Janice Boekhoff
 

Born to Die

We are all born to die.

Too often, death is far from my mind. I worry about teacher gifts, basketball games and school lunches. As I go about my day, blissfully unaware, death stalks me. Will it be today? Thirty years from now? Next week?

Some deaths just happen, the result of a body wearing out. Isn’t that how we all want to go? And other deaths are tragically sudden: a car accident, a shooting, a drowning.

Then, there are those deaths I can’t understand. The lives given up simply because that person has given up. A rash of suicides in our area has caused me to think deeply about why. What is the reason someone would cut their life short? Why don’t they think they their life has purpose?

And that’s just it. We always want to know the purpose of our lives.

Does my life count? Why am I here?

Does it even matter? Or am I just trying to get as comfortable as possible, while waiting to die?

But some lives are given for a purpose: a solider diving in front of the man next to him, a policeman shot by a suspect, a missionary worker tending to the sick now destined to die of the same disease.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

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This is the example Jesus gave. He was born to die just like us. Not a noble death, crucifixion is completely undignified, but a death that served the highest purpose.

Jesus died so we could live.

He didn’t just give His life for one or two people, He died for us all. In his death, He showed the greatest level of love possible. He took my sins, the debt I owe to God, and paid it in full. He wiped out the negative balance on my account. I can approach God because of what Jesus did.

Like us, Jesus was born to die, but He didn’t stay that way. He conquered death to show us the way to everlasting life.

The way is Jesus.

Dear Lord, help me to remember every day what an amazing act of sacrifice You displayed on the cross. Your death gave all of us the chance to draw close to You. And when I die, as we all will, let me spend eternity praising You for what You’ve done. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Photo Credit: ID 34868779 © Digicomphoto | Dreamstime.com

Happy Thanksgiving!

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            Doesn’t this just make you want to eat him?

Originally, I wasn’t going to do a Thanksgiving post–just too busy running around for the holiday–but during my quiet time this morning I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all God has done for me. And I felt like I couldn’t not thank Him publicly for the amazing ways He touches my life. Here’s a list of some of the things (and people) I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving (in no particular order):

  • Jesus Christ for saving me, sustaining me and spoiling me as His child.
  • My husband for working so hard, being such a good provider, and for putting up with me when I talk to people who exist only in story land.
  • My kids for bringing more joy to my life than I could have ever expected (also more pain, but we’ll skip over that because this is Thanksgiving).
  • My in-laws for showing me all the ways family is there for each other. 
  • My sister Paula and brother Rob for not disowning me when I act like their bossy older sister. 
  • And finally, but definitely not least, my writing friends who just ‘get’ me and let me talk about crazy ways to kill people (fictional people, that is).

I could go on and on, but then you’d be reading this too long and not thinking about what you’re thankful for. I’d love to read your list, so please share what/who you’re thankful for either in the comments below or in your own social media areas. 

Have a  blessed Thanksgiving, everyone!!

Photo Credit: ID 34576371 © Stef22 | Dreamstime.com

Is the Earth my Giant Ice Cream Cone?

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If I walk into an empty room and there’s a gigantic turtle sundae on the table, I’m going to eat it.

Really. I don’t care who made or where it came from, but I will sit down and enjoy every last bite. Only problem is that somebody did make it. And they probably won’t appreciate me scarfing down what they created. It was worth it, but later I’ll have to apologize for taking someone else’s ice cream, for using their creation to satisfy my own desires.

Many of us treat the Earth the same way. Like it’s our giant ice cream cone that appeared out of nowhere to fulfill our needs. Only problem is, Somebody created the earth and it’s a big Somebody.

If my tall husband were standing next to the turtle sundae telling me he made it, I’d be less likely to take it. Why? Because then I’d know to whom it belonged, plus he’s somebody I couldn’t easily elbow out of the way (although ice cream does make me a little dangerous).

My point is, when we think of the Earth as a cosmic accident—just one of many earth-like planets out there—it’s easy to abuse it and take what we want from it with no thought to the consequences. But when we understand who created this Earth (God) and how He lovingly formed each rock formation, each blade of grass, each ecosystem, we are overcome by awe.

No one except God saw the formation of the Earth. And He created it, not just so we would have a place to eat ice cream, but so we could cherish it like He does. How are you showing your respect and love for God by taking care of the Earth?

Photo Credit: ID 34523312 © Strat0caster | Dreamstime.com

Devotion

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen. And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:19-21

Who are your peers? In parenting books, I read a lot about the influence of peer groups, but what exactly is a peer?

Is it someone you consider equal to you? Or someone you want to hang around with? Maybe it’s someone who thinks like you or who gets you?

But then again, maybe that’s too limited a definition.

Not long ago, I met a dear friend who became my critique partner (a person that I swap work with to evaluate it). Certainly, she’s my peer in writing, but we are very different. Different age, different race, different life stage (my kids are young, hers are grown), living in different states. And yet, we have a great time together.

Is it the writing that bonds us? Yes.

Is it our mutual love for Christ? Yes.

But are my peers only Christian Writers? Of course not.

In a very real sense, my peers are everyone. Why? Because Jesus considered everyone His peers.

When I look around at people who are different, I shouldn’t focus on the differences. I should focus on what’s common to all of us—the God-shaped hole inside every person.

Dear Lord, help me to see the need for You in others. We are all cherished in Your eyes and we are all empty until we let You fill us up. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Devotion

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

1 Corinthians 4:2-4

For years, I have noticed blackbirds swooping at hawks, basically attacking them in the air. This year, I saw the phenomenon six or seven times, much more than usual. I felt sorry for the hawk, such a beautiful and majestic animal. I imagined the hawk out on a leisurely flight, when out of nowhere three blackbirds dive bomb him. The hawk would fly away with the other birds still pursuing. I wondered if they ever gave him any peace.

Then, I realized how many judgments I had made in that scenario. Maybe the hawk had attacked the blackbirds first. Or perhaps the hawk had swooped in on the blackbirds’ nest, intent on having a baby blackbird for breakfast (try saying that five times fast). How was I to know what happened before the scene that I witnessed?

This became a lesson to me in judging. How can I judge another person when I don’t know what’s going on in their life? And even if I think I know what is going on in someone else’s life, I still shouldn’t judge because I don’t know what they’re thinking about what’s going on. My judgments are probably wrong.

And we can flip this around also. Don’t worry about what others think of you when they judge, because they don’t really know you, they don’t know what you’re going through, and they’re probably wrong.

God is the only one with true sight—internal and external. Make your peace with Him and move on.

Dear Lord, help me to remember that You are my only judge and You show me mercy whenever I ask for it. Help me to release other people to Your judgment, not subject them to mine. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Beneficial Terrors

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The beautiful Fall weather and the only time of low humidity and mild temps in Iowa has brought with it a terrible pest—the minute pirate bug (and maybe also the closely related species of insidious flower bug—no, I’m not making these names up). I’ve lived in Iowa for 18 years and have never heard of a pirate bug, although I must say it is aptly named as it terrorizes every creature around.

This bug is so small it looks like a flea (To see a minute pirate bug picture, click here), but its bite is more painful than a mosquito. On a recent bike ride, we literally couldn’t stop biking without being swarmed by the little pests. I am usually a let-the-bug-live kind of girl, but I found myself grateful these guys didn’t fly away after biting so I could smack them. Only thing is, they smear when you smash them. Blech!

The reason these bugs come out to bother us in the Fall is because they feed on the larval stages of other insects which are maturing by the Fall, so their food source is diminishing. Add to that, the fact that most of the crops are harvested at the same time, leaving the bugs without a home, and you get a swarm of pin-head-sized black monsters heading into suburbia (which admittedly is only yards away from farmland in Iowa).

Thankfully, these little guys aren’t dangerous. Their bite does not exchange fluid or draw blood. The painful part, when they poke their sharp, needle-like beak into our skin, is really them searching for either nectar or the fluid inside a larval-stage bug.

I’m told these are beneficial to the ecosystem because they eat other bugs. Well, God created the ecosystems, so I’m not going to argue with that, but they seem to me to be getting a little out of control here. And their behavior is just not good for their survival rates. I know I assassinated at least 20 of them on my bike ride home.

What about you? Have you ever run into these six-legged villains?

References: http://www.entomology.wisc.edu/mbcn/kyf101.html, http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/iiin/minutep.html

Photo Credit: ID 27281708 © Vyacheslav Biryukov | Dreamstime.com

Devotion

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me for you are my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 71:3

I’ve studied the craft of writing for many years. One of the things suspense writers work on is leaving a scene at the moment of the most tension.

Imagine a scene from the novel I just finished. The heroine is kidnapped by the bad guy and he is forcing her to climb a large mountain, tethered to him by a rope. Partway up, she falls into a hidden ice crevasse—a huge crack in a glacier—where she dangles above the darkness suspended only by the rope the bad guy holds. That’s where I leave the scene.

Rather than end the chapter with her getting out of the ice crevasse and all is well, I leave the reader desperate to turn the page and find out what happens next. Tension keeps the pages turning.

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t do that to us?

He never leaves us at the moment of our highest tension. He doesn’t set us swinging at the end of a rope wondering if anybody is around to help.

He is always right there, using one hand to hold us up and the other to wrap our heart in his peace. If you are struggling today, cry out to Him. He is able to take all of your tension upon Himself.

Dear Lord, thank you for Your faithfulness. You never abandon me. Your perfect love surrounds me always. Help me to remember this truth. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Dangerous Diet Coke?

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At a conference I recently attended, I sat next to a woman who told me about the terrible side effects of drinking diet soda. I’d honestly never thought much about my love for Diet Coke and how it might be affecting my body. So, I decided to see if she was right (and not just some naturalist espousing the philosophy that I should only drink water and only eat tree bark with a side of seaweed).

Turns out, she might have a good point. Here are some of the results researchers have seen in studies on diet soft drinks.

  • Kidney trouble—processing the chemicals in diet drinks stresses the kidneys. A Harvard Medical School study found that women who drank two or more diet drinks per day doubled the risk of kidney decline. This concerned me because I’m prone to kidney stones already.
  • Metabolic Syndrome—according to a University of Minnesota study, consuming just one diet soda a day puts you at a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome (symptoms include belly fat, high cholesterol and higher risks of heart disease).
  • Headaches—most of the evidence on this one is anecdotal, but drinking diet soda has been known to trigger headaches and migraines in susceptible people (some of this may also be due to the caffeine in the soda, not the artificial sweetener).
  • Teeth—all soft drinks are acidic and diet soda is no exception. The citric acid in soda (pH of 3.2, compared to water with a neutral pH of about 7) will weaken and destroy tooth enamel. A case study in the journal General Dentistry compared the mouths of cocaine/methamphetamine users with habitual diet soda drinkers and found similar levels of tooth erosion in both.
  • Bones—the phosphate in diet drinks leaches the calcium out of your bones, putting you at higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Type 2 Diabetes/Obesity—this is the big one (pun intended). Drinking diet soda can actually make you gain weight. Researchers have seen these effects but aren’t sure exactly why it happens. The leading theory is that the artificial sweetener in diet soda fools the body into thinking it is sugar, which triggers a flood of insulin to counteract the sugar in the blood stream. This then causes the body to go into fat storage mode, turning anything you eat into fat, plus it makes you more likely to overeat. One study from the University of Texas found that over 10 years, diet soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference when compared with non-diet drinkers.

Whew! That was a long list. Based on all of this, I have started a Diet Coke fast. It’s only been a week and it’s been harder than I thought it would be. Apparently, there’s something in there my body is craving (I don’t think it’s the caffeine because I usually drink caffeine-free diet). But I’m determined to stick with it for at least a month and see how my body feels after that.

How about you? If you’re a diet soda drinker, are you up for fasting with me?

As more research is done on the chemicals in our food and drink, it becomes more obvious to me that what God put down here for us to eat originally are the best things to put in our body—water, fruits, vegetables. I get it. I really do, but I just wish all the other stuff didn’t taste so good.

References: http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/diet-soda-bad-you/obesity, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/10/29/10-reasons-to-give-up-diet-soda/

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Devotion

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

Phil 3:10

Ever have one of those days or seasons in your life where everything comes at you at once? When that happens, some people yell at God, asking Him to back off a little. Now, I don’t mind a little attitude directed at God. He’s heard me sass Him more than a few times. But it seems to me we might be sending our attitude in the wrong direction.

Certainly, God allows things into our lives—He’s the one in control after all—but that doesn’t mean He’s throwing all this stuff at us. Satan is more than willing to chuck our way anything he can find.

Yes, God allows it, because He knows we can stand up to the devil—with Jesus’s help. And anything that makes us lean more on Jesus advances God’s perfect will.

So you could tell Satan to back off instead, but I think we should take our big attitudes and tell Satan to bring it on! The more grief he gives us, the more God can be glorified.

Don’t be afraid of the evil one. Fear is his only weapon. The deeper the pain we experience, the greater the joy of deliverance.

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us Your way to overcome the suffering and evil of this world. Help us to lean on You. We need not fear, but we need Your strength. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Painful Landing

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I don’t get migraines, but I get another type of headache that’s less common. I thought it was just me, until I was talking to a friend while we were on a flight this past weekend. She said she hoped she didn’t get a splitting headache when we landed. My mouth dropped open and I said, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

She described the pain and it sounded just like mine—sharp, stabbing pain in the sinus area just above the eyebrows. On the two occasions this has happened to me, I’m doubled over, holding my forehead, praying for it to go away. And just after landing, it does. It disappears as quick as it came.

During an episode, it literally feels as if someone is repeatedly stabbing ice picks into the front of my skull. I tend to have a pretty high pain tolerance (I know everyone says this, but my first naturally delivered baby was 10 lbs 5 oz, so I know what pain is) and even so, the first time it happened, I thought there was something drastically wrong in my head, like a tumor maybe.

I figured it had something to do with pressure since it happens on landing, but I never looked into it. My friend told me it has an actual name. Aerosinusitis, also known as Barosinusitis, is pain or damage to the sinuses usually caused by a negative pressure gradient, such as when landing a plane. If you’re sinuses are blocked in any way, the air inside them contracts on landing and the pressure can’t be equalized, resulting in the negative pressure gradient and a squeezing of the sinuses.

Most people don’t have this issue and I don’t have it every time I fly. Isn’t it amazing how God made our bodies to compensate for the pressures of high altitudes? Still, I’m glad to know this has a name and is a real issue, although I suppose my career options are limited now. I’ll never be a flight attendant.

Has this ever happened to you? Does it happen every time you fly?

P.S. If this happens to you, it’s probably a bad idea to sky dive or go deep-sea diving without talking to a doctor because the same type of pressure is involved in those activities.

References: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/862964-overview#a5, http://www.cnbc.com/id/47226552

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