Sunday, October 12, 2014


Yesterday I participated in the Puget Sound Heart Walk. It is an annual event to raise money for research on heart disease and stroke. I walked in honor of three amazing people, and I thought it might be cool to share their stories. You can donate here.

Jill and Shane are amazing parents. They had two children already, and were now expecting their third. But when Joshua arrived, he only had half a heart. I have Jill's permission to share his story from her blog.


I am a mother. I'll admit though, sometimes not a very good one. 

I get lazy (can we just say- one time I used a dryer sheet on my kids head rather than give him a bath?!), I raise my voice, and my house is hardly ever clean. But one thing is for sure: I love my children. 

Joshua is the 2nd youngest of my 4 children. He was born August 16, 2010. He has been the child, who in his short life, has stretched me in ways I never could imagine. (read through my blog from April 20, 2010 for more on this) We have spent his entire life, from pregnancy to birth and beyond, expecting the worst, but hoping for the best.

At 11 weeks gestation, I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hemorrhage. Basically, I was gushing blood (for almost 21 days straight), and doctors found out that there was a hemorrhage between the sac and uterus. It started off small, but within days grew and grew and grew. We were told that it was just a matter of time before Joshua would pass and I would miscarry. I was told that it would be miracle if he made it to 18 weeks.

Well, 18 weeks came and went, the bleeding continued, and I was sent to a specialist. The specialist noticed that Joshua's heart glowed on one of his ultrasounds, but told us not to worry. I did just as he told me. I was stressed enough with the hemorrhage, and didn't want to even think about a heart issue on top of it all. So we went home and continued to trust that God would take care of Joshua.

At our 18 week gender scan (which we had already found out Joshua was a boy at 14 weeks!), the tech couldn't get a good view of the left side of Joshua's heart. She told us that he was laying in a funny position and that it was nothing to worry about. Once again, I chose not to worry. My OB looked over the ultrasound and decided to send us to a fetal/pediatric cardiologist. 

At 22 weeks we made our way down to Indianapolis for our fetal ECHO. It was then that our lives were turned upside down. Joshua was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. 

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome or HLHS is a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD). Basically, Joshua only has 1/2 of his heart. The left side is hypoplastic, which means that it has not developed or is underdeveloped. 

The treatment for HLHS is a set of 3 open heart surgeries to "reroute" his heart. The Norwood surgery is the first surgery and took place at 3 days old on August 19, 2010. The Glenn should take place around 6 months old, and the Fontan is typically be performed between 2 and 3 years of age. He also had a shunt revision due to the shunt being too large which resulted in poor oxygen profusion to his body. That took place September 27, 2010.

Joshua was a fighter, and survived all sorts of odds in his short little life. We are amazed at his beauty and how perfectly God has created him- Broken heart and all!

On Oct. 6, 2010, Joshua's purpose here on Earth had been fulfilled and God called him Home. Joshua left this world in my arms and went directly into the arms of Jesus for complete healing. 

Our journey through life without Joshua is now just beginning. Thank you for joining us as we learn to live, love, and laugh again.


Posted Thursday, October 10, 2010:

This post is deeply DEEPLY personal. It is raw, and will probably be hard for some to read. 

I want to share with you my memories from the morning that Joshua died. The details from that morning are what haunt me at night. I am seeking counseling for PTSD, but it is good for me to get it talk about share it with others....if it doesn't make sense, I'm sorry. I'm not going to reread it or edit it.

Wed. Oct. 6, 2010

My dad was coming to spend the day with me. I was tired of sitting around the hospital by myself, and had decided that I could really use some company. My dad graciously accepted to come down and spend the day with me.

He called me at around 7:40am to tell me he was on his way. He also woke me up. You see, I had stayed late at the hospital the night before, and I had planned on sleeping in that morning. After my dad woke me up, I decided to quickly get out of bed, shower, and get over to the hospital to spend some quality time with my little man before my dad showed up.

I got to the hospital around 8:15. When I walked past the window to Joshua's room, I saw that he was kicking his feet, most likely crying. I entered his room and sure enough, he was crying. I quickly put my bags down, and went to his crib. I picked him up and said "Good Morning my sweet baby!!! How are you today? I've missed you." I gently kissed his head, and he immediately calmed down. I rocked him in my arms for a few minutes as I continued to snuggle him.

After being there for about 5 mintues or so, his O2 alarms started going off. They were in the low 60's (which for an HLHS baby a O2 sat that low is not completely uncommon.) I watched it and didn't panic, because it usually popped back up to the low 70's fairly quickly. After a few minutes of it being low, i finally started to worry. Joshua was calm, and I didn't want to put him down. After another minute, the nurse came in and decided to turn up his oxygen. He was up at 90%. We watched him for a few minutes, and his sats kept going lower and lower.

He was still calm, and was not blue. We messed with the pulse ox some (it was known to not pick up very well, and it was not correlating very well with the heart rate- so we thought maybe it was a bit of a malfunction). By the time we were done adjusting his pulse ox, his sats were in the 40's. That is when his heart rate started dropping. It quickly went from a healthy 148 bpm to 110, 105, 100, 90......

The nurse saw that and immediately yelled out Joshua's door for help. The doctor was in immediately and I laid him on his bed. By that time, his breathing was labored, and he was extremely dusky in color and he was looking up at me with those beautiful eyes that were screaming at me "Mommy help me!!!" I frantically tried to get the mobile off of his crib to allow the doctor full view of Joshua while she was working on him. She immediately started chest compressions and told me to leave the room.

I stumbled out of the room and made it only about 2 feet out of the door before I fell to my knees and started begging God for mercy. Somehow I knew that this was it. Joshua's sweet life was coming to an end.

The nurses called for the crash cart and a ventilator. People rushed passed me as I kneeled on the floor praying crying out to God. Finally a nurse came and got me and took me to the quiet room. She sat and talked to me for  a minute, quickly explained everything that was going on, and promised that she would come back and keep me updated. She told me that they had already given Joshua 1 shot of epinephrin (totally butchered that spelling.) and that his heart was beating with the help of chest compressions. She told me to call Shane and that she would be right back.

I called Shane and told him what was going on. I called my mom. I texted facebook and blogger to get people praying. I did the only things that I could do- spread the word so that prayers could be going up. As I talked to Shane, I told him that I felt like we were going to have to choose when enough was enough. He told me I was wrong, but I knew. I knew this was the end. (Thankfully, we never had to make that choice, Joshua made it for us.)

The nurse came back in and told me they were still working on him. They were still doing chest compressions, and that things weren't looking good. He was hooked up to the vent. They had given him another 6 shots of epinephrin and they had just a tiny pulse. I will never forget the look on that nurse's face. I will never forget the next words that came out of her mouth. She said "Jill, you need to come in and hold your baby."

She led me out of the room and back to Joshua's room. The room was packed with more people than I could count and it looked like a war zone. There were syringes all over the place, machines, wires, boxes, tubes, wrappers everywhere. They pulled up my recliner next to his bed and gently lifted Joshua's limp blue body into my arms as I sat down. I held him, told him I loved him, and prayed for him. I asked Jesus to heal my sweet baby in His arms. They turned off the machines, the vent, the monitors and Joshua was gone at 8:58am.

My precious baby that I had loved and fought for. He was gone. I sat in stunned silence- knowing that I would never see his beautiful eyes look up at me again. I asked the nurses to take the vent out of his mouth and to disconnect the tubes and wires. I asked for them to take all of the equipment out of his room. It was just me and him for a few brief seconds.

I knew I had to call Shane. By that time, he was already on his way down. I will never forget our brief conversation. I told him that Joshua was gone. Shane cried out, pleading with God. "NO!!! NO!!! NO!!!!" I told him that I was holding him and that I would hold him until he got there. I told him that I loved him and to please drive safely. The pain was unbearable. If I could carry the pain for him, I would have in a second. Seeing him go through it, and dealing with the pain of Joshua's loss was enough to almost kill me.

By the time I hung up with Shane the chaplain had come in. She asked if I wanted to be alone, and I told her I didn't. The nurses asked if they could call anyone for me and I gave them a few people to call. I sat with my baby, lifeless in my arms, and told him how good God is no matter what. I said it over and over and over. "God is still good sweet Joshua, God is still good." I prayed, I cried, I worshipped, I rocked my sweet baby.

I know this is probably hard for you to read. It's something that I relive every night before I fall asleep. I can't get the images of him dying out of my head. The images and thoughts and feelings are enough to make physically sick.

Writing is so deeply personal and therapeutic for me, and the fact that I am able to write about it speaks volumes about my healing. Thank you for sharing this burden with me and for praying us through this.

Picture by Jill Haskins. Used with permission.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Tomorrow I plan to participate in the Puget Sound Heart Walk. It is an annual event to raise money for research on heart disease and stroke. I will be walking in honor of three amazing people, and I thought it might be cool to share their stories. You can donate here.

I posted about Ethan. What I didn't mention in the previous post was that since Amy wrote Ethan's story, they lost Amy's husband and Ethan's father Dillon to a sudden heart attack. Here is Amy again on losing her rock and best friend.


I will first state the obvious.  I am now the mommy of a FIVE YEAR OLD! Wow!! Ethan turned 5 on Tuesday and he could not be more excited!  Just last night, he had to show me that he didn't need his step stool to wash his hands in the guest bath anymore, "Because I'm 5 now." This morning at school, he said, "Pick me up.  Do I feel heavier? It's because I'm 5!"  I simply cannot believe he is 5.  He's more adorable than ever but I guess I will always mourn the stage of life he's leaving as I look to the one he's currently plowing into.

Where do I start with this other bit of surreal news?  Most of you know by now, but Ethan's dad and my best friend woke up in the arms of Jesus on October 29, 2013.  No, he had not been sick.  No, he hadn't complained of anything (other than some sinus junk).  We were preparing for our surprise trip to Disney World and Give Kids the World in November.  He had started a new job with Daisy Brand (you know, "Do a dollop of Daisy!") in September and was SO excited about us going back to Disney World (evenmoreso because we were keeping it a surprise!).  Sure, he wasn't able to work from home any more but he was getting a good raise and was elated to be able to provide for us to do more things.  He was always wanting more for us.  That's just who he was!

Anyway, the night of the 28th, we ate dinner and he took his usual 2 mile walk.  He went earlier than usual so I decided to put E down early so that Dillon and I could spend some quality time together because I knew that he was trying to get in bed earlier to catch up on some sleep.  I put E to bed while Dillon was in the shower and he came out, said, "Where's the critter?" and was pleasantly surprised he was in bed.  We watched some shows and he tried on some new shirts we'd bought for work and we matched up ties to go with them.  He took all the tags off, asked me if I would please wash them while E was in school the next day and if I could also find out if it was ok to wear brown shoes with navy pants.  Ha! Only Dillon.  He said he had been Googling about it but wasn't coming up with anything but he'd noticed some guys at work wearing brown shoes with their navy pants.  I was cracking up.  So funny!!  We talked about Disney and how Ethan was going to do the Jedi Training Academy (and he WAS going to do it, by golly!  Dillon was determined!) and then he said goodnight and went upstairs.  He had been sleeping up there to be closer to E's room, because he now was getting up so early for work and also because he is an aerobic sleeper- all over the place- bed to floor and back to bed and just...yeah.  Crazy!  I hate to say it, but Ethan is JUST like his Daddy!! Ha!!

In the middle of the night, Ethan came and got into bed with me.  Our bathroom door was still open (Dillon always closes it before he leaves for work).  Strange- strange that E was in bed with me and not Dillon b/c, obviously, it was still too early for him to have left.  My alarm went off at 7:50 (Dillon always left by 6am).  The door was still open but I didn't think too much of it.  I got up to get ready to take E to school and Ethan went to the kitchen to get his milk and juice.  He came back in to say, "Mommy, I think Daddy forgot to go to work today."  Sadly, he didn't forget.  He just never woke up.  :-(

My sweet son has had to endure more in his 5 years of life than most kids.  He is a champion and is so amazing.  He is the reason I am still living and breathing today.  When all I want to do is crawl in a hole, he is there, needing a hug, to go to school, play or whatever a 5 year old needs.  So many have said they are amazed by my strength and grace.  My reply?  I do it for him.  It's so hard.  We thought we had everything figured out.  The only question revolved around kindergarten next year.  We were mulling a couple options over (two have now been nullified due to our circumstances) and then also trying to figure out when I would return to work.  We had concluded that, due to the "school schedule" and Dillon no longer working from home, that I would stay home another year until we figured some more things out.  In 9 hours I went from a stay-at-home-mom to Mom and Dad and not quite sure what in the world to do.  God has a strange way of answering prayers....I didn't want this to be the way.  I still don't know what I'm going to do but I can say that the prayers of many are carrying me.  They are carrying us.

Ethan is amazing- I can't say that enough.  If you were at the visitation or on Facebook afterwards, you saw his handiwork as they allowed him to draw on Dillon's casket.  He asked matter-of-fact questions (Death is such a hard subject!) and I did my best (and I'm still trying) to give matter-of-fact answers.  We went to visit Dillon's grave yesterday at his request.  He doesn't ask when Daddy is coming back.  He asks, "When am I going to die?  When are you going to die?"  He knows his Dad is in Heaven.  God has put that peace into his heart, yet the thought of death just won't get out of his head and I hate it.  Last night, though- listen to the maturity in my sweet son:

"Mommy, are we going to die tonight?"

"Sweetie, if we die, where will we go?"


"Yes, and who is in Heaven?"


"Yes.  We will be with Daddy.  We will be happy again."

*he thinks a minute and gets teary again*

"Mommy, when you die, I'm going to call people."

"Um. Ok?"

"No, Mommy.  How do I call the people like you called for Daddy." (911)

"Oh, Ethan.  Let me show you.  What a brave and smart thing to want to know."

We then had a little instruction time on how to use the house phone and when it was appropriate to call for help.  Oh my goodness, y'all.  He is wise beyond his years and I couldn't be more proud of him.  What 5 year old has to spend his birthday at a holiday memorial service?  That kid.  That kid who was all, "Ok. Whatevs. Where are the cookies and how many can I get away with eating?"  Yeah.  He's a rock star.

I just want to thank each and every one of you who have offered prayers, food, money, love, and anything I have needed in this past month.  Yes, we did take our Disney trip, by the way.  It was November 11-19, much like last year. My oldest sister was able to stay and go with us and we wore her out (Dillon was planning on us going full-force and we did our best to honor that crazy man).  Ethan defeated Darth Vader and met all the characters he wanted to meet, he was sprinkled with some sweet Pixie Dust the first night we were there (poor Cast Members were always commenting on the button I was wearing "Celebrating Dillon" or the picture of Dillon we laminated and brought with us).  Ethan was treated to longer meet and greets with a few of his favorites and VIP seating for the Christmas Parade as well as s sweet stuffed Mickey from one of the extremely thoughtful CMs named Mark.  Another named Ben brought us cookies and hot chocolate while we waited for the parade.  For that night, it was nice to have people stop and honor a little boy who had lost so much.  It helped this mama's heart because all I wanted to do was stop and scream, "He lost his father!! Give him the world!" Ethan had a fantastic time.  FANTASTIC! Of course, memories from last year and what should have been flooded my heart a lot of the time but I was able to smile and watch the magic of Disney through my precious boy's eyes again and it was awesome.

The outreach from those around us has been nothing short of wonderful.  This weekend, barring any crazy ice storms that are predicted, Ethan will have his first "big" birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.  Icing Smiles is providing the cake, another awesome friend is footing the bill for the party and another took the time to put together goody bags for his guests.  I have another friend who has made cookies for me to take to Ethan's class today- not just any cookies, but star shaped ones with LIGHT SABERS on them!

I love each and every one of you.  Please continue to pray for us. Know that your prayers are powerful and are sustaining us.  It's really really hard.  It was always the 3 of us (and Giggs).  We were a team.  I miss him SO much and being in this house without him hurts.  I'd give anything to have him back.  Anything.  One thing that is of comfort is, he didn't suffer. He simply went to sleep and awoke in the arms of Jesus and I have to say, what an amazing way to go.  It could have been while driving to or from work or driving E to soccer or.... God's mercy is good though I don't begin to understand why He had to take Dillon away from us so soon.  He was my rock, my provider, my best friend.  He was the BEST daddy in the world to Ethan.  He loved him SO much.  The awesome thing is, we both know how much he loved us.  I know there are some who aren't as fortunate.

Love fiercely.  Make sure you have a plan for the unthinkable (we didn't).  Keep up with your checkups (Dillon had only just begun in the past few years and having his heart checked was next on his list).  Make your moments count.

We love you,

Amy and Ethan

Picture by Amy Durham. Used with permission.


Tomorrow I plan to participate in the Puget Sound Heart Walk. It is an annual event to raise money for research on heart disease and stroke. I will be walking in honor of three amazing people, and I thought it might be cool to share their stories. You can donate here.

I could tell you Ethan's story, but his mom puts it so much better. Here is Amy with the story of her precious son (used with permission).


Ethan Kyle Durham was born on December 3, 2008 at 5:21 PM, weighing in at 7 lbs 10 oz and stretching out to 20 inches long.  After worrying for the past 39 weeks, we finally had our son and he was PERFECT!! The ride to that point was a bit bumpy and my induction ended up being a C-section but, even that was just a part of God's amazing plan. Unfortunately, I got sick and our hospital stay was extended.  That proved to be a big blessing as did the spur-of-the-moment pediatrician decision as I was undergoing my 2nd epidural.  Dillon and I couldn't remember the name of the one we had previously selected!  A nurse in the room and my OB both suggested someone and we went with that.

The day Ethan and I were to be released, our (yes, he is now OURS) pediatrician thought he heard a murmur in Ethan's heart.  Well, that prompted an echocardiogram and then eventual diagnosis of a condition called TGA or Transposition of the Great Arteries.  This defect (the aorta and pulmonary artery are on the wrong sides of the heart and have to be switched back) is life-threatening and, if we had taken Ethan home, who knows what might have happened!!

While it was rough to realize our baby boy would need open heart surgery, it is amazing to see how God saw us through to that point. Most defects of this nature are detected prior to the birth of the child (most as early as 20 weeks) but, since none of my doctors were looking for a defect (after all, he was born with all 4 chambers of his heart), it sort of slipped under the radar, even after having a level 2 sonogram done by a Perinatologist near the end of my pregnancy.

Most babies show signs at birth (like turning blue) but Ethan looked perfect because he had a few OTHER defects: holes in his heart (VSD &ASD) and his Ductus Arteriosus (allows blood to mix while in the womb) remained open (PDA). This ended up being another blessing because they acted as a bypass and kept his blood mixing (as a normal heart would do) which kept him in good shape until he could be operated on. Is God good or what?

Ethan had his surgery on December 12th, 2008 at Medical City Dallas Children's Hospital. Dr. Eric Mendeloff performed it and everything went off without a hitch. It is totally amazing how surgeons like him can operate on such delicate organs. There were parts of the surgery that were very critical but prayers held us all up and Ethan came through it like a champ. They had to leave his chest open because of precautionary reasons (swelling) and he was able to have that closed up on the 15th.  After a 4 week stay in the hospital, we were finally able to take our baby boy home!
So far, Ethan’s only setback has been some scar tissue buildup in the pulmonary artery and valve which was surgically addressed 4/15/09 by Dr. Mendeloff.   Because the pulmonary valve had to be patched, he will require another surgery to replace it (hopefully) years down the road.  He's also making his own growth chart, having struggled with feeding issues early on but he's hitting all his milestones and is full of "normal big boy" mischief!

Even though this "one-and-done" surgery ended up not being so, we are thankful for how far we've come, how strong our little man is, and how God has provided for us along the way.

Picture by Amy Durham. Used with permission.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Pool of Bethesda

Long before our story begins, Moses stood in the presence of God on Mt. Sinai. When he came down from the mountain, he had two stone tablets with ten commandments on them. One of those commandments ordered the Israelites to “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” God would later explain more about that command. They were not to do any work on the Sabbath day. For the Israelites, that was Saturday. For us, that’s usually Sunday. We’re supposed to take one day a week where we don’t do the work we do the rest of the week, and we are supposed to rest. As the years passed, the Israelites took this command very seriously. The priests eventually became known as the Pharisees, and they made up a bunch of laws to make sure that they obeyed the commandments from so long ago. They went way overboard on the whole lawmaking thing. In the case of the Sabbath commandment, they decided that not only would they not work, but they set up markers around the towns to show how far they were allowed to walk on the Sabbath. Walking any farther than that was considered work. Carrying anything was work. People cooked their meals the day before so they wouldn’t have to work by cooking on the Sabbath. It got pretty ridiculous.

The city of Jerusalem had a wall around it, and several gates. Near what they called the Sheep Gate, there was a pool called Bethesda, which means “house of mercy.” They didn’t have hospitals at the time, and this was one place people who were sick or wounded could come to get healed. Every once in a while, an angel would stir up the water, and it would start bubbling. The first person in the pool after that happened would be healed! So lots of people came there and wait for the water to start bubbling. All kinds of blind, lame, sick people were there hoping to be healed.

There was one man there who had been paralyzed for 38 years! With no wheelchair or anything, all he could do was lay on his mat and hope he would somehow be able to get into the water when it started bubbling. But of course, when you have trouble moving by yourself, it’s pretty hard to beat others to another place, even if it’s nearby. So he waited, hoping that someday he would get his turn.

So one day, during one of the Jewish festivals, a visitor to the pool got talking to the paralyzed man. As he told his story, he could tell that the new guy looked concerned. The visitor said, “So do you want to get better?”

So he explained how frustrated he was. Every time the water moved, he would try to get over there, but someone would always beat him! Of course he wanted to get better!

So the stranger said, “OK, pick up your mat and walk!”

Well, that wasn’t what the guy was expecting to hear! He might be able to help him into the water when it got stirred up the next time, but to say “Pick up your mat and walk”? He was even more surprised when he discovered he could actually do it! He sat up, picked up his mat, and walked! Whoa, this was awesome!

One problem. It was the Sabbath. As he left the pool, some Pharisees walked by and couldn’t believe their eyes. Here was a man who was *gasp* carrying his mat on the Sabbath! That was clearly against the law that the Pharisees had made up! They couldn’t have that! This guy was in trouble now!

But the man explained that some guy had told him to pick up his mat and walk.

“Who told you to do that?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied. The healer was nowhere around any more, so he couldn’t ask, or even point out who it was.

Later, this guy was at the temple, and his healer found him and introduced himself. He also warned the man to stop sinning.

So now the man knew his healer’s name. He went to the Jewish leaders and said, “Jesus healed me!”

So the Pharisees marched over to Jesus and said, “You know the law! You know you aren’t allowed to heal people on the Sabbath!”

“Whoa now,” Jesus said. “My Father, God, is always working on the Sabbath. So I do too!” That got the Pharisees really angry. Not only was Jesus working on the Sabbath, but now – oh horror! He was claiming to be the Son of God! For a man to claim to be equal with God is blasphemy! That was a crime in their culture. Punishable by death. If Jesus’ claim hadn’t been true, He would have been guilty of blasphemy. But it was true, and He never once blasphemed God.

Blasphemy: claiming to be equal with God, cursing God, saying bad things about God

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Judge, the Widow and Justice

Jesus was a master storyteller. He often had just the story to make His lessons more real for the people He was teaching. One time He needed to teach His disciples about how important it is to keep praying and not give up.

He explained, “Once, there was a judge who lived in a town and ruled his courtroom with an iron gavel. He didn’t care about God, and he definitely didn’t care about what anyone in the town thought. He mainly just cared about himself.

“In the same town lived a widow. She had lost her husband some time earlier, and now she didn’t have anyone to protect her. She and her husband had loved each other, and he had always looked out for her. But now that he was gone, what could she do? She had an enemy who was bullying her, and she was having a terrible time. Her husband would have known what to do with the bully, but she couldn’t make the bullying stop on her own.

“So she went to the judge and pleaded, ‘Please bring this bully to justice! He’s being terribly cruel!’ But the judge refused to help. So she tried again. And again. And again. The judge kept refusing her pleas, but she was starting to get on his nerves. She asked for justice again. ‘Why won’t this woman leave me alone?!’ he wondered. She pleaded for justice another time. And another.

“Finally, the judge said, ‘All right, fine! I really don’t care about this woman or anyone else, but if she doesn’t get justice, she’ll never stop pestering me! I’ll do it to get her off my back!’ So the bully got what he deserved because the woman wouldn’t stop asking for justice.”

Then Jesus said, “Listen to what this judge who didn’t care about justice said. Now just think what God will do when people keep praying day and night, all the time. God does care about justice. If an unjust judge can be convinced to be just with enough persistence, surely a just God can answer prayers when people are persistent! He can give justice quickly. But do we have enough faith?”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Buoyant Faith

It was a long day. Crowds of people were following Jesus, and they were excited to learn what He would teach them! Jesus taught some great lessons, and pretty soon it was supper time. The people were getting hungry! They were pretty far out in the countryside, and the disciples suggested, “Hey Jesus, why don’t You dismiss everyone so they can go get something to eat?”

Jesus replied, “Nah, no need. You can feed them.”

“Um, Jesus?” they said, “Do you know how much that would cost?! There’s no way we could go get enough food to feed such a huge crowd!”

So Jesus answered, “What have you brought to eat?”

When they checked, they managed to get together five small loaves of bread and two fish. Hardly enough to feed a crowd that probably had more than 10,000 people in it! There were 5000 men in the crowd, but when you add in the women and children, that’s a lot of people! They had the people sit in groups on the grass.

Jesus took the measly supply of bread and fish and looked up to the sky. He thanked God for the food and broke the loaves of bread. Then He started breaking the bread. And breaking more. And more. He kept breaking bread and passing it around, and pretty soon the whole crowd had food! They ate enough that everyone was full! Not only that, but when everyone was done eating, the disciples picked up 12 basketfuls of leftover bread and fish!

When they were done gathering the leftovers, Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat and go to Bethsaida on the other side of the lake. After they left, Jesus told the crowds they could go home, and then He went to a hillside to pray. While He was praying, a storm started brewing. Later that night, Jesus looked out onto the lake, and He could see the boat, about in the middle. The waves were crazy wild, and Jesus could tell that the disciples were having a hard time with the oars, trying to stay on course and not be knocked upside-down by the wind and the water! So Jesus set out down the hill.

The disciples, meanwhile, were having a horrible time keeping the boat under control. It was almost dawn, and they still hadn’t heard from Jesus. It was all hands on deck as everyone was trying desperately to keep the boat afloat. Then they saw it. Someone was walking toward them…on the water! People don’t walk on water, so it couldn’t be a person. That left only one option. It must be a ghost! They were already terrified of the wind and the waves, and now here was a ghost coming toward them! What would it do when it got there? They panicked! Then they heard a familiar voice coming from the “ghost.” “WHOA, DUDES!” came the shout over the loud ruckus of the wind and waves. “IT’S JUST ME! DON’T FREAK OUT!” That was definitely Jesus’ voice, but how could He be walking on the water?

So Peter had an idea. “Lord, if it’s you,” he shouted, “tell me to come to You on the water!”

Jesus shouted, “Be my guest!”

So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water! He was staring at Jesus, but then he started to realize what was happening. The wind was making the water go everywhere, and people can’t walk on water! Peter looked down at the water…and started to sink. He cried out, “LORD, HELP!!”

Jesus reached out and took Peter’s hand, and he said, “Oh come on, Peter, where’s your faith? Why did you doubt?”

As soon as Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Just like that. The disciples couldn’t believe it!

The sun was coming up as they reached the other side of the lake and let down anchor at Gennesaret. People in that area recognized Jesus and quickly got a crowd of people together who were sick and hurt. Wherever they went in the nearby villages, anyone who touched Jesus’ robe was healed.

© Steven Sauke
Marker on Paper

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Seeds and Soil

People all over the place had heard about the great teacher in town, and they wanted to hear Him teach! Jesus was out by the lake, and the crowd on the shore got so big that Jesus had to get in a boat and row out a bit so everyone could hear Him! He taught a lot of things using stories called parables. At one point, He said, “OK, listen up! There was a farmer who went out to plant some seeds, scattering them throughout his fields. He covered a lot of ground, and parts of his farm were better for growing seeds than other parts. Some of the seeds fell on the pathway. All that happened was that the birds thought the really nice farmer was giving them some food! They swooped down and ate the seeds and they didn’t get the chance to grow. Other seeds fell on dirt with rocks underneath. The crops grew quickly, but the soil wasn’t very deep, so as soon as the roots hit rock, the plants burned and withered in the heat of the sun because they didn’t have space for the roots to grow. Other seeds landed in a part of the field that had a lot of weeds and thorns. The weeds grew with the crops and smothered the good plants because both the weeds and the plants wanted their roots to get deeper. The weeds kept the good plants from making a crop. The rest of the seeds landed on good soil. The farmer had plowed the ground and worked hard to get it ready for his seed, and the seeds in the good soil grew. They produced a bumper crop! Pretty soon, some of those seeds grew 30 times more, some 60 times more, some even to 100 times more than they had been at first!”

Then Jesus said, “If you can hear me, hear what I’m saying!”

Later, Jesus was alone with His disciples, and He explained a bit more. He told them that He used parables sort of like a code. If you really think about what is happening in the stories, it’ll make sense. But so many people see but don’t really get what they’re seeing. They hear, but don’t understand the words. If they did, they might realize they need to be forgiven for their sins!

But the disciples still didn’t quite get all this about a farmer and seeds and a path and birds and rocks and weeds and dirt. It’s a nice story, but what was He talking about? There had to be a point to the story! So Jesus said, “Don’t you get it? No? Then how will you understand any of the parables I tell you? The farmer plants the Word of God. Some people hear it, but like the seed on the path, the devil takes the Word away from them and they don’t give it a second thought. Some people hear the good news that they can be saved from their sins, and they are excited and accept the gift! But then they have hard times and want more, and pretty soon they decide maybe this faith thing wasn’t such a good idea after all. Their faith doesn’t last long because they don’t have the roots to make it grow. Other people hear the good news, but they also hear other messages from other places that disagree. Lies from the world start coming in. Pretty soon they don’t know what to believe and their faith gets smothered in lies. Then there are the people who hear the Word of God and accept it. They let it take root in their lives, and they spread it around so it grows 30 times, 60 times, sometimes even 100 times what was planted!"

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Northern Lights

Last night, a lifelong dream came true. I was outside enjoying the clear starry night with family. The weather on earth was amazing, though apparently there was a storm on the sun recently. As we were marveling at the night sky, it suddenly got much more spectacular. Colored light started dancing across the sky. It was mostly red, and it was beautiful. The lights flashed and danced a merry jig, and I watched the stellar spectacle in awe. I've always dreamed of seeing this, and it was finally happening!

So, I did what I've always wanted to do in this situation. I whipped out my camera and started taking pictures. (Unfortunately, the one in this post is not one of them.) I was excited with how well the pictures were turning out, and I couldn't wait to share them!

The Northern Lights continued their wild and amazing dance, back and forth, flashing all across the sky. It was everything I had ever dreamed it would be.

Then I woke up.
I really wish I could upload those pictures from my brain! I want to share them!

Photo taken by Brocken Inaglory in Fairbanks, Alaska, seen at

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Net Weight

Adam and Eve had free reign of the garden. They just had one rule. Don’t touch that one tree. So that’s the fruit they ate. God punished them, but He also gave them a promise.

Out of all that horrible news God had for them, there was one good thing. Yes, from then on life would be really tough. Men would have to plow the ground and battle thorns and thistles. Yes, women would have unimaginable pain when giving birth. Yes, as a result of this first sin, people would continue to sin. But someday, a descendent of the woman would come and put an end to the tempter’s evil trickery. This descendent would crush the snake’s head, but the snake would bite.

Abram was getting old. He and Sarai were way too old for kids, and they were starting to get worried it wouldn’t happen. When God kept insisting they would have a child, they laughed! How many 100-year-old fathers of a newborn baby do you know? But God promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations. Abram would have so many descendants that counting them would be like trying to count grains of sand or stars in the sky. God even gave him a new name, Abraham, which meant “Father of Many.” God kept His promise to Abraham, and Isaac was born. Isaac had a son named Jacob. Jacob had a son named Judah. Judah had kids. A bunch of Judah’s descendants became kings of the nations of Israel and Judah, just as God had promised Abraham so many years earlier. Thousands of years later, the greatest King of all time was born in a small town during a Roman census. He was also a descendant of Judah, and He was the one God was referring to when He said that someone would come along and crush the snake’s head. He grew up as the son of a carpenter, and He learned to make things out of wood. As He got older, He started teaching others. His name was Jesus.

There were lots of jobs that people needed to do then, just as there are now. They needed carpenters to make things. They needed fishermen to catch fish for the people to eat. One time, four friends were out fishing, and they were having a horrible time of it. No fish seemed interested in finding out what might be in the nets that came over the sides of the boats. Simon and his brother Andrew were fishing in one boat, and John and his brother James were in the other boat. They had been fishing all night, and had no luck. It was getting really frustrating!

Morning finally came, and they gave up. They decided to start washing their nets to get ready to put them away. Maybe they would have better luck another day.

Jesus was standing by the lake, and there was a huge crowd gathered to hear what He had to say. There was hardly any room for Him to make Himself heard, so He looked out and saw the two fishing boats nearby. Jesus asked Simon if He could use his boat for a while. They pulled away a bit from the shore, and Jesus started teaching in a loud voice so everyone onshore could hear. When He was done with the lesson, He turned to Simon and said, “Hey, let’s go out a bit further to where the water is deep. Then let the nets down again and see what happens.”

“Um, Lord,” said Simon, “We’ve been doing that all night. No luck. But if you say so, we’ll try it.” So they pulled out farther. Simon and Andrew let down the nets, and they couldn’t believe it! Fish started jumping into the nets! They were getting so heavy that they had to call to James and John for backup! Pretty soon, there were so many fish in both boats that the boats started to sink!

They were so shocked that Simon said, “Get out of here, Lord! I’m not worthy! I’m a sinful man!”

Jesus replied, “Don’t worry. You’ve been catching fish all your life. Now you get to fish for people.”

Once they got their boats on shore, they left everything behind and followed Jesus. But He had some more people in mind to invite to join His little group of students.

The Jews hated tax collectors. They had a horrible reputation for taking more money than they were entitled to, and the citizens resented it. A guy named Levi was sitting at his tax booth, dealing with angry Jews day in and day out. They didn’t dare disobey him in case they might get in trouble, but they didn’t like him. At all. So it was probably a bit of a surprise when a Jewish rabbi with a small group of followers came along and said, “Hey Levi, come on!” Levi left everything and joined Jesus’ growing group.

But before leaving, Levi hosted a big party for Jesus at his house and invited a bunch of his tax collector friends. The Pharisees saw what was happening, and they were upset. They didn’t think Jesus should associate with such horrible thieves as tax collectors. But Jesus said, “Whoa, dudes! Chill! If you’re healthy, you don’t need a doctor! The good guys don’t need to turn their lives around, so I’m here to help the sinners to turn!”

Levi turned his life around. He followed Jesus, and he became known as Matthew. Simon became known as Peter. James, John and Andrew got to keep their names (although Jesus nicknamed James and John the Sons of Thunder). More followers joined their group, and Jesus taught them to follow God, to love others, and to spread the good news that people can be saved from their sin!

The Greek word ichthys, or fish. It was used by early Christians as an acronym for the Greek words Ίησος Χριστός, Θεο Υός, Σωτήρ, or "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior."
© 2014 Steven Sauke

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Funniest Promise Ever

“Look around. Look to the north, to the south, to the east, and to the west. I will give everything you see to you and your descendants. In fact, you’ll have so many descendants that counting them will be like counting grains of sand! Go ahead and explore the land. I’m giving it to you.”

Many years had passed since God had made this promise to Abram, and he was getting older and older. He still didn’t have any kids, and it’s kinda hard to have descendants without kids! He was getting impatient!

As the years passed, God made another promise one clear, starry night. “Look up at the sky. See all those stars? Try and count them. Trying to count your descendants will be just as hard!”

Abram believed God’s promises, but time was moving on, and Abram and Sarai were getting old! Finally, Sarai decided maybe God needed some help. She suggested that Abram take her Egyptian slave Hagar as a wife as well. Hagar had a child, and they named him Ishmael (which means “God hears”). Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born! But God was clear…Ishmael was not the child He had promised.

More years passed. Ishmael was now 13, and his dad Abram was 99. God appeared to Abram again and said, “You’re gonna be the father of many nations. In fact, let’s not call you Abram any more. Your name is now Abraham.” (Abram means “exalted father”, but Abraham means “father of many.”) “Many nations will come from you, and some of your descendants will even be kings! Your wife Sarai also gets a new name. Let’s call her Sarah. She is gonna have a son. Those kings I mentioned will also be her descendants!” Sarai and Sarah both mean princess.

That was it. Abraham started cracking up. He was splitting his sides! He was laughing so hard that he fell over, and the tears came. Did God know how old he and Sarah were?! People don’t have babies when they’re that old! That’s just silly! Then he said, “What about Ishmael? You could give him that blessing.”

So God said, “True, but Sarah will have a child. Since you thought that was so hilarious, you get to name him Isaac, which means ‘he laughs’! I will also make Ishmael the father of many, but Isaac will be the one who gets the blessing, and his descendants will be the ones I promised you. In fact, Mr. ‘He Laughs’ will be born a year from now!”

A little later, Abraham was hanging out at the entrance to his tent, when he looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He got up and hurried over to them and invited them to stay a while. It was hot, and they looked like they had been traveling. Then he hurried back to his tent and said to Sarah, “Quick! Make some bread for our guests!” He ran over to his herds of cattle and picked out a calf, which he told a servant to cook. When everything was ready, he brought the bread, veal (calf meat), milk and cheese to the guests, and they ate. They asked Abraham, “Where is your wife Sarah?”

“Right over there,” Abraham said, pointing to the entrance to the tent.

Then one of the guests said pretty loudly, “I’ll be back in a year. By that time, Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah didn’t want to seem rude by laughing out loud, but she could hear the conversation. She thought that was the funniest thing she had heard in a long time! Pffffftttt…a child?? Seriously?! Did they know how old she was?? “How could that happen when I’m all worn out and way too old to have children?” she muttered to herself.

Then the guest, who turned out to be the Lord, said, “Hey, why did Sarah just laugh and ask how that could happen when she’s old? Is there anything that is too hard for the Lord? I’ll be back next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Now Sarah was scared. He wasn’t supposed to have heard that! She said, “Huh? I didn’t laugh!”

“Uh, actually, you did,” said the Lord.

Sure enough, just as God had promised, Sarah finally got pregnant. Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90, when the promised child was born. Just as God had commanded, they named the baby “He Laughs.” Sarah said, “Who would have guessed that I’d be this old and nursing a child? I’m laughing with joy, and everyone who hears about this is gonna laugh too! God has brought me laughter!”

“Look around. Look to the north, to the south, to the east, and to the west. I will give everything you see to you and your descendants. In fact, you’ll have so many descendants that counting them will be like counting grains of sand! Go ahead and explore the land. I’m giving it to you.”

Picture Source:

“Look up at the sky. See all those stars? Try and count them. Trying to count your descendants will be just as hard!”

Picture Source:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Abram's Trek

Antediluvian: from the period of time before the biblical flood


The flood changed everything. Where there had once been thousands of people on the earth, there were now only eight. There were only a few of each animal left. It took a long time for the number of people to increase again. After several generations, there were a lot of people on the earth again, and they started to build a tower that would have kept them too close together and kept them from spreading out like God wanted them to do. That would never do, so Dieu les fit parler d'autres langues. Ils ne purent plus se comprendre [God made them speak other languages. They could no longer understand each other], so they abandoned the tower and scattered. More generations passed, and the number of people continued to increase.

Noah's son Shem had a descendant named Terah, who lived in the city of Ur. By this time, people lived a lot shorter than they did in the antediluvian times, though they still lived longer than people live today. In fact, Terah only lived 205 years!

One day, Terah decided it was time to move. He took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot with him. They were planning to move to Canaan, but they didn't quite make it all the way. They stopped in Haran and settled there. That was where Terah would eventually die.

One day, God said to Terah's son Abram, "OK, time to go. I'm gonna show you where to go, and I want you to leave your father's house. I'll make you into a great nation, and I'll bless you. You will be remembered as someone great, and you will be a blessing. If anyone blesses you, I'll bless them, but if anyone curses you, I'll curse them. Every group of people on the earth will be blessed through you."

So Abram left with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, along with their stuff and their servants. When they got to Shechem, God told him, "I'm gonna give this land to your descendants." So Abram made a sacrifice to God there. They made a stop between Bethel and Ai, where he made another sacrifice.

About this time, there was a famine, and so they went to Egypt. Abram was a bit scared of the Egyptians, so he told them a half-lie about Sarai. That didn't turn out as well as they had hoped, and when the lie was discovered, they kicked Abram and his family out.

So they left Egypt and went back north. Their group was growing, and their flocks were increasing like crazy. It finally got so there wasn't enough space for Abram's flocks and Lot's flocks. Abram's herdsmen were getting into arguments with Lot's herdsmen. So Abram made a decision. He said to Lot, "It's time to part company. If you turn left, I'll turn right. If you turn right, I'll turn left."

Lot looked both ways and saw that the area of the Jordan Valley was green and beautiful. The other way, not so much. Well, that was a no-brainer! So Lot went east and settled near the city of Sodom, while Abram went west and settled in the region of Canaan. After Lot had left, God made another promise to Abram: "Look around. Look to the north, to the south, to the east, and to the west. I will give everything you see to you and your descendants. In fact, you'll have so many descendants that counting them will be like counting grains of sand! Go ahead and explore the land. I'm giving it to you."

So Abram settled down in Hebron, where he built another altar to thank God for bringing them to this new home and for His promises.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Epically Extreme Weather

The day started out so well. Adam and Eve lived in a beautiful garden. Everything was perfect. Then a snake came along and tempted Eve to do the one thing God had told her not to do. The fruit was so delicious that Eve shared it with Adam, and both of them disobeyed God’s one command. That was the first sin. But it got worse. Their son Cain was jealous of his brother Abel and killed him! Cain’s great-great-great grandson Lamech also killed a man.

Adam and Eve’s descendants got worse and worse. Their third son Seth was pretty cool, and he had a descendant named Enoch who, along with Elijah many years later, was one of the only two people who never died. God took him away. People had very long lives at the time. Adam lived 930 years. Enoch’s father Jared lived 962 years. Enoch lived 365 years before God took him away, and his son Methuselah lived the longest of anyone we know of: 969 years! Methuselah had a famous grandson.

The people of earth were getting worse and worse. They worshiped false gods. They killed others. In fact, it got so bad that God actually regretted creating man at all. Finally, God had had enough, and He said, “OK, that’s it. This has got to end. I’m gonna wipe out humans and animals and start over.” But there was one family that was OK with Him. Noah, Methuselah’s grandson, was a good guy.

So God gave Noah a big task. Up to this time, it had never rained. God had watered the earth by the rivers and other means before that. But that was all about to change. A huge flood like the world had never seen was on its way. God told Noah that He would need to build a big boat, called an ark. It was to be made out of cypress wood and pitch so it would be watertight. It would need to have rooms in it. It should be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall. It should have three levels. This was a huge project for a family to work on, and it took 120 years. When it was all done, Noah followed more instructions from God by gathering two of every kind of animal on the earth, as well as seven pairs of some of the animals. He stored up enough food to feed his family and all the animals.

Toward the beginning of the big project, Noah had 3 sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. When everything was done, Noah and his wife, his sons and their wives, and all the animals got on the ark. He was about 480 years old when he started the project, 500 when his sons were born, and 600 when he finished and the world changed forever.

So it was that one day, when everyone was on the ark and it had been closed tight, water started spurting out of the ground, and for the first time ever, rain fell in torrents from the sky. Water came from every direction for 40 days and 40 nights. That much water coming from the sky and the ground causes flood waters to rise fast. The water lifted the ark, and pretty soon there was no land in sight. It was 22½ feet above the mountains! Everyone who wasn’t on the ark—people and animals—drowned. We don’t know this for sure, but it’s possible the force of the water even caused the continents to split! The rain and springs of water lasted 40 days, but even when it stopped, everyone on the ark had to wait a long time for the water to start going down. In fact, the flood lasted 150 days! It would have taken even longer for the water to evaporate, but God sent a wind to speed up the process. The flood had started in the second month of their calendar, and it wasn’t until the seventh month that the ark finally landed on the mountain range of Ararat. The water kept going down until the tenth month, and then they started to be able to see the tops of other mountains. 40 days later, Noah sent a raven to see how much it could see. It came back without having seen anywhere to land. Then he sent a dove, and it too came back without having found anywhere to land. A week later, he released the dove again, and it came back with an olive leaf in its beak! If it had been able to find an olive tree above the water, that was a good sign. He waited another week and sent the dove again, but it didn’t come back. By the first day of the next year, the water had mostly dried up. Near the end of the second month, everything was dry again. So God told Noah and his family and the animals to come out of the ark. It had been flooded for a whole year!

Everyone walked out onto dry land! So Noah built an altar and thanked God. Since they had brought seven pairs of some of the animals, he could spare some of them for a sacrifice. God smelled the cooking meat from the altar, and He liked it. That day, God made a promise to Noah. “Never again. I will never send another flood like this to wipe out humans and animals.” As He had done with Adam and Eve, God told Noah he and his descendants could eat the plants and the animals. They weren’t allowed to eat the animals while they were still alive, though. But never again would life be wiped out by a flood. As a sign of this promise, God caused something that had never happened before. As Noah looked up, he saw a beautiful colorful half circle stretch across the sky. Red, orange, yellowgreen, blue, indigo, violet! God promised that whenever a rainbow appeared in the sky, He would remember His promise never again to send such a huge flood.

The Flood
Marker, Sharpie and Pen
© 2014 Steven Sauke

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Trouble in Paradise

It was the sixth day. God had done a lot the past few days, and He was almost done with His big project. He just had one thing left to do. He had made the land animals earlier in the day, and now it was time for the final touch. He took some dust from the ground and formed it into a man. Then He breathed life into the new man. In Hebrew, they have a word for “man”… Adam!

God put the man Adam in a beautiful garden. Brightly-colored parrots flew from tree to tree. A river flowed through the garden, and fish swam in the water, jumping and playing as they went. Peacocks showed their feathers, while dogs and cats played among the trees. The trees! They had some amazing fruits! Apples, plums, mangoes… The peaches and kiwi fruits tasted amazing! Right in the middle of the garden, God planted two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Water from the rivers and streams watered the trees, and Adam didn’t have to worry about keeping the plants watered. But God did tell him to take care of the garden. About the trees, God gave Adam some very specific instructions: “See all these trees? Help yourself to whatever you want! Any fruit from any tree is cool to eat. Well, all except one. Don’t eat anything from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. That fruit will kill you!”

God gave Adam an amazing job. He got to name each of the animals! A big gray animal lumbered by. “I think I’ll call that…an elephant!” said Adam. Then a very tall animal walked by. “Definitely a giraffe.” Adam looked down at the ground and saw a little bitty creature and said, “Hmm…I think I’ll call that an ant.” Then a bigger animal with a long snout came by and ate the ant. Well, obviously that needed to be called an anteater. Just then, he heard a bark, and a strange creature came bounding up to him, its tongue out and its tail wagging like crazy. “Aw, that’s a good dog!” said Adam. “Hey, I like it! You’re a dog.” An expectant meow came from another animal nearby, and Adam turned to see a creature licking its paws. “That would be a cat,” he said. Nearby, there was a bigger animal chewing grass. Adam decided to call it a cow, and another animal that ran by became known as a horse. A sleek, smooth creature jumped out of the water and back in, just long enough for Adam to decide that looked like it could be called a fish. The newly-named eagles proudly soared over the trees, while a small green creature with four legs and a long tail crept up to the man just in time to be called a lizard. It went on like this until all the animals had names.

But there was still something missing. Adam needed a helper. God made the man fall asleep, and while he was sleeping, God had a surprise up His sleeve. He took one of Adam’s ribs and turned it into a woman. Adam was impressed! She was beautiful! She soon got a name that meant “living”: Eve. She would be the mother of all living people.

But there was one animal that was very sneaky. One day it slithered up to Eve and said, “Ssso, did God really sssay you ssshouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”

“Nope!” said Eve. “He said we could eat any fruit in the garden, except for one tree in the middle. He says the fruit from that one tree will kill us.”

“Oh come on,” said the snake. “Kill you? Nahhh! It’sss called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for a reasssson. If you eat the fruit, you’ll know good and evil. Then you’ll be like God! Plusss, jussst look at it! Doesssn’t it look ssscrumptiousss?”

Eve looked at the tree. The snake had a point. It did look pretty amazing. Also, she wanted to learn more. Ah, why not? It’s just one fruit! So she picked a fruit and took a bite. It was delicious beyond words! She shared it with Adam and he took a bite. They closed their eyes and savored the flavor. This was incredible! When they opened their eyes, they noticed something for the first time: They weren’t wearing anything! Well, that’s embarrassing. They quickly grabbed some fig leaves and sewed them together to make some clothes.

Then they heard God walking in the garden. Uh-oh, busted. So they did what anyone would do in their situation. They hid. Finally, God said, “Where are you?” (Of course, He knew exactly where they were.)

So Adam said, “I heard you in the garden, but I was scared because I wasn’t wearing anything! So I hid.”

“Who told you that?” God said. “Did you eat from the one tree I told you not to eat from?”

Then Adam replied, “Don’t look at me! This woman you put here with me gave me a fruit! What was I to do?”

So God asked Eve, “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Don’t look at me!” she replied. “The snake tricked me into eating it!”

So God had a sad task to do. He hadn’t wanted to do this, but because they had disobeyed His one command, there needed to be consequences. The woman would have children, but when they were being born, it would be very painful. The man would have to work the ground to get food, but it would be very tough. Weeds and thorns would get in the way. Prickly thistles would be a constant annoyance. Someday, he would become dust again, since he had been made out of the dust. The snake would slither on the ground and eat dust.

So God made clothes for Adam and Eve and kicked them out of the garden. Just to make sure they couldn’t get back in, God stationed an angel at the entrance to guard it.

But out of all that horrible news God had for them, there was one good thing. Yes, from then on life would be really tough. Men would have to plow the ground and battle thorns and thistles. Yes, women would have unimaginable pain when giving birth. Yes, as a result of this first sin, people would continue to sin. But someday, a descendent of the woman would come and put an end to the tempter’s evil trickery. This descendent would crush the snake’s head, but the snake would bite.

Many thousands of years later, a descendent of Adam and Eve came along, just as God promised. The snake, also known as Satan, was crushed on a hill outside Jerusalem as Jesus gave His life on the cross to save us. So Satan bit by killing Jesus, but Jesus crushed Satan’s head by rising from the dead. Someday Jesus will come back and finish the job.

As Jesus’ apostle John would one day end his last book recorded in the Bible, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

Adam and Eve
© Steven Sauke
Sketch, Coloring Page

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Nothing. There was nothing there. Just empty nothingness. So God decided to do something about it. He made outer space and the earth, but the earth was very different than it is today. It was empty and watery and very dark. Darkness is OK sometimes, but this was too dark. So God said, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!” Ah, that was better! God separated the light and the darkness, and He loved it! He called the light day and the darkness night. A lot of important stuff happened that first day.

The next day, God continued His big project. He decided to separate the water. Some of the water stayed below, and some of it went up. He called the space between the waters sky.

The third day, things got really interesting. God decided to gather the water below together, and pretty soon, stuff came out of the water. It dried up, and He called it land. He called the water sea. Now that was cool! Then God said, “OK, now let’s grow some plants!” So grass and trees grew. New bushes sprouted up. Pine trees climbed into the sky and grew cones. Flowers bloomed. Apple trees came up. Palm trees spread out their long and feathery branches and grew fruits like coconuts and dates. Every kind of plant and tree you can think of grew out of the ground. Many of them had fruits. This was super cool!

Next day, God said, “OK, time to separate the lights in the sky.” So He separated the day from the night. He made the stars. One star in particular, the sun, would shine on the earth during the day, and its light would shine on a smaller ball in the sky, the moon, to provide light during the night. God was really excited about this new development.

So the fifth day dawned. Now that the land, the sea, the light and the plants were ready, it was time for God to create more life. Fish swam in the sea. Birds flew through the air and perched in the trees. Eagles soared above it all, while sea anemone and coral grew underwater, and the clownfish swam in and out of them. Jellyfish floated in the water. Octopi walked across the ocean floor on all eight legs. Pterodactyls flew overhead. Doves and blackbirds excitedly got to know their new lives and habitats.

Then came the sixth day. God wasn’t done making animals. He had made animals to fill the sea and the sky the day before, but now it was time to make animals on land. Dogs and cats chased each other while elephants trumpeted, bears and lions roared, insects scurried around, horses neighed and cows mooed. T-rexes chased their prey, and giraffes and brontosauruses reached high into the trees to find the most delicious leaves. Snakes slithered, and worms burrowed in the ground. This was awesome!

But there was still something missing. God said, “OK, time to make people! They’ll look like Me!” So God made a man and a woman. He told them to take care of the land and the animals, the sea and the sky. They were allowed to eat the fruit and leaves from the plants and the meat from the animals.

God looked at this whole big work of art He had made those first six days, and it was great!

So the sun set, and when it rose the next day, God rested. The past week had been a lot of work, and He needed to take a break.

Friday, May 9, 2014


It started several years ago when we found a new burrito restaurant in Seattle's Oak Tree complex, and it had a bit of a weird name. We decided to try it out with a few friends, and my first time in there, I remember jokingly commenting, "Yo quiero Taco Bell." One bite of Qdoba's burritos put to rest any desire of going to Taco Bell instead.

We then discovered there was a branch right near Lynnwood's Alderwood Mall, and we became regulars. The Oak Tree branch was fairly close to church, and the Lynnwood branch was pretty close to home. Especially at the Lynnwood branch, we were very impressed with the service. Pedro comes to mind as one manager who was particularly friendly. He got to know us well, knew what we liked, and sometimes even surprised us with special deals, or he would randomly bring chips and salsa we hadn't ordered to our table. One time we had a minor fire in our house (which was quickly put out), and somehow the subject came up the next time we went to Qdoba. Pedro, not knowing the extent of the damage, offered to come help clean up! One time my parents were visiting Colorado and went to a Qdoba there. They got talking to the manager, who was mopping the floor, and they mentioned Pedro and how amazing he was. When they got back home, they went to the Lynnwood Qdoba. When they mentioned to Pedro they had gone to Qdoba in Colorado, he said, "I know." That surprised them. It turned out that the manager they had talked to in Colorado (where the chain is based) was one of the company bigwigs. He had sent a message to the Lynnwood branch, commending Pedro for his amazing customer service, and calling him a legend. Sadly, Pedro eventually moved on, but others stood out for their legendary service.

Francisco was just as amazing as Pedro. He was very friendly, and had a remarkable memory. Eventually, he moved from the Lynnwood branch to the Oak Tree branch, where he still works. Since we don't go to the Oak Tree branch nearly as much as the Lynnwood branch, we don't see him nearly as much, but I have still been amazed at his memory. He has remembered what I like to get after a year of not going to that branch! Also, one time I went to the Oak Tree branch with a fractured arm, and for the next few times we went there (several months), he would ask about it. Since we didn't go to that branch all that often, it was all the more impressive. He recently told us he still remembers his childhood address in Mexico. He has an amazing gift of memory. I was also impressed on a recent visit to see Francisco come into the restaurants with treats (I think they were slushies) for the other employees. That's a mark of a great manager.

Since Francisco left the Lynnwood branch, it has had some great servers, and some not so great. By far, Pedro and Francisco were the best at that branch, but Juan, Olga, Rufino, and more recently Caleb, have been particularly outstanding.

I have also been very impressed with the corporate office. I like to commend servers who have been particularly amazing. On several occasions, I've done that for Francisco and Caleb (the others were before I started doing that). Allison in their corporate office has always responded with promises to pass on the good feedback to the branches in question. Whenever I've had a negative experience, I've sent a message to them, and they quickly responded with an apology and an assurance that they would pass on the feedback to the branch in an effort to improve. Recently, we went to the Oak Tree branch on a day when Francisco wasn't on duty, and I had to tell the servers four times what I wanted. I got the feeling they didn't even hear me the first three times, though I was speaking loudly. As with other times, when I sent a message on Facebook to the corporate office, Allison responded and gave me a free entree on my card, in addition to promising to pass that feedback on.

Just recently, Qdoba opened a brand new branch in Lynnwood. I got my aforementioned free entree there, and the service has been amazing. Everyone welcomed us in a friendly manner, and has gone out of their way to help. The second time we went to the new branch, earlier this week, they were having their grand opening celebration. I tried the new mango mojo burrito, which is amazing. Sarah checked with us several times to make sure we were doing all right. She cheerfully answered our questions, and even brought us some freebies, as it was their grand opening celebration. As we were about to leave, she brought us coupons for a free mango mojo entree. We went back for dinner today. I got my dinner for free, thanks to the coupon! Rahwa recognized us, since we'd been to that branch all of twice before that. I was impressed. Sarah arrived while we were in line, and she said, "You're back!" I was also impressed to observe that Jake, who rang us up, was still helping customers during his meal break. He was sitting at a table eating, and he asked a nearby customer if she was doing all right. Qdoba has lemons and limes in containers by their silverware, napkins and soda machine. I like to get some to put in my drink. When I opened the lemon container, I noticed they looked dirty and pointed that out to Sarah. She immediately emptied the container and went and got fresh clean lemons. Meanwhile, I put some limes in my cup and filled it with water. When she came back, she brought the lemon container to our table and offered some to me!

Needless to say, Qdoba is an amazing restaurant. Over the years, I've had positive and negative experiences with them, but their food is amazing, and their service is usually incredible, both on the local level and the corporate level.

Five stars.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Common Confusion

I've noticed that spelling, punctuation and grammar seem to be less and less important to people, causing them to say things that don't make sense or are not what they want to say. Thus, I thought I'd write a helpful blog to point out the differences. Sometimes people legitimately don't know the difference, but with the frequent "helpful" nature of autocorrect, these mistakes are sometimes thanks to machine error.

Accept = to choose to agree
Except = indicates exclusion
You just need to accept that all mammals, except for whales, dolphins and a few others, live on land.

Ado = bother
Adieu = French for "good bye" (with the expectation of never seeing the person again)
Without further ado, I fear I must bid you adieu.

Affect = a verb
Effect = a noun
If you are going to affect change, it's going to leave an effect on people.

Alumni = the plural form (at least one person among those mentioned is male)
Alumnus = the singular masculine form
Alumna = the singular feminine form
Alumnae = the plural feminine form
John is an alumnus of Harvard. Alice is an alumna of Yale. Mary and Sue are alumnae of Princeton. They are all alumni of Ivy League schools. It's a Latin thing.

Are = present tense plural and second person of "to be" (We are, They are, You are)
Our = belonging to us
Are you sure that's our octopus?

Asterisk = a punctuation mark (*) commonly used for footnotes, bullet points, and other purposes; also called a star
Asterix = a French comic book superhero with super strength and speed (That is, the comic strip is from France. Asterix is a Gaul, but then technically, the Gauls are now called French...)

Caesar better be careful not to use so many asterisks when writing about his laurel wreath*, or Asterix might steal it!
*See Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, which doesn't technically involve an asterisk

Bazaar = a market, often involving crafts
Bizarre = very strange
I thought it was bizarre that they were selling knitted platypi at the bazaar.

Blonde = a female with blond hair
Blond = a male with blond hair

Brunette = a female with brown hair
Brunet = a male with brown hair

Desert = a large expanse of hot sand; deserts sometimes have plants such as cacti and others, or they can be full of sand dunes and no vegetation
Desert = to abandon
Dessert = something people eat after a meal
No need to desert us to eat your dessert in the desert!

Draught = the British spelling of "draft"
Drought = a period where food and water are scarce
In periods of drought, people often wish for a draught of water.

e.g. = exempli gratia, Latin for "for example" - giving an example
i.e. = id est, Latin for "that is" - explaining what you mean
Science fiction often uses robots; e.g., R2-D2, #5, WALL-E, etc. As our society becomes more automated, we may end up using them more and more in reality. But will they look humanoid; i.e., like us?

Grammar = the proper way to construct sentences
Grammer = an actor known for his portrayal of Frasier, Beast (X-Men) and others
Kelsey Grammer has excellent grammar.

It's = short for "it is"
Its = belonging to it
It's interesting how a snake sheds its skin.

Lose = the opposite of "to win" or "to gain"
Loose = the opposite of "tight"
I wish kids wouldn't wear their pants so loosely. They're liable to lose them!

Loser = one who loses (doesn't win or gain)
Looser = more loose (not tight)
Losers of weight often find their pants get looser and need to get smaller pants. Maybe certain teenagers would enjoy the looser pants.

Metal = an element that clangs when you bang on it; e.g., gold, tin, silver, steel, copper
Medal = a reward that is often made of metal
All the medals given out at the competition were made of metal.

Pallet = a portable platform used for hauling freight
Palette = a small board used for mixing paint
Palate = the top of the inside of the mouth
The artist specializes in unconventional paintings. This one shows a forklift lifting boxes on a pallet. As you can see, the boxes are full of fruit that looks like you could just reach out and taste it. The canvas might be tough on the palate, though, so I don't recommend it. The painter's palette clearly got a lot of use.

Precedent = an event that affects future decisions
President = the head of a government or company
The president's poor choices may set a bad precedent. (Note: This is not a commentary on any specific president!)

Role = the character someone plays in a play, or a person's job
Roll = to turn over and over, or a kind of pastry
I played the role of the baker in the opera. I baked lots of rolls. My character also enjoyed rolling down hills.

Sight = something seen
Site = a location
Cite = giving credit where credit is due
The construction site is quite a sight! Just be sure to cite your sources when writing about it.

Stationary = not moving, perfectly still
Stationery = paper used for writing letters
When writing letters by hand, it's best to hold the stationery stationary. Otherwise, it might be difficult to read.

There = in that place, over there
Their = belonging to them
They're = short for "They are" or "They were" (usually "They are")
They're right over there with their geoducks.

Through = indicating transit
Though = in spite of
Threw = past tense of "to throw"
Thru = finished
Even though he knew better, that kid just threw the ball through the window! As a result, his baseball days are thru.

To = indicating transfer, from one to another
To = precedes the infinitive of a verb (e.g., "to eat")
Too = also or excessively
Two = the second number, 2
I want to come to the two concerts too!

Were = past tense plural and second person of "to be" (We were, They were, You were)
Were- = the first syllable of werewolf; in this case, "were" means "man"
We're = short for "We are" or "We were" (usually "We are")
Where = an inquiry about the location of someone or something
Wear = to be clothed, or to slowly decay from frequent use
We're sure those were the werewolves you were looking for, but where did they go? They were wearing our shirts. I just hope they don't wear them out!

Whose = belonging to whom
Who's = short for "Who is"
All right, who's the wise guy whose dog just barked the rhythm of "Jingle Bells" in May?

Your = belonging to you
You're = short for "you are"
You're sure that's your aardvark, right?

A lot = two words!

All right = also two words!

OK = an acronym that stands for "Oll Korrect." When it was coined, they changed the spelling of "all correct" to form a new term. While "okay" is not technically wrong (see the article linked in this point), "OK" is more correct.

Wherefore = why (not where). Thus, Juliet is not wondering where Romeo is. She's wondering why she had to go and fall in love with a member of their rival clan.