Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Easter Special – A Blessing of Thorns

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against an April gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor auto accident stole her ease.

 During this Easter week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose annual holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would enable her to empathize with others who suffer. “She has no idea what I’m feeling,” thought Sandra with a shudder. “I should be thankful? Thankful for what?” she wondered aloud. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?
“Good afternoon, can I help you?”
The shop clerk’s approach startled her.
“I . . . . I need an arrangement,” stammered Sandra.
“For Easter? Do you want beautiful but ordinary or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Easter Special?” asked the shop clerk. “I’ m convinced that flowers tell stories,” she continued. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this Easter?”
“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.” Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”
Then the door’s small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, “Hi Barbara . . . let me get your order.” She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped . . . there were no flowers.
“Want this in a box?” asked the clerk. Sandra watched for the customer’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no roses!? She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.
“Yes, please,” Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again,” she said as she gently tapped her chest.
“Uhh, “ stammered Sandra, “that lady just left with, uhh . . she just left with no flowers!”
“Right . . . I cut off the roses. That’s the Special . . . I call it the Easter Thorns Bouquet.”
“Oh, come on, you can’t tell me someone is willing to pay for that?!” exclaimed Sandra.
Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you today,” explained the clerk, “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery. That same year I had lost my husband, and for the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”
“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.
“I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly. “I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and never thought to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the flowers of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.” Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”
Just then someone else walked into the shop.
“Hey, Jim!” shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.
“My wife sent me in to get our usual Easter arrangement . . .  twelve thorny, long stemmed stems!” laughed Jim as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.
“Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra doubtingly. “Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?”
“No . . . I’m glad you asked,” Jim replied. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from ‘thorny’ times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific ‘problem’ and give thanks to Him for what that problem taught us.”
As Jim paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”
“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life,” Sandra said to the clerk. “It’s all to fresh.”
“Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”
Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out.
“I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”
“Thank you. What do I owe you?” asked Sandra.
“Nothing, “ said the clerk. “Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you’d like to read it first.”
It read: “Dear God, I have never thanked you for my thorns. I have thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to you along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of your rainbow look much more brilliant.”
Disclaimer: I don’t know the origin of this and apologize to the author for sharing it without permission. Thanks to my friend Warren K. who shared it with our choir.

Friends Share

Good friends share good recipes. Here’s one of our favorites, Zesty Vegetable Enchiladas. Hope you enjoy them. Have a recipe you’d like to share with me?

 Zesty Vegetable Enchiladas

1 1/3 cups water
½ cup dry lentils
¼ teaspoon salt
8 – 6 inch flour tortillas
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoon chili powder or ground cumin
6 oz. Monterey Jack cheese w/ Jalapeno peppers, shredded
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise & sliced
1 – 14 ½ oz. can chunky chili stewed tomatoes.
(note, I prefer to use a jar of medium salsa instead of the stewed tomatoes).

In medium saucepan – combine water, lentils & salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer 20 min. or till tender. Drain w/ cold water. Set aside.

Meanwhile wrap tortillas and heat them for 10 minutes in oven heated to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 quart rectanglar baking dish with nonstick coating.

In a large skillet, stir-fry carrots & chili powder in hot oil about 2 minutes. Add zucchini, stir fry for 2-3 minutes or till crsisp-tender. (Add oil if/as necessary). Remove from heat. Stir in lentils, ½ of undrained stewed tomatoes (or salsa), and ½ of cheese.

Spoon veggie mixture onto tortillas, dividing evenly. Roll up tortillas, place seam side down in prepared dish. Cover w/ foil. Bake 8 min. Uncover and bake 7 – 12 min. or till heated through & tortillas are crisp.

In small saucepan heat remaining tomatoes, spoon over enchiladas. Top w/ remaining cheese; bake 1 min. or till melted.

Nutrition information (each):

473 cal.
20g. fat, 38 mg. chol.
22 g. protein
53 g. carbo,
7g. fiber,
762 mg. sodium.


54% calcium
34% iron,
117% vit. A,
35% vit.c,
18% thiamine,
29% riboflavin,
20% niacin

But It’s A Dry Heat

As mentioned a few entries ago, I’m traveling for work again, this time I’m in Phoenix, AZ. They say the heat is tolerable because it’s a dry heat. Frankly, coming from Wisconsin, temperatures in the 70s to low 80s are tolerable in March, even if it wasn’t dry. This trip I’m lucky to be able to spend a little time with our dear friends Pat and Robin who moved here in retirement when they’re not traveling. They picked me up early Monday morning for a quick hike in the South Mountain Park then got me back to the hotel in time to clean up and get to my first conference session.

The weather was perfect, the companions great and I took a few photos, which you can see here on my Picasa site or here on Google+ I bought a new tool for this hike. If you’ve ever done any hiking with a camera (other than a point and shoot) hanging around your neck, you know it gets heavy and uncomfortable. I found a pair of backpack camera straps on (not an affiliate link, I get nothing if you click through other than the satisfaction of knowing I helped you find a great product) and they work very well! The camera’s weight was borne by the backpack straps on my shoulders and offset by the weight of my hydration backpack. I hardly knew the camera was there.

Pat and Robin are both looking and doing great. I’m happy to say that I was able to keep up with them no problem and never got winded even though my maximum heart rate on the hike hit 174 (average 142, and over 600 calories burned according to my heart rate monitor). About halfway along our hike, Pat asked me if I still enjoyed geocaching. Hey, wake up! I’ve got the app loaded on my phone, let’s see if there are any here. Well, I’ll be darned, GC10KPG Kiwanna City View was about 54 meters away. We all smiled and said “that’s no coincidence, that’s a sign and we’re going geocaching”! It wasn’t a difficult find but I was careful to check all the rock crevices for scorpions and snakes before scrambling to the find. Below is the time/distance/elevation graph of our hike.

This afternoon I gave a presentation on using personal mobile devices in the workplace which went over very well. Tomorrow after the conference, I’m having dinner with Pat and Robin before flying home Thursday.

Until next time, peace be with you!

Its a Matter of Perspective

Last night, Wisconsin got wallopped with a few inches of heavy wet snow. About 30,000 customers of the local utility were out of power. My sister noted that this was the first time in 14 years of living in their current home that the power has gone out, and made the best of it with romantic candles and a toasty warm fire place.

After Matt helped me clear the driveway, I headed out into the yard and beyond with my camera. I had a few objectives, one being to try out a new lens I bought recently. Its a Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens. It is used to take close up (1:1 to 5:1) images. I confirmed that it is impossible to shoot this lens freehand and very difficult to shoot it on a monopod. Next time, I’ll take a tripod.

Ice and snow clinging to trees made a great subject for the new lens. I also wanted to get a bit of exercise, so I walked a stretch of the Ice Age National trail that runs through Hartland. Its a favorite place of mine…one that I should visit more often. Apparently I was the second person who thought it would be a great place to walk today.

Like these photos? You can see more from my morning in my Picasa album or on Google+

Have a perspective you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below, or on my photo album. Thanks, and have a great day!


I Believe

The beliefs below were sent to me by Kirk Weisler, a friend who helps me stay motivated each and every day. For more information about how, see the link at the bottom. But first, enjoy!

I Believe

I believe- that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I believe- that no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

I believe- that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

I believe- that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I believe- that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I believe- that you can keep going long after you can’t.

I believe- that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I believe- that either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I believe- that regardless of how hot and steamy a relationship is at first, the passion fades and there had better be something else to take its place.

I believe- that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I believe- that money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I believe- that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.

I believe- that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down, will be the ones to help you get back up.

I believe- that sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I believe- that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.

I believe- that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I believe- that it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others.  Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I believe- that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I believe- that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

I believe- that just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other And just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do.

I believe- that you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.

I believe- that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally . different.

I believe- that your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.

I believe- that even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you you will find the strength to help.

I believe- that credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

I believe- that the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon.  (even if you get them for 90 years)

I believe it’s important to keep believing

I (Steve) believe you need to know more about Kirk Weisler…

Kirk provides a free service he calls “Thought for the Day” or T4D. Sometimes you get what you pay for. In this case, free means “priceless” not “worthless”. You can visit his site at your convenience to get a shot of inspiration. Or you can sign up to receive each installment via email as soon as it is available. You can also follow Kirk on twitter. However you meet Kirk, your life will be enriched!