He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 (NIV)
We have a long way to go if we want to “prove” God loves us. There is no formula for belief. It is based on trust and faith. It is understanding the Cross was not the easy way; it was the only way. It got the attention of early believers, and continues to do so. Our minister pointed out in a recent sermon that we learn from the painful Holy Week journey of Christ. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done,” he prayed (Luke 22:42 NIV). Jesus knew what he was getting into, but he did it anyway. For me. For you. This is not a message meant to bring us down, but to remind us that sometimes what we want most in life lies on the other side of pain, of discipline, of doing the hard thing. Resurrection Day is joy-filled and cause for celebration, but don’t forget what it took to get there. Love beyond reason, faith beyond fact. God never said, “Believe in me and everything in your life will be perfect.” He did say, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV).
I am a seeker, not a saint; a believer not a proselytizer. Your thoughtful comments are welcome.
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Psalm 95:6
Great God of all, the beginning and the infinite, you who sent yourself into the world as a wee babe who grew up and traveled the world as a man, misunderstood by many, feared by the establishment, teacher of astounding wisdom, and bearer of transgressions and sins, we worship you and give you thanks. Holy week is lost in the secular whirlwind of the Easter bunny and chocolate, marshmallow treats, giant Easter baskets, and pretty dresses. The reality of Holy week is bleak and grim. When we stand at the foot of the cross and look up, we cannot comprehend the depth of Your suffering on our behalf. We simply cannot. We do know the cross was not the end of hope; it was the beginning of redemption. Only by the resurrection can we see how amazing you are, your grace washing out from that cruel cross and lifting all on the sea of your love. It is through that grace we can understand just a fraction of why you took this path. Just a fraction. And it is enough. Up from the grave he arose, a mighty triumph o’er his foes. (Robert Lowry, Christ Arose).
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Romans 15:13 (KJV)
Peace is hard won in a world where negativity pours out of the media, and family struggles pluck at your heart. Peace. Everyone talks about it, but achieving peace is more than sitting in a corner and zoning out. Reality is what we live with every single day. Reality is a child bullied at school or on the Internet. Reality is an adult loved one who makes horrendous choices that break your heart. Reality is facing financial disaster. Reality is finding out someone you trust has betrayed you. The list is long and all of us can put a tick mark by one or more of the fears and concerns that are ready to swallow us whole. The hardest job we have sounds like it should be the easiest: let go and let God. For every thing on your worry list there is this promise from Joshua 1:9 – “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (KJV) There is hope in this. When we place our trust in the Creator God of all there is now, ever has been, or ever will be, we will find peace. Our concerns don’t disappear overnight and the “good fairy” god of easy solutions doesn’t wave a magic wand and magically make perfect all the people who disappoint us. It is through faith we find the peace that passes all understanding. It is a starting point for healing and forgiveness.
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I do a lot of free online meetings, mostly about blogging and site building. Invariably the topic of SEO comes up (Search Engine Optimization). Let us pretend I know what that entails. Let us pretend I know what that even means.
So, what does it take to make a website stand out from all the others? Well, I wish I knew. What I know is that I write, and I post, and I wait… and not much happens. How many blogs pretending to be websites are there? According to one online source, by September 2017 there were about 152 million. Is it any wonder so few people are taking note of mine?
I do have nearly 276 followers and 226 subscribers, which I am totally excited to have. How many of them are friends and family? One-third? Half? Surprisingly about 10 percent; the rest are folks who sort of stumbled onto my site and liked something I wrote.
A few have left – unsubscribed – since I started the site, perhaps because it has undergone a variety of themes and formats over its seven-year existence. Or maybe I’ve written about something a reader didn’t like or found boring. Could it be that my scatter-shot approach to this site is all over the map? I’m told I need to focus on one topic or idea and stick with it. Who am I? What do I want this site to do for me? Good question.
Ultimately I want people to read what I write and respond: comment on posts, share posts, buy my books, subscribe to my episodic novel. These are the reasons I decided on a magazine format. My intent is to create or post content that people learn from, laugh at, think about or are inspired by. That comes in many forms, and I hope in the end it turns people on to new ideas, new opportunities and new insights.
The trick is to get the content in front of more eyes, which is where SEO – and other posting strategies – come into play, which is where I am right now, trying to figure it out.
As a WordPress user, it is clear I have at my disposal many resources. They have detailed instructions about… well, about everything, including SEO. What it requires of the user/blogger/website developer, is attention to detail, understanding the limitations (and flexibility) of themes, and taking the FREE sessions that teach you how to make best use of the wonderful tool that is the internet.
In closing, I would love for you as a reader to recommend this site to your friends and family. If you enjoy the content let me know. If you don’t like the content or see ways it can be improved, I for sure want to know that.
This morning I spent quality time with Steve, a WordPress Happiness Engineer who talked me through my site and gave me invaluable tips on how to improve it. These were tools already available to me that I hadn’t known how to use. That’s the thing about WordPress; if you have a premium or business plan, you have access to a wealth of one-on-one help from WordPress support. As a basic user with a free blogging site, help is available and a click away.
So, thank you WordPress, and thank you Steve, for your help. It has given me a leg up when the road was getting ever so bumpy.
From the keyboard of Sharon Vander Meer (Note: I am not paid to promote WordPress)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Perseverance is hard. Disappointment after disappointment stands in the way of achieving your goal. You begin to believe “it isn’t meant to be,” and you give up. Or someone tells you, “you are not smart enough, talented enough, brave enough” to overcome the obstacles that stand in your way. Believe this. God is for you, no matter who you think is against you. Remember that. Get back up on your feet and look everyone in the eye who says “no” and say “yes” right back at them. Yes, I can. Yes, I will. The candy store of dreams come true isn’t built on an insubstantial foundation of procrastination and laziness; it is built on strength of character, strength of will, strength of faith, and hard, hard work. Persevere.
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The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:14
You are wandering in the desert, alone, afraid, disoriented. What do you do? Pull out your cellphone and pray you have service! Life can feel a bit like being lost in an unknown place. Panic sets in and you know you need immediate help. How and where do you get it? Personal experience has taught me to get on my “cellphone” to God through prayer. One of my go-to prayers is: “I seek the Lord and he hears me, and relieves me of all my fears.” The second is somewhat like it: “I release myself, my loved ones, my worries and my fears into the hands of God, and I trust him.” He is my strength. The song of his promise to be with me always sings through my life.
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
Unfortunately much of the daily news is horrific. Thank the Lord for broadcasters who attempt in some small part to find one “good news” story to report, or some heroic act done by a selfless person. Frequently these folks say after doing some very brave thing, “I’m no hero. I just knew I had to so something.” The good deed gets maybe 30 to 45 seconds of airtime and then it’s back to the basics, violence in one form or another punctuated by misconduct, murder and mayhem.
Remember the television show, House? Hugh Laurie said of his television character Gregory House: “As a real person, he wouldn’t last a minute, would he? But drama is about imperfection. And we’ve moved away from the aspirational hero. We got tired of it; it was dull. If I was House’s friend, I would hate it. How he so resolutely refuses to be happy or take the kindhearted road. But we don’t always like morally good people, do we?”
I am troubled by this assessment. Is it because I fear Laurie is right? We want the heroic underdog to overcome, or at least we say we do, but too often we relate to the negative personality or anti-hero. They seem more real to us than the sterling good guy, the Dudley Do-Right. He’s just too good to be true, and if Laurie is correct, we see the good guy as boring or foolhardy while the badass is exciting. I wonder how many battered women feel that way after living with a badass for a while?
The television and movie industry, perhaps the entertainment industry overall, reflects our fascination with negativity. Much of what we see is less about overcoming and more about fallibility. There are few heroes, unless they’re dressed in goofy super-power costumes. The elemental goodness of ordinary people is rarely revealed. Do we not believe in or want to promote goodness?
I believe in goodness. I am uplifted when I see a story in the paper about personal triumph, or about someone who went the extra mile to help someone else. That is what shapes my world.
And that’s the point of life, not what other people do, but how you treat people and give back goodness, even when you have been treated unfairly. Every act of mercy and kindness has a far-reaching effect, perhaps in ways you will never know. One act of kindness may be little more than a drop in the bucket that is life, yet you can be assured it will ripple out and touch others.
You can apply nut job to my character profile. My ever so slight wackiness has to do with food generally, and chicken in particular. This if from someone who has included chicken and eggs in meal preparation since forever.
…And then I found out chickens eat meat. Meat. Chickens eat meat. They are carnivores. AND, they eat pretty much any kind of meat – frogs, snakes, other chickens. The most alarming meat they eat is – I looked it up on Google, so it has to be true – mice. Chickens. Eat. Mice. This is information I could have done without. I am phobic about mice. I have not been able to eat chicken or anything related to chicken since I found this out. Do you have any idea how many products have chicken, eggs, or chicken products in them? A lot.
I’ve tried to reason with myself.
Sharon, you’ve eaten chicken all your life. It is no different today than it was the last time you ate it. Chicken didn’t kill you then and it won’t kill you now.
And yet, every time I lift something to my mouth that has eggs or chicken in it, I see a mouse tail trailing out of the beak of a chicken. I KNOW. It’s completely unreasonable. My husband says I’ll get over it. Maybe, but at the moment poultry of any kind is off the menu in our house.
To make matters worse, I just found out through a “Reader’s Digest” article entitled 50 Things Food Manufacturers Won’t Tell You, that the bacteria responsible for sourdough bread originally came from – GET THIS – rodent feces. Excuse me? Rodent feces?
I can live with crushed bugs – barely – providing the red color in some products. I can accept – marginally – that it’s okay for manufacturers to have up to 30 insect parts per 100 grams in peanut butter. (Before I read the article, I had just bought a 28-ounce container of JIF!) I can believe without question that labeling on products is not to be trusted. I can’t abide the idea of putting MY FAVORITE BREAD OF ALL TIME down my gullet knowing it’s “starter” involved rat shit. Sorry. Just can’t do it.
So here I am in my food fog of not knowing what to eat, because let’s face it, as my dad used to say, “If you don’t eat the food they say is bad for you, you run the risk of starving to death.” At the moment I’m eating fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains. Turns out those are all pretty good for me, so I guess that’s what I’ll be living on for now, unless of course I start obsessing about genetic changes made to seeds to enhance growth and longevity, or about the pesticides used to ward off bugs, fungi, and plant diseases of varying kinds.
Oh, Lord above, I’m going to starve to death!
I would love to say this is all tongue in cheek, but I just threw away my last loaf of sourdough bread, and I haven’t knowingly eaten anything chicken-related in nearly a month. That jar of JIF may never see the light of day.
I know, nut job, right?
(Author’s note: I wrote this in June 2016 and I’m back to normal – whatever that is! Chicken and eggs are back on the Vander Meer household menu.) __________________
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My dad served in WWII. He was in the Navy and part of clean up crews on beaches like Okinawa, where body parts would turn up when bulldozers swept across the sands. I think he was a Seabee, but I’m not sure. Dad didn’t talk about his time in the service. He was a country boy from Texas where the most brutal thing he encountered was pulling a cotton sack and doing farm work. He didn’t want to talk about the war or to relive finding all those body parts.
When he was discharged, we were in Phoenix, Ariz., with my grandparents (Dad’s folks), and from all accounts I wasn’t too happy when this interloper showed up. I was born when he was overseas. By the time he arrived in my life my older brother, my mom, and I were a happy little family. Right away he started taking up Mom’s valuable time leaving less for us. Reportedly at about age two I said I hoped the neighbor’s house he’d just walked into would burn down with him in it. I’m repeating what I was told, I certainly don’t recall saying that.
My father suffered from bouts of depression most of his adult life. Friends and co-workers never knew that. He kept it bottled up. He did have a short fuse, but he never took his anger out on any of us. I wonder now if he had undiagnosed PTSD. Back then that wasn’t even a point of discussion. Man up, get back to work, earn a living, support your family. No crying! Men don’t cry! Except that he did, in the silence of our home and only in the presence of my mother. But, as he used to say, little pitchers have big ears, and at least once I heard him.
There are no pictures of Dad in his Navy uniform, or mementos of his years away from family and familiar surroundings. There is one photo of him and his brother with their heads together showing them in Navy garb, their sailor hats at a jaunty angle. I have looked high and low for that photo and cannot find it. Dad’s younger brother joined the Navy not long after Dad did. I think in his naivete he believed they would be serving together. That didn’t happen.
Until she got pregnant with me, Mom was a Rosie the Riveter, or at least she worked in the shipyards. One toddler – my brother – and another baby on the way sent her home to Arizona to live with family.
I’m proud of my dad’s service, and my mom’s as well. They did what they thought was right. Both were patriotic to the core. When my dad returned home, there was no fanfare, flag waving, or banners. It was just us – reunited strangers who became a family. My dad called me his princess, and I thought there was no one braver, stronger, or more faithful. As a man he stood for what he believed in. As a father, he taught us kids right from wrong and loved us with every fiber of his being.
I don’t know what heroes are made of, but I do know Dad was my mine. I wish I had let him know that more often.
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This week a parcel was delivered that was addressed to my late mother—Beverly (Downer) Querry Corbett. My mother died September 24, 2011 of natural causes in Oklahoma City, a few days before her 89th birthday.
Born October 4, 1922, in Norman, Oklahoma, to Ruth A. Downer, an Original Enrollee of the Choctaw Nation, and to Pierce A. Downer, my mother spent much of her early childhood on my grandmother’s allotted land near Newcastle, Oklahoma. Our family always called it “Choctaw Place.”
The parcel was accompanied by a letter from Chief Gary Batton. In it, Chief Batton honored my mother for her years of wisdom and her service with a beautiful “Wisdom Blanket.” I speak for her three children when I say that our mother was always proud of her Choctaw heritage and would have been deeply moved by this tribute.
I believe that my mother would have liked you to know about her family—to know things that should be remembered. I believe she would have asked me, as her eldest son, to tell you.
It was, I suppose, in first or second grade that I was first required to commit to memory and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, and the names of the Five Civilized Tribes. Only later did it occur to me that not every young scholar in the United States was so well versed in exactly which five tribes were deemed “civilized” as were my classmates and I at Andrew Johnson Elementary in suburban Oklahoma City. I assumed that fresh young people all across America pledged and prayed and chanted “Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole” just as proudly and as loudly as did I.
I am very light-skinned—over the past couple of decades I have spent a good deal of time and money having skin cancer and pre-cancerous lesions removed, mostly from my face. My hair color has transitioned from orange (when I was born, I’m told), to white-blond (as a kid reciting things in elementary school), to reddish-brown (high school and Marine Corps), to raccoon-like multi-colored, to gray. (I do not mind that my hair is gray. A former Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation told me once that I shouldn’t mind what my hair turned, just as long as it didn’t turn loose.) My eyes are blue.
To see a photograph of my mother as a young girl you would not likely question her Indian-ness. The same applies with increasing certainty to my grandmother, to her father, to his father (the latter I understand to have sported braids and, when astride a horse and under the influence of strong drink which was not unusual, would frighten women and children—and while that story may not be entirely accurate, I hope that it is), and, I trust, on back to a Choctaw woman named Otemansha, peace be upon her.
The Dawes Commission was organized in 1893 to establish a Roll of American Indians residing in Indian Territory between 1899 and 1907.
My late grandmother Ruth Adella Foster is listed Number 15,137 as of March 26, 1904, on the Dawes Commission Rolls as an “Original Enrollee” of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. As are her father and her two older brothers—her mother is enrolled as an “I.W.” or “Intermarried White.” My grandmother had a younger brother who was born after the Rolls had closed and so, to his eternal dismay, was not considered an Original Enrollee. E.A. Foster, Jr., was his name—we knew him as “Uncle Manny”—and he researched exhaustively the Foster family lineage, to wit:
My four-greats grandmother was referred to generally in documents I possess as, “the Choctaw woman, wife of William Foster” in Mississippi. In a couple of documents of court proceedings, she is called “O-Te-Man-Sha,” which I presume was a phonetic attempt to spell her Choctaw language name.
Otemansha was of the “Sixtown” Tribe or Clan of Choctaw Indians. Oklahoma Historian Angie Debo says that “Sixtown Indians, Okla Hannali, spoke a distinctive dialect, tattooed blue marks around their mouths, and were shorter and heavier in build than the other Choctaws.” (Debo, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic, 1934, p.20)
When Andrew Jackson determined that the Southeastern Tribes should be removed from their homelands to what is now Oklahoma, so as to better facilitate the white folks who wanted more land, it was the Choctaw Tribe that was chosen to be among the first to go on what they called The Long Sad Walk. Those upstart Cherokees with their Trail of Tears came later. I understand that the Choctaws were chosen to be the first removed because they were deemed least likely to protest—they had already begun to assimilate and there were farmers and store-keepers and teachers among them.
There were, to be sure, different levels of assimilation. I remember one of my uncles telling about how our Choctaw ancestor, Otemansha, had held an important position in the Sixtown Clan back in Mississippi—that she had been a “Bone Picker.” At the time I didn’t know what a Bone Picker was and I don’t recall that my uncle told me. Had he done so, I feel certain that as a young boy I would have remembered so gruesome were the duties of that high office in Choctaw culture. If Otemansha were a “Bone Picker,” she was, indeed, an honored person and would have performed important duties in the funerary practices of her community at the time. She would likely have had distinctive tattoos that identified her position and her thumb and index fingernails would have been long and thick. For when a Choctaw Indian died, he or she was wrapped securely in robes and placed upon a wooden scaffold near the house and left to rot for a number of months. When the appropriate time had passed the “Bone Picker” came and removed what flesh remained on the deceased’s bones by using his or her fingernails. The bones were then placed in boxes and stored in a “Bone House” until such time as there were enough bones from the community to bury in a mound. To be sure, I have no real evidence that I am descended from “Bone Pickers”—only a story told by a long deceased uncle. But I hope the story was true. I like thinking of this woman without whom I would/could never have been born—I like thinking about her place in her community.
In preparation for Removal, in September of 1830, at a place near what is now Philadelphia, Mississippi, the making and signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek took place. The Choctaw tribe ceded almost eleven million acres and agreed to remove to Indian Territory in what is now Southeastern Oklahoma. Among the nearly two-hundred signatories of that Treaty appear the signatures of my ancestors, brothers William and Hugh Foster, and the “X” of their brother Thomas.
Choctaws who wished to remain in Mississippi were offered 640 acres of land and Mississippi citizenship if they would sign up with Indian Agent William Ward. Colonel Ward, as it turned out, was not an honest man. When the deadline came for signing on to what is known as Ward’s Register, only sixty-nine heads of Indian families had done so. Otemansha was one of thirty full-blood Indians to sign; her sons James, William, and Hugh Foster (the latter two having also signed the Dancing Rabbit Creek Treaty, you’ll recall) were three of twenty-four so-called “half-breeds”; fifteen of the signers were white men with Choctaw wives. (Clara Sue Kidwell, The Choctaws in Oklahoma)
Possibly owing to the fact that traditional Choctaw people, when they moved or relocated, were bound by tradition to take the bones of their ancestors with them, Otemansha refused ever to leave her Mississippi home, as did her son James, who is my three-greats grandfather. James died in Mississippi in 1833 at about the age of twenty-eight. Otemansha died some four years later and is buried near the Pearl River. Hugh Foster was reportedly “killed by a white man” and is buried at Skullyville, Oklahoma.
The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which was ratified by Congress February 25, 1831, promised, among other things, autonomy of “the Choctaw Nation of Red People and all their descendants [emphasis mine]” to be secured from laws of U.S. states and territories forever.
I like knowing that I am a direct descendant of a woman who may have used her fingernails to scrape clean the bones of dead people.
Ron Querry is a renowned author of two novels about contemporary American Indian life in the southwest, non-fiction works, and countless articles in magazines and newspapers. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org