The secret obsession of a refrigerator detective

You should never judge a book by its cover, but is it possible to judge a person by their refrigerator? For example, when you open a refrigerator, you can usually tell if it belongs to a domestically challenged individual, an aspiring chef, or a family with five children. As for the five children, hopefully their refrigerator would be stocked with all kinds of edibles, a couple gallons of milk, and no cold pizza in sight. After all, if there are any teenagers in the clan, the pizza would be consumed in one sitting, with several siblings fighting over the last piece.

If there is a self-proclaimed chef in the house, in the fridge there’s usually an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables with uncooked meat ready to be prepared. A man or woman who enjoys cooking might even have some tasty leftovers on hand, that they could transform into a delicious meal when an unexpected visitor stops. Then there is the person who never cooks, whose refrigerator contains white boxes stained with soy sauce from Chinese take-out or half-eaten meals from Bob Evans. I really like these people, because they make me feel that being domestically challenged is not the worst thing in the world. So, I’m not Rachel Ray, I can still make a pretty mean meat loaf.

However, it’s not the inside of the refrigerator that tells the real story. It’s the outside that helps you discern what the refrigerator’s owner or owners are all about. There are exceptions, as some individuals are either too young, transient, or minimalistic, to realize they can share their entire life story with magnets, treasured photos, important phone numbers, and inspiring quotations. Refrigerator magnets 1Once I realized the significance of refrigerator decorations, I must admit it was easy to become a bit obsessed. For example, people get a little uncomfortable when they are giving you a tour of their home and you stop dead in your tracks inspecting their refrigerator door. It’s usually best to do a little investigative reporting and get them involved in your quest.

Just ask a doting grandmother about the photo of the little boy or girl that is held in place by a smiley face magnet. You’ll find out more about that child than you ever wanted to know. The proud grandma might even point out the school paper bearing an A and a star, or the scribbled image of some unknown object that this same grandchild painted held in place by another magnet. Just nod agreeably when she explains that they were unaware of this artistic gifting in their bloodline. If there are numerous children’s photos everywhere, it’s best not to ask unless you have a lot of time. List of MedicinesThe phone numbers and lists on the refrigerator door can even provide some insight into the medical issues of an elderly relative or friend. In explanation, people experiencing a health crisis will often have all their resources attached to the fridge. Phone numbers for physicians’ offices, rehab services, clinics, and even medication times might be posted. As for the refrigerator’s magnets, they are sometimes gifts. Therefore, you have to find out if they really define the owner’s personality. There are also those artistic individuals whose refrigerator doors closely resemble the countless badges worn by a proud Eagle Scout.

There are humorous magnets like “I clean house every other day, but this is not the other day,” or “Hand over the chocolate, and no one will get hurt.” I am a firm believer that there is truth buried deep within this kind of humor. However, it’s the magnets bearing a faith-filled quotation that can define a person’s belief system. Many refrigerator doors are adorned with encouraging statements like, “Love bears all things.” You can’t help but wonder how many trials of faith these magnets have weathered, especially when they appear to be yellowed or cracked from age.Refrigerator magnets

Speaking of faith, it was an inspirational Facebook post quoting famous author, Max Lucado, that made me think it was time to confess my refrigerator sleuthing. It said, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it….Face it, friend. He is crazy about you.” The post made me smile, so I hope it will make someone else smile too.  In the end, maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but lately I’ve come to believe that you can find out a lot about a person by their refrigerator.

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is an Amy-award winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. She is also a Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor.

 

           

Advice for Ministry



Jeremiah 29:11 & 13
My humble advice about ministry: God bless your heart for wanting to reach others. As for advice, pray for open doors, and then when God opens them be willing to walk through them if you sense God’s leading. Even though, they are not the doors you expected to open or wanted to open.
Many times, it will not be like you think. Try to stay humble no matter how people treat you. Good or bad. Try to stay grateful to God.
If you have a family, put them first. This of course, is first after God. Ministry can become more important than your family, and this is something God would never want.
Don’t worry about what other people think of you, but worry about what God thinks of you. When you feel that He is telling you to say, “No,” have the courage to do that too. Don’t let ministry push out a relationship with your Heavenly Father.
Always, love and forgive His people even when they hurt you. This is what He would want, but don’t allow them to abuse you. Shake the dust off then.
Take care of yourself, eat right, rest, and remember to have fun. There will be times you will be at the top and other times at the bottom. But it’s not about you, it’s about Him. Give God the credit and praise always, and rest in Him during times of failure and loss.
Never forget to pray, spend time apart, and to love God more than anything. Remember you’re not alone, He is with you even when you feel forsaken, misunderstood, and undervalued. You are loved, not for what you do, but because you are His!

Recovery: The Art of Repurposing Lives

My mother had an artistic ability to make everything beautiful. For instance, once with half-a-dozen children loaded in her old car, she spied a treasure in the trash about a block from our home in Lima. Mom gasped with pleasure at the sighting, but I was sure the old bookshelf had seen better days. Not to be denied, she marched up to the front door of that house and asked the elderly female owner if she could have the bookcase.

BookshelfThe dark wood was heavily marred with scratches, and it didn’t look like much of a prize. In those days, Old English furniture polish was the standard cure for distressed furniture, so Mom doused the entire shelf in the dark liquid. Almost magically, it seemed to breathe new life into the discarded antique. When the wood dried, she found a lace dolly that covered the deep gouges on top, and then filled the shelves with books and glassware. Even though I had seen her do it countless times, once more this resourceful woman created something of beauty out of second-hand junk.

Back then, we didn’t use terms like: repurpose, refresh, restore, or reinvent. There was no category of household items or furniture known as Shabby Chic or vintage, or stores filled with repurposed products. If something was used, it was simply that, “used.” It was to be looked down upon, rejected, or devalued.

We can devalue others too, overlooking the fact that the art of repurposing isn’t just about old furniture or broken jewelry. Rather it’s about putting back together the pieces of people’s lives that have been shattered by addiction. After all, it’s easy to look at individuals making poor choices, and to believe they are past societal or even spiritual redemption. Addiction is complicated, whether it is heroin, prescription painkillers, countless other drugs, or even alcohol. Since the battle with heroin began, many folks have forgotten that although alcohol consumption is legal, it can still be a dangerous substance if abused. For example, alcohol remains a contributing factor in divorce, domestic violence, and in 40 percent of violent crimes.

Headlines and nightly TV news stories tell us the harrowing tales of the wrongs committed by individuals plagued by substance abuse. There are murders, robberies, fatal car crashes, and overdoses that paint the picture of people whose lives are out of control. But that’s not the whole picture. Whatever the addiction, we can cast off these struggling human beings and offer them and their loved ones little hope for restoration forgetting that recovery is always possible. Celebrities including: Robert Downey Jr., Eric Clapton, Samuel Jackson, and many others have overcome drug addiction. Even the most lost and hopeless of cases can turn into the greatest advocates for change when provided with a fresh start.

Yet this is not a rose-tinted philosophy requiring little effort. Increased funding will have to be continually allocated to addiction and mental health issues, along with ongoing education to know how to better serve this at-risk population. Long-term affordable treatment centers, recovery programs for those incarcerated, and family support networks will have to be established. More twelve step recovery and faith groups will be essential, but prevention among the young will be key. In this recovery fight, there are those on the frontlines who deserve our gratitude for their dedication. Mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, court system employees, first responders, and medical personnel who are daily confronted with the first step in the plan to save lives. Also, twelve step leaders and courageous recovering addicts who share their powerful testimonies in hopes of preventing others from walking the treacherous path of addiction.

Our nation’s heroin epidemic took most of us by surprise, and we are still reeling from its existence. Yet burying our heads in the proverbial sand won’t make it go away. That’s why we should support those on the frontlines, and equip them with whatever assistance we can provide, while wrapping our arms around the families that have been wrestling with a loved one’s addiction in whatever way possible.

Key NecklaceThankfully, my mother’s lesson about reclaiming the vitality of a cast-off item stayed with me. That’s why not long ago, when I found a large rhinestone and silver-plated key at a church sale, I had to buy it.

I had no idea what to do with the sparkling key, but then I happened upon a necklace that had lost its own pendant. The key fit perfectly on the long silver chain, but it still seemed incomplete. I added a few more gems including: a miniature heart with a mustard seed, and a silver charm from a broken bracelet engraved with the words from Scripture, “If you have faith so small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Writing this column is having faith in the impossible. My mother taught me another lesson. When you don’t know what to do, do something. So I’m writing another recovery column, hopeful that keeping the conversation going is a way to fight back. For now, may we all take “one day at a time,” and work together to find solutions by rejecting apathy, refusing to give up, and reclaiming our communities one life at a time.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

Finding purpose in life

It was one of those phone calls that you don’t expect to get. No, it wasn’t a middle of the night crisis, rather an early morning candid confession. “I don’t have a purpose anymore,” said my elderly friend with desperation.

In reality, there were still community events for her to attend, and restaurant lunches or suppers with friends. But there were no longer children to raise or even grandchildren to fuss over. Everyone had long ago grown up and moved away. My aging acquaintance’s body stubbornly refused to allow her to work or even volunteer for all the causes she had once so passionately supported. Quite simply, the fragile widow was searching for a reason to get out of bed each morning.

It is part of the human condition to seek fulfillment through what we do. “The two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you discover the reason why.” This quote is from renowned humorist and author Mark Twain. Twain died over a century ago, but his wise observation remains relevant.

Probably, the most well-known book ever written specifically about the subject is “The Purpose Driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren. Originally released in 2002, the book had sold over 32 million copies by 2012 when it was reissued in an updated anniversary edition. Publishing experts never predicted this widespread success. The book’s subtitle, “What on Earth Am I Here For?” echoes Twain’s assertion. Apparently, learning the “why” of our existence continues to be a pivotal question for most people.

Besides, for much of the time we spend on this earth, we have defined roles. As a child we discover the world around us, and then assume the job of learning as students. We eventually find a career in the professional realm, and some folks embrace the awesome responsibility of becoming a parent.

Our days can be filled with mundane duties and tedious tasks that bear little resemblance to the lofty dreams of youth. It’s then we can experience burnout or become very disillusioned, which can result in a midlife crisis.

The Urban Dictionary online defines a midlife crisis as, “When a person regrets how they have lived his or her life, and they attempt to ‘correct’ their mental issue in a variety of ways which usually always harms themselves or those closest to them.” The satirical website says those “harmful” decisions could include buying an expensive convertible, or getting divorced. Society pokes fun at folks having a midlife crisis, since they are desperately trying to hold onto their youth.

Life is a journey, and we are all at different places along the pathway. “We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way,” according to songwriter Gloria Gaither.

We don’t want to rush through our days missing the precious moments that need to be cherished. Yet it’s good not to get too comfortable, because often our purpose changes dependent upon the season of life we are in. When things don’t work out the way we have planned, that’s when a wise individual reinvents themselves to discover meaning in each new stage.

Even in unexpected tragedy like Rick Warren’s family experienced in 2013 when his 27-year-old son Matthew committed suicide after a lifelong battle with mental illness. In the past two years, the famous minister and his wife Kay, have become a highly visible force in the field of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Within the national faith community, they are now championing churches to reach out to those individuals struggling with mental health issues.

Often it is our life circumstances that are the most difficult that result in new direction. The “why” we are here changes, and we have to adapt. Similar to society’s recent trend to repurpose everything from old furniture to broken jewelry, we have to pick up our own shattered pieces and figure out how to make something beautiful out of them.

No matter our age, if we are still on this Earth, there is more for us to do. Like my friend who was panicking because she no longer felt that her existence had meaning. I wish I was an early morning thinker, because in that instant I could have reminded her, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

The Memory of a Christmas Eve Miracle

Christmas Dining TableIt’s Christmastime again! Everywhere you look there are festively decorated store windows, Christmas commercials about joyful family gatherings, and music that floods us with memories of long ago holidays. Yet for many folks, there is also the longing for yesterday that this season can create. Vacant places at the table where deceased loved ones once sat, or maybe an empty table resulting from a family that’s been broken, or just grown and moved away.

There is also the financial burden for economically struggling individuals not knowing how they will make ends meet, let alone having anything left over for their children’s Christmas list. After all, children don’t understand that their circumstances are not conducive for a visit from Santa.

My late friend Liesl Sondheimer asked me for my help in sharing her own miracle of holiday provision, but for her it was a Hanukkah miracle. To explain, sometimes the two religious celebrations intersect, as they must have that December almost 75 years ago. Liesl was a Jewish Holocaust survivor who lived in Lima, Ohio for six decades. After fleeing from Germany in 1938, the Jewish immigrant began life anew, but most of her extended family perished.

It was a decade ago, when Liesl’s 97-year-old arthritic hands prevented her from writingphoto (13) the inspiring story herself, so I typed it down while she dictated. The small of stature, silver-haired survivor began, “…Although my husband was a physician in Germany, we were forced to flee from our home to seek refuge in the United States because of the rise of the Hitler regime. We recently had arrived in this country from Nazi Germany. At the entrance of the dilapidated apartment building that was to become our home, my two little girls asked, ‘Will we get any Hanukkah gifts this year?’ I had to tell them there was no money for gifts when we were not able to even provide for the most necessary things.

“On Christmas Eve, there was a knock at the door,” Liesl continued. “The janitor handed me packages with clothing and toys for the children, food, and a little Christmas tree. Asking who the kind donors were, the janitor would only tell me some people had overheard our conversation and did not want the children to go without gifts this holiday season. They did not even want us to know their names.

“How blessed it is to give, so much easier than to receive,” concluded the elderly Jewish lady. “My financial circumstances improved and I was able to be able to be on the giving side the rest of my life. However, I will never forget how wonderful it was to receive goods, warmth, love and encouragement while struggling in poverty. It keeps up one’s faith in the goodness of man.”

As I typed the account of the long-ago random act of kindness, it was Liesl’s assertion of her steadfast faith in the “goodness of man,” that has always intrigued me. Especially, since Mrs. Sondheimer’s words echoed that of the 18th century German poet Goethe whom she deeply admired, “Noble be man, merciful and good.”

The compassion of other human beings is something that most of us desperately need to be reminded of right now. With nightly news broadcasting horrific features about the cruelty of individuals involved in terrorist attacks, school shootings, and ongoing racial tension in metropolitan areas, we can forget about all the giving folks trying to make the world a better place.

Christmas Tree 2015Besides, at Christmastime, we frequently witness the very best in people. The countless law enforcement officers making sure local kids have gifts to open; the churchgoers everywhere who collect thousands of shoeboxes filled with little blessings for impoverished children overseas; the service clubs, ministries, and organizations working diligently to fill the gap for parents through local programs or through Angel Tree and Toys for Tots; the Salvation Army volunteer bell ringers grateful for each dollar donated; the school personnel and families secretly giving to those in need among them; and the list goes on and on.

Mrs. Sondheimer refused to allow her once painful circumstances to make her bitter. Rather, she chose to celebrate the memory of a holiday miracle when her family was cared for by strangers. It might help to remember that the reason for the season was never about festively wrapped gifts anyway, but about a baby born in a humble Bethlehem stable offering mankind the gift of God’s love. In closing, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all!

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is an Amy-award winning journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

The Healing Power of an Apology for a Wronged World War II Vet

Whenever Veteran’s Day draws near, I am reminded of the story of Samuel Snow who believed an apology was important enough to wait more than six decades to receive one. In July of 2008, a then 84-year-old Snow traveled across the nation to accept a formal apology and an honorable discharge from the United States Army. According to media reports just hours later, the World War II veteran from Leesburg, Florida, died in a Seattle hospital.

“My dad has been standing in formation all these years, waiting to have his name cleared. With the Army’s honorable discharge, he was at ease…and he went home,” said Ray Snow, son of the late soldier in a released statement after his father’s death.

In 1944, Samuel Snow was one of twenty-eight black soldiers wrongly convicted of rioting charges resulting in the death of an Italian prisoner of war. In his book, On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II, author Jack Hamann pointed to “serious flaws” in the prosecution of the case. According to Seattle Times staff reporter, Sandi Doughton, “Hamann championed the cause of the black GIs. His investigation cast suspicion on a white military policeman, now dead, as the prime suspect in the murder of the Italian soldier.”

After Snow’s conviction, he spent 15 months in a military prison and received a dishonorable discharge, which greatly altered his life opportunities. Upon his release, the African American soldier returned to a then segregated Leesburg, and his “dishonorable discharge” became a sort of “death sentence” according to Ray Snow. The senior Snow could only find work as a janitor or handyman following the scandal, but he was a man of deep faith who refused to grow bitter. Although his son who became an elementary teacher in Leesburg said that it became his father’s “mission” to obtain official documentation regarding his innocence.

This tragic tale points to the significance of an apology. Sadly, the ability to admit wrong in life’s lesser matters than the grievous offense Snow suffered has been radically altered by our progressively lawsuit happy world. To explain, blame seems to be readily pronounced in our society, despite motivation or intent in many situations. That’s why fear can keep an individual or organization from assuming responsibility for a mistake or error, because it could result in life-altering financial or professional consequences. Still, a sincere request for forgiveness can be an influential tool in mending any rift. Besides validating the offended party, it can also set the perpetrator free of the guilt that wrongdoing intended or unintended can create. Yet when the words, “I’m sorry,” are said, it appears to matter a great deal how they are delivered.

That’s why the method we use to apologize can contribute to whether the apology will be accepted according to the classic book, The Five Languages of Apology. Co-authored by Dr. Gary Chapman who also wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Five Love Languages, the book’s cover explains that, “Sometimes, saying, ‘I’m sorry’ just isn’t enough.” Chapman and co-author Dr. Jennifer Thomas believe that there are people who have been wronged who need to hear the offender not only confess regret, but also accept responsibility for their actions. Along with accountability, there is the act of “making restitution” by asking, “What can I do to make it right?” This might also be necessary, if it is the injured individual’s language of apology according Chapman and Thomas.

For Snow, a 2002 verbal apology by an Army major general just wasn’t enough. That’s why the elderly man traveled from his Florida home to Seattle with his son in July 2008 to attend the ceremony honoring him and the 27 other falsely accused GIs posthumously, because all but one other soldier had died. Snow refused to let questionable health prevent him from making the historic trip. Unfortunately, the aged veteran was hospitalized in Seattle and unable to attend. His son went instead. Returning to his dad’s hospital room, Ray presented his father with the framed honorable discharge from the ceremony. Reports say the falsely convicted man held the official plaque in his arms, clutched it to his heart, and smiled. With his dignity finally restored, he died just hours later. Like every dedicated soldier with his mission accomplished, I’m hopeful that Samuel Snow is now resting in peace enjoying a hero’s reward. But I wish I could extend the same gratitude to him that every military man or woman deserves to hear, “Thank you for your service!”

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

“Keep Calm and Carry On”

For some reason, many Americans admire all things British. For instance, we are often impressed by the accent of those hailing from across the ocean. When an individual from Great Britain says something, they sound a great deal more intelligent than those of us born in farmland USA. Even though we fought for freedom from our Mother country over two hundred years ago, we are still tied to her apron strings by our fascination with England’s royalty, culture, and celebrities. Can I get an “Amen” from a few Beatles or Downton Abbey fans?

That’s why it’s no surprise that an historic five word phrase originated by the Brits has caused an ongoing marketing stir stateside. “Keep Calm and Carry On,” can be found on coffee cups, T-shirts, infant attire, phone cases, decals, tote bags, aprons, wall plaques, and you name it. In 1939, it all began with a few World War II posters designed by the Ministry of Information, the public relations branch of the British government created to encourage the country’s citizens during the war. According to the www.keepcalmandcarryon.com website, “With a bold coloured background, the posters were required to be similar in style and feature the symbolic crown of King George VI along with a simple yet effective font. The first two posters, ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril’ were produced by His Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO).”

Both of these positive propaganda posters were displayed all over England on buses, store windows, and in public places. While the third poster with the words, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was not to be issued until Britain experienced a crisis or invasion. Multiple sources estimate that approximately 2.5 million copies were printed, but never released. It is speculated that following World War II most of the posters were destroyed. Fast forward over 50 years when a “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster with a red background was discovered in Barter Books, a used bookstore in northeast England. In 2000, the bookseller’s owner found the copy among some old books he purchased from an auction. The poster was then framed and hung in the book shop. Copies were eventually made and sold, as customers embraced the motivational message.

The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On produced in a short video by Barter Books channel on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrHkKXFRbCI reports that, “Since that time, the poster has been reproduced, parodied, trivialized, and has become a truly iconic image of the 21st century.” A parody in www.dictionary.com is by definition “a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.” Parodies of the famous slogan include: “Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake,” “Keep Calm and Buy Shoes,” “Keep Calm and Read a Romance,” “Keep Calm and Tweet On,” “Now Panic and Freak Out,” and “Keep Calm…Oh Who Are We Kidding,” along with countless more. Like the last two parodies portray, it’s not easy to remain tranquil in a world filled with ongoing chaos. Still, the British are known for their stiff upper lip of  exercising great restraint in the midst of calamity. The poster’s popularity is also benefiting Americans seeking the virtue of self-control, because its timeless wisdom appears universal.

But how do we “Keep Calm?” Citing the stressful situations life produces, New York Times Best-selling author Joyce Meyer offers some advice in her article, “How to Calm Down and Cheer Up,” on her website, www.joycemeyer.org. “We need to have a change of attitude,” writes Meyer. “The right attitude and approach can completely turn a situation around. Instead of stressing out and tensing up, calm down, take a deep breathe and try to get some perspective on the situation.”

The evangelistic lady speaker admits, “You may not be able to control the situation, but you can control how you respond to it.” Meyer sounds like an NFL coach in the locker room before a challenging game when she advises, “Take an offensive approach and decide beforehand what your attitude will be.” To “Keep Calm and Carry On” appears to be a faith-filled choice that one can make in the midst of daunting circumstances. However, not only carrying on, but becoming hopeful about the future as well.

Personally, the verses from Matthew 6:25-27 NLT resonate with me, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” I freely admit that I am a “One Day at a Time” person due to an ongoing struggle with anxiety. That’s why remembering that God’s always got my back, makes me rest a lot easier. How about you? What do you do to deal with the pressures of life? The bottom line is that with God at our side, we don’t ever have to worry about anything again.

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker.
Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. She has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and on Joyce Meyer Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life TV program.

Thankful for the Gift of More Time

Martha Farmer 034 Martha Farmer 037 “It wasn’t your time,” the body shop technician said matter-of-factly surveying my husband’s wrecked car. As Nate, whose name was embroidered on his work shirt, began wrapping the totaled vehicle with clear plastic; I dutifully gathered my personal possessions.

Just days before, the black sedan’s pristine finish glistened in the sunshine. Now, what was left of the car was a reminder of how blessed I had been to survive.

“It wasn’t your time,” was the twenty-something auto-technician’s advice on how to conquer the anxiety about driving that my 2008 accident created. I often think of Nate’s simple theology.

His statement reminded me of something German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote in his Letters and Papers from Prison, “We all have our appointed hour of death, and it will always find us wherever we go. And we must be ready for it.”

Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who refused to sit idly by as Adolph Hitler killed millions of Jewish citizens during World War II. Instead the German leader joined a movement to have Hitler assassinated, resulting in his 1943 imprisonment. Bonhoeffer’s own appointed hour of death occurred in 1945, when at only 39 years of age he was hanged at the Flossenburg concentration camp.

I’m not comparing my situation to the slain scholar’s, because I felt blessed to be alive that afternoon. After all, a few days earlier while driving in heavy four-lane traffic I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a car rapidly approaching. My frantic mind quickly realized that there was nothing I could do. Suddenly, I heard the sickening sound of crunching metal, and felt the forceful impact that propelled me forward quite a distance.

Miraculously, there was no vehicle directly ahead, nor had I been pushed into an adjoining lane. Momentarily dazed, I gratefully assessed that my injuries were non-life-threatening, although they would require a trip to the hospital. The young man whose vehicle’s front end had connected with my demolished back end assured me that he was ok, too. “We can always get a new car, but we can’t replace precious people,” was a philosophy that I had been taught by my late mother.

Thankfully, I knew my husband agreed with my practical view of totaled automobiles, since I just “happened” to borrow his car that day. Providentially, Larry’s vehicle “was” proven to prevent injuries in crash tests. It lived up to its promise, even though it resembled a folded accordion after the wreck.

photo (2)There were several other remarkable occurrences surrounding the event. When dressing the morning of the accident, my treasured angel pin, a gift from late Jewish Holocaust survivor, Elisabeth Sondheimer, seemed to sparkle warningly as it fell to my bedroom floor. Then before leaving, my normally rushed school administrator spouse stopped uncharacteristically to put his arms around me and say a quick prayer.

I had also placed an antique picture of Jesus standing behind a sailor who is navigating a ship’s wooden wheel behind the driver’s seat that day. The portrait depicts the Jewish carpenter with one hand lovingly resting on the young seamen’s shoulder and the other arm extended, pointing him in the direction he needs to go amidst the turbulent seas.

I had taken the inspirational artwork to give to a colleague who was encountering some rough seas of his own. When cleaning the car out at the body shop, I found the glass and wooden framed picture undamaged just as Nate was sharing his wise advice about it not being my time.Jesus is my Pilot

The borrowed car, the angel pin, my husband’s spontaneous prayer, and the antique picture are all reminders of my own belief that God is always in control, even when life seems randomly chaotic. However, my greatest blessing was the fact that apparently it wasn’t my “appointed hour of death” as Bonhoeffer once wrote. Because someday, death “will find me,” just as it finds us all, since nobody gets out of here alive.

If you disagree with Nate, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and me, perhaps you will like the wisdom in the song lyrics of the former hit, It’s Not My Time by rockers, 3 Doors Down. “My friend, this life we live is not what we have, it’s what we believe. And it’s not my time. I’m not going ….” Hopefully, you and I are not going today. For now, we’ve all been granted the precious opportunity to spend more time with those we love, and to finish our work on this Earth.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an inspirational speaker and Amy Award winning freelance journalist. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

Pain: My One Word for 2015

Pain [noun]: “the physical feeling caused by disease, injury, or something that hurts the body or : mental or emotional suffering : sadness caused by some emotional or mental problem”  Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Winter SceneP-A-I-N!  I definitely did not want this bleak word to start the new year. Here in Ohio, January is bitter cold and the days are gray enough. I tried desperately to push the word out of my mind, assured that I was not hearing our heavenly Father’s still small voice clearly.

My search for my one word for 2015 began in December 2014. I prayed that God would reveal what I needed to contemplate in order to grow spiritually and become more like Him. At first, it was difficult to accept that a good God would want me to concentrate on the word, “Pain.” I wanted nothing to do with dissecting its definition for twelve months. I had to wonder if this was a misguided, self-inflicted masochistic leading like cutting my arm as a teen had been. Or if the all-wise Holy Spirit could possibly desire for me to further investigate this topic.

Seeds of Hope coverYou see, I know a lot about the pain of mental torment. When I committed my life to Christ in my early 30s, I was a patient on a psychiatric ward battling depression and addiction. I was desperate for anything that would relieve the anguish. Then in my more than two decades of recovery, I have tried to empower others in their journey of finding wholeness from past brokenness, addiction, or abuse. In my book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors, I share some of the painful circumstances which I have overcome through God’s grace to enjoy the fulfilling existence that I have today. Speaking and writing about the pathway of spiritual & emotional healing, I have found the true meaning of being a “New Creation” in Christ. By profession, I am a journalist, a lover of words, but this particular word has always had a terrible emotional connotation. Pain is a four-letter word that conjures up agony and suffering, and is something I’ve spent my life running from, or trying to overcome.

That’s why, I prayed earnestly for confirmation concerning this 2015 word of the year suspecting the enemy of my soul was sending “Pain” to haunt me one more time. I tried to convince myself that our benevolent Father wanted me to have a positive expression like “Believe.” After all, my 2014 word was “Hope.” This past year, I have enjoyed researching Scriptures and even purchasing keepsakes that point to the hope we have in our Savior.

To prove that I was hearing wrong, I turned to my favorite resource regarding the word of the year, “One Perfect Word,” by Debbie Macomber. I was certain the New York Times best selling author would advise folks to never select a negative word. To my surprise, when I randomly opened her book and began reading, my eyes landed on the heading, “Choosing Your Word.” The famous author writes:

“Sometimes a word will not let you alone –  like my word brokenness. Who would want to spend a whole year exploring something as depressing as that? I’m an optimist by nature, but I’ve discovered over the years that some of the most profound lessons of life have grown out of pain [there it was again] and struggle….. If the Lord seems to be whispering the word that you’d much rather not even think about I encourage you to embrace it. Prepare for a year of discovery and growth. God will bless your willingness to trust Him for your word.”(Page 72, One Perfect Word by Debbie Macomber)

Even after this serendipitous event of divine intervention, I still wanted to push “pain” away. To explain, I have spent almost a year and a half battling debilitating physical pain caused by injury and arthritis. Pain that exhausted me, that took every bit of creative energy away, and that made me feel like an old woman before my time. I had always promised myself that I would never turn into one of those boring individuals who talk only of their physical ailments. Then suddenly, I found myself offering daily reports about the unrelenting pain in my feet, hands, and knees, while discussing doctor visits and surgery. Formerly an athletic individual, I was relegated to life on crutches and the couch. I was the one used to ministering to others, and now I was humbled to require assistance for daily tasks.

I prayed and cried and begged the God who I had always known as Healer to restore me to the vibrant woman I had once been. All to no avail, as the physical pain continued, and fear of more pain increased my anxiety. The resulting emotional turmoil grew so intense that deep depression became a battle like it had been in my youth. I had never experienced anything like this. My heart was broken by my diminished existence, and also for all the other folks living daily with chronic pain. The kind of unceasing torment, that can ultimately cause you to question God’s love for you. Pentecostal by background, I did not theologically know how to explain pain. Didn’t I have enough faith? Was there sin somewhere in my heart? I knew all these faulty questions were not the problem, thankfully my non-charismatic brothers and sisters would never even ask them, yet I had watched others who were struggling being judged over my years in ministry. Even when I was well, I never wanted to judge someone suffering, knowing there is so much we will never understand with our finite mind.

As I wrestled with physical pain, my personality changed too. Like a butterfly who is forming in a cocoon gradually I began to transform into a more gentle human being. Something, my passionate nature and high energy have always prevented. Of course, I did not know this. The pain made me think that I was simply weak and had failed, since I was unable to recognize the person I had become. It was my precious husband who at first was sorely confused by this metamorphosis, but eventually delighted that I was no longer the driven individual he had married.

Finally and miraculously, I am beginning to feel better physically – more like myself, something I will admit I had almost given up hope of happening. There are a couple permanent limitations like everyone grappling with getting older, but amazingly some good days. Sadly though, so many wonderful people around me continue to suffer. With my health being renewed, the last thing I want to do is to think about pain, but there is no escaping it. “Pain” is my one word for 2015 – the word God wants me to “embrace” as Debbie Macomber suggests, because He obviously has more for me to understand about it.Christina Ryan Claypool - Angel Column photo 2

Perhaps, as I reflect upon its meaning, I will learn not to fear it, trusting that God` has always been with me in the midst of it. Then in some small way, maybe I will be better able to assist others struggling with spiritual, emotional, or chronic physical pain for which there seems to be no remedy. In the end, our Heavenly Father will eradicate all of our pain. Revelation 21:4 NIV says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Until that day, it’s up to us to be wounded healers to those we encounter who are desperate for our Savior’s mercy. So, “Pain,” here I come. In 2015, for the first time in my life, I’m facing you head on.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist, Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, and inspirational speaker. She has a Masters in Ministry from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com

“If you’re not dead, then you’re not done!”

“Am I done?” I kept hearing this internal question over and over last year as I faced a health and aging crisis at the same time. It was the perfect storm for taunting from the dark side about my professional and personal productivity being finished.

I am ashamed to say that I feel into a deep depression and spent weeks sobbing while lying on my living room couch recovering from painful surgery. Then the weeks turned to months trying to get around on crutches. I didn’t have a clue at how to accept the losses accompanied with growing older, especially while dealing with physical limitations. I had worked in ministry for decades, and now I couldn’t muster enough faith to get off my sofa.

About that time, I saw the vivid yellow cover of the Joyce Meyer book, You Can Begin Again, on the shelf in my local library among all the other recent releases. It seemed to call to me, “This will help you…there will be answers in here for you.”

After all, when family and friends are experiencing a life crisis, I usually find the perfect Joyce Meyer product to assist them in handling their dilemma. For example, in the past year, I gave a resident of a women’s domestic violence shelter Joyce’s book, The Confident Woman. When a close friend had a debilitating stoke, I took a copy of  Living Beyond Your Feelings to her in the hospital. Recently, I also sent a female family member who always tries to please everyone and usually comes up short, Joyce’s book, Approval Addiction.

Once, when someone stole the classic Beauty for Ashes book from the library, I donated a copy, because it is a grace-filled message of restoration for individuals who were sexually abused as children. I have used information from it when teaching Bible studies and speaking at Celebrating Recovery meetings, and find it a pioneering work for survivors like myself. As for Joyce Meyer CD series, I always try to pass on whatever message fits the situation. I don’t loan products, I usually give them away, asking others to “pass them on” to someone else in need of hope. Joyce Meyer Books

Still feeling beyond hope personally this spring, I didn’t pick up the copy of You Can Begin Again wanting to leave it there for someone who might actually have a chance at starting over. But the thought of that hopeful yellow cover wouldn’t let me go. A week later, I went back to the library telling God that if You Can Begin Again was still there, I would read it. New releases are never there a week later, and as I had expected the book was checked out. That’s when the young librarian enthusiastically said, “Wait a minute. I think there’s an extra copy on the book mobile. I’ll go and check.” Before I could stop her, she jumped to her feet and was out the door returning minutes later triumphantly holding the yellow book high in the air.

Now, I must admit, for the first time in a long time, I felt faith stirring deep inside me as I reached for that copy and clutched it to me like a lifeline. After all, over the past two decades, God has used Joyce Meyer’s teachings to rescue me from giving up before.  I didn’t have to read very far in You Can Begin Again to realize that the Holy Spirit had done it again. On page 10, these words jumped off the page and gripped my heart:  “It’s no accident you picked up this book; I believe God is whispering to you right now. He wants you to know your life isn’t over. He has a plan and a purpose for you, and He wants you to discover a life greater than anything you could have imagined. I recently heard someone say, “If you’re not dead, then you’re not done!” Why not claim today as a day of new beginnings!”

Believe me after that direct message, I devoured the book and found the encouragement that enabled me to embrace a fresh start. There are so many inspirational stories of new beginnings included. As I read them, along with Joyce’s spiritual wisdom, my tattered faith was renewed. As I neared the final pages, I didn’t want the book to end, and I prayed that there would be some final advice that I could hold onto.That’s when I got to the very last paragraph of the Afterword which reads:       “God put this book in your hands because He loves you greatly, and since you are part of His story, it is important for you to remember when one of those hard days comes along and you feel like you may not make it, it is only one page in the story of your life; it is not the whole story, so turn the page and keep writing.”

Well, I guess you can’t get any spiritual advice much clearer than that, because I am a journalist by profession. So I decided I better “keep writing.” I completed my first fictional novella, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife, to be released later this year. It’s a book I started 10 years ago, and never had time to finish until now.

Whether you’re 19 or 90, if you are sunk in your own pit of despair thinking you’re “done”, I’m praying that you will find the courage to face tomorrow searching for new possibilities and embrace a fresh start of your own.