Monday, June 19, 2017

A Word Fitly Spoken

I noticed my husband had a troubled look on his face when he came back from picking up a few things at the grocery store. 

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Is everything alright?"

With downcast eyes he said, "I think I failed God."

When I asked what happened, he began. "I had checked out and was standing in front of the news stand looking at the newspaper, when the manager came up and said, 'If you're looking for good news, you won't find it there. Not there, not anywhere! Not in any newspaper!"

Howard said he was taken aback, and replied, "Yes, America has problems."

"But I should have witnessed to him and told him the good news of the gospel!" my conscientious husband exclaimed. I could tell he was feeling bad.

"Let me read you something," I said. It was a Father's Day message from our daughter, Julie, that he hadn't yet seen:

"Father's Day honors and celebrates our precious dads. My dad turned 79 a few days ago. My husband expressed in his sermon this morning that Dad should write a book. You see, Dad's positivity is contagious. His songs are positive. His hello's to strangers are encouraging. Phone conversations are uplifting. Sermons that he shares are pointing in the right direction. Remember the little song, "Smile awhile and give your face a rest"?  The song depicts his life's attitude. Dad, thanks for your winning words and bright light to those you meet. I know where it comes from. It comes from God's Word. We are more than conquerors through Him. My interpretation of all this? Of your life's work? If we are in the Light (Jesus) we are winners! I love you, Dad."

His face crumpled a little as her father tried to suppress a tear. "That makes me feel better," he said quietly. I think God will give him another chance to talk to the grocer!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rise and Shine!

"Get some Ballard biscuits," my husband directed me when we were in the grocery store awhile back. We never buy canned biscuits, but somehow Howard had a longing for the biscuits he remembered as a child from his dad's grocery store. He calls any canned biscuits Ballard biscuits, which are probably not even marketed by that name anymore.

We always buy too many groceries, it seems, and, tired from unloading the bags, I put the cold things away and shoved some canned goods still in the bag onto a lower cabinet shelf.  Several days later, I decided to use the biscuits for breakfast.  I couldn't find them! They were not in the refrigerator nor anywhere else. I even looked in the car, in case they had fallen out. They never showed up, and that was weeks ago.

A couple of days ago I was retrieving a can of tomato sauce for stuffed peppers I was making for supper. Something felt odd in the bag,  kind of squishy. My lost biscuits! The can had popped open, and a couple were loose in the bag, but some had stayed in the can.  I was about to discard them, when I saw they felt oddly fresh, puffy and not discolored.  Howard told me to bake them, and they tasted fine!

Later I thought about the lesson on leaven in the Bible.  Usually, leaven (yeast, or baking powder) has a negative connotation, but in Matthew 13:33, Jesus says, "...The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole lump was leavened."  Seemingly, that would point to the spread of the gospel around the world, such as we see now!

The can of biscuits was hidden away in the dark until it came to light and gave us bread to eat! Psalm 119:11 reads, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." We need to hide the word in our heart! As we remember, meditate and think on the word, it will grow us stronger! Scripture speaks of "the hidden man of the heart," I Peter 2:4, and Romans 7:22 says, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man."

The next time he sent me back to the refrigerated area for biscuits, I grabbed two of the small cans for Howard. I have to feed the outward man, too!

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Masked Bandit!

"Where are your guineas?" I exclaimed in alarm when I looked into the cage of the young birds.  Howard rushed to see for himself, but they were gone! He had treasured these fowl! Two had died when we first got them several weeks ago, but the four remaining were healthy and growing with  careful feeding and attention every day.  Small feathers scattered on the barn floor told the story.

Twice lately a huge raccoon had been discovered in the barn when our grandson went to shut the chickens in for the night. It was seen hiding in the rafters!  Evidently the predator crept in just before dusk when the chickens went in to roost! There was evidence of a struggle when both white feathers and red feathers were discovered on the floor.  Our white rooster had put up a victory fight, but the scanty remains of the red hen testified to her demise!

I felt so bad for my husband. He had doted on the guineas! Farm life can be so discouraging. I would have given up long ago, but my patient spouse is persistent. The quote "Hope springs eternal within the human breast" certainly fits him. He is already planning to get more guineas!

Several renegade guineas visit the farmyard regularly as it is.  Sometimes only a few, and at other times a huge flock of them! We like them, not only for their zany appearance, but because they kill and/or eat pests like ticks, snakes, and other undesirables.  Besides that, their clacking noise makes them a good "watch-dog!"

The raccoon reminds me of what the Bible says about the devil in  1 Peter 5:8. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." Like the wily 'coon, Satan wears a mask. The Bible tells us he transforms himself into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14.) He can appear in many disguises to tempt and trap his prey.

The way my husband never gives up on nurturing and raising a flock of chickens makes me think of how God never gives up on us, His flock. Howard is ready to get his shotgun and go after the marauder. Jesus is pictured as the Good Shepherd who rescues the sheep with his rod and staff.

We are told in scripture that church leaders have responsibility to watch over our souls. (Hebrews 13:17). Maybe if  we ever raise guineas to maturity, they will suffice as "watch-dogs" and scare away the intruders! Howard would be a happy man!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

New Life!

From the time we saw a chipped place in the egg, we were excited! We'd waited the required 21 days for the chicks to start hatching in an incubator bought for this purpose. Then when the chick was obviously coming out, we squealed with delight! Our joy knew no bounds when the wobbly, still wet, little creature actually stood awkwardly on its own two feet!

You'd have thought we were new parents!  All laughing, talking and exclaiming on "our" accomplishment.  But the miracle of life was worth celebrating! How could an egg yolk develop blood cells and veins, a heart beat, and much more that would turn into a chicken?

Our glee reminded me of the Bible verse that says the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents and is born into the kingdom (Luke 15:10). He has new life!  How we all cherish the new life when a baby is born into the household! It seems everyone is in a daze of joy and celebration for days to come.

Lately it seems many have finished their earthly life and have gone to heaven.  The Bible tells us we will  know as we are known up there.  What joy it will be to see people young and healthy again! Here on earth we often lose track of friends and people we used to know. But it's a small world and getting smaller all the time!

We were surprised during a recent revival that we knew the pastor the evangelist referred to in his sermon. In fact, our son married his daughter! At first, I thought we  had made a mistake, but he exclaimed, "Mark and Rhonda? Of course I know them. I've held two revivals for them!" He had known them from Alabama before they married!

Once our son, Trevor, was conducting a seminar in Atlanta, when a participant asked if Howard and Thelma were his parents!  He had never met her, nor she him! It's a small world!  In visiting our son  Mark's church in Austin, we were startled when a man said he knew our son, Jamie, who lives in Houston!

At the Herb Festival recently, a smiling woman remarked to Howard, "I know you! You're the one who looks like my dad!" Sure enough, at an estate sale a  few months ago we were approached by a stranger who wanted to take Howard's picture! "My mom noticed the resemblance," she had explained, "and wanted to get a picture.  You look just like him! Your mustache, and even your hat is like the one he wore!"

I can only imagine the reunions to come in Heaven, where there may even be cuddly rabbits and downy chicks, all bursting with new life! After all, the Life-giver will be there!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

We had gone to our son Greg's house this morning to see him off before he left  to board a plane in Stillwater for a work assignment on the West Coast.  Then we remembered this was the day an Amtrak train was to make a stop in town on a trial run for possible train service here!

After Greg left, we headed back to town to be among those who would greet the uncommon sight of a passenger train scheduled to stop here  at 10 o'clock.   Since we  had a few moments to spare, my husband opted to stop for coffee at Sacred Grounds, a new coffee shop occupying an old railroad depot, all beautifully redone.  The line at the drive-through was too slow, though, so we hurried on to get to the designated area for the Amtrak stop. We would get coffee on the way home!

There were hordes of people! It was a beautiful morning, sunny and cool, and it seemed everyone was smiling and in a good mood.  After all, we wanted to make a good showing that reflected our hope that they would add that convenience locally!  Howard and I often use the train to travel to visit our kids in Texas, but we have to board in Oklahoma City. Or Norman, our preferred station.

It wasn't hard to visualize how fun it would be to ride to Wichita, Fort Worth, Austin or San Antonio from right here at home! And no driving! I guess many people felt that way, judging from the turn-out!

On our last train excursion, I was enthralled by a voice coming over the PA system as every place of interest we passed, no matter how small, was described in glowing, enthusiastic terms! The voice, obviously of a conductor who could have been in show business, rose and fell in dramatic expression, making a scene out the window impossible to ignore!

At  last  the train came into view, with cell-phones held high by many eager to record this rarity with their camera feature.  Dignitaries who rode the train stepped out to greet us, and some held their own phone/camera out the window to take pictures of us taking pictures of them!

The stop was brief, and as the locomotive lumbered past, our mayor, one of the honored guests, leaned out the window of a passenger car giving a smiling "thumbs up" with both hands, obviously pleased at the attendance!

People have sometimes used trains as a metaphor for the trip to heaven. Kids used to sing of the "Happy Day Express" in children's church. "This Train," as in "This train is bound for glory, this train.." is an old, traditional gospel song.  The happy crowd waving, applauding and greeting the much-anticipated arrival this morning made me think of the joy of His people when Jesus returns for us! Arms will be lifted heavenward as we meet Him in the air! (I Thessalonians 4:17.) And no words will suffice to describe the beauty! And Jesus will be smiling, obviously pleased at the attendance!


Monday, June 5, 2017

To Be or not To Be?

That was the question.  Would it rain and spoil the scheduled church picnic on Sunday, or would the forecast be wrong? The rain had miraculously missed Saturday's Herb Festival, which we finally attended once it appeared it wasn't going to pour.

I  worked the rest of Saturday preparing picnic fare: a chocolate sheet cake, large potato salad, and home-fried chicken. Howard had cut up two fryers the night before, since he is the butcher in the family, having grown up in his dad's meat market/grocery store. (Some of the pieces seemed a little undefinable, though--he may have lost his touch since then.)

With such a lot of chicken, I got out my largest frying pan.  For some reason, it was taking forever for the grease to get hot enough.  Finally, it began to bubble, but when I put in the pieces, it would stop.  I was getting frustrated, turning and trying to brown the chicken.  Maybe there is something wrong with the burner eye, I thought, even pushing the pan to cover parts of the other burners.  That helped a  little.

When I replaced the huge skillet with two normal-size ones, the chicken got done and was presentable, at least. Howard  had mercy on me and cleaned up the mess. The rain began in earnest at bedtime,  and I heard it pelting down every time I woke up. Surely there would be no picnic, but every time I checked the internet church page, there was no cancellation.

We were  just ready to  load the food in the van and leave for church,  when I checked again.  The picnic had been cancelled! I was a little relieved.  On the way home from church, I called our son and grandson, who were glad to come over and help us eat the bounty! We had a wonderful afternoon of visiting and fellowship.

Later that evening, our son in Houston helped the grandkids Face-Time with us!  What a joy! 3-year-old Isaac explained that his new haircut was "broke" since the gel put in by the hairdresser had worn off!  He had to demonstrate a train set on the floor, making it go with a controller he held in his hand.  Big sister Anne-Marie treated us to "Jingle Bells" she performed on a recorder, then "Mary Had a Little Lamb" picked out on the piano.  Smiling, pajama-clad Maddie made a brief appearance, then Isaac re-appeared wearing a Spider-Man cape and mask, informing us that Spider-Man had "powers" in his hand.

All in all, it turned out "To Be" a very good day!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In the Garden

"You know those plants are loaded with strawberries," my son Greg pointed out after checking on our tiny  garden. What? I had no idea! Every time I'd looked at them, all I could see were leaves! Well, under the leaves were hidden fresh, juicy berries, which we happily collected.

"Shall I pull the onions?" I asked of my husband. The (dried out) bulbs we had planted rather late had yielded only a few green onions, which were getting too large now.  He agreed, so I tugged at the long, green stems and was surprised that the roots had the purple sheen of red onions! They should be delicious!

"Look! The potato plants are blooming!" I announced at seeing tiny blossoms on our thriving plants, the only thing that was growing  thick and vigorously.  I wondered why they had blossoms, and what that meant.  I was pretty sure  it wasn't time to dig them  up, but I looked up info on raising potatoes.

Sure enough, the article I read said many people think the buds are indicators of harvest time, but they are only making seeds to ensure future crops! Well, we didn't start ours from seed, only from seed potatoes, which we cut into sections, making sure there was an "eye" in each cube, from which a root sprouts.  I found out that when it is time to dig up the potatoes, the vines will dry out, turn brown and wither. 

I couldn't help but see spiritual lessons and draw comparisons from all this new life in the garden. The surprise of strawberries under the leaves and the purple of the onions pulled from the soil reminded me that we never know what is inside a person, beneath the veneer and public front we see on the outside. When we get to know them, we are often surprised by the talents, wisdom and abilities God has instilled in them.

As Christians, we need to produce and sow seeds of the gospel into our own and the next generation. Who knows when a root of understanding and belief will sprout as their "eye" is opened to the Truth?  How rewarding to see a "crop" of new "potatoes" for the Kingdom! Our generation will someday wither away, like the potato vine, having done our job, but our "seed" can go on until the Harvest!