Freedom

Yesterday, for the first time in 14 months I walked the isles of the grocery store and strolled the lanes of the Dollar Tree, wearing a mask. I felt assured that I was safe from the “virus”…that submicroscopic infectious agent that came out of China in January 2020. My husband and I are fully vaccinated and trusting that the science of these vaccines are as good as they say they are.

I felt like a happy child putting things in the grocery cart. I’ve never been out of touch for so long a time. It was like getting out of prison on Christmas day. I couldn’t get things in my cart fast enough! For one solid year, plus 2 months, I kept myself away from people because the odds were not good to go public. Being a Registered Nurse, specialized in Public Health and Human Services, I knew chances were very risky to be out unless absolutely necessary.

Currently, we are far from being safe here in Michigan. My state is the number one hot spot in the country. Michiganders are 48% vaccinated, but we have 22% yet to go before our Governor takes restrictions off. We are suffering in so many ways.

I remember only twice during the time I was hunkered down, that I shopped outdoors at Home Depot, and 4 times during last summer I ate dinner at our favorite restaurant. The rest of the time we got food from carry out windows and ate sitting in our car at the park.

Yesterday, I loved picking out my own lettuce and tomatoes, rather than having someone else pick them for me and bring them to my car. I enjoyed passing other people in the isles, noticing none of them seemed concerned about being in dangerous territory. I loved everything except my fogged-up glasses. The mask and breathing do not work well together. I finally took the glasses off!

FREEDOM!

What a wonderful thing. I can’t help but think of our Lord and the freedom He has given us through His work on Calvary. Forgiveness of sins….past, present and future. That is the greatest freedom of all. I likened my freedom stroll in those isles yesterday to the freedom of one day entering Heaven without any fear or condemnation, because my sins are covered by Christ.

Thinking about this, I remembered a conversation years ago with my wonderful Christian mother. The subject centered on our inability to be perfect, and live without sinning. I was worried about my standing with God. Was I okay? Would I be accused of something I did?

I’ll never forget what she said, so very eloquently, but firmly – “if by chance we find ourselves standing at the Judgment Seat of God, and someone – or something – condemns us, then our only plea is CHRIST, and that will settle it. Yesterday I felt physically free for the first time in months. And I also felt spiritually free in the reminder that faith in Christ Jesus gives liberty and peace.

I believe many Christians have drawn closer to the Lord during these past months. For me, I have a stronger sense of God’s omnipotent control – even in crisis situations. Even in sorrowful outcomes, His omnibenevolence (compassion and goodness) is there. His purpose is always working.

We see so many leaders using this situation for political gain and control, but God is using it spiritually for His people, and for those who are coming to Him out of fear and loneliness – many without jobs.

Thank you Lord that nothing has slipped out of Your Hands. You remain in control and are a present help in time of need.

Feel free to leave a comment about how God has used the pandemic in your life.

Now for something on the newsy side……..

I will soon be announcing a third edition to my previously published novel. It will come once my publisher has completed all the last minute criteria. I will post the book on this website blog. Following this announcement, another novel is scheduled to be released at end of this year. It will be followed by an exciting sequence. All three books are in the publisher’s hands now. The process is slow. Stay tuned, and please wing a prayer that the market for Christian books will stay open. Thank you, and I love you all!

The Sorrow of Spring

Everything was beautiful. The spring flowers were blooming, the trees had baby leaves and the promise of summer was well on its way. UNTIL the storm came yesterday and brought several inches of snow and temperatures plummeting into the 20s.

Remembering thoughts that spring is a symbol of the resurrection, I have come to love the month of April with a passion. Yesterday was a shock! I worried about the birds as I turned off my light and went to bed.

My husband told me that when he was a young boy he captured some black birds and had them in a cage with a covering over the top. The night got cold and when he awoke in the morning, the birds had died. That was a story I didn’t need to hear last night. I wondered if the birds would find shelter – maybe in those arborvitaes pictured at the edge of our patio? The robins had returned and they were building their nests and perusing our lawn for worms. I was worried. It was still snowing when I went to bed. Our furnace was running big time.

This morning as I looked across the pond to the 9th hole of the golf course I saw Michigan, once again, as the winter wonderland. The weather can change in an hour.

The sun is shining across our coral patio and the snow is melting rapidly. I saw a robin hopping merrily along. Ah, the resurrection of life! The birds have survived. The trees will most likely re-bud. I can buy flowers to supplement those that won’t bloom again. God is still in control.

Be anxious for nothing.

Less Than Ten Dollars

I believe this to be true: There are things in our lives, and responsibilities, that only you and I can do, and without our energy and talents little in our corner of the world would get done. I also believe that most of what we do for ourselves and others is as healing as the surgeon’s scalpel, or as helpful as hot asphalt dumped in a giant pot-hole.

The pessimist looks at their failed accomplishments and might ask this question: does a gnat make a ripple if it lands in the ocean? Can it be seen in its vapors? No. But this is often used as a defeatist viewpoint, or a reason for discouragement.

You and I might ask, how can anyone change a heart for good, or accomplish the dreams that lie in the crevasses of our own heart, and do it in a wild and wooly world packed with almost 8 billion people? Believe me, I ask the same questions when things are moving slow and there is no profit in sight. Still, I realize that even in constant striving there is an element of joy . . . the joy of hope and victory! Without hope and the vision of accomplishment, we wither away, looking through the darkened glass seeing nothing but mountains. But the truth is that what we actually do will last forever – even it it doesn’t move the mountain.

Think of it in another way – the beautiful Stradivari violins would never have been made without Antonio Stradivari. No other violin comes close to what this man worked hard at doing. On the same token, things that only you and I can do come under likely conditions. Only we can do them, and we are alive to do them . . . parenting, working, teaching, loving, etc., etc.

With less than ten dollars in her pocket, Gladys Aylward courageously took her energy, her talents, and her reasonable responsibilities and moved mountains for hundreds of children in China. I would venture to say that everyone reading this post has more than ten dollars in their wallet. I just checked my wallet, and yes, I have more than $10. The point is that we all have more than enough talent, energy, funds (if needed) to accomplish what God wants us to do – to change the world if that’s what He has planned for us. I get excited when I think of the possibilities —- that with Jesus, nothing is impossible. In Him we have all things.

With God, everything is possible.

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The Wind of Winter, the Calm of Spring

Alas comes March, with April on its heels. Here in Michigan, March and April can still bring snow and ice. The old saying is, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a few hours.”

I think of Percy Bysshe Shelley, the English poet who wrote: “Oh, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind.”

We’re all hoping that the Corona pandemic slides into the past and we start moving forward with our lives as they once were. For me, the year of isolation from family and friends has been shrouded in a new experience of reality — the reality that life and happiness depends upon how we manage it. I say this because in the darkest months of fear and concerns — when it seemed little mattered except surviving and staying well — I found the warmth of a cup of coffee, the simple taste of bread and butter, the comfort of my favorite chair, and the cozy bed I sleep in were the “hierarchy”. For certain, the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, or a Hell of Heaven (Poet, John Milton). The choice is ours.

Slowly my perspectives changed in the last 12 months. No longer did I consider a shopping trip and a pedicure a “must have“. Dreaming of basking in the sun on a Caribbean island was no longer a craving desire. Instead, I became mindful that the provisions I had were more than sufficient, and most of my comfortable life had been taken for granted. I moved into a new awareness.

I had a strong sense that a great deal of my life centered on frivolous things, and a good portion of it was marked by an air of assumed importance. I realized that no matter how strong a person or a nation seems, it could come to ruin in a flash.

So, with spring soon to arrive and the hope of new freedom (if the vaccine works), I want to move forward with a better grasp of what is important. I trust you will too.

With all that said, the most important thing I learned this past year is that deliverance from fear and loneliness is found in faith in Jesus Christ. He definitely meant it when He said: “Come unto Me and I will give you rest.” He came through with that promise!

Without a doubt, our sweetest songs and most glorious memories often come out of the saddest, most frightening times.

Grab TODAY, and make the best of it!

Blessings to you all.

The Sweet Buds of July

By Mary Cates ©

Shall I dare to compare the days of summer to those of the past, when I breathed without a filtering mask and stood fearlessly with strangers in Macy’s customer lines, and ate at Apple Bee’s with no thought of who was in front and behind my booth – and sat close to friends at church? Indeed, rough winds are shaking the darling buds of July, and I find a baby rabbit eating my prized peonies as though it is his last meal. This summer is much too hot and the eye of heaven shines down making my freckles pop out like popcorn exploding in the microwave. But dare I complain?

Sometimes the beautiful complexion of God dims as I watch the news each day and learn of the hatred in the hearts of so many young adults who are roaming the streets and causing mass confusion. I choke back tears at the panoramic view of major cities maimed by senseless behavior. The disgusting ruin lies bare in plain sight for the world to see, and I repeat the words on the sign in the photo: “We are better than this!”

In the face of all that troubles me, the Corona Virus drags its shadow everywhere as it steals more of the peace I once knew. I wonder if the eternal lines of time and mankind are approaching the final climax. Could this be the beginning of sorrows?

But oh, when sweet birds sing and I see the beautiful glory of twilight after the sun fades in the west, and I sink comfortably in my bed, I rest from worry, knowing there is Someone greater than all that troubles me. He is in control – and I sleep.

Awakening to the brilliance of dawn I sense the “love” that controls all things beyond the ruin I went to bed with. Earth appears in pure fullness of beauty, surrounded in a showcase of spectacular control far beyond human reason. I would be so dull to pass this by. For in my brooding moods and fearful trembling, the complexion of God shines through like a flash in my eye, reminding me that though the world is far too much for me, it remains the footstool of God, and He is in command.



So, I say to the rough winds of July – go ahead and shake the buds. And to you, my sweet baby rabbit — eat to your heart’s content. For all is well with my soul, and that is what really counts.

This is the promise of today: “God will supply all your needs according to His riches and glory – through His Son Christ Jesus.

Feel free to leave a comment – and to click to send this article to Facebook or someone special. You may contact me personally by filling out the information on the CONTACT page. Blessings!






The Little Woman

With just ten dollars in her pocket, Gladys courageously took the challenge to embark on a long trip by train from England to Yangcheng, China.

I just finished reading the life story of Gladys Aylward…a fantastic “little” lady who gave twenty years of her life, from 1934 to 1954, to help the Chinese people live better lives, and to know the true God. If I had read only the first chapters of her long journey, twisting and turning through Germany and Russia to finally reach China, it would have been enough to fill my spirit with excitement and the courage that we human beings are capable of just about anything. I couldn’t put the book down.

I read through, reliving her joys and sorrows. I read of 100 young Christian converts standing their ground against a gang of brute atheist Communists. The young converts were lined up and forced to watch as one by one each were beheaded. They had a chance to save their lives by denouncing their faith in Jesus, but they stood strong and unmovable. I read of beautiful Chinese ladies and wonderful men, with hearts of charity, helping Gladys when she didn’t know which turn to take, or how to feed the hungry children who came to her Inn.

I closed the book thinking that I have a soft life here in America, while at the same time realizing that there is plenty to do in my own nation to help the poor and heal the divisions. Doing so might be as difficult a challenge as Gladys had, because of the many changes that have taken place in just the last five months.

This was no rinky-dink book. The story was captured in a Hollywood movie starring Ingrid Bergman – “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” – 1958. Widely entertaining, it depicts the power of God that strengthens a person to do impossible things …..even in a poor city in China.

I know of many who are going through difficult situations. Some are ill. Some are awaiting surgery. Some have broken families. Some have lost their jobs. Some are like Gladys, hoping that someone will come and lend a hand, or just give them a word of encouragement. What is the personal challenge in our little corner of the world? Hopefully we are meeting it.

Gladys brought to China the word that God loves us all, and that His Son, Jesus brings salvation and peace. This message of love saved thousands in China and brought salvation to many in the US through her book and the movie.

Feel free to leave a comment or briefly tell your story.

Yesterday I Saw A Miracle

Mary Cates
By Mary Cates

No names are mentioned in this article, but many readers will know of whom I write…

As the hours went by, breathing was getting more difficult. Hope hung in the air that soon the stress and pain of COVID-19 would subside and things would get better. But days later his oxygen level dropped to a critical low. Immediately he was whisked away in an ambulance and rushed into ICU.

The ventilator quickly assisted his lungs while plastic tubes were hooked into various veins, carrying hopeful liquids that would help support life. There was no miracle cure. Putting him into a highly sedated state, it was his body and God that would make the decision one way or another.

No family or visitors were allowed to see him. His wife and daughter were kept at home by strict government mandates and hospital quarantine procedures. Telephone reports from the nurses and doctors were all that was allowed to his wife. No one who loved him was there to comfort him.

This man and his family are not blood-related kin to me, but they are like my “family”. God put them in my life, and my husband’s life years ago. With each year our friendship has grown into something warm and wonderful. They have filled many sorrowful holes in our life. It was heart-wrenching for us to not be with this man and his wife and daughter during this crisis time.

And then, without mercy COVID-19 found its way to his wife. The picture seemed to be changing daily.

My husband and I had experienced many permanent goodbyes in our marriage – both in death and in hurtful shunning. Too many had already gone out of our lives. And now facing the horror of COVID-19 and it’s deadly power, one question kept coming to me again and again, would another be taken from us?

The days went by and the fight for his life kept on. We could do nothing but pray and wait. His wife was thankfully managing the virus at home, isolated from everyone except her loving daughter. The lock-down on all sides was like being in prison.

Where was God? Why was He allowing this pandemic and the nightmare that was following it?

Everyone that knew this family could only do one thing……trust God. That’s all we have sometimes – just to “trust”…..the best we know how to do.

Yesterday I saw two miracles sitting in front of me, as my husband and I sat around a patio able set with snacks and pizza, with this man and his wife sitting appropriately spaced from us. Everyone very much alive and laughing and enjoying each other again. The moments of fear and doubt behind us. The joy of life and living still ahead of us.

Trusting the best we knew how was all that was needed. God took care of the rest.

The Birds Keep Singing, My Heart’s At Their Sweet Song

It is “May 2020”. There will be no dancing around the maypole at school or the folklore of celebrating spring — well, not unless we put on our face mask and keep 6 feet away. Who would have guessed this terrible pandemic would come to steal our peace, our contacts of love and fellowship, and worst – the health of those we love!

Yet, in the sadness and our efforts to stay safe I see the robins on my lawn and hear the geese honking in the pond. Some have little babies already!

The animals as well as the birds are frolicking and performing as always. They know nothing of COVID-19. Tenderly I am reminded that not one sparrow falls to the ground without God’s care (Matthew 10:29). But still, I worry every time I pick up groceries that COVID-19 will float into my nostrils. I wear my mask with hopeful confidence that it will keep me safe. And while I slip the elastic around my ears, I am reminded again that we are more valued than many sparrows (verse 31).

In a world of almost 8 billion people, it is hard to fathom God knowing and watching over everyone – but He does! If even the hairs of our heads are numbered by God (verse 30), then everything about us is observed, and is cared for by Him. He is in control and we must trust Him with our lives. We are much more than many sparrows. No matter what comes, we must trust him. (See page 13 of my book: Take Charge of Your Destiny” – the story of my brother Robert.)

God bless and keep you!

Plants, Pets, and Vidalia Onions

There have been some interesting studies on pets and plants and the effect they have on their owners. Things like stress reduction, lowering blood pressure and in some cases, thought to lengthen life.

I think of my wonderful Jack Russel Terriers that were with me for 16 years. (Pictured) They were a handful. My husband and I were forced to rule them with an iron fist because they fought. I honestly believe they were by-polar – if dogs can have psychological problems. One day they loved each other and would cuddle in the same bed, the next day they were growling and fighting. The best thing about them was their loyalty and unconditional love toward us. Believe it or not, they were so smart we often spelled words so they wouldn’t know what we were up to.

As for plants… I love to work in my patio garden, but the green thumb belongs to my husband. He knows how to groom a lawn to perfection, and grow scrumptious vegetables. When we lived for a short while in the south, he grew the most delicious turnip greens and the sweetest Vidalia onions I’ve ever tasted.

Speaking of plants, my neighbor is on a cruise in the Mediterranean. She asked if I would take care of her Peace Lily for three weeks. Sure! No problem. So her husband brought it over just before the uber driver pulled onto their driveway. The pot was so heavy I had to ask him to come in and set it down for me. I was shocked! All along I had been expecting something small, like a little African Violet. After he left, I realized I was in charge of a prized plant. After all, nothing that large could be trivial! Oh gosh, what would I do if it died while they were enjoying Rome and Israel? It’s like babysitting a child — hoping while it’s in your care they don’t get hurt or sick.

Okay, I can do this  — two thirds of water a day. Maybe talk to it a little too.

Say Hello!

I’ve learned a lot in my lifetime….still need to learn more, but one thing that comes back to me time and time again is our mortality. What I’ve understood most in that area of thought is that only acceptance of our mortality makes us free to live and appreciate the wonder of life. After all, it is death that reminds us that we don’t have forever. So the point in this conversation is that if you and I are going to make our “statement” toward some worthy purpose or express our love for another person, or accomplish anything, we must do it now.

So many times I’ve sadly learned that there’s no holding back, because when I’ve done that – I lose. We must let go. Saying “hello” to something or someone will most often lead to a “goodbye” but the journey with the project or the person is what we call “life”. And in that “life” the light of you and I is brought forward in wonderful ways.

Never sit back thinking that you haven’t got what it takes. Grab today with all you’ve got! Say hello! Let God handle the goodbyes.