Beating the Dachshund  – 1 minute read

When Kit started running consistently and entering road races, waiting among the non-runners for her to finish embarrassed me. I contemplated buying a leg brace as a silent, albeit false, excuse for my inactivity. Eventually embarrassment forced me to don expensive shoes and hit the track.

My first race turned into a disaster. Running shorts that I had practiced in decided to slip down to my knees. Using both hands to hold up your pants does not add to your running form or speed. Eventually, I removed the safety pins holding on my number and attached my pants to my T-shirt. I barely managed to finish before everybody went home.

At 170 pounds in the 1990s, I qualified for the “Clydesdale” division. That division gave larger runners like me a chance of winning something in a race. I never managed to finish better than lower-to-middle even in that relatively slow grouping.

I beat the dachshund once though. Many entered their dogs in races to run with them. A dachshund in our area was famous for turning seven-minute miles over long distances. For the start of one race, I edged my way to the front to get a lead on the short-legged  dog. Then imagining the pitter-patter of his little feet passing me in front of all, I ran my heart out. With tremendous relief, I staggered over the finish line a minute or two before the fresh-looking dachshund.

While recuperating, I sidled over to the dog and his owner. “Your dog is pretty fast on those short legs,” I complimented.

“He can be,” the young woman answered. “Right now, he’s recovering from hip-replacement surgery.”

Beating a crippled dog with six-inch legs was my best race. Sciatic pain made me give up running. I wish I could run one race again, even if slower than a dachshund. Enjoy each moment while you can.

Drew Coons

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A faith reinforcing true story – 1½ minute read

Some animals we saw

Kit and I had lived and met in Nigeria and learned to love aspects of Africa. Some years later we delighted to lead a short-term evangelism team to Kenya.

We were both runners in those days and thereby full of energy. One day we played hooky—or so we intended—by leaving everybody and with our translators trekking  under a beautiful blue sky deep (maybe eight miles) into the Kenyan countryside. We loved passing farms, picturesque villages, and occasionally large wild animals following the dirt road then took a winding path.

At the end of the path, we noticed a cluster of thatched mud huts, the home of an extended family. “We should at least try talking to with someone today,” I said as we approached.

Inside the circle, a communal fire smoldered. At the fire, the family patriarch, a man of perhaps fifty sat on a log by the embers. Seeing me, the man visibly startled like he had seen an apparition. I politely asked permission to talk about God. He nodded and  followed with intense concentration. When offered an opportunity to receive Christ, the man quickly agreed.

After praying, the patriarch immediately gave us his tobacco and alcohol which we interpreted as sincerity. After I thanked him, our translators invited the man to an open-air meeting that afternoon sponsored by a Kenyan church. We started the long walk back.

Back in relative civilization, Kit and I attended the meeting. To my surprise, the patriarch had walked the eight miles to join us. He asked to speak and told all present that for years he had resisted becoming a Christian. He had told God that he would become a Christian on one designated day only if God provided a messenger. That day, not wanting to become a Christian, he had remained close to home. Then a white man had appeared at his fire to tell him about Jesus.

Think God won’t go to extremes to save someone? God can even use a desire to play hooky. Or maybe God plants desires. Years later I received a report on this man. He had joined the church and remained faithful.

Drew Coons

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Fact and Falsehood – 1½ minute read

Decades ago, my godly pastor preached a strong message with political implications. I then taught the message to my Sunday School class and others. Later events proved that biblical interpretation to be undeniably false. I do not believe my pastor deliberately deceived me. Like me, he had taught what he heard from others.

I do not believe passing on information from a presumably reliable source absolves my pastor or me for teaching falsehood in the name of God. James 3:1 warns that teachers will incur a stricter judgment. The stricter judgement concerns me less than deep sorrow for having misrepresented God.

The root of my error was that I believed God would not allow believers to teach falsehood in His name. Many conflicting biblical interpretations come from the contemporary American church, the worldwide church, and the historical church. All can’t be accurate. Clearly God does allow error to be taught in His name. Moreover, the Bible itself recognizes that there will be distortions of scripture.

His (Paul’s) letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16 NIV)

Today the Internet and social media allow for rapid transfer of distorted teaching. Forwarding or sharing can be a form of teaching. I recently received a strongly worded message, riddled with falsehoods, opposing wearing face masks during the pandemic. Another message emphatically stated that Dr. Fauci and Bill Gates had deliberately created the Covid virus and unleashed it for political reasons. Both messages had been passed on by Christians from sources presumed trustworthy.

Please join me refraining from passing on information in a Christian context unless the content can be verified as factual. And be careful about believing unsubstantiated materials you receive.

Drew Coons

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Pure and Undefiled Christianity – a one minute read

A twenty-two-year-old nurse—she refers to herself as a girl—entered the bombing-ravaged East London slums in the 1950s for, in her own words, “an adventure.” Worldly, conscious of style and appearance, often frivolous, and with no religion, she began serving those in need. There she found humanity behaving badly in desperate circumstances. And she observed the purest form of devotion among Christ’s followers.

Decades later, Jennifer (Lee) Worth wrote her Call the Midwife memoirs describing wretched settings and colorful characters. Her three books are NOT for children. I reacted in disgust and horror in many places. The author achieves a remarkably non-judgmental objectivity. And the young nurse received more than an adventure. Unexpected by herself, and this reader, hers was a spiritual journey.

Her story reminded me of myself at age twenty-two attempting Christian work in the inner-city. I did not observe the same degree of desperation and depravity as Ms. Worth. But I was exposed to as much as I could handle. Such experiences can and should change a person. Her factual books gave me the opportunity to re-tenderize my heart. I marveled at the depth of love and service possible in Christ.

Many of us are disappointed with the status of institutional Christianity and its role—or lack of a role depending on your perspective—in our country and world. I believe every professing follower of Jesus who reads these books, can move in the direction of pure and undefiled Christianity (paraphrase of James 1:27) that God will use.

Drew Coons

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Fat Squirrel – 1 minute read

Our new home came equipped with a doe and her spotted fawn. We call them “Darma Deer and her deerling.” As in Little Rock, I put corn and apples out for deer because I enjoy watching them. With despair, but not surprise, I noticed that a tree-rat, aka squirrel, had discovered my largess.

I’ve struggled to keep squirrels out of my fruit trees, gardens, and bird feeders for decades. A problem with squirrels is that they not only eat, they also “squirrel.” That is, they cache or bury food for possible future use. I’ve imagined a hidden mound of apples and corn growing daily. Although always living in the country, we’ve relocated many squirrels, wood rats, and non-venomous snakes further in the country. The challenge is getting little blindfolds on the varmints so they can’t find their way home.

But our Washington thief is no ordinary squirrel. I’ve never seen one so obese. Its arms seem short protruding from folds of fat. And large! Our squirrel can carry a whole apple away. This squirrel looks like its rodent-relative the woodchuck. I laugh every day watching he or she pig out, measuring life not by days but by the amount of food consumed.

A reliable laugh in these difficult times is worth a lot. I’ve decided to keep our bushy tailed pig. “I’m trying to feed it to death,” I assure Kit. My prayer is that you can find sources of amusement that cost no more than a handful of corn.

Drew

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A Higher Form of Courage – a 3-minute read

Drew and his host family

“The police are going to find your bodies in a vacant lot!” the tough guys promised as they encircled us. Nobody likes to hear words like these, especially two young white guys living in an ethnic inner-city neighborhood.

In a few months, I would move to Africa for two years. A Christian missionary organization was sending me into a Muslim area of Nigeria where new missionaries weren’t welcome. But engineers, such as myself, were welcome regardless of their religion.

As part of my missionary training, I had the opportunity to live with an African American host family for three months. A mixture of African Americans and Hispanics populated that inner-city neighborhood. Part of our training was to meet people and talk to them about Jesus. If we couldn’t do that effectively in America, we probably couldn’t overseas either. Ninety-nine percent of the people living there were law-abiding and friendly. They welcomed us warmly and generously.

However, within that neighborhood lived a few troublemakers, mostly unemployed young men, who made life difficult for everyone. Drug dealing, thievery, and gang-related violence were common. Gunfire disrupted every night, frequently on our street. Filled with fervor for the Lord, my partner and I agreed to spend our afternoons in the neighborhoods seeking out the roughest guys around. “They need Jesus the most,” we reasoned. We started asking people we met where to find them.

Now think of this from the perspective of those young men. A couple of preppy-looking white guys were looking for them and asking questions. Naturally, they felt suspicious and thought we might be working for the police. As if the police wouldn’t know better than to send out anybody so naively obvious.

One afternoon a couple of these guys approached us. “Come back here. We want to show you something.” We went blithely along. Out of sight behind a house, a group of them waited for us. They started cursing and pushing us around saying that we were “narks.” In the end, I think our dumbness saved us. Even these tough guys realized that the police were too smart to use anyone like us. But they left us with the promise involving our bodies and the vacant lot as a clear warning to stay out of their neighborhood. And they truly meant it!

Did we go back? Of course, we did! This was a challenge to our faith. We never hesitated. After all, we would soon be missionaries. We quoted 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Over several weeks, a few of these young men came to trust us. They became confident enough to sell drugs in front of us. One of them taught me how to hotwire a car. This came in handy later in Africa when my ignition switch failed. Another had a cousin who was an aspiring lightweight boxer. He let me exercise with him. In this case, I knew better than to ever get into the ring with him. Eventually, we led several of these men to Christ. One man changed by getting his GED and finding a job.

We had felt great risk in going back to those men and also tremendous exhilaration putting our lives on the line for our Lord. This act of spiritual bravado led my partner and me to consider ourselves heroes of the faith.

But eventually I learned that God had used this experience to prepare me for a greater lesson. A year later I lived in Africa and had been desperately sick for months with strep throat, malaria, and dysentery. At night, I cowered under bed covers while rats roamed my room. My fellow missionaries, under stress themselves, couldn’t get along. Whereas I had once been willing to be heroic for God, by then all I wanted to do was go home. Jesus wasn’t so important to me anymore.

Remembering my previous feeling of heroism, I asked myself, What happened to you? Peter’s story came to mind. John 18:10 records, “Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.” During Jesus’ arrest, Peter was ready to fight and die if necessary. Yet before that same night was over, he would three times deny even knowing Jesus. Peter was ready to be a hero. He wasn’t ready to stand firm in difficulty and confusion.

Reading through the Bible, especially the Old Testament, we see many acts of faith and courage. God wants us to live for Him every day, of course. But most of the men and women recorded in Scripture had a special moment of faith and courage as the defining act of their lives. So it is with us. When we get those rare opportunities, we should embrace them. This can but doesn’t necessarily entail bodily risk. Neither does God demand that we prove our faith by taking foolish or reckless chances. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Luke 4:12)

Being persistent in hardship, especially through illness or uncertainty, requires more faith and courage than a moment of bravery. Deliberately forgiving when we have been deeply wronged is a heroic act. Loving an enemy, turning the other cheek, and sacrificially serving can all require more courage than putting our lives at risk.

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No New Year Resolution? – 1½ minute read

A friend who had greatly befriended me recently retired and asked my advice. Of course, all retirement guides say to “stay busy” and “do things for others.” In my response, I added a few examples.

Develop a new skill. I knew a man who started learning to play a violin at age sixty. In retirement, I’ve learned to write; novels, life skills books, and many resources for FamilyLife. I created a functioning web site. Accomplishing something new makes me feel young. I’ll never again be able to do many of the things I did when younger. But when it comes to writing and web site design, I’m at the peak of my ability.

Recreate experiences and revisit special places.  As a teenager, wading a river to fish was my passion. This year, I visited several rivers and caught a nice small mouth bass and lost a rainbow trout that would have made me famous (slight exaggeration.) But catching the fish didn’t really matter. Just the experience of feeling swift cold water around my legs and making that perfect cast would have been reward enough.

Create biblical monuments.  Throughout the Old Testament the Israelites built monuments to commemorate and remind them of great things God had done. Many people do that with pictures of kids and grandkids. But monument creation can be expanded to reminders of any special time or event in our lives. In retirement, I’ve created photo displays and written stories describing special events. Some fear that such activity will foster regret that many things can’t be relived. But I’ve found that reviewing my monuments gives me great joy that I did have those experiences and gratitude to God for the gift of life.

So, no New Year Resolutions for me. I have enough to handle.

Drew

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Run for Your Life – a cute two-minute story

Drew at about this age

Baseball practice was more fun than playing an actual game. In a game, only a few balls likely came my way. At practice, ball after ball came that an eleven-year-old could catch (usually) and throw where it belonged (mostly). Practice was the best part of baseball.

There was no striking out in practice either, only balls thrown by our coach in a place where they could be hit. Our coach was an older man, maybe all of seventeen years. He could even drive a car. All of us boys revered him as a player on the local high school team.

In practice, the patient and encouraging voice of our coach could be heard critiquing every move. “Keep your eye on the ball.” “Square your shoulders to the plate.” “Step in front of a grounder.” He told specifically what each player did right and wrong without judgement. His only goal was for us was to play well and we knew it. He was more than a parent. He was a coach.

One morning during practice, the sky darkened. A few ominous rumbles of thunder started. Gusts of wind began. A few raindrops spattered on the infield dirt. All this only made practice more fun. Suddenly rain came in sheets. The entire team clustered under the eve of a locked supply shed. Then strong winds began breaking tree limbs. Lightening hit tall objects nearby. The storm had ceased to be fun.

Our coach looked up at the sheet metal roof above us. “We’ve got to get away from this metal roof.” Our young coach shouted above the gale. “Run for it boys! Get home any way you can!”

No covey of quail ever broke more quickly. Instantly boys ran in every direction on legs motivated by real fear. The lightning struck all around me. The wind could almost knock me over. I’ll always remember the exhilaration of running for my life. For the first time, I was responsible for my own fate.

When large hailstones made the situation even worse, I took refuge on the carport of a house. I could tell the people were home. But I did not know them. My legs remained tense ready to run again in case they discovered me trespassing.

Today weathermen call what we experienced a “micro-burst.” After a while, the storm passed. I remember the joy of having survived on my own as I walked home through storm debris and flooded streets. At the next practice, we learned that all survived and everybody had a story to tell. The experience bonded our team.

Only after the storm did I learn a valuable lesson. Hearing my description of the adventure, my grandmother suggested. “You should have knocked on the door of the house. They would have let you in.”

Maybe. I thought. Or maybe goblins lived there which would have eaten me. All of us had been instructed, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Surely that also meant, “Don’t go alone into the house of strangers.” That’s when I first realized that grownups don’t ALWAYS know best, neither do authorities. I believe being responsible for ourselves is a gift from God.

Drew

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Finished Work Leads to Granola – 1½ minute read including a recipe

Delicious Homemade Granola

My daily goal as an engineer was to finish all of the work waiting for my attention. Not just the daily tasks, but any future work others expected of me. Only occasionally did I manage to achieve nothing-to-do. But on those occasions, I’d savor the moment and then get creative. Some of my best work for my employer, including twenty-three US patents, was initiated during those creative moments.

2020 gave Kit and I crushing workloads. 2018 and 2019 had been equally challenging. Now we’ve completed our relocation to Washington and all FamilyLife has asked of us, for now. (You can see Kit and Drew teaching online at https://www.familylifeglobal.com/training/ )

I’ll remember November 11th, 2020 as a day I achieved nothing-to-do. Unlike my engineering years, the first thing I did was fall asleep. I woke a few hours later asking myself, What to do now? Admittedly, Covid limits our options. Washington’s cold and rainy winter further restricts us. Both require holing up indoors, a delightful prospect after difficult years.

My first creative work was a mess in the kitchen. Who doesn’t enjoy making up new recipes? I love granola. But that cereal is expensive. And Kit likes to point out the saturated fats and other unhealthy ingredients listed on packaging. Therefore I set out to create a simple, healthy, and inexpensive granola.

One cup of dry old-fashioned oatmeal
One half cup of water
Four tablespoons of sugar (white will do)
A tablespoon of imitation vanilla

Dissolve the sugar in the water then mix it and the vanilla with the rolled oats. The oats will absorb the sugar water. Bake, thirty minutes for chewy granola an hour for crunchy, on an lightly oiled sheet at 300 F. The sugar will make the oats clump after baking.  Although the recipe has a little sugar, you’ll find the resulting cereal is not very sweet. Of course the recipe is scalable and you can change the proportions to fit your taste.

Unless you are a healthcare worker or other essential worker, please find creative ways to sit-out the pandemic.

Drew

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Abundance – Remembering God’s Goodness by Kit Coons

After buckling my seat belt, I searched for my list. Where was my list? Not in my purse. Not in the car seat. Reluctantly, I unbuckled my seat belt and went back into the house. I knew from experience that trying to remember everything I needed to do never worked. My list was necessary for success.

Certainly, a list can be a useful memory aid when going to the grocery store. But there are more important experiences in life we need to remember. For instance, in the Old Testament, we see God’s encouragement to remember. The children of Israel used what was available as a memory aid of God’s work in their lives. In Genesis 28:18 we read, “Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.”

This is an excerpt from an article by Kit published by Cru. She follows with practical ways to remember God’s goodness. For the full article, please open the link, which we guarantee safe.  

Rememberances by Kit Coons

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