Wednesday, June 14, 2017



There is one person on earth who calls me “Mary” and gets away with it. Joyce (Klapstein) Hall has been that person for 62 years! We met at Bible Standard Institute (aka Bible Standard College, Eugene Bible College, New Hope College) in Eugene, Oregon, when we were eight years old. No, we were not prodigies who went to college at eight years of age! Our fathers were the college administrators, Joyce’s the president and mine the vice president.

I was a few months older than Joyce (aka Jodi, Joybelle), so we were a grade apart, but instant and forever besties.

Our first mutual memories are of running wild through the halls of the tiny college building, jumping down flights of stairs and hiding inside the knee-holes of teacher desks in the classrooms, as our fathers vainly called for us after late events at the school. Not as reverent as we should have been, we rolled on the thick red carpet in the prayer room and laughed ourselves silly.

My parents both worked at the college, mother being the librarian, and since I was an “only child,” with no siblings, I hung out at Joyce’s house after school and on weekends, where there was always something happening. Joyce had two sisters, one older and one younger, so there was a lot of activity, laughter, arguing, competition and craziness in her house. (My house was way too quiet!)

My favorite memories of Joyce’s house are the frequent sleepovers. Joyce and I shared a big bed in the basement bedroom, sitting up late at night to play Candyland and Uncle Wiggly, or just talking and laughing ourselves to sleep.

Her little sister, Sharon, often joined us for those games and seemed always to want to hang around us, the older, more worldly-wise sisters. Sara Alys (aka Sally), Joyce’s older sister, was the sophisticate of the bunch, and very pretty. I always admired Sally, wanting to be like her.

One of our fondest memories is of our “performances” in the front picture window of the house. The floor length curtains served as our stage curtains, and on cue, we would perform such show-stoppers as “Tom Dooley” or other pop tunes, for the family, who were obliged to sit through the caterwauling, as though they enjoyed it. Joyce’s mother or Sally sometimes accompanied us on the piano, as we sang soulful, tear jerking renditions of “Where the Roses Never Fade” or “Precious Memories.” What we never considered was how our performances must have looked to the passersby on Willamette Street, the main street of town that ran right past the window. Our nutty costumes and antics were visible from behind, as well as to the living room’s captive audience.

I remember the evenings when we were left alone in the house, when Joyce’s parents had to be away. Inevitably, some undecipherable noise would spook all of us, and we would tiptoe through the dark house to the kitchen, where we armed ourselves with butcher knives or other implements and waited beside the door for some invisible intruder. Years later, we marveled that we had never hurt ourselves, or some unwitting arrival, with those desperate weapons!

When we were in Junior High, I moved temporarily to Pasadena, CA, where my father took over a sister college. When Joyce and her folks came to visit, we had such a rollicking good time, it is a wonder anybody put up with us. Most memorable of that visit is our riding around in the back of the Klapstein station wagon, feet out the window of the back-facing seat with scarves tied to our toes, as we belted out “Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-dot Bikini.” No cop siren could have been more intimidating!

Joyce and I spent years together, but eventually, after high school, life separated us to different parts of the country, interests and obligations. We call the intervening years the “lost years,” and it is sad to think how many experiences we were unable to share. When we had children, Joyce named her firstborn the same as I had named mine, “Aaron.” We got together every now and then, and found that, whenever we did, it was as though no time had passed. We just picked up where we had left off, with laughter and sharing.

One such time, my sons and I visited Joyce and her family in Fresno. My Aaron and I continued the performing habit by entertaining them with magic tricks, courtesy of Aaron’s sunglassed, head-scarved pseudo-Arabic alter-ego, “Aarony-Baloney.” The gut-splitting laughter is never to be forgotten!

A couple of years ago, we reunited, now as grandparents, with aging bodies and somewhat creased faces. But, we are the same girls we always were. Our laughter still pervades any house we are in, and our husbands get a kick out of our behavior, which is unlike our behavior with anybody else.

We often consider how fortunate we were, to grow up when and where we did, and with the parents we had. We were blessed beyond measure, to be raised in households of faith and love, and we have done our best to pass the favor on to our own children and grandchildren.

Joyce, you are now joining me as a 70-something. I want to tell you how much you mean to me, and how much I hope we will always share the same hearts we have shared all these years.


Saturday, February 4, 2017


“If someone takes your coat,

give him your cloak also.” Matthew 5:40

Jesus was a hard teacher. He said his yoke was easy and his burden light, but he apparently meant that, if we practice his teachings, it will go well with us in the long run. He could not have meant that it is easy to follow his directions all the time, because, frankly, it can be very hard.
Some of his instructions are so contrary to our human nature that, when we hear them or read them, our first inclination is to try to reason around them. “Yes, but…surely he didn’t really mean that, did he?"
The verse above is an example: “If someone takes your coat, give him your cloak also.” There are numerous statements of Our Lord on the same theme: “If someone asks you to go a mile with him, go two;” “If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other also.” “Do not resist an evil person.” And most difficult of all, “Love your enemies.”
This is the peace-loving Jesus speaking. But, there were times when he was not so peaceful, when he took a scourge and drove out the money-changers, or when he called his enemies whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers.
How do we reconcile these seeming disparities in the greatest Teacher’s example?
I recently had a difficult time with a business associate. After my working very long and very hard for him, and following through on my commitments, he claimed utter disappointment and demanded certain large concessions. He also wished to back out of another contract with me, for which I had already done work. Rather than have an unhappy client, I conceded to his first demands, but resisted, in my mind, giving him the second piece of work for nothing.
When I shared this with my husband, he said, “Life is hard and lots of times it is unfair. This is not worth fighting over.”
When he said this, Jesus’s words came to my mind: “If someone takes your coat, give him your cloak also.”
As I pondered both my husband’s suggestion and Jesus’s statement, it occurred to me that the determining principle in whether to “fight back” or “give over” is related to our own well-being. There are things worth fighting for and things not worth the struggle. Jesus is telling us that part of being “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” is knowing when a quick concession is better than a fight.
And then, true to form, Jesus takes the lesson a step further. He says not only should we not demand our coat, but we should give our cloak as well.
The cloak was the most important garment worn in those days. It was the big outer garment that served multiple purposes. It covered all the other clothes, keeping them clean from the dusty environment; it kept a person warm in cold weather; it could even be used as a blanket at night, if you were traveling. It was a very important possession.
And Jesus is saying we should give it up, along with the less important thing that is demanded of us!
But why?
Again, Jesus had our own welfare in mind. It is actually best for us to take our hands off our things, our possessions, our needs, our wants, our desires. To be fully content, we must be willing to give all things over, even to our enemies. In so doing, we are reminding ourselves that our sufficiency is not of this world.
Secondly, Jesus had the welfare of our enemy in mind. By reaching out in generosity, in the face of opposition, we leave the entire matter at the feet of the opposer. We show him that we are not victims, that what he wants is less important to us than it is to him. When we do that, the other person is left to consider himself, before God.
What a liberating feeling comes from letting go! What a joy to let someone else carry the demands he has flung our way!
Yes, there are things worth fighting for, and things that are not worth the struggle. I am quite sure there are many more of the latter than the former.
Once we grasp this principle, we are on our way to fitting ourselves beneath the easy burden and the light yoke of Christ.