A True Story

The Miracle of A Broken Alarm Clock ©
By Mary Cates

This story belongs exclusively to my parents. The story takes place during World War II, in 1944. This is how my mother told it. 

After my parents married they lived in Detroit where houses stretched row after row and so close together that neighbors could shake hands through their windows. Tiny backyards lay sandwiched between wire fences, but the closeness felt comforting because everyone shared the war cause. Americans were doing everything they could to help win the battle. They were recycling tin cans, busy working in factories, and growing patches of vegetables in their backyards. These backyard gardens were called “victory gardens”.

My Mom was never one to swing a hammer, rearrange the furniture, or plumb a clogged sink, but she could cook circles around anyone with whatever she brought home from the neighborhood grocery store — located just two blocks away. Best of all, her “victory garden” was adding new dimensions to her meals.

By late summer there were enough green beans in this patch to consider preserving them for the winter months ahead. Home canning was big business back then. Though my mother had never ventured into canning, she was revved up and ready to try.

She didn’t own a pressure cooker canner, but her spirited enthusiasm would not be dampened. In cookbooks she learned about oven canning. It was a primitive inexpensive method of preserving food, and very dangerous if the process was not followed to the letter.

Today, if it were possible, you would love hearing her tell this story of how joyful she was when the canning day arrived. I can see her now, happily singing  while washing glass jars and snapping green beans. There was not a hint of danger as she worked to complete this project.

It was midnight when she completed the job. The jars were meticulously packed with precious “victory beans”. The lids were screwed down and each jar was placed on the oven shelf. 

She lit the gas oven and set the alarm clock next to her bed for the exact time the hot jars would be ready to remove. Exhausted, she slipped into bed next to my father – who, undoubtedly had been snoring for hours.

As the jars heated, the lids sealed instead of remaining open. (In this oven method, the jars are supposed to seal automatically as they cool outside the oven.) Enormous pressure began to build as the temperature heated in each jar. The alarm clock ticked on. My parents continued to sleep – oblivious of the danger that was building in the kitchen.

The hands on the clock reached the given time to release the alarm, but mysteriously it did not sound. Moments later, with a force like dynamite, every jar exploded. The blast sounded like a bomb dropped in the middle of the night by the Nazi enemy. My father jumped out of bed and raced to the kitchen. I’m sure his knees went weak at the sight.

My mother pushed passed him and stepped into the kitchen, her bare feet crunching broken glass underneath. The scene was horrifying. The thrust of the exploding jars was so great that pieces of glass and hunks of green beans were embedded in the walls. Across the kitchen lay the heavy cast iron oven door – blown off its’ hinges.  Had the alarm gone off, my mother would have been in the kitchen, severely hurt or killed.

There was a “protecting Hand” that night upon my parent’s house and my mother’s life.

It took days of scraping to get the glass and green beans off the walls and the ceiling. My parents laughed and joked about this event years later, while at the same time acknowledging that it was a miracle of God that stopped the alarm from sounding that night.

We Are Better Than This

Today I feel compelled to remark about what appears to be a type of “madness” within the chambers of our government.

Looking through a clear and un-jaundice eye, who among us would dispute the fact that the state of our Union is in disarray and a frenzied hysteria has emerged due to both hatred and bullying – all of it coming together in head-to-head conflicts. It is the consequences of this high plane of disorder that is troubling me and no doubt troubling you. Those of us who truly love our country contemplate the grave implications of this hateful behavior and know that eventually, if not checked, it will seriously destroy us. To be honest, the consequences of this government chaos bothers me a lot, and actually follows me everywhere. I check over my shoulder wherever I go. I refrain from political conversations. I find I am thinking about it even in the grocery store.

I catch myself considering if I should bulk-buy everything that is on sale at Kroger — thinking that our nation might suddenly crumble and everything is lost. That’s a little steep, but I do wonder if I need a pantry stocked with several months of food in the event the Stock Market crashes and the banks freeze. Oh, and this too — when I pass a gas station, should I top my gas tank off in case I might have to make a sudden escape to a safer place. This is ridiculous, but the result of the turmoil in our government, and the entire world for that matter. 

Regardless of where each of us stand politically, we cannot deny that there is trouble in Washington and that our nation is in a serious state of affairs that very easily could get out of hand.

The headlines in the news this morning read like this:

-Whistleblower Complaint against Trump set for release.  -Biden’s $50,000 a month salary is suggested as okay.
-Pelosi nails Trump with impeachment inquiry.
-Cracks emerge among Senate Republicans after release of Ukraine calls.
-Hundreds cheer at Trump Rally while Congress scurries for impeachment.

The best question any of us can ask at this point is: Can a house divided against itself survive? What do you think?

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The “Wait” Can Be As good as the Prize


The other day I caught myself singing the song “Young at Heart”. I don’t know where it came from, but there I was flitting around the house humming the tune and then singing the words. You know them: “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you if you’re young at heart…. For as rich as you are its’ much better by far to be young at heart. …and if you survive to a hundred and five, think of all you’d derive out of being a live, and here is the best part, you have a head start — if you are among the very young at heart.”

Are you a visionary? If not, do you know any? Visionaries are the most interesting and joyful people. They’re happy and full of hope, even when things look bad. I think it’s normal, though, to vacillate back and forth from joyful excitement to anxiety and worry, but the people who can handle the hard stuff in life – and still find the good are extremely inspiring.

I remember my Mom years ago when my Dad was pastoring a church up at Quanacassee, Michigan near Bay City. My Mom was the perfect pastor’s wife. She had a beautiful voice and loved to sing solos. She also played the piano. Long story made short, my Mom wanted an organ to play hymns. She wanted it as bad as a little girl wants the latest Barbie Doll. Dad’s income wasn’t all that great because the congregation was small and poor. Dreaming of an organ was about as senseless as telling Santa Clause you want a Lamborghini sport car. There wasn’t one Elder that would even think about going into debt for an organ.

 But there was my Mom, unrelenting in her wish, hanging onto her dream, her fancy, that one day she would have an organ and play it for the congregation.

I caught myself laughing at her dream, which I’ve repented a million times for. But I knew there was no way in the world my Mom would get an organ, and I knew no wish, no begging, no prayer would deliver it to her doorstep. (Aha, he who laughs last, laughs best!)

I soon found out that dreams and hopes do not always continue in the metaphoric state – they do transfer to real, and come true. My Mom got her the organ she hoped for. Dad somehow found the money to pay for it and I saw that the long wait for it was as happy as the gift. The wait at times seemed unending, but it increased my mother’s faith, gave a reason for happy expectation, and actually kept her joyful. She was “young at heart” all the time while caught in the “wait”.

Remember Rachael in my novel, “The Secret on Bridgeton Hill”?  The next morning, after waking as a new bride, she wrote in her journal these words that were meant for her new wonderful husband: “You came to me when I was orphaned, without parents … Though the world is in turmoil, my heart is alive and dancing in a beautiful spring-time of joy. …I have learned that we must wait for God, long and meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and lightning, in the cold and the dark, wait, and God will answer and give. He never comes to those who do not wait.”

So who is to say which is the best – the wonderful intrinsic anticipation of the dream, or the satisfaction of having it? God is in both the wait and the arrival.

May I encourage that we all stay young at heart – hope to live to 105, keep our visions, keep the wonder, and never let anyone laugh or tell us that our wish is impossible.


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September Song

I’m riding on “FAll” again (September). It’s like seeing and hearing the trumpets glowing – and I’m about to take that wonderful ride.

You guessed it, my favorite month is September. And what would be my favorite song, but the September Song. So I’m taking the words of the song and applying them in parentheses.  Maybe this is you too?

Oh, it’s a long, long while
From May to December (well, not so long when you’re older)
And the days grow short
When you reach September (so short, I never get everything done)

When the autumn weather
Turns the leaves to flame (I love that sight)
I haven’t got time
For the waiting game (that’s for sure, because my birthday is in September and they’re stacking up)

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few (I savor every one)
September, November (gosh, they go so fast now)
And these few precious days
I’d spend with you
These golden days I’ll spend with you (my friends and followers)

In view of Hurricane Dorian, I feel extremely blessed! Praying for those people affected by this terrible storm.

While the World Keeps Spinning

Today, a burgeoning trade war with China began, a reacting roller coaster Stock Market quivered, the Congressional Socialistic Squad (as they have been dubbed) continued to challenge the authority of our government, and multiple shootings took place all over the map. We wonder if our country is about to spin out of control.

Looking back into biblical history, there were times when the territory of Israel seemed to be spinning wildly out of control. The prophets of old sounded the warnings of God’s Voice, but His Elect people chose to disobey the messages. Still, His plan and purposes kept moving forward.

Even in the midst of turmoil in the 21st century, we can be confident that perfect control is being kept by a God who is in command and has the ultimate Plan. 

As I write this the Stock Market has plunged 600 points. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

Those of us who trust in the God know that nothing slips through His Hands by mistake. Regardless of the Stock Market’s plunge today, the ugly trade war with China, Socialistic challenging of Capitalism, turmoil and unrest in our streets – we know that the Plan of the Almighty God moves on with precision. We have nothing to fear.

It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said during World War II: “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself”.

Besides death, fear is our second greatest enemy. God counters it by saying, perfect love casts out fear. In our case today – with the world looking like it’s spinning out control – the point is this: if we love and trust God, we have nothing to fear in our future.




The Journey is the Destination

I truly believe that God pursues us harder than anyone or anything else. He steps mysteriously and purposely into our lives to give us the right people – the right work – and the right things to keep us moving. It will cost you something to become whatever it is you want to be. But keep alive the wonder and the inspiration that incubates in your spirit. Never let your mind become tamed in that regard.

I may shock you when I say that sometimes I love the scent of the world and wallow in my foolish desires – even knowing that their lavishing and tempting power seeks to lay waste of my life. Those are the moments when it pays to be afraid of God…to reverence Him and obey His principles. I’m sure you know what I am saying. We are all on a journey that Jesus Christ is shepherding, if we know Him as our Savior. The journey is the destination.

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“Take Charge of Your Destiny” by Mary Cates.

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Should We Be Afraid?

I kissed my husband goodbye this morning as he left to watch an air show at a former military airport…a very happy day lined up for him and some buddies. Yet, in the back of my mind, as he pulled out of the garage, there lingered the news reports of a massive shooting the day before, and the sight of the carnage captured on cell phones by panicking individuals running for cover in a parking lot where people were picked-off like sitting ducks. There would be lots of people at this air show. Would he come home safely?

This is the question we asked now, every time we attend a place where people are gathered and the target is soft.

The tone of the world is rough. We recognize that the culture we survive in is far from sweet and harmonious. The hate that is pouring out of people is shocking – as though there is no conscience left in the heart of mankind. It seems that man’s destiny is completely sullied by his ungodliness.

For those of us with faith, we need not be overcome with fear. God is in control of this planet, though sometimes it seems He has lost his grip. The truth is that we live in a fallen world, and we’ve been warned there will be persecution and heartache. Yet in the midst of it all, God is our lifeline.

I think of the message given to us in the Bible — the part that tells of the shepherds out in the field at night, when the sky suddenly opened up before them and an angel appeared, giving them a message of peace.

Frightened to the bone on that cold dark night, they stood there shivering while they heard these words: “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which has come to ALL people. For to you is born this day in the town of Bethlehem, a Savior who is Christ the Messiah – the Lord!” (Luke 2: 10-11)

Things look bad sometimes and we often mourn our losses. But God is still in control.


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Scrape Up What is Left

Scrape Up What Is Left

How many fresh perspectives does it take to help settle life’s problems?

The truth is that solving problems and making it to number one simply means you are where you should be — having a place and a plan you can follow. However, accomplishments, a dream career, a great marriage, and having a perfect family do not guarantee happiness. So the real question is: what is #1 and what does it mean?

For most of us it takes a lifetime for us to recognize our true calling — and sometimes we are cast into prison (so-to-speak) to find out what we are supposed to be doing.

Serious goal-seeking people generally have questions that never stop…questions like, what about the sweat equity put into a project or a child only to see it fail? Where is God when things go wrong? Where is God when a loved one suddenly gets sick and dies?

When the prison door locks behind us, it is there we must find the answer.

I confess, I am so “literal” that I often want to debate the Apostle Paul and sometimes even God. I become part of the human traffic on Jacob’s ladder – clinging to Heaven’s ropes. The truth is that everything points to the moral laws of God, which will always stand up against the person who seeks to be their own guide and tends to question everything.

I believe the issues we face are often caused by our own desires, even in the sorrow we face and the hope for relief. I say this because God never stacks the deck against us. So whatever we face, we must never quit, but always welcome and wait for God. (Oh so hard to do sometimes.)

Today is your day for a new perspective — to scrape up whatever is left of something that has gone wrong. God needs only a crumb to work with – but then, He can work even without that!

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When All Else Fails, Wait For Morning

I am reminded of a poem written by James Whitcomb Riley titled: “TIME”. He talks about waiting for morning…how we sometimes toss this side and whirl that way, and moan for dawn. Oh yes, the tick, tick, ticking of the clock vexed me last night! I was with Riley’s words till after midnight. But don’t get upset, I wasn’t basking in every word.

I’ll bet you may find yourself in what he wrote…

“Wait for the morning! Ah! we wait indeed. For the daylight, we who toss about in stress because of vacant-armed desires and emptiness. Of all the warm, warm touches we need, and the warm kisses upon which we feed.”

And then Riley really gets to it…

“Warm as the yearning blood our poor hearts bleed! ….A wild prayer! –bite thy pillow — praying so– Toss this side, and whirl that, and moan for dawn;  Let the clock’s seconds dribble out their woe, And Time be drained of sorrow! Long ago…We heard the crowing cock, with answered drawn, As hoarsely sad our throats sob. …Pray on!”

I’ve never saved the world in all my sleepless nights, but I’ve often saved myself from troublesome problems when my mind hashes over a mess I’m in, and I figure the way out. God bless those sleepless nights.


Where are the Heroes?

Can it really be true that there is not one wise man among us who can lead the country? No heroes? No one who can truly judge another brother? Let’s hope that “we the people” will not stay mute and be taken under by the power of those who destroy everything in their path.

I remember in my college psychology class that the professor was astounded at the hype and honor bestowed on Elvis Presley when he died back in the late 70’s. He was a good singer, but he died because he was drunk on dope. She asked, “Where are our real heroes?” The media was crazy with adoration for Presley. I didn’t give much thought to that back then for the lack of wisdom at the time. But now, as I look at how far our country leaders have slipped into the black murky mud of evil and selfish power, I understand what this professor was driving at.

Yet as each day unfolds and we remind ourselves that God is in command of this planet and it is His will that is operating, we can simply lean on Him and go forward with joy and purpose.

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