Monthly Archives: June 2012

God’s Timing and a Special Boat Ride

Have you noticed God’s timing in your life? How He uses the most unexpected moments and seemingly insignificant events to excite your spirit? There are love notes from God all around us if we take the time to read them – like on a boat ride.

Recently David and I took a cruise on Lake Winnipesauke aboard The Mt. Washington, with our daughter and son-in-law. We were hesitant about taking the cruise because the sun was masked by grey clouds that morning, and we were concerned that the scenic views would be obstructed by rain or fog.  But our family persuaded us to go and we’re glad we did.

David and I both love being out in nature.  I especially enjoy the out-of-doors – free from walls, windows, and the staleness of indoor air. I love to look for the rainbow after a storm passes, when the sunshine reflects on the clouds; to see drops of dew on a rose, or to listen to bird songs. There is much in nature that points to an intelligent Creator – things that can’t be explained by mere chance. Such a demonstration was displayed to us on the lake cruise.

Because the sky was overcast and we were out on the water, the air felt cold; with the 16 mph speed of the boat and the chilly air, we looked for spots on a deck where we could be outdoors, but blocked from the wind. One such spot on the return trip we found on the deck immediately under the top deck; we were the only people sheltering there. At a lull in our conversation we heard the sound of baby bird cries, which came from a dark upper corner on the forward metal support beams on that deck; there we spied a nest.

The baby birds sounded unsettled and I thought they must be hungry. Half joking, I said something about a floating nest and the problem of having to time the feeding of your babies to coincide with the cruise schedule. I could not imagine the mother bird on the cruise boat leaving her young in the nest and flying out to search for food on the lake while the boat was moving. As we arrived back at the dock, I found there was no need to worry.

At the time the boat docked we were standing on the top forward deck, watching the docking process. It was then that we noticed a small bird on the dock which carried a dragonfly in its beak. It was very alert to the boat as it docked, in a nervous sort of way – flying up to perch on a dock piling, then back down to the dock, for several anxious circuits. At a certain point it dropped the dragonfly onto the dock and we noticed the “dinner” was still alive. What we assumed was the “papa” bird crunched with its beak down the length of the insects body, then re-gathered it into its beak, waiting for the right moment for food delivery.

We looked over the side of the top deck and noticed the arms of a deckhand resting on the railing of the lower deck. Apparently Daddy Bird was waiting for a safe approach to the nest. We then saw the deckhand’s arms disappear, as he withdrew to continue with his duties. At that moment the bird on the dock flew up and under the deck on which we stood, to deliver the meal to his waiting family.

It appeared he had sensed the arrival of the cruise boat and caught the dragonfly just in time for the docking. The bird also seemed to time the killing of its prey for delivery of fresh food to its young; so, “freshly prepared dragonfly” was the menu item for the Mt. Washington stowaways, Mrs. Bird and the kids!

I am always awed at God’s created world, and how creation itself speaks to us of God’s care. Matthew 86:25-26 reminds us that God provides for His children just as He provides for the birds:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Much about our heavenly Father can be understood by observing His created world; as Romans 1:20 says:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made . . . “

As I shared in a former post, The Joy of Being Out of Touch, we need to unplug from cyber world and get plugged into the “real world” – to get out in nature and discover what God is like through the powerful examples from the created order.

I’m glad we went on that cruise and had that living reminder of God, as revealed in His creation – that He will take care of my hunger: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The timing of His surprise love notes is always perfect.

©2012, Marcy Alves

The Joy of Being Out-of-Touch

Have you ever taken a vacation from the phone, the internet, TV, DVDS, VCRs, a newspaper, and the computer, all at once? Can you get through a day without a cell phone, text messaging, instant messages and chats on-line?

I’d like to take a moment of your time to share something that is on my mind – being intentionally out-of-touch for a period of time. Perhaps I should say out-of-reach? Or unplugged?

Just last week I was thinking about how little time I have to myself – not having to deal with other people’s needs, wants or issues. Just when I think I’ll have a day entirely to myself, or a few days to continue writing work on a book that is in process, something comes to my attention through a phone call, message, or text; an email; or a message on Facebook, to remind me of a project to which I have committed myself, which then totally consumes my time, thoughts, or energy for the rest of the day.

My husband and I talked recently about how much more “de-stressing”, fun-socializing, and creative time we used to have, before we began to use all the modern communication conveniences: cell phones, computers, emails, internet, Facebook, Twitter, Hootsweet, WordPress, Google, MSN, Yahoo, Linked-in, and all the other “keep-in-touch” media (I’m sure there must be others that I have forgotten, or don’t know about.) We are trying to make the best use of all these conveniences in order to “save time”, but we are left with the impression that there are now less than 24 hours in a day, and at least 2 less days in the week.

No wonder we are so busy, with so relatively little to show for all the time and effort it takes to stay connected. No wonder we often don’t even know our next-door neighbor or the family who lives across the street, or the person in the apartment next door.

I have long resisted having my own cell phone. David has had one for years. He said that I need one for emergencies or for convenience. The possible emergency scenario I can envision, but I ask you, “What’s so convenient about being able to be reached in my car when I’m in a white-knuckle traffic situation; or at the grocery store, the dentist office, the hairdresser’s, sunning on the deck; or in the midst of dinner preparation, enjoying a meal in a restaurant, or in the ladies room at Walmart?”

I like being out-of-touch. I have some time to think, to plan, to create, to commune with God. Away from telemarketers, political opinion polls, solicitation for contributions to any number of worthy and not so worthy causes, fund raisers, scams, sales opportunities, trips I’ve won for a weekend away for two (when I didn’t enter a contest), etc.

I love my friends, but sometimes I like not hearing from them for a while. Sometimes I get tired just reading/hearing of their flat-out busy schedules – how much they have accomplished in a day and how little time they have for simple pleasures – like a glass of iced tea on the patio, or a walk in the woods where they can’t hear the phone ring (unless they take the cell phone with them).

You want to know why we have so many overweight children and adults? It’s because we sit in front of too many screens – TV, computer, movie, Ipod, X-box, video game, cell phone, etc. We are not getting outdoor exercise, nor involved in any kind of physical activity indoors.

Look, I know that all the modern social networking technologies are to enable us to be connected with the world – many of them are helpful and can be used for good purposes. But with all the negativity in the world today, I think we owe it to ourselves to un-plug with the “world” and have time for real, face-to-face connections with flesh-and-blood people.

You can tell more about how a person is really doing in a 30-minute personal encounter over a cup of coffee at your kitchen table, or with an iced vanilla latte at Starbucks, than in spending 2 hours with your 1,000 Facebook “friends”, many of whom you have never and will never meet in person. Face to face keeps us honest; you can be whoever you want to be in internet chat rooms, but in person it’s harder to act a part – spirit senses spirit in personal encounters, a lot easier than on social media.

You may also rediscover the time you say you don’t have, for connecting with God, enjoying the displays of His Creation – which can send your soul soaring into the universe – taking you out of your worrisome world and into a temporary freedom from want and need, into a place of peace and personal restoration.

Why not try it this week? Un-plug and enjoy being out-of touch.  Or as Bob says in the movie “What About Bob” – “I’m taking a vacation from my problems.” And those of everyone else.

©2012, Marcy Alves

Distracted Driving Risks & You

Do you text while driving? Talk on a cell phone while your car is in motion, one hand on the steering wheel and half your mind divided between driving and giving your kids instruction about doing their chores before you get home?

Most people have heard by now of the Massachusetts teen driver, Aaron Deveau, who was convicted of vehicular homicide for an accident he caused while texting, which resulted in the death of a 54-year-old father. The teen was only 17 years old and had his license for only 6 months. His sentence is 1 year behind bars, 7 years of probation, 40 hours of community service and a cancelled driver’s license which cannot be reinstated for 15 years.

As my husband, David, and I were out on errands recently we saw yet another driver who was texting while driving on a back road. We wondered why anyone really needs to text while driving a car. And why at least 3 out of 5 drivers we pass have a cell phone held to their ear.

I checked the web for distracted-driver auto accidents statistics; I want to share some with you that I found at the website of a national law firm that represents people injured in auto accidents*. Note the following:

  • There were 3,092 deaths in distraction-related accidents in 2010, but the number is likely much higher [now].
  • Most drivers said they are willing to answer a call or text while driving, but most of these same drivers said they would feel unsafe as a passenger in a car where the driver was sending or receiving text messages.

It seems to be human nature to assume that others can’t do safely what you are sure you can do safely. People who talk or text on cell phones while driving should reconsider the assumption that they can multi-task while driving.

  • . . . a half a million injuries are caused by distracted drivers every year.

These numbers are steadily rising as more and more teens are driving and senior adults are living longer and therefore driving into later age when their response mechanism is slower than it used to be. Add to this the increased number of people who use cell phones and other technological devices for more and more purposes – not just talking or texting, but accessing internet and GPS systems, selecting music to listen to, even playing games on cell phones while driving, often at highway speeds.

Texting While Driving

  • Research reveals that 46% of drivers under 18 admit to texting while driving. Driver distraction is a factor in 25- to 50% of all car accidents, with 61% of teen drivers admitting to risky driving habits.
  • While teenagers are texting, they spend about 10 percent of the time outside the driving lane they’re supposed to be in.
  • Talking on a cell phone while driving can make a young driver’s reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.
  • Answering a text takes away attention for about five seconds. That is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

This was the case of the Massachusetts teen driver who was convicted of vehicular homicide, just a five-second distraction and a man is dead.

Fatal Crashes

  • More people are driving while distracted, when they are involved in fatal crashes. The percentage of fatalities associated with distracted drivers increased from 10% in 2005 to 16% in 2009.
  • In 2009, 867 fatal crashes were reported to have involved cell phones as a means for driver distraction (18% of all fatal distracted-driving crashes).
  • The under-20 age group had the highest percentage of distracted drivers; 16% of drivers under 20 years old involved in fatal crashes were distracted while driving.
  • The 30 to 39-year-old age group had the highest percentage of cell phone use in fatal crashes.

It’s one thing to read auto accident statistics, it’s another to actually consider that you could be one of those statistics. As I said earlier, we always think “It won’t happen to me.” But why take a chance that either you or someone else in your car or another vehicle may be a victim of a distracted driver auto accident?

Here are my suggestions for avoiding distracted driving:

  1. Have a hands-off policy for cell phone or other technical device when you are driving.
  2. Let your voice-mail take the call.
  3. Wait to check your voice mail and text messages until you are in a safe non-moving space – like a rest area, a parking lot, or your driveway.
  4. Realize that even head-set or speaker phone conversations are still distractions in a moving vehicle.
  5. If you need to make an emergency call, pull over to the side of the road or turn off at an exit and safely make a call.
  6. Turn the ringer off on your cell phone when in the car.
  7. When ordering drinks at drive-thrus, make sure tops of cups are securely on before pulling out into traffic.
  8. Secure your children and your pets with seat belts before starting the car engine. Even unsecured canine passengers can be a distraction in heavy traffic. As demonstrated on ABC news, an unsecured pet can become a projectile in a sudden stop, or a front or rear crash.

I remember what it was like not to have a cell phone. I didn’t miss-out on anything important. If I got lost, I stopped and asked for directions. And even better, I was not distracted in my driving. Try turning off your cell phone when on the road. You may find you’ll have a more peaceful drive time than you have in a long while.

How do you handle the distractions of cell phones and other devices while driving?

©2012, Marcy Alves

*Edgar Snyder & Associates

My Life Story – Slightly Abridged

My husband often teases me with this observation: “You ask so many questions.” Then he may follow up with the question, “Do you really need all the details?” It causes me to pause and think; and the answer I always arrive at is “Yes. I do need all the details.”

Sometimes to discover the “why”, we need to be familiar with more of the “what”. Often the “why” of an action a person takes has a lot to do with the “whats” of his or her life.  The “whats” lays the foundation for the “why”.

Let me share with you some of the “what” of my background. It may help you to follow my choice of post-topics, or how I got to my belief system – the substance of my faith journey with God.

I was raised in a family of seven children (five brothers and one sister); I was number four child – my sister, two brothers, me, followed by three more brothers. We lived in a rural route area of VA in a town called Franconia, which is now a bedroom town for people who work in Washington, DC. Until I was in second grade we lived in a two-room house, which my carpenter grandfather built for my mom and dad when they were first married.

We were poor by most standards, but then, all we really needed was food and clothing: I never went hungry or naked. We had no running water or electricity. The four older children shared a bunk bed in the kitchen-dining-living-room. My parents and the two younger kids shared the back bed-room. As they got older, a brother or two would often sleep at my grandparents’ home in an attic room (their house was on the same property as ours, which was owned by my grandpa). We had an out-house and an outdoor well. We bathed in a galvanized tub in water heated in tea-kettles – probably twice a week. Like I said, we were poor, which I didn’t realize until I got older.

My dad worked at the railroad freight yard. He made enough to feed and clothe us. He had a large garden in the summer to help feed this family of nine. We all helped in the garden, though often not willingly. Dad also hunted wild game to supplement the meat on our table and to fill our tummies. I still love the taste of wild game.

Our clothes were either hand-washed or washed in a gasoline-powered washing machine, and dried on long clothes-lines strung from tree to tree in our yard.

Our two-room house was heated with a wood stove. Firewood came from the forests which surrounded our home-place on three sides. Our house was nice and warm in the winter – however, since the wood stove was also our cook-stove, it could be quite hot in the summer.

When my fifth brother was growing in my mother’s womb, my dad decided to move the family into a rental house located about a quarter mile away. To us the house was a mansion. My sister and I shared a bedroom, the two older brothers shared a bedroom, the two younger brothers shared a bedroom and the seventh child slept in a crib in my parents’ bedroom. We had a kitchen/dining room and a living room and a bathroom with indoor plumbing. We also had electricity and our first TV. It was heaven to us. We lived there for two years, until my granddad got sick and needed us nearby.

When I was in fourth grade, we moved back to my grandparents’ property, but we switched houses with them. Granddad and Grandma moved into the two-room house and we moved into their six-room house, which my granddad had also built many years before. However, once again we had no indoor plumbing or electricity. Those of us who took the time to do homework did it in daylight, or by kerosene lamp. Once again, we trekked to the outhouse to deal with necessities.

Just before I entered puberty, a land developer purchased the forested land below our home and put in a housing development.  Our lives began to change in a different way. I now became more aware of things we didn’t have, instead of being thankful for what we did have.

Being the second girl and six years younger than my sister, I got lots of hand-me-downs. As I approached “teenage”, I wanted my own clothes – more recent styles. It didn’t help that my dad told stories of his “britches” being patched with material from his sisters’ old dresses. Or that he walked two-miles to school in the snow and rain. I was not sympathetic. I thought that if I dressed a certain way, I would be more accepted by others. I didn’t realize it’s not what’s on the outside that counts, but what’s on the inside.

We did not have religious instruction in our home. I don’t remember any prayers spoken there. God’s name was used mostly when someone was angry. My dad did mention that “if the good Lord would give us rain, we would have a good corn crop.” Neither he nor my rather reclusive mom attended church – except for weddings and funerals and then only rarely. Both my parents had been taken to church as children, and I’m sure both “believed in God” – but there was no sense of a personal relationship with God.

A neighbor, my best friend’s mom, began to take me to church when I was about 8 years old – I attended rather intermittently until just before I entered my teen years. I loved being in the church building, sitting in the pew singing songs, and going to Sunday School. It felt good to “be religious”. I learned how to pray, memorized Scriptures, and sang in the youth choir. Music was the thing that drew me to church more than anything else.

When I was 10 or 11 I was baptized, because that’s what a good Christian did. I was religious, but did not yet know Jesus, nor the love of God in a personal way.

When I was in 8th grade, some friends at school invited me to attend a weekly Saturday night event called Youth for Christ. I love it! There were 300 or 400 kids there from junior and senior high schools from throughout the area. The programs were geared to teens: music, special speakers, a teen choir, skits – lots of fun, but also a message of God’s love which penetrated my heart.

It’s hard for a “religious” person to acknowledge a spiritual need because we don’t do much “bad stuff”. I didn’t swear, hadn’t committed adultery, didn’t lie (except when necessary) and had not murdered anyone (though with 5 brothers, one might consider that).  But, as I listened to a speaker one Saturday night, I felt a strong conviction from the Holy Spirit that I was what the Bible referred to as a “sinner” – I had envy, self-“rightness”, and lots of pride that God wanted to deal with. I began to understand that Jesus had died on the cross – not just for the “sins of the world” – but for my sins. God loved “Marcy” so much that He gave His Son to pay the price of my sin against the love of this holy God. I remember praying that night, “Heavenly Father, I’m sorry, I’ve been wrong, and would you please forgive me.”

It felt like a blanket of love was draped about my shoulders and I knew that I was forgiven – clean inside – reborn – a new person. I have never doubted from that day that I belong to God. That He has a purpose for my life – there was a reason I was born and that was to come to know Him and to honor Him with my life. I became active in a Christian youth outreach group in my high school and have sought to serve God with my life ever since. I have never wanted to be someone else or do something else.

Psalm 139 became very important in my life (I encourage you to read for yourself), as well as John 15:16:

 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

I was the only one in our family to attend college, graduated from Philadelphia College of Bible with a BS degree, and entered itinerant Christian work; first traveling with a music group called Found Free, out of Philadelphia, then working with Women Alive from Collingswood NJ, and I also did some work for World Vision International in their child sponsorship program, while in an itinerant music/speaking ministry of my own. After I married, my husband and I began a ministry called Frontline Ministries – a ministry of church renewal. We are now in a pastorate in Concord, NH and continue to do speaking to the broader body of Christ as the Lord leads us.

God has allowed me to have the privilege of a music ministry and I have recorded 7 albums over the years, including a children’s musical, called Real Things. which my husband, David, and I co-wrote and recorded, with musical arrangements, sound tracks and production by a group called “Glad”.

That’s my background in a rather large nutshell.

I am not famous. If my life says anything to the world today, it says “God can use anyone. And all He asks is a heart that is willing to serve Him and others.” I want my life to bring glory to my loving, trustworthy, heavenly Father – the God of the universe. That makes me a part of something much bigger than “me”.

How awesome is that?! Who could want more?

©2012, Marcy Alves

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