinger of a gray cold world with dying leaves that bequeath stark-naked tree limbs.  Yet, when studied, those limbs have a distinctive roughened beauty all their own etched against the sky of any shade.  And, though there are gray drizzly skies, and cold, damp days that chill to the bone… they do have a plus side with lots of delicious homemade baked goods, stews, soups and chili with cornbread!

 

But, I much prefer spring and its promised return of new life and summer’s golden rays.  So, as this poem began to form, I tried to focus on the whispered secrets of fall – in its colorful beauty pointing to winter’s pristine white splendor, and the resurgence of life in the future that can only be hinted at now.

 

October Whispers

Linda A. Roorda

 

The lonely parade

of falling colors

a silent drizzle

and cocooning fog

consuming

dampening

turn thoughts inward

melancholy

bereaved

for the joy of summer

basking

in bright warmth

now shrouded

by hazy sheen

forcing hearts to gaze

ahead

and to leave

the past to fall

behind

etched in time

yet even now

renewed

in visions of white

and whispers soft

of secrets hidden

for the way it is

and soon shall become.

~~

10/01/16

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~

Linda Roorda

Strands of Three

Ever think about the strength of a single strand of string as compared to several strands intertwined?  It doesn’t take much of an example for us to realize that greater strength lies in the cord of several strands bound together rather than a single strand.  And so it is with marriage.

 

I like the example of marriage being compared to a tightly woven cord of three strands… though, admittedly, at times our strands were not as tightly woven as they should have been.  But, isn’t that how we grow wiser… learning through experience?  When we’re individually joined in marriage, we become a couple.  In joining our hearts as one, we are united with God in a holy union, like a cord of three strands for greater strength.  And we find biblical wisdom demonstrates this very point:  “If one falls down, his friend can help him up… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:10a, 12)

 

I believe God created us distinctly men and women, establishing the marriage union first with Adam and Eve.  As we read in Genesis 2:18, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.’”  And in this, God joins the two to become a more efficient unit.  As a couple, each other’s strengths are complemented by working together toward a common goal. 

 

Married October 26, 1974 by Rev. Robert DeVries, one of his examples was describing that if we attempt to do things in our own strength we will often fail.  As a couple, though, we have a better chance to succeed in facing this journey of life together when we’re united in a common goal.  But, an even stronger bond is created by the triangle formed as we keep God at the top with the lower horizontal points balanced by each of us as husband and wife. 

 

“‘For haven’t you read,’ [Jesus] replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  (Matthew 19:4-6 NIV)

 

For me and Ed, our marriage becomes especially strong when God is so intertwined in our relationship that we acknowledge Him in all we do.  By seeking His wisdom through prayer on this journey of life, we find the answers we need to overcome obstacles and move forward in His will. 

 

But, I will readily admit that I have not always sought Him first.  Because, as I’ve alluded to in many poems and blogs, this life is not an easy road... at least it has not been for us, and I have to fight the desire to take the reins myself.  Maybe it has something to do with being the oldest of six, and having been responsible for so much.  In any event, I need to release that tendency and give control to the Lord.

 

As the words flow when writing a poem (and later writing its reflection), I find the Lord speaking to my heart… imparting His truth, His wisdom… and guiding my way along the right path.  When I wrote the poem below, I had no idea there was a ministry named for the cord of three strands.  I was simply searching for the verse above which referenced the strands of three.  In so doing, I came across a ministry that provides special cords on a gold ring for the bride and groom to braid at their wedding ceremony to symbolize God’s presence intertwined in their marriage. 

 

And I thought what a beautiful reminder of our Lord’s presence among us!  For, in contemplating the imagery of a sturdy cord made from strands of three, it becomes clear we are not as easily pulled asunder when the Lord is intertwined within our marriage relationship... for together we can withstand and resist the temptations and trials which will inevitably come our way. 

 

Strands of Three

Linda A. Roorda

 

The day I said I do to you

Was the day we joined our hearts as one

Thinking we only were thus entwined

The Lord made three for a tight-knit bond.

 

When young we think our love holds secure

It’s all we need to face the great world

With hopes and dreams and wide-eyed innocence

We’re an open book, invincible team.

 

You let me know how great was your love

You’d never let me wander alone

You took my hand as we walked this path

Lit from above by wisdom’s grace.

 

Yet there were times we could not see

Life’s toughest road around the corner

Devoid of help or so it had seemed

We could only grasp the three-stranded cord.

 

We stood together as the storms hit hard

When winds blew fierce like gales at sea

You held me close with a calming peace

Protecting my heart from disaster’s fate.

 

You set me free on a mountain peak

Your love released my soul to new heights

That with your gift others I may bless

For love is meant to be given away.

 

And so I sing as the love we share

Brings grace to each in the time of need

 For who are we mercy to withhold

When the Lord above is woven within.

 

No matter the test when focus is held

Our loving Lord gives mercy and grace

For our journey’s steps reflect strength within

When our hearts are twined as strands of three.

~~

Jan 2015 - 05/22/15

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~

Linda Roorda

When Breaks The Dawn

A prayer of thanksgiving for each new day… as the sun barely begins to peek over the hilltop, sending its rays to disperse the darkest night… as the twinkling gems scattered upon the black velvet heavens slowly fade from sight, the sun’s brilliance once again illuminates our world.

 

With each new dawn we become aware of the wonders of a new day… another day in which to sing praise and bless someone else along our path.  Having been blessed myself in so many ways I lose count, I’m afraid I have a tendency to take many of them for granted.  Yet, even the littlest ones seem to just always be here to greet us as we rush by without giving them a second thought… with so much to be thankful for! 

 

The above reflection was begun with those few simple paragraphs not long after the poem below was written a year ago.  It was just a simple way of saying thanks to God for His blessings and guidance each new day that I so often tend to take for granted.  We never know what tomorrow brings as the saying goes, never mind the next minute. 

 

And those words were given new meaning recently when we were involved in an accident on September 6, 2016.  We’re both okay, despite muscle strains.  Actually, we’re very thankful to be alive!  It could’ve been so much worse.  With even a second’s worth of difference, it could have been a head-on crash, or at the least a direct hit into my driver’s door instead.

 

As NYS Trooper Leonard told me in the ER, “That was some excellent driving you did there!”  Coming home from my husband’s appointment in Sayre, a southbound car on Rt. 34 drove directly into my northbound lane.  She just missed the car ahead of me as I braked and veered to my right shoulder, onto the gravel and grass, running over a 4-ft reflector post, avoiding going down the slope which likely would have rolled my car and possibly killed my husband.

 

Suddenly, my car was rammed hard by the drifting car into my driver’s side rear door and panel.  The impact blew the tire, broke the suspension, ripped the rear bumper off, and whipped my car around into the arc of a 180.  Steering to avoid colliding with other southbound cars, I ended up facing southward on the shoulder of the opposite lane.  Later, Ed heard witnesses saying, “I don’t know how she missed those cars, but she somehow managed to go between them!”  And no one else got a scratch!

 

I’m as impressed as anyone else.  I vaguely recall being in the midst of other cars, afraid we’d take a direct hit on Ed’s door or that I’d hit the car to my left, but none of that happened.  I am not hesitant to say that I firmly believe it wasn’t my driving expertise.  I truly believe God’s angels took that wheel and safely wove us between the other cars to prevent a major pileup, one with multiple injuries or even a fatality. 

 

So many wonderful people stopped to check on us, called 911, helped to stabilize us, and gave us both wonderful loving support.  The other driver went way off the road and into the woods.  She’d been seen to be weaving across the lanes for several miles, with others getting ready to call 911 for cops to intervene when the accident happened.  It was said she was apparently driving under the influence of something, and I do hope she will be ok.

 

I can’t say enough how thankful we are for God’s mighty hand in all of this.  In the space of a second or two, there could have been a whole different result.  We are so blessed in so many ways… with each new dawn.

 

When Breaks the Dawn

Linda A. Roorda

 

When breaks the dawn my heart rejoices

For I am blest to see a new sun

And in my soul a song is stirring

With praises for this beautiful day.

 

You open my eyes to the truths of life

Truths on display in all creation

A beauty here I marvel to see

Speaking to me in majestic hue.

 

Show me each day the way I should walk

A daily journey with You at my side,

Let deeper truths from Your holy word

Speak to my soul and guide all my steps.

 

May all my steps bring glory to You

On a path of faith with Your word as guide

For wisdom’s ways are worth more than gold

And treasures kept show where the heart lies.

 

So when breaks the dawn let my praise arise

To You, O Lord, the giver of gifts

That all may see Your mercy and grace

Gently bestow a love to be shared.

~~

07/16/15-08/22/15

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~

Linda Roorda

I Cannot See

This poem and reflection was initially shared at the Christian Reformed Church Disability Concerns Network website. 

 

We take so much in life for granted… especially in what we can see and do.  But reflect with me for just a few minutes on what it would be like without one, or more, of your senses.  What if you could not smell, taste, hear, speak, or see?  What if you couldn’t walk, or move your arms?  What if the simplest tasks became so much more difficult due to a new disability?

 

As I’ve mentioned in other blogs and poems, my husband, Ed, is blind and my mother is paralyzed on the right side from a stroke – thankfully, she’s left-handed.  This poem was written one day as I contemplated Ed’s dark world of blindness, and the vision I take for granted, even now.  I have to remind myself of his limitations because I’ve become accustomed to how good he is at getting around the familiarity of our home without sight in a world that depends on vision.  Even though he had limited vision in his only usable eye when he farmed with his dad (20/200 with glasses), he managed to make barn and field chores look easy.  In reality, it wasn’t.  He made accommodations and learned to live with very blurry vision.

 

As a family, we learned to remember to put something back in its original place so he could find it again, and not to move the furniture without telling him, or leave a door ajar for him to walk into.  Yes, we learned the hard way to make those issues priorities.

 

I also put bump dots on digital dials of appliances so he can do minor cooking and laundry, while he uses rubber bands of different sizes to tell his medications apart and to distinguish salt and pepper.  He wants to be as independent as possible.  But, there once was the day he made his usual big pot of chili… with a twist.  When the kids came home from school, he heard, “Oh Pop! You put fruit cocktail in the chili!”  That can had gotten too close to the cans of tomatoes and he had had no idea. We ate it anyway.  And, it wasn’t too bad, just a little sweeter than usual.  Who knows… maybe it would be worthy of winning a competition!  But, yes, life has been interesting in learning to accommodate his needs… for all of us.

 

When he went to The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts for six months of training in the fall of 1989, we family members were given occluders to cover our eyes for a while.  (Actually, each staff member is required to wear them one day a month.)  At the end of the exercise, the kids and I, and Ed’s parents, could take off our occluders.  But, Ed could not… his vision loss was permanent.  It was a stark reminder to us with sight as to how blessed we really are… and how to better understand his loss and frustration in recovering and learning a new way to function.

 

For it’s been hard for Ed to face the world without vision along with his other disabilities.  Our world is not always as understanding as we would like to think.  There are folks who rush past as I guide my husband, and their feet have become entangled in his outstretched cane which feels ahead for obstacles... and I have had to stop unexpectedly because someone cut us off sharply in their hurry, throwing him off balance, nearly falling.  We have found that people will sometimes talk louder to him; he’s blind, but not hard of hearing. 

 

Once, when he was hospitalized, the nurse’s aide actually said to him, “Hey! What’s the deal with the sunglasses? Think you’re a movie star?”  Ed calmly replied, “No. I’m blind.” And she stumbled profusely trying to apologize.  Then there are the adult stares, which I hope are due to their being impressed with his ability.  Once during mobility training with his specialist, he was learning to find his way through the mall while she followed from a distance.  A kind gentleman came up to him, grabbed his arm and started walking, i.e. pulling, him along, asking where he wanted to go.  Ed thanked him, but gently explained he was learning to find his own way around.  As for the children who stare with curious questions, we explain why he uses a white cane to help them understand what it’s like to live in a world without sight.

 

But, there are so many limitations placed on someone with any disability that we often don’t think about.  Ed simply cannot do whatever he wants.  He cannot get in the car and drive wherever and whenever he wants.  Without sight, there is so much that is missed… in the beauty of a sunny day, of flowers blooming in multitudinous hues, of storm clouds gathering, in watching brilliant flashes of lightning, of seeing a rainbow at the storm’s end… of loved ones’ dear faces… of a newborn’s precious face, never having been seen before to hold onto the memory… of having lost the ability to simply pick up any book or paper to read, or a pen to write, now having to take the time to accomplish those tasks a new and slower way by having them read to him or by listening to books on cassette… and so much more.  But, to be honest, there are times when he wishes not to have us describe the beauty around him for the painful reminder of what he’s missing.

 

In time, though, an understanding and acceptance is gained by going through the grieving process, as for anyone with a loss.  Life is no longer the same, and never will be.  But, gradually, acceptance comes with the change by gaining confidence in the ability to move forward a new way… in learning new processes for what was once familiar and easy.  

 

Our faith in the Lord has been our support when we feel overwhelmed… when Ed can’t do what he’d like and I’m stretched to the max to pick up the slack.  The Lord has listened to our prayers in the needs of every-day life.  He’s been at our side to see us through this journey we never expected.

 

Take the time to understand life for someone with a disability of any kind.  Take the time to put yourself in their shoes… to walk their path to understand their limitations.  Take the time to love them, to share and question… and then listen between the lines for what they might be hesitant to express.  Encourage them, and laugh with them.  Walk with them, and you will both be blessed on the journey.

 

I Cannot See

Linda A. Roorda

 

I cannot see this beautiful day

And I long to bask in its brilliant glow

Taking in rays that uncover the dark

But instead I feel its warmth like flames.

 

I cannot see tender smiles that beam

As voices carry the tones of your heart,

And tears that flow in sadness or joy

Are a gentle touch felt deep in my soul.

 

I cannot see love’s beautiful face

Though I hold you near in image faded.

I take your hand and with gentle kiss

Shower affection from memories dear.

 

I cannot see what your eyes behold

As the world moves on and leaves me the past,

So let me borrow your words to describe

Changes in life without an image.

 

I cannot see somber cloudy days

Instead I hear your voice cheer me on.

You tenderly hold my heart in your hand

For without your strength I could not go on.

 

I cannot see the path that we walk

Yet wisdom shared from the depth of trust

Embraces our hearts to cover what lacks

As you guide with love in step at my side.

~~

03/25/16

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Linda Roorda

Oh, the halcyon days of youth!  Those days when we spent hours upon hours making our own fun!  Where’d they all go?  They disappeared so fast!  Sit back, close your eyes, and let your mind transport you back to another time, another place, long ago… or maybe not so long ago for some of us!

 

I wish I had been old enough to remember life in a 12x20 foot cabin at Delta Junction, Alaska.  Our mom took me and my baby sister to join our dad for his last seven months in the Army at Fort Greeley – a foreign assignment, prior to Alaska statehood.  We flew out of New York City with several stops enroute to Seattle.  The plane for the last leg needed engine repairs, and caught fire after leaving Seattle, but we landed safely in Fairbanks.  I do have a few photos, including of buffalo out behind the cabin and the day my dad bundled me up for a photo in the dog sled at -30! 

 

When his Army service ended, dad wanted to homestead, but mom was not too keen on the idea, so back to the states we went.  How I wish I could have admired the beauty of the Al-Can Highway through Canada on the drive back to Seattle and a train trip east.  But, I was only 2 at the time and missed the scary parts of steep cliffs without benefit of guardrails along that road, especially when the car’s steering wheel briefly locked up, again, as my mom struggled to turn the wheel… thankfully, just in time!

 

I do have many other memories of carefree childhood fun with my sister, Carol, though. Being 15 months apart, we were inseparable, inevitably together, dressed “alike” when our Grammy V. got to sewing or knitting for us.  The only dress I didn’t like was the white crinkly organdy with an itchy crinoline slip – oooh, the memory still gives me shivers!

 

But, seriously, my sister and I knew how to make fun… real childhood fun, especially when we lived on the farms!  We grew up without a television until our dad brought one home after we moved to Clifton, New Jersey in the mid ‘60s, though even then our viewing was limited.

 

As the oldest child, my earliest memories begin at about age 3 in Sodus, NY when my dad worked for Wychmere’s dairy farm and apple orchards… and we took trips to the beach at Chimney Bluffs on Lake Ontario.  I clearly remember my grandparents arriving one time bearing special gifts… my favorite Dolly, clothes sewn and knit by my grandmother, and a table made by my grandfather – I still have it all, shared with my children.  Then there was the time my sister would not open the door for me as I stood, crying and scared to death, on the outside of the door as a very large dog barked at me from the edge of the yard and orchard.  Talk about fear!  In my child’s mind, I couldn’t understand why my sister “wouldn’t” open that door for me!  Never mind she was only about 2 years old and couldn’t even reach the doorknob!

 

Some of my next favorite memories were on the Breemes farm in Marion where my dad farmed the year I was 4, and our first brother, Charlie, was born.  I remember the house, barn and land so clearly.  Stopping there a few years ago, I was given a tour by Mr. Breemes’s now-elderly son who graciously showed me inside the barn, both upper and lower sections, though the old milkhouse is gone.  Oh, the memories that came flooding back!  It was a New England bank barn, i.e. built into a bank with the upper level even with the road, with all the old beams, grain bin and haymow still intact.

 

And I’m not ashamed to admit that tears began to flow as I recalled standing on a bale of hay, moving an old teakettle along on the narrow ledge of wall just below the road-side windows.  I milked “my cows” while dad milked his real ones.  We girls were warned sufficiently for a healthy fear of the bull at the end of the barn by the door.  We made our own “slop” to feed the little pigs – mixing anything and everything we could find… including dirt, which, amazingly to us back then, they devoured! 

 

I even got to drive the tractor when the manure spreader broke.  My dad set me up on the old Minnie-Mo (Minneapolis-Moline) as I took the huge wheel in my hands.  I was to steer it straight ahead while he forked out the manure.  Right!  As we slowly crept along, every time the wheel turned, I turned with it… until we headed for a tree… at which time my dad jumped off and stopped the tractor just in time to avoid a big wreck – though he has said I was never even close to crashing.  But, I can still see it all so vividly!

 

Then one day the pigs got out, and they were not so little anymore.  This time my sister was outside.  Remembering, in my child’s mind, that she “would not” open that door for me a year or so earlier, I wouldn’t open the door for her as she stood outside crying for help.  Thankfully, our mom rescued her quickly and I took a deserved scolding!

 

And how well I remember the morning we opened the garage door at the side of the house… as we girls stood at the top of the steps, face to face with two giant golden-brown Belgian draft horses!  When Charlie was born, my dad milked alone while we “twins” roamed around looking for our next adventure.  We found it all right – in the back barnyard… throwing rocks into muck puddles… until little Carol fell in still holding her rock, pulling me in behind her as I tried to get her out.  Oh pooh!  Our dad had to stop chores and take us girls in for a bath, filthy stinking dirty from head to toe… but we did wash up nicely!

 

Another time we were waiting to cross the road to the barn with our dad.  A car drove by just as one of our kittens shot out in front of us and met his demise.  The kind gentleman stopped, and walked over to apologize.  Instead of bursting into tears, my dad said I replied, “First Gepetto!  Now Mickey!  That’s the way it goes, right Dad?!”  And the poor man walked back to his car shaking his head.

 

After my dad was ill from the flu with an extended recovery, we left the farm for Clifton, NJ where his parents lived.  Here I went to kindergarten, walking the few blocks to P.S. No.15 on a hill overlooking Weasel Brook Park.  We returned to Marion/East Palmyra the following summer, living upstairs in the big Victorian farmhouse of the DeVries family while my dad drove a Purina Feed delivery truck to dairy farmers.  Gerald and Joanne had been friends of my dad in Sussex, NJ.

 

In Sussex, my Dad had been herdsman for Walter Titsworth after he graduated high school.  It was Walter’s elderly spinster daughters we loved to visit in our early teens.  Walter was a direct descendant of Willem Tietsoort who, with his family, had survived the 1690 Schenectady, NY massacre by Indians.  Removing to what is now Sussex/Port Jervis area of NJ, Tietsoort purchased thousands of acres from the Indians and built a new home.  Interestingly, in researching my mom’s genealogy several years ago, I learned she is a descendant of one of Tietsoort’s daughters!  If only we’d known that years ago!

 

Now, making a foursome, my sister and I meandered around the farm and pastures with Betty and Fran for more fun, helped them ready the milking machines a few times, watched their dad blow silage into the silo (with the old tractor and belt that ran from the tractor to the wagon, heeding their dad’s warning to stay clear in case it flew off), checked on the chickens… and just shared good times together.

 

Next, we moved to a house half a mile or so up the road on Musshafen’s tenant farm.  We loved this old farmhouse with its big rooms and space to explore inside and out… with lots more fun to be had.  We grew pollywogs in a jar, returning them to the creek when they began showing signs of becoming frogs.  We fried eggs on the hot road… well, after all, we’d heard that it was so hot you could… so we had to try!  And, didn’t understand why they remained raw…

 

We traipsed all over the fields and through the woods, never minding the heifers and dry cows in the field, and walked fearlessly up the road to visit Fran and Betty.  I saw my first Baltimore Oriole nest in a bush alongside the fence line of their father’s field.  Nearby neighbors had a beautiful home with antiques; their large bed of snapdragons fascinated me so much they remain one of my favorite flowers, and her custard pudding was out-of-this-world delicious!

 

Our chores included dust mopping the floor, so I pushed my sister around on top of the mop, also giving her rides in the baby carriage - disappointed because she could not reciprocate!  We ran and played between the rows in the vegetable garden… rather than weed.  We had a steer and a flock of chickens to care for, and I remember trips to the butcher in Marion, Pembroke’s, with a gleaming white board fence around the pasture where he kept animals waiting to be butchered. 

 

We shelled peas and snapped beans – dumping some under the lilac bushes when we’d had all we could take of that chore!  We practiced with our new fishing poles, casting the lead weight toward a bucket – if I’m not mistaken though, I don’t think my aim was too accurate!  And we lay on our backs, gazing at puffy clouds, thinking about what they looked like.  We shared everything, including chickenpox and mumps (and later the two-week measles in New Jersey), even with our new baby brother, Mark. 

 

I also remember we girls, about 7 and 8 years old, chased brother Charlie as he pulled a length of chain.  Wanting him to stop so we could catch up to him, we stepped on the chain.  Charlie stopped all right… abruptly… and down he went with his chin hitting the concrete step, cutting it open with blood all over.  He needed sutures, and we got another scolding for that one.  I’m so sorry, dear brother!

 

I remember a small private plane landing in a field across the road from our house.  Never fond of naps and loving the outdoors even then, I played outside while everyone else napped on a Sunday afternoon.  I had the honor of witnessing a plane come down in the hayfield, see the pilot checking something out, and watched as he taxied and took off again.  What a sight!  But then, my napping family thought I made it all up…

 

One evening we asked to sleep out in the yard under the stars, setting out our blankets and pillows, and “turning in” way early… hey, this was something special and exciting!  We even saw a shooting star for the first time.  But, in the middle of the night, we got scared… and were no longer having fun… we were cold and damp… so we quietly crept back in the house to sleep on the couch.  Oh, so many more stories and memories I can’t even begin to share them all here. 

 

We next moved to another tenant house on the Bouman farm just outside of East Palmyra on the road to Newark, and joined Ruth and Annette for a new foursome of fun and games.  We traipsed all around their farm, over the fields and through the woods.  One time, I narrowly missed being run down by an angry mother for coming too close to her newborn calf… and managed to slide under the barbed wire fence with barely seconds to spare as her hugeness charged after me! 

 

We went sledding down the barnyard hill that seemed so steep then, but really wasn’t, and we built snow forts in a hayfield.  We played in the upper level of the bank barn, sliding down the slippery pile of oats in the bin.  We ran around the haymow… until I tripped, catching my foot on baling twine, pitching over the edge, falling to the floor down below, landing with my head literally not more than a foot away from an upturned pitchfork, sustaining quite a concussion, and being walked home by Ruth’s older sister, Grace.  It was here I learned to ride a bike, falling and scraping my knees a few many times.

 

Not having ice skates, we tried rollerskating on the pond… only once… but that was enough to know it was not our best idea!  Our boots were good enough to skate in.  We played Red light/Green light, Mother May I, Hide and Seek, Telephone - as we all sat in a circle, whispering the message to the next person… only to find how different it was at the end from how it started! We often walked to my friend Kathy Zonneville’s home to play and go sledding down the slope in a nearby field with friends.  We walked into East Palmyra and carried home pails of water from the still-flowing artesian well for our mom to make special recipes. Our Christian school and church meant everything, as did the time spent playing at the homes of so many other friends.

 

And then… we moved back to city life in Clifton, near my dad’s parents and his siblings’ families once again.  How I missed my classmates and friends in East Palmyra.  I cried for weeks.  Though I moved on in life, I never really got over that loss, but have retained special friendships from both home towns and renewed a few more since.  In the city once again, my sister and I learned to make new friends and new fun, walking and biking virtually everywhere with used bikes our grandfather repaired for us.  Our dad took us for day trips around northern Jersey, to the train yards, shipping docks, and into New York City. My sister and I made many trips to the public library as we were both avid readers, played in Weasel Brook Park, the park at Racies Pond, and a park along the Passaic River, never fearing for our safety.  My sister and I were responsible for the family’s laundry every week at the laundromat, enjoying our reward – money for yummy treats!  We even acquired a third brother, Andy.

 

In the summers of 1967 and 1968, Dad took us camping at his cousin Howard’s farm in Nichols, NY, setting up camp surrounded by horses.  Let me tell you, dinners cooked all day in a Dutch oven over coals in a ground pit were the most delicious ever!  Loving the country, farm fresh air, and absolutely everything about horses, I was on cloud nine!  The next summer, I was the happiest girl alive to move back to New York, the tiny hamlet of Lounsberry just east of Nichols.  On August 18, 1969, we drove out of Jersey on Rt. 17 through zillions of congregating hippies… the one and only incomparable Woodstock!  Except, I led such a sheltered life I had no idea at the time we were eye witnesses to part of an historical event! 

 

Back in the country, we found all new learning experiences and made new fun as I helped our Dad remodel and reroof the chicken coop, and make a stall and pasture fence for beautiful War Bugg, a granddaughter of the famous race horse, Man O’ War.  And, then a fourth brother, Ted, joined our ranks.

 

I treasure my childhood - a time of innocence, a time of making our own simple fun, a time of learning… something I think many of today’s children miss out on as they play with the latest computerized gadgets and phones that go way beyond a simple voice connection… or they’re overbooked in sports and extracurricular programs all year ‘round. 

 

My sister and I, lacking the current “in” toys, were out and about with little adult supervision – definitely not something available to current generations.  And I think that’s a shame… for the lessons we learned were priceless and invaluable… pieces of which you will find scattered throughout my poetry and blogs.  Oh, the halcyon days and blessings of youthful innocence!

 

Halcyon Days of Youth

Linda A. Roorda

 

The halcyon days of adventures past

dreams and schemes and youthful machines

Unsupervised fun, roaming freely safe

Absorbing life with innocent ease.

 

Where did they vanish, those carefree days?

Though ever near in faded mem’ries

The stirring heart can recall at will

All that once was from time without cares.

 

There was no fear to childhood games

With all of outdoors the playground of choice

No worries or frets to grip the young heart

Trust was paramount and your word was gold.

 

Could we have known that the games we played

Would form the basis of adulthood mores

For lessons learned in the days of youth

Were meant to achieve maturity’s morn.

 

Values thus learned bring a depth to wisdom

They form foundations to live a life well

They penetrate deep the essence of our soul

That should steps falter deep roots will hold firm.

 

For where leans the mind so is the treasure

Youthful innocence in the child at play,

Where imagination takes hold of the heart

To grasp youth’s best on the journey of life.

~

07/28/15

All rights reserved. 

May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

~

Linda Roorda

Ode To A King

Analogies give us a glimpse of similarities and truths of a story tucked within a story.  Thinking about this concept after my poem was written brought to mind Mark Twain’s British book, “The Prince and The Pauper,” published subsequently in the U.S. in 1882. 

 

In Twain’s beloved story, a young prince and a pauper (who happen to look alike and were born on the same day) trade places in life.  The prince experiences the roughness of a lowly life just as his counterpart once did, while the pauper tries to bravely find his way at the top of an unfamiliar kingdom.  Common sense, so crucial to his survival in the real world, comes in quite handy as he makes his way through the upper echelon.  Ultimately, the real prince returns to claim his rightful place as heir and is crowned king.  Ever grateful for his real-life experiences as a pauper, the prince now understands life for the poor and hard-working folks beneath him, and is better able to comprehend their needs.  And, then he makes his friend, the pauper, his aide. 

 

Having never read Twain’s book, my poem was written without knowledge of the story line.  After research, it’s clear my poem takes a similar albeit slightly different tack in relating a king who was used to observing the realm from his castle high above the fray of every-day life.  Wanting to experience firsthand what life for his subjects was like, he walks among them dressed as a beggar.  In this guise, he observes that most people continue on their way with their heads held high, seldom stooping to assist someone poorer than they.  They live and breathe a self-serving arrogance.

 

But, on the other hand, a young woman notices the poor man in his tattered clothing.  She kindly offers to feed him – and not only did she provide nourishing meals, but she repairs his coat to provide warmth against the cold.  He returns often to talk with her, to learn the depths of her heart, and to simply show appreciation and gratefulness for what she has done for him, a beggar.

 

He was afraid to share that he had fallen in love with her, but was now in a dilemma for he needs to return from whence he came.  Indeed, he knows that truth must always be told in any situation… and so he set out one day to let her know how much he loved her.  He was willing to give up all he owned just to serve her for the rest of his life.  And it was then that he could see his love was returned in her eyes as he knelt down to propose.  With her “yes,” his heart leapt for joy to know their hearts would soon be united forever, as he shared who he really was.

 

Tucked within the depth of this poem’s story is the analogy of our Lord’s love for us.  Leaving his throne in His beautiful and perfect heavenly home, He came down to dwell among us… into this world of sin and pain.  Once here, He experienced life just as we do with all of its temptations and sadness, but also the joy.  And thus He is able to be our advocate and comforter, knowing from personal experience what our life on earth is all about.

 

Yet, our Lord came that He might serve us, not to be served. “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28) In His sacrifice, He gave His all for us… His life… that we might accept an awesome priceless gift; and, in so doing, share eternity with Him above.  What joy there will be when we are united with Him, and remain in the presence of His love forever!  What a King!

 

Ode to a King

Linda A. Roorda

 

I gazed from afar while observing my realm

And found with int’rest motives in action,

But often their lives showed merest concern

While I could see depths of their anguished souls.

 

Oh how I loved these people of mine!

And longed to walk the path to their soul

A chance to converse, a sharing of hearts

To bring them peace with comforting words.

 

So stepping down, I entered their world

Yearning to serve the rich and the poor

But they did not know this beggar in rags

Most never saw needs, just held their head high.

 

And then I noticed a young woman fair

Who spoke gentle words to a stranger coarse

She offered me food and to mend my coat

While love in my heart had only begun.

 

A love which grew on the winds of time

A chance to bond and learn of her heart

To know the depths of comfort and peace

Humility’s grace wrapped up in mercy.

 

Now deeply in love I’d sacrifice all

Yet she did not know the truth of my garb

How would I explain that she’d found favor

That her heart was true, like gold refined.

 

So I intended my dilemma to share

To let her know from afar I’d come,

That all I’d longed for I treasured in her,

Companionship sweet, a blending of souls.

 

Expressing my love for her tender heart

Overwhelmed was she as on knees I bent

Asking for her hand, with tears she said yes,

My heart leapt for joy that we’d become one.

 

And then I shared my journey in rags

From a kingdom rich in glory and fame

To this lowly world of sorrow and pain

To which I had come, others to serve.

 

For it was then my eyes did behold

Analogy of One with far greater love

Who left His throne to walk on this earth

To share our burdens and speak to our hearts.

 

His love ran red as He gave His all

To purchase with blood and redeem our souls

That He might draw near, from sin set us free

To offer His gift of life eternal.

~~

12/21/15 – 12/24/15

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

Linda Roorda

I’ve canoed several times and absolutely love it!  And long to do so again… on calm water, that is… because I can’t swim.  (Actually, I literally cannot float since a near-drowning episode when younger, and need to wear “floaties” or a life jacket.)  But, Mark Molyneaux, the husband of Ed’s sister, Diane, used to make and sell beautiful wooden Adirondack guide boats and smaller one-man canoes.  He’s quite a talented man, capable of restoring beautiful old canoes, and doing the old-fashioned caning for seats.  Yet, my first time out in one of his canoes, I had to be taught how to handle it with a companion... and learned to paddle in sync, setting a steady rhythm. 

 

But, one thing was certain – paddling was initially confusing.  Sometimes, we didn’t have our oars quite in sync.  And, if I paddled out of rhythm, or too much on one side, the canoe began to go in a circle.  But, I also learned to effectively use that one oar to change the course of the canoe.  We need to know what we’re doing on the water.  And like in life, we need to follow someone’s wiser guidance. 

 

In that vein, I’m sure others have enjoyed the following story:  On maneuvers one dark and foggy night, a ship’s lookout spotted a light in the distance which continued to draw closer.  Noting the light’s coordinates were on a collision course with the ship, the sailor duly informed his captain.  Immediately, the captain signaled the light source to change course and avoid certain collision.  Back came the reply that the captain should change his course instead.  Indignant, the captain responded by stating the size of his ship, insisting the smaller vessel change its course.  A reply was promptly received, “I’m a lighthouse.  Your call.”

 

This story was made popular over the years in various forms, including the 1987 issue of “Proceedings” (a publication of the U.S. Naval Institute) and Stephen Covey’s 1989 book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Proven to be nothing more than a simple story, the earliest source was determined to be a single-frame cartoon in London’s weekly “The Humorist,” reposted in a 1931 Canadian paper, “The Drumheller Review.”  Having learned the reality of ships’ lights and that of a lighthouse, they lend credence to this being a simple humorous story about who’s in charge.  (see http://www.snopes.com/military/lighthouse.asp)

 

On a peaceful ocean, it can seem so easy to set sail for a distant destination.  But, I’ve also read about the doldrums which would halt ancient sailing vessels (or even modern sailboats without an engine) – those monotonous days on end without a breeze to fill the sails.  Yet, in the midst of a fierce storm, skills and knowledge are needed all the more to guide any ship safely through mountainous crashing waves... or through a dense fog as the ship sails near shore and rocky shoals.  Like the story above, we need to know who’s in control at times like this.

 

Life can be compared to being out at sea once we’ve left the safety and security of harbor, or our parents’ home.  If we take charge of a situation without full knowledge of sailing, we set ourselves up to fail.  But, if we learn under the guidance of someone with wisdom fit for the occasion, we learn valuable advice.  With new understanding, we can chart a course through the difficulties that arise.  And, with guidance, we can reach the safety of a calm and peaceful harbor. 

 

As I wrote this poem and later this reflection, I was reminded of Psalm 107:23-28 NASB, with its familiar phrase:  “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.  For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.  They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; their soul melted away in their misery.  They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits’ end.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses.”

 

Like my need to initially be instructed how to canoe, so we have need for guidance and wisdom to handle life and its troubles… the tempestuous waves and rocky shoals… for it makes all the difference in safely reaching our destination.

 

Harbor of Peace

Linda A. Roorda

 

The waves come splashing against rock and sand

From far-reaching shores on relentless tide

They ebb and flow like seasons of life

Ever changing without and within.

 

The rhythmic stream gently calms the soul

Midst probing thoughts on issues of life

For like the ship that sails open seas

So flow the waves from storm to shelter.

 

From whence they come and wither they go

The ships that sail from harbor’s safety,

For they who go down to the sea in ships

See His mighty works, wonders of the deep.

 

From days of calm and placid expanse

With gentle breeze to fill out the sails

Into the tempest with waves like mountains

Which crash the hopes and try the patience.

 

As storms lash out from the depths beneath

So does the heart unburden its pain

Like a compass guide You lead me forward

Through trial and storm to harbor of peace.

 

Skill at the helm best steers the rudder

Through storms that test and a calm that fools

For setting the sail takes wisdom and skill

As force of nature still proves seaworthy.

 

May my life show whose wisdom is guide

And may I heed the lighthouse warning

Steer hard away from dangerous shoals

To protective shore in harbor of peace.

~~

03/16-19/16

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

~~

Linda Roorda

I’ve read books or stories from virtually every war in which men and women of our nation, including my family, have been involved.  Their sacrifices have deeply touched my heart as

I live a life of freedom, a blessing either limited or unknown to so many elsewhere in this world.  But, our families have not known a loss in war during this past century.

 

Recently, friends of ours shared some treasured family papers with me.  Gene Dougherty visits my husband, Ed, once a week while I attend an afternoon Bible study with his wife, Lena, our leader.  This spring, several boxes of treasures were given to Lena by a relative, mementoes she never knew her mother had kept.  They included old photographs and newspaper clippings.  What especially touched Lena’s heart were the photos of her family, including her brother, Glen, who had died in World War II.

 

Lena’s mother, Edna, had saved numerous clippings of the war from a local Binghamton newspaper.  Here were reports of a war’s ups and downs, of the efforts of battle-worn troops, of men who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and of soldiers who returned home safely.  Also included were touching reports by Ernie Pyle, a reporter embedded with troops in the European theater and later in the South Pacific. 

 

Pyle was a beloved reporter in the U.S. and abroad.  He had a way with words, evoking an empathy from his readers for the servicemen he wrote about.  A reporter who opened his readers’ eyes, he put a personal touch to the effects of war, and to the emotions of hard-won battles for freedom’s sake.  I remember him well… no, I did not grow up during the war, but had purchased and read his book, “Brave Men,” as a teen.  Perusing through Lena’s papers, I knew I had to take  that book off the shelf and refresh my memory. 

 

Then, as I continued to read through Lena’s papers, thoughts and emotions swirled around and the following poem began taking shape.  I have always been grateful to those men and women who have joined the military to protect our freedoms and to gain the same for the oppressed around the world.  But to think about each one who has ever gone off to war, to remember them as their family knew and loved them so well… is to contemplate the little child who ran into the loving arms of parents with boundless energy, full of love and joy… the playing and learning he or she did under their wise and watchful eyes… the teen coming to terms with adolescent struggles… the young adult who emerged from military basic training with a new sense of purpose… the seasoned soldier whose loyalty to his or her unit proved a perseverance and bravery they never thought they had… and the final tribute paid to one who gave his or her all that others might live… is to contemplate the heart and soul of each one who left behind a sweetheart or spouse, beloved parents and siblings, and even children… the one forever remembered for a life interrupted, of the great sacrifice made, and of the legacy now carried in the heart and soul of those who have grieved their loss.

 

As we celebrate Memorial Day, may this simple poem evoke in you a heart of thanks for all who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in any war.  Without a willingness to put their lives on the line for the sake of freedom, we would not be enjoying our “…land of the brave and home of the free.” 

 

Thank you, to each and every one, but especially to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

  

Heroes of Yesterday

Linda A. Roorda

 

Where tyranny reigns evil’s at the helm

As the young and free who know only peace

With faces brave must enter the fray

In the fight for rights we take for granted.

 

Responsibility trains boys into men

With troop cohesion, a unit’s tight bond

To honor and hold each life in their care

For freedom’s defense and the rights of all.

 

Orders to battle and the hell of war

The call to arms which tests the mettle

For within each heart lies the chance to prove

The value of truth to fail or succeed.

 

From red alert to general quarters

Emotions run deep in calm before strife

Of imminent fight and future yearnings

Always thinking, “If I get through…alive…”*

 

The sounds of war above stealth and fear

The zing of bullets and bombs that explode

Challenges met, overcome with courage

Proving capable the common valor.

 

Back home they reflect, living fear and dread

Loved ones waiting for word from afar

A card or letter received with relief

Until the knock comes when time stands still.

 

The letters home that ceased too soon

As horrors of war burn deep in the soul

Who’ll be the judge at the end of combat

What the heart ponders to serve and protect…

 

To gain advantage with success for peace

To hold these truths that all may live free

To lift the spirit and rebuild from loss

As we remember peace has a cost.

~~

05/04/16

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

~~

*”Brave Men,” Ernie Pyle, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1944, p.5

~

 

Linda Roorda

The Facade

My siblings and I loved it when our dad, an awesome vocal impressionist, came home as an over-the-road trucker to tell us a new set of family jokes by Bill Cosby among others.  And who among us didn’t enjoy The Cosby Show! Dr. Huxtable was wise, witty and lovable. So, I know I’m not alone in recoiling at the allegations of sexual misconduct by everyone's favorite comedian and father figure, Bill Cosby.  It saddens me to hear what sound like legitimate charges with a pattern of behavior by his own admission in past legal depositions. 

 

Suffice it to say, sexual assault and predatory behavior have been silenced topics for too long.  Predators too often get away with their behavior through lies and shaming their victims into silence.  Too often, they walk away seemingly unscathed after harming their victim emotionally and/or physically, child or adult, only to prey again on others.  And, like Penn State’s Sandusky, blame is always placed on the victims… always.

 

Abusers… whether bullies, narcissists, predators or psychopaths/sociopaths… typically cannot take full responsibility for their own actions or apologize unequivocally.  They will not seek true restorative psychiatric help nor make restitution.  In their eyes, they don’t have a problem that needs fixing.  They conveniently blame their victim for being too emotional, too sensitive.  Abusive behavior often comes with narcissistic personality traits including being highly confident and manipulative, excelling at lying, seemingly without fault, having and knowing the best.  They believe they don’t owe apologies.  When forgiveness is expressed by an offended party trying to make amends, they have claimed with pride there’s nothing to forgive; they’ve done nothing wrong.  

 

In researching, I learned that an abuser’s own childhood lacking, including an absent or abusive father, inferiorities, or genetics can be factors, excuses which don’t make their behavior any more acceptable.  More often than not, the abuser is fully aware of their manipulation tactics used to exploit their victim’s vulnerabilities for their own purpose.  It’s paramount they maintain control over their victim in order to feel superior… for such behavior feeds their innate needs.  When losing control, they not only shift blame but mock and belittle their victim, and may resort to stalking behavior.

 

Now more than ever, we need to be aware of the dangers lurking in today’s society from various vices -  from the subtle innuendo to the outright blatant pornography in magazines, on the internet, and on TV… to drunken parties, to kidnappings, to senseless shootings… from sexting to trafficking… to children and women of any age unwittingly set up or stalked (whether online or in school) by friends or strangers… to public figures, including priests and evangelists, brought to shame by their own sins… to predators seeking a new victim to conquer as they claim innocence and unabashedly deny they ever did anything wrong… all while pointing fingers of blame at their victims.

 

Abusers seek to control their victim emotionally.  But predators/psychopaths especially excel at the techniques of flattery and manipulation to gain control, typically overstepping normal societal boundaries without concern.  Predatory grooming steps are universal against children, teens and adults, meant to control with a perverted form of trust to the abuser’s benefit, and done in specific stages.  After targeting someone they perceive as vulnerable, they reel their victim in with flattery to gain their trust.  The abuser keys in on filling a need, emotional or otherwise, and tries to isolate their victim in secrecy from those who would realize what’s happening.  Innocuous sexual advances are made which gradually become bolder until the abuser thinks he can maintain control to accomplish his goal of abuse – often with the use of threats.

 

Unfortunately, many victims do not understand what has taken place until it's too late.  They can be swept away by flattery filling a need they do not even recognize within themselves.  In researching, I learned psychiatrists have written how even they were swayed by a smooth-talking predator whom they had interviewed in prison.  Victims may try to dissuade the perpetrator, even try to hold them accountable for inappropriate behavior.  Instead, victims often hear logical-sounding excuses, i.e. lies, and even Scripture used against their objections.  Yet, victims are damaged emotionally, if not physically, and often blame themselves for failing to recognize the situation with an inability to stop the abuser’s progression despite their best attempts.

 

Perhaps some victims are misled when the foundation of absolutes has a few cracks and a worldly perspective is overlooked that can carry them away.  Yet, any one of us can easily be misled by words of complimentary flattery when the depth of lies, hidden agenda, and intent of someone else’s heart is not known nor understood.  We lovingly try to give the benefit of doubt to others, especially someone we know… or thought we knew well.  Yet, for the abuser, their behavior leads to more in a vicious cycle. 

 

As much as we like to think we can lovingly help an abuser overcome their evil proclivity with professional counseling, too often they are not amenable to corrective change.  They typically cannot comprehend they have a problem as they seemingly successfully blame their victims and walk away unscathed.  They may make what sounds like a good confession and apology, supposedly repenting of their ways, but without showing genuine remorse and behavioral change.  It has been well documented how adept such abusers are at concealing their lies behind a mask of self-truth while pointing accusatory fingers of blame at the true victim.  If only abusers could understand that to recognize and be responsible for their own inappropriate behavior is a sign of true adult maturity.

 

Most bullies and abusers by any name will feign innocence with an expressed lack of understanding about why they’re being accused.  With a cold disregard and lack of empathy for the feelings of those whom they’ve used and offended, they will not or cannot fathom they’ve done anything wrong.  They feel superior; their wants or needs matter most.  Again, attempts to hold them accountable are often to no avail because they simply will not take responsibility for their own behavior… using lies, tears, and selective amnesia when attempts are made to hold them accountable.  They are adept at lying to portray themselves as the innocent victim to the public when the truth is being told by the actual victim who is thus not believed – and who is thereby victimized twice… by the abuser and by a third-party authority figure unwilling or unable to hold the abuser accountable when informed of the truth. 

 

Thankfully, there are others willing to come alongside victims to help them understand what happened and how to extract themselves to begin the healing process.  The shame, guilt and frustration that sets in for the victim can seem overwhelming.  But, there also comes a point when ties must be severed with an abuser.  If the abuser cannot take responsibility for their abusive behaviors without genuine change, the victim should not be expected to maintain a relationship after their failed attempts to reconcile.

 

Know that you have the right to be shown respect, to express your opinions and be appreciated for it, to establish priorities, to say “no” without being made to feel guilty, to protect yourself from threats and from emotional or physical abuse, and to establish your own boundaries to live a happy and fulfilled life.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201406/how-spot-and-stop-manipulators

 

So, what can you do to help a victim?  Don't ever minimize a victim's feelings, instincts, or concerns.  Truly listen to the victim.  Set aside your bias should you know the parties involved.  It takes courage amidst the fear of rejection and/or retaliation for a victim to step forward and discuss any abuse… sexual or otherwise.  Not being the target of such victimization, you will not see what an abuser is doing behind the scenes to someone else... all while putting on a public face of piety, even in the church.  When the victim opens up to you, they are in need of understanding, support and assistance, not disbelief, denial and anger.  One who does not want to hear the truth of a situation has the net effect of enabling the abuser…for the abuser needs your help in ferreting out their wrongs and lies in order to finally get true restorative assistance, just as the true victim needs your unreserved support.

 

Professional counseling is vital to the victim’s recovery.  Forgiving yourself as a victim is equally as important, knowing that you are loved and valued.  The victim may also forgive the abuser in time.  But, true forgiveness often comes only when the abuser shows genuine repentance and acknowledgement of guilt… earning respect and gaining trust through an obvious change in behavior… with a willingness to be openly honest, showing a heart-felt empathy for another’s situation… not just by giving clever and humble-appearing denials, or glibly-spoken and seemingly apologetic flattery all while professing a humble God-honoring life.  If one truly were humble, there would be no need to brag about it.

 

Be informed.  Don’t ignore the issues.  Know the behavior patterns of abusers and predators.  Often, they are right under your nose and seem lovingly innocuous, even in the church.  Be actively involved with your children, teaching them from an early age about the warning signs.  Know that a predator can strike from any source, at any age, even catching an adult off guard, taking advantage of friendship, kindness and empathy.  As most of us don’t come in contact with these forms of abuse, being informed is power, even if it’s learned after an abusive situation.  Among numerous professional websites, check out: 

  1. http://www.childmolestationvictims.com/the-grooming-process-how-sexual-predators-con-you-and-your-child/

  2. http://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder-symptoms/

  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shame/201509/5-types-extreme-narcissists-and-how-deal-them

  4. http://thenarcissistinyourlife.com/narcissists-will-never-stop-lying-to-you/

  5. http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Hare-Psychopathy-Checklist.html

  6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/psychopathy

  7. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindmelding/201301/what-is-psychopath-0

  8. https://www.psychopathfree.com/content.php

     

    Tucked within my poem, “The Façade,” are truths meant to be taken to heart… truths which confront, truths meant to clear the soul… to bring a fresh start through understanding God’s message… to restore a broken relationship with God and others… to leave a world of braggadocio and joking/mocking with an underlying insecurity… to leave behind a lack of respect in attempts to use and control others through the whims of evil desire… to renew one’s life through repentance covered by the forgiving and merciful love of God… because God already knows everything we do and say and think.

     

    In going back to the foundation of our faith within Scripture, we remember the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Be imitators of God…as dearly beloved children and live a life of love… But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality… but rather thanksgiving.  Let no one deceive you with empty words… For you were once darkness, but now are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them… Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is… Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power… so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  (Ephesians 5:1-17, 6:10-11 NIV)

     

    Paul also affirms that we ought “…not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’  Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning…’”  (I Corinthians 15:33-34 NIV) 

     

    Strong words these... meant to reinforce that God wants us to live a pure life.  And yes, He does know we are imperfect for in Romans 3:22-23 we read, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” 

     

    But isn’t that why God sent His Son to take our punishment on the cross?  Isn’t that why He leaves the door open as we draw near to Him, to repent of the errors of our ways, and to accept His forgiveness that washes us clean, as white as snow?  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) There is no sin so great that our great God can’t cover it by His Son’s sacrifice when we repent.  That’s what Easter is all about.

     

    A Christian contemporary praise song by Tenth Avenue North (one of my and Ed’s favorite groups which I saw in concert at Houghton College in the fall of 2014 with my friend, Diane) entitled, “You Are More,” speaks so well to the issues discussed here.  Written by Mike Donehey and Jason Ingram, the chorus reminds each of us that, “You are more than the choices that you've made, You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, You are more than the problems you create, You've been remade…” 

     

    Indeed… through Christ, you are more than your past mistakes… you’ve been remade... 

     

    The Façade

    Linda A. Roorda

     

    Flattering words entice with sweet praise

    Meant to control the innocent heart

    A game of chase to disguise and hide

    Reality within the mind of deceit.

     

    You show the façade of a righteous man

    No one suspects what lies underneath

    But truth is tainted when it’s understood

    A double-edged tongue resides in your soul.

     

    Fear is the game with blame to cause shame

    Always an out as truth is altered,

    With pride you claim humility meek

    But cannot see antithesis bold.

     

    When words are spoken in praise of self

    How humble a soul with a God-honoring life

    The question then begs for fruit to be seen

    Instead is observed self-serving pure pride.

     

    Yet can be found redemptive mercy

    Life lessons learned as wisdom is gained

    Renewal of heart with focus restored

    On seeking guidance from His love above.

     

    Lessons to heed, wounds and scars to heal,

    Forgiveness held out, better paths to walk.

    The Lord’s guiding hand now seen through it all

    Restored by grace, with mercy set free.

    ~~

    07/10/15

    All rights reserved. 

    May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

Linda Roorda

Sometimes it doesn’t take long to see the story within a photo.  And recently it happened again.  A dear friend from my childhood, Fran (DeVries) VanStaalduinen, is an awesome artist and photographer.  Her genre includes flowers and birds, and mountains and valleys out in the state of Washington.  She once took a photo of an old worn wooden gate opened to a sunlit field, and it got me thinking about where the path might lead.  I have yet to sit down to write the thoughts that have been swirling around…

 

For a time, my family lived upstairs from Fran’s family in their big Victorian house on her parents’ farm in Marion, NY.  She and her sister, Betty, and my sister, Carol, and I made our own fun in wandering the farm.  Oh the memories still held dear!  But those are stories for another time…

 

In the habit of posting a beautiful photo each day on Facebook, Fran posted a simple photo of an old, rusty, dilapidated tractor (perhaps a Fordson by my research).  It sat abandoned and alone behind a swath of blooming daffodils, framed by bushes and trees with buds bursting forth in the glorious greens of spring.  Immediately I was struck by the stark contrast of the old and the new… the tired and worn versus that of new life springing forth... the rhythm of life.

 

DSC09662.jpg

 

The tractor, once a vital piece of machinery to someone’s farming operation, sat quiet and still with stories hidden beneath its rusty veneer.  It got me to thinking about our elderly parents and grandparents.  Too often they sit alone on the sidelines, unappreciated and under-appreciated.  They’ve led a full life, with stories galore, but now their value and worth is hidden from view behind their sagging and wrinkled skin… a testament to the days of hardship they faced, endured, and conquered… the rhythm of life.

 

Still gazing at this photo, I appreciated the aesthetic beauty of blooming daffodils in front of the tractor… absorbing their significance as evidence of new life bursting forth.  Each spring, we are once again reassured of new life and vigor as each warming day restores the lifeblood within the plants and they begin their journey of growth… the rhythm of life. 

 

Then, contemplating new life, I couldn’t help but think about the birth of a precious infant.  With new life comes an innocence and purity while the progression to old age adds experience and wisdom.  And with each new birth comes the dreams and promise of all that little life holds with a future yet to be filled in.  Though God knows, we’re rather clueless as to the future.  But, one thing’s for certain… the ever pulsing rhythm of life. 

 

And with these thoughts, I was reminded of a few verses of Scripture:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new has come!”  (II Corinthians 5:17 NIV)  For, “you were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body... Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:22-25, 32 NIV)

 

An ever changing ebb and flow as the old passes away to make room for the new… the rhythm of life.

  

The Rhythm of Life

Linda A. Roorda

 

Rusting in silence, long since abandoned

Where once its might proved hearty worth

The solitude now preserves its secrets

Left to decay, worthless and alone.

 

In contrast stark new life bursts forth

Leaf buds emerge, daffodils bloom gold

Progression alive, flowing fresh and free

New hope within the rhythm of life.

 

The aged and feeble gaze back into time

Where once was value now worth lies hidden

Though memories stir from slumber aroused

Vitality still, worthy but alone.

 

The cry of life in anguish brought forth

As tears fade away rejoicing shines bright

New life, new hope, new dreams for the future

Promise within the rhythm of life.

 

Arranged side by side, the old and the new

Affirmation seen in continuous flow

From lusty first cry to the silenced voice

The flow within the rhythm of life.

~~

03/04-05/16

All rights reserved.  

May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

Linda Roorda

An abridged version of the following reflection was published in “Breaking Barriers,” a publication of the Christian Reformed and Reformed Church in America Disability Concerns Ministries.

 

Each one of us encounters failures or losses in life.  Each one of us encounters disabilities in ourselves or those around us.  But, it’s what we do with, and how we react to, all that comes our way that makes a difference... in our lives and in the lives of others.  We can carry on with selfish pride in what we can do, we can roll over in defeat at failure... or we can face the challenge in humility, asking God to guide us along a broken and difficult path.

 

For 27 years (from 1982 to 2009), we burned wood to heat our house.  When my husband, Ed, farmed with his dad, he cut his own firewood.  Came the day, though, that Ed lost the balance of his limited vision and was completely blind.  He could no longer use a chainsaw or an axe to split wood.  It remained to be seen how he would handle the obstacles that faced him. 

 

Initially, he went through a difficult transition and grieving process, common to all with any serious loss.  None of us knew how best to handle the change.  It was a learn-as-you-go process until we found professional guidance specifically for the blind.  And then, his old self rose up to meet the challenges, determined to do whatever he could to face whatever came his way… with a catch.

 

As he stacked firewood one day without any remaining fragments of light and color to guide him, the rows kept collapsing.  He simply could not get the pieces of wood to fit together well enough to stay in neat upright rows.  In utter frustration, he sat down and put his head in his hands, feeling like an utter failure.  All of his life he’d had to struggle with limited vision, being classified legally blind from infancy on.  He struggled in the classroom, not being able to see the board, often refusing to ask for help.  He wanted to be just like everyone else.

 

Most of us can just tackle an activity, job or hobby with ease.  But Ed was denied what he longed to do… he couldn’t play football or basketball with his 6’7” height.  He could swim like a pro, but wasn’t allowed on the team for fear he’d hurt himself or others by straying from his lane.  Instead, the coach made him manager of their state division championship team from Warwick, NY.  But, at other times, peers mocked and belittled him.  Why couldn’t he be accepted just for who he was?  Why did everything have to be so hard?  Why couldn’t life be easier and simpler… like it was for everyone else? 

 

Yet, he had accomplished so much with so little for so many years!  He could milk the cows, climb the silos, drive tractor and do all the field work except plant corn, and that was only because he couldn’t see where the last row left off.  With his limitations, he knew to be extra cautious and it always paid off.  But, now it seemed that even this last bit of enjoyment in stacking firewood was being taken from him, too. 

 

Except, while sitting there, he decided to pray and ask God for help in this seemingly simple, but now very challenging task.  He prayed that God would guide each piece of wood he picked up so it would fit and the rows wouldn’t fall down… so that he could stack the wood himself without having to ask for more help.  As he stood up and once again picked up the firewood, he soon realized that every piece he stacked fit… well, actually, fit perfectly!  When he was done, his rows stood straight and tall without collapsing! 

 

And then he began hearing comments from neighbors who marveled at how great his stacked firewood looked.  By a man who couldn’t see, no less!  As Ed told anyone who commented, “It wasn’t me; it was God.”  It was only after he prayed each time before he picked up the first piece of wood that he was able to manage this seemingly impossible task.  But, if he forgot and just delved right in to stacking, the wood invariably collapsed… until he sat down and had a little talk with God.

 

My poem below is reminiscent of a story floating around the internet of violinist Itzhak Perlman performing with a broken violin string.  Though that feat was unable to be confirmed by snopes.com, the concept is worthy of illustrating our brokenness in disability.  Another young man, Niccolo` Paganini, was an Italian child prodigy who played mandolin and violin from ages 5 and 7 respectively.  Supposedly, he once played with three broken strings, refusing to allow the handicap to end his serenade.  Paganini excelled in part because of Marfan’s Syndrome which gave him his height and extra long fingers, a genetic syndrome also found in our families.  The elasticity of joints and tissues allowed Paganini the flexibility to bend and extend his fingers beyond the norm as he used the disability to his benefit.

 

Like Ed and others with disabilities, we can either resent our situation or we can have a little talk with God, asking Him to guide us through whatever we face.

 

A Broken String

Linda A. Roorda

 

Four strings create beautiful music

Perfection in pitch, magnificent tone

All they expect, not asking for more

Performing with pride just as it should be.

 

Pulling the bow across the taut strings

Gently at first, then faster I stroke

The symphonic sound brings tears to their eyes

This is my gift to their list’ning ears.

 

Closing my eyes to the beauty of sound

Caressing the strings, deep feelings evoked

From graceful and light to dramatic and rich

Till one string popped, now what shall I do?

 

Adversity gives a chance to prove worth

As now I’ve lost a string that flails free.

In silence all eyes riveted on me,

Would I be angry or would I accede.

 

Silently I prayed, God give me the strength

I’ve been disabled, humbled before all.

Help me I pray to carry on well

Let them now see You working through me.

 

Adjusting my bow and fingers for sound

Quickly I learned to amend my strokes

As to my ears a beautiful tune

Emanates yet while focused on God.

 

When the finale at last had arrived

With a soft sigh I played my last note,

And as it faded they rose to their feet

With wild applause from their hearts to mine.

 

Perhaps it was all intended to reach

This attitude of pride within myself

A lesson was learned in how to react

Adversity’s gift to sink or to soar.

 

For without You what does my life mean?

What value is placed on my outward skills?

Do You not, Lord, see deep in my heart

Where my soul reflects my pride or Your grace?

 

My attitude then a choice I must make

Embrace gratitude or sink in despair

For I cannot change what happens to me

Instead I’ll play while focused on You.

 

Humility grows by resigning pride

As a broken string reflects trials of life

Others I’ll serve as You did for me

For in You is found the selfless way of life.

~~

05/31/14 – 06/08/14 – 12/27/15

All rights reserved. 

May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

Linda Roorda

Who was the carpenter’s son they called Jesus, and what was He really like?  He lived, breathed and walked on the face of this earth some 2000 years ago, but how well do we know Him?  What would it have been like to be around Him, listening to Him, and following Him?  Beyond what we read in the Holy Bible, or what others have written to express their understanding of Scripture’s portrayal of Him, we might wonder what He was like as a child, or even as an adult in the mundane day-to-day life issues.

 

This poem had its beginnings in the Christmas 2014 portrayal by Pastor Steve Barrows at North Spencer Baptist Church of a young man who had grown up just down the street from Jesus.  This characterization made me stop and think about the man named Jesus in a more personal way. 

 

Born in a stable of all places, he was raised by a loving father, a simple carpenter.  There were whispers that his mom was pregnant before she had actually married Joseph… a shameful disgrace to her family, never mind to Joseph.  She could have been stoned to death for her supposed sin, but both she and Joseph claimed an angel had come to them.  An angel named Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid, that she had found favor with God, and that her child would be called the Son of God.  When Mary told Joseph what the angel had said to her, he quietly admitted with amazement that he, too, had had a visit from the angel.  The message he heard was not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, that her child had been miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that he should name the child Jesus.  (Matthew 1:18-24, Luke 1:26-38)

 

But what made the life of Jesus special?  Why did thousands of people seek him out while others spoke vitriol against him?  Why did some ask questions intended to trick him while others clamored for more of his wisdom?  Every time, though, Jesus amazed the questioners, and even pointed out their thoughts. 

 

I don’t think I’m alone in seeing myself among the various descriptions of the 12 disciples and their attitudes, nor among the attitudes of the crowds which followed him.  I honestly don’t know how I would have reacted as a contemporary of Jesus.  Would I have believed His message then… like I do now?  Or would I have stood on the sideline as a skeptic and mocker?  Perhaps these are among the issues we might ponder. 

 

Sure, there were the welcomed healing miracles he performed… like curing lepers, society’s outcasts.  He even healed a blind man!  Yet, he didn’t brag on himself.  Often, he simply told them not to tell anyone of their healings.  Then there was the love and forgiveness he gave to many… but what right did this simple carpenter’s son have to forgive anyone?  And how could he even do so… unless He truly was God?  

 

He extended forgiveness to a woman caught in adultery. After writing some words in the dirt, he had the audacity to tell the men who brought her to him, the religious leaders who were accusing her, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  (John 8:7 - stoning to death was punishment for adultery.)  Interestingly, at that point, those religious leaders just turned and walked away.  They knew their own sins, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s what Jesus had been writing in the dirt. 

 

This same Jesus was seen spending time with, and even eating with those considered the worst of sinners.  An unbelievable, and perhaps unpardonable offense in the eyes of those religious leaders who desperately tried to trip him up to get rid of him.  He told stories not easily understood.  They had an every-day tone, told from the basics of life, yet they had a deeper spiritual meaning not readily discerned… not even by his closest followers.  He was an enigma, an interesting man that’s for sure. 

 

Yet, He was so much more… for the other side of the carpenter’s son was Holy.  He had a wisdom, a knowledge, a divinity about Him that was evident to those who believed His message.  He claimed to be the fulfillment of the ancient prophesies about the coming Messiah… in other words, He was born as one of us, yet He was fully God.  Sometimes it may be hard to wrap our finite minds around that concept. 

 

He calmly and quietly took the punishment of death on a cross for something He did not do… to ultimately pay for my sins… for your sins… and for this my heart is forever grateful to the carpenter’s son, the Son of God, for the mercy and grace He extends to each of us on our confession. 

 

May you be truly blessed this Easter as we contemplate together all that our Lord has done for us.

 

The Carpenter's Son

Linda A. Roorda

 

I watched him grow, the carpenter's son.

We were lucky, the boys who survived.

Herod killed them, all boys under two

But Joseph moved to save his firstborn.

 

Back from Egypt to Nazareth town,

Joseph’s wood shop not far from my dad's.

Jealous was I of one with no wrong.

How could this boy always be perfect?

 

I saw his work, quality unequalled.

Though younger than I more skilled were his hands.

His work in demand, mine not so much.

Frustrated was I; like him I did not.

 

Found debating the elder rabbis,

Who was he really, this carpenter's son?

How could he know such truths at age twelve?

Puzzled was I, as I watched him grow.

 

His father died young, with Jesus the oldest,

Leaving their mother to raise them alone.

A godly woman, without doubt was she

A humble woman, with wisdom gifted.

 

But there came a day when Jesus left home

He'd taught his brothers, the carpenter's sons.

Now he gathered a group of twelve men

Teaching the crowds, with miracles, too.

 

I have to admit my conscience was pierced

For as I listened among noisy crowds

I often wondered how had he become

A man of wisdom, this carpenter's son?

 

I began to listen a bit more closely

His words made me think in ways I had not.

He knew the Scriptures and taught to our hearts

Once I disliked him, now I wanted more.

 

What was the draw?  Why such attention?

His message simple, to love each other.

But most of all with heart, mind and soul

To love our God above all others.

 

For three short years, I put aside self

To understand the carpenter's son.

I had not liked him, but he drew me near

He opened my eyes to depths of my heart.

 

But then I heard they’d arrested him!

What was the crime?  He had done no wrong!

‘Twas then I learned of charges trumped up

Against our Teacher, the carpenter's son.

 

The servant of all stood calmly as charged

When asked who he was, confessed to be God.

Without fair trial, they mocked and whipped

And like a meek lamb, he faced his own death.

 

We stood and watched as nails were hammered

His cross raised high between mocking thieves.

Taunted was he, called King of the Jews

Humbly forgiving, the carpenter's son.

 

When they determined death had overcome

We quietly left to contemplate all.

How could this happen, we wondered aloud

As he was buried behind a great stone.

 

The man of wisdom with a heart for peace

He who preached mercy was gone from our midst.

Who could replace the man we followed?

Like no one else, our hearts he had touched.

 

Three days later news came to our ears

He was risen, though how I don't know!

Mary first saw Him in the garden alone

Our Master dear, Redeemer and Lord.

 

He then appeared to the gathered ones

To show his scars and express His love.

But He also spoke of a message now ours

Of mercy and grace from the carpenter's son.

~~

2015

All rights reserved. 

May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

~~

 

Linda Roorda

Fences

A fence… just a simple snow fence… part of it standing as straight and tall as the day it was put up, while other sections lean askance or lay surrendered to the elements.  Sometimes we see things that trigger thoughts and emotions.  And that’s what happened when I saw this photo taken and posted by our good friend, Hugh Van Staalduinen.  His wife, Kathy, and I have been friends since childhood; together, we’ve been couple/family friends ever since our respective dating years.  

Hugh, a truck driver, has built a reputation with his hobby of taking beautiful bird and butterfly photos, posting them on Facebook and national websites.  At last count, he’s spotted 199 different bird species which were new to him!  He finds Sodus Point a favorite spot for taking photos of not only birds, hawks and eagles, but of the lighthouse and gorgeous sunsets over the lake.  But, every now and then he ventures beyond the aesthetic… and his photo of a simple snow fence on the beach at Sodus Point, NY caught my eye.  It spoke volumes to me, and a poem was born. 

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 7.37.16 PM.png

 

The Sodus area holds a special place with my earliest memories.  When I was about 3 to 4 years old, my dad worked for the Wychmere Dairy Farm.  I remember a trip to a Lake Ontario beach at Sodus Point then, and I can still visualize a ship on the horizon as I floated in my inner tube.  Years later, on a ride to Chimney Bluffs near Sodus Point, Hugh drove us down the exact same woodsy lane to the exact same spot on the beach which has been in my memories since childhood!  Then, as a teen, I climbed a section of Chimney Bluffs with steep spires of earth in constant change from effects of the weather.

 

But, in Hugh’s simple photo above of a snow fence stretching along the beach, we see strong upright sections still connected to those which are leaning or have fallen down… as though the sections are connected by helping hands reaching out… an apt reflection of life.  For me, this fence evoked images of how we often become support for others to lean upon… the stronger supporting the weaker… be it the younger assisting the elderly, the parents helping their children, or the healthy aiding the sick. 

 

And the very next day, our pastor preached on James 1:19-27.   With admonishment to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…[and] to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” my mind saw the arms of love reaching out like those of the snow fence.  With our loving acts of listening, kindness, and gentleness, we come to the aid of those in need. 

 

By showing this love in many ways, we meet others where they’re at…and shower them with true Christianity in action.  To sit silently by and do nothing is to stifle God’s love.  But, by abiding in His word and in His love, we are led to help those who simply need a shoulder to lean on, or a hand to stand up after a devastating blow has laid them low.

 

Oh, the images that come to mind in the simplest of scenes!  Just a simple snow fence... with some sections standing straight and tall, some leaning, and some fallen down, covered by snow and ice… an image that speaks volumes if we but listen with our heart.

 

Fences

Linda A. Roorda

 

As I gazed upon a fence with slats

Meant to protect and divert a storm,

Significance seen in sections displayed

Some standing tall, some twisted askew.

 

We build our fences for reasons many

Some to protect and some to lean on

Some as evidence of hearts hid from view

For a fence speaks well what words cannot say.

 

This image evoked by words unspoken

Is strength within that others may lean.

Blessed with a vigor which few can maintain

The stalwarts shelter when the weary falter.

 

Yet there are times when a fence is built

As a wall of sorts to block out life’s stress

Some meant to hide, some shielding from harm

Both meant to offer a refuge from pain.

 

So fences we build across life’s terrain

Uniting with strength to carry burdens,

Supporting others in facing the storms

With hands held out like friends intertwined.

~~

02/20/16

All rights reserved.  

May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

Linda Roorda

How do we see others?  By their outward appearance?  By what they’re wearing, or not wearing?  By the words they speak?  We can’t tangibly see their heart or their thoughts… so do we react to what we see and hear, or reach out to meet them where they’re at?

Not long after we moved to Clifton, NJ in 1965, my Dad went to the boys’ Cadets meeting at the Christian school we kids attended.  A few blocks from his destination, he saw a man struggling with a flat tire.  Having been a farmer and truck driver, this was no problem for my Dad to fix, though it would make him late for his meeting.  But, without hesitation, he stopped and changed the tire for the stranger, and wouldn’t take anything for his efforts.  Each going his own way, they soon discovered their destination was the same meeting, and became instant friends!

Recently I watched a video which a friend had posted on Facebook.  Clayton Jennings strode down an aisle and stood between a church pew and a bar stool. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DedutDzFWQw Jennings then gave a solemn expose` on how a stranger is often treated when he or she walks into a church.  The stranger may be different from those of us who normally attend… and too often the stranger in our midst does not feel accepted.  They’re not dressed up fancy like others.  They may look shabby, be a bit dirty, or may smell of alcohol.  We may not even readily welcome them into our midst… and my heart was deeply moved to write the poem below.

Do we share our love easily with someone “from the other side of the tracks,” so to speak?  We pride ourselves on maintaining a status quo of acceptable friends… those with whom we are most comfortable.  But what about others in various difficult situations?  What about those who may be going through hard times and appear poorer than we?  What about those who are dealing with life’s deepest struggles, lost in the midst of their grief, dealing with inner emotional pain or depression, or perhaps seeking for answers to life’s problems?  They, too, are in great need of the love and comfort we are able to give. 

In telling one of his parables, Jesus spoke about a king whose servants were called faithful and righteous for the love they had shown the king in his time of need.  They replied, “‘[But] Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King [replied], ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”  (Matthew 25:37-40)

And I admit that I stand guilty too, in many ways.  We can express ourselves and our opinions with kindness rather than in a mocking put-down manner.  We can welcome the stranger in our midst, sharing a peace and comfort from deep within our heart.  And, we can reach out to others with the same love and mercy we’ve been shown… for in so doing, not only will they be blessed, but we’ll be blessed in turn.

 

The Pew and the Barstool

Linda A. Roorda

 

One day I walked through an open door

Looking for a seat but the pews were full

Except in the front where I sat to listen

Searching for comfort from a world of pain.

 

The message of love was heard in my heart

But I longed to feel this emotion lost

I yearned for peace in my troubled soul

Hope for the day and light in the dark.

 

Wisdom and truth for a hurting world

These were the words in the message heard.

But as I turned to follow the crowd

No one reached out… no one showed they cared.

 

No welcoming smile… no words kindly shared.

Their glances away gave proof of their thoughts

Shabby were my clothes with tatters and tears

Dirty was I, and smelling of beer.

 

No comfort from pain, just withering looks.

No peace or love was offered to me.

I stood alone feeling shamed and grieved

Where was this love they sang from their lips?

 

And so I strolled to the other side

Across the street where welcomed was I.

Finding my seat on a barstool tall

I ordered a round to drown out my pain.

 

If only they knew their hearts had grown cold.

Who was this Lord they claimed for their own?

Where was the love, the hope and the peace?

Did they not know who walked in their midst?

 

Have they not heard and have they not read?

I was a stranger yet nothing they gave.

They fed not my soul, warm clothing not shared

Sickly was I, comfort they withheld.

 

Do they not heed the words of their Lord?

Whatever is done for even the least

Is done in His name to light a dark world,

For those who bless will blessings receive.

~~

12/08/15

All rights reserved.  May be reproduced by permission of the author.

 

Linda Roorda

What If...

January is Sanctity of Life month.  Personally, I think that extends to far more than being the banner of the anti-abortion movement, and not simply because someone in my family was almost aborted.  It’s not a political issue, but rather one that affects our moral fiber.  Sanctity of life issues reflect on each one of us who lives and breathes… whether we have some form of disability or not… because all life is sacred.

 

With the anniversary of January 1973’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision, I’d like to share a story written a few years ago for my Facebook friends.  It’s a story from a long time ago… actually from 1952.  It’s the story of a very ill farmer’s wife and mother-to-be who already had two healthy children, a girl and a boy.  I suppose that some might say she should have been content with what she already had.  After all, she had one of each!  But, here she was unexpectedly pregnant again, just a few months after her son was born. 

 

This time, however, she was very ill with the pregnancy.  She tried to keep food down, but vomited continually, steadily getting worse.  As she struggled daily to carry this little life, her doctor sought to obtain a “medically necessary” abortion to save her life.  At that time, three doctors were needed to sign such documentation.  The signatures of two physicians indicated they agreed that her life was in jeopardy if the pregnancy continued.  However, no third physician could be found anywhere who would sign the form to allow a “medically necessary” abortion. 

 

Eventually, they performed a Cesarean section at 7 months (surgery not without risks to this very ill mom) or risk losing both her and the baby if she continued the pregnancy.  To everyone's surprise, they discovered she was carrying twin boys!  However, even after the surgery, the mom nearly died from the effects of toxemia (now called pre-eclampsia), the result of high blood pressure and the great demands on her body by not one but two precious little ones.

 

With much prayer and great medical care, she pulled through.  But, she learned her precious little boys had struggled.  The largest little guy at 5 lbs succumbed to the problems of an enlarged heart at two days of life, while the smallest little fella at just over 3 lbs was placed in an incubator with pure oxygen for a month.  The tiniest preemie survived, albeit with health problems and very limited vision in only one eye. 

 

How do I know?  Because the littlest twin is my husband, Edward.  And his blindness was caused by the incubator's pure oxygen.  He has suffered life-long asthma, allergies, and other health issues because of his premature birth.  Sadly, his twin, Peter Samuel, did not have the chance to grow up with his siblings.  But, we praise God that no third physician was willing to sign papers to allow a "medically necessary” abortion to have taken the lives of these two precious little boys. 

 

By 1952, big city medical centers knew that pure oxygen in incubators led to infant vision damage and blindness.  But, physicians at the tiny hospital in Goshen, New York, a small farming community, were not yet aware of these findings.  As a toddler, Ed was taken to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.  There, his parents were told he was among about 2000 children with this condition due to their prematurity.  Out of all the children seen in their clinic at that time, Ed was one of eight children who had some remnants of vision – one of only eight out of 2000!  The optic nerve to his right eye was damaged, causing total blindness.  His left eye had limited vision, 20/200 with glasses as an adult.  Totally blind since 1998, we still consider it a blessing he had some limited vision for as long as he did.

 

Little Ed got his first pair of glasses at age 2.  When he was about 5 years old, with a new pair of stronger glasses, Ed stared out the car windows watching the world go by. Suddenly, he shouted, “I can see them!”  Kids were sledding down a nearby hill, something he’d never seen before.  Whenever his mom told this story, it never failed to bring tears to her eyes.  That one sentence was worth every cent of his care, she’d say. 

 

As Ed grew up, he was determined to do nearly everything everyone else could do.  It drove him forward.  He was an awesome dairy farmer and especially loved the field work, except he wasn’t able to plant corn as he couldn’t see where one row left off to start the next.  The other thing he couldn’t do was get a driver’s license.  Sadly, with a major retinal detachment in 1985, he was removed from farming and placed on disability by his eye surgeon.  Hemorrhaging in the late 1980s began destroying the balance of vision with resultant complete blindness by 1998, the long-term effects of this type of eye condition.

 

The renowned musician, Stevie Wonder, also suffers from the same condition as my Ed.  Then called retrolental fibroplasias, it is caused by oxygen damage to the blood vessels of the eye and retina.  It is now termed retinopathy of prematurity and still affects a small percentage of premature infants.  

 

Every pre-born infant is fully formed at 10-12 weeks of gestation (3 months), recognizably human, fully formed, able to feel pain, suck a thumb and hiccup, with a heart pumping blood by 6 weeks which can be heard.  (per Mayo Clinic)  Each pre-born child is not just a glob of unrecognizable “fetal tissue” – it is a precious life that began at conception, its soul known intimately to God.  (Psalm 139)

 

Since Roe v. Wade was passed January 22, 1973 allowing for legal abortions, the numbers have been staggering, reaching an approximate total of 57,762,169 (lifenews.com) by the 42nd anniversary in 2015.  It must also be taken into account that, although Planned Parenthood and state health departments send records to the Centers for Disease Control, some data is voluntarily reported while other states have not provided details in over ten years.  The Guttmacher Institute compiles statistics from all abortionists themselves to show a peak in 1990 of roughly 1,608,600, while the CDC reported less at about 1,429,247.  These figures dropped in 2011 to 1,058,490 per Guttmacher and 730,322 per the CDC.  Despite this drop, the total has been shown to average at least 1 million aborted babies annually.

     

If we care so much for those in the animal world, and carefully protect and preserve hundreds of species from decimation, how much more precious then is each and every human life… since we are made in the image of God?  How can we destroy human life through abortion, i.e. murder in utero, simply because the pregnancy doesn’t fit our plans or the pre-born baby is “defective”?  Should we maintain abortion because some pre-born infants are imperfect, and will become a supposed burden to society?  Do we justify abortion because some parents are unprepared to care for their children, abuse them, or kill them?  Even in an imperfect society, there is a viable alternative… adoption. 

 

And, for anyone who has aborted their baby, for whatever reason, I pray she finds peace within the loving arms of God’s forgiveness.  But, my prayer also is that each precious little life be allowed to reach his or her full potential and life purpose in this great big awesome world, regardless of abilities or handicaps.

 

Anyone who has miscarried an unborn child understands the pain of loss.  I miscarried our first little girl, Heather, at six months, autopsy revealing twins which did not separate properly, followed by a second miscarriage a year later.  We lost our 25-year-old daughter with a heart condition we never know she had.  My husband has faced multiple health issues all of his life.  I’ve lived with Tourette’s syndrome since age 10.  And though it frustrates me to no end, does it make me any less valuable as a person?  Of course not!  

 

My cousin, Randy, mentally challenged and unable to learn beyond early elementary, grew up a kind and loving young man thanks to the love of his widowed mother.  Despite his disabilities, let me tell you, he knew everything there was to know about his baseball team and the players!  

 

My step-sister’s son, Cory, who passed away Easter Sunday of April 2015 was born with DeGeorge syndrome due to a missing part of chromosome 22.  He also had apraxia (an inability to perform certain purposeful actions due to brain damage), diabetes, and then developed cirrhosis the year before he passed away.  But, like so many with disabilities, Cory had an infectious joy for life and an unconditional love for everyone he came in contact with, thanks also to his very special mother, Janet.

 

How loved each of these young men were, and what an impact they made on others.  Everyone’s life matters… regardless of their impairment or handicap, or even “perfect” health.  Each one of us has a life’s purpose… for we are each created unique.

  

And as I said earlier, my husband, a tiny twin, an almost-aborted baby, is a gift from God, a blessing to all who have ever known him despite his limitations.  Yes, life is sacred, and each pre-born child is a gift from God just waiting for us to open our arms and our heart to their little life. 

 

As David wrote in Psalm 139:13-16:  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

 

For a long time ago there was another unwed mother who learned she was pregnant.  By law, she should have been stoned to death for this grave infraction of society’s values.  Even her fiancée wanted to put her away and divorce her quietly when he learned the news… he knew he wasn’t the father.  And we wonder, would this baby have been quietly aborted in today’s society?  Instead, this couple stayed together, each having been visited by an angel, as they honored their God, and thus was born Jesus, our Lord and Savior. 

 

What If…

Linda A. Roorda

 

What if…

There was no God?

Would we know how to love

Or, would hate rule our lives?

Would we each decide

What rules to live by

Changing like the wind

As our wants wrest control?

 

Would we violate

The sanctity of life

Simply because

Life would not matter

Except for the worth

We each determine

How best we can serve

Our selfish ambition?

 

And yet… what if…

Each life among us

Was somehow meant

To open the eyes

Of our heart and soul

To a higher purpose

To show the value

Inherent within

No matter the wrapping?

 

And what if…

We move toward each other

And then extend

Our outstretched hands?

Would that not show

Great caring and love

From within the depths

Of a heart overflowing?

 

For is that not like

The hands of One

Extended outward

Nailed upon a beam

To show us how

We too should love

And sacrifice self

Our gift to each other?

 

Because… what if…

There is a God

Who really cares

And Who truly loves

Each for who we are

For His life was a gift

That we would know

Just how we should love?

~~

01/22/15

 All rights reserved.  May be reproduced only with permission of the author.

Linda Roorda

Seeking You

I was asked to speak at a local women’s retreat in December 2014 on their theme, “Wise Men Still Seek Him.”  It was an honor to have been asked to share my life’s faith testimony, but it was also a humbling experience to open my heart in a “public” venue.  It’s entirely different from writing poems and blogging “anonymously” here in The Poet’s Chair.

 

While God has graciously given me more understanding as I’ve gained wisdom over a life-time of spiritual growth, He has also continued to draw me into a deeper faith through all of life’s ups and downs.  This may not seem like a Christmas type message, but without the birth of our Savior, who would we seek?  My prayer is that God will use these words taken from my larger speech to bless your heart.

 

Admittedly, it’s been the journey of a lifetime learning to seek God, to listen to His still small voice within my heart.  Sometimes His message is loud and clear.  Sometimes God is quiet, and doesn’t seem to hear my prayers, with no clear answers, no direction, no healings.  But, it’s in those times that I keep moving forward in faith knowing that God is with all of us through the tears and difficulties, not just the best of times, for “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 NIV)

 

Despite my share of struggles and failures when I take the reins instead of allowing God to have control, I can honestly say, as I look back, that it’s been through the toughest days that God has blessed me in many ways.  Sometimes I long for a quiet simple life, one without any difficulties.  But, that is not the life God gave me.  I need to rest knowing that He is in control.  He uses our struggles to teach us, to draw us closer to Himself, and to reach others through the struggles we go through.  He understands what we face and allows our difficulties in order to help mold us into the person He wants us to become.  And I can’t help but wonder if I would have grown spiritually if I had never faced life’s various trials…

 

For He does not heal us of our problems the way we want just because we pray for healing.  As we scroll through Scripture, we find that Paul sought the Lord three times to be healed of his “thorn in the flesh.”  Instead of healing, he heard the Lord say, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…’” and Paul responded by saying “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness… for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)  Yet, my husband and I know how hard it is to live out those words of faith when we have not seen the healing we have prayed for.

 

So, it’s the Lord’s wisdom I need to seek to guide my steps, to direct my path, to cover me with mercy when I am weak and fail yet again.  And when I’m stressed to the max by life and its busyness, I find He is there, even in the mundane.  He’s teaching me to seek Him… to lean on Him… giving me peace and contentment in the turbulence.  In this, I can find satisfaction doing what He expects of me even when it’s not the easiest path nor the direction I want to go.  For our walk of faith takes us to new dimensions with Christ that we would not have known without life’s difficulties.

 

As the Lord has drawn me and Ed closer to Himself, He has strengthened our faith, taught us forgiveness and patience under his grace and mercy, and carried us when we felt overwhelmed.  He has been with us through days when we despaired, when we felt abandoned, when we wondered where He was, and why it seemed He wasn’t answering our prayers. And, He has showered us with love as He answered our prayers in ways that best fit His plan.  As my friend Natalie wrote to me, “God does not always reward faith with blessings.  He allows our faith to undergo challenges - to be tried through a fiery testing.”  Job, Paul and James all speak of God knowing our path through trials as we persevere in faith and wait on God’s timing, as hard as that may be at times.

 

And in seeking Jesus this Christmas season, may we each find Him in the humblest of places within our heart… not in the rich embellishments and trappings which boldly confront us.  May we find Him in serving others, even the least among us… in caring for the hurting souls among the noisy din of humanity… with a heart of love.  Then, wherever love is needed, may we reach out to reveal Christ among us, and know the gift of His strength and comfort, and hope and peace in the midst of life’s turmoil.  For with that peace comes the gift of inner joy because in Matthew 6:33 we are told to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

 

In this joyful Christmas holiday season as we celebrate the birth of our dear Lord and Savior, may we all remember to wisely seek Him first… whatever comes our way.

 

Seeking You

Linda A. Roorda

 

Seeking you Lord, Your will in my heart

Giving all thanks and praise to Your name

As Your loving hand with mercy and grace

Guides through rough seas to calm peaceful shores.

 

I seek you Lord in the dark of night

When sleep won’t come and dreams bring on fears,

As I arise to the morning dews

And greet the sun for a bright new day.

 

I’m drawn to Your side when cares overwhelm

Teach me Your ways from words filled with hope

Grant me Your peace when life darkens doors

Guide every step, Your wisdom impart.

 

With riches great we travel secure

Thinking we have control of our life,

But when troubles come we turn quick to you

Pleading for strength to carry us through.

 

This strength I seek from Your loving arms

Moment by moment to face new demands

With head bent low my prayers rise to You

To humbly shine Your light from within.

 

May I ever know You walk alongside

Guiding my steps and the path that I take

May words expressed show love to others

From a heart that seeks your wisdom and truth.

 

Then may I know Your mercy and grace

Covers my soul with comforting peace

Granting wisdom from within Your word

As I praise Your name and seek Your will first.

~~

09/14/14

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